From the Free Press
Nearly 80 officials across Michigan -- more than twice the number of any other state -- plan to fly off to Hawaii this month for a weeklong conference on public pension issues. And taxpayer-backed pension funds will pay the tab.
Leading the Michigan contingent are 13 officials from Detroit, making Detroit second to only Chicago, which planned to send 16 people, according to a list of registrants compiled by the event's sponsor and obtained by the Free Press.
Michigan communities investing in pension training at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa include:
• Monroe County planned to send nine people; the City of Monroe, five.
• Grand Rapids and Pontiac planned to send seven each.
• Oakland County planned to send five.
Among Detroit officials listed as attending are Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick; Fire Commissioner Tyrone Scott; Marty Bandemer, president of the Detroit Police Officers Association; the Rev. Wendell Anthony, and City Council members Monica Conyers and Alberta Tinsley-Talabi. All have roles in overseeing the pension systems.
Matt Allen, a Kilpatrick spokesman, said the pension board will pay for the costs of the Detroiters, but Kilpatrick will cover his own airfare, meals and incidentals.
Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings was also listed to attend. But, when contacted by the Free Press on Wednesday, James Tate, a police spokesman, said Bully-Cummings would not be going, adding that her about-face was "made some time ago" as other priorities arose.
Allen said Kilpatrick will use the conference to better understand issues facing the city's public pensions. "This isn't a vacation, this is a working conference, and the fact that it's in Honolulu, it's a bonus," he said.
Working conference? That's a pile of horse manure, and in this case, make it a clydesdale's pile. I have a few questions here.
1. Why is this conference essential to public policy? Are our pensions safer or will adequate pension reform not happen if our officials do not go to this conference?
2. If this "conference" was so vital to public policy on pension issues, why is it in Hawaii? Why not DC, Columbus, St Louis, or another city easy to get to from elsewhere in the country?
3. Why is our tax money paying for the Hilton? What's wrong with Motel 6?
4. Are we going to have an itemized accounting of all expenditures there? The golf trips, booze, and bills that our tax money is paying for? Riiiight.
This is a trip to Hawaii vacation, folks. No more, no less.
Leon Drolet said it best:
Leon Drolet, executive director of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, said he doesn't understand why so many officials in the state are traveling for a week in Hawaii when Michigan is mired in a fiscal crisis and many communities and school districts are facing budget shortfalls, employee buyouts and layoffs.
"The leaders of Detroit and Lansing keep telling the public they've cut spending to the bone, yet they can say that with a straight face while getting ready to fly to Hawaii on the taxpayers' dime. It's obscene," Drolet said.
"When you're sending a delegation of that size, that includes politicians, this is clearly a vacation on the beach while their constituents are struggling to find and keep jobs."
These city/county bozos living it up make a good case for consolidation.