Paying for the mayor's China trip


You'd think the mayor would know better by now. After all the allegations of cronyism and undue influence, you'd think that he'd make sure everyone involved in his trip to China was playing by the rules. You'd think the last thing he would want is this.

Now: So far this is just a complaint, and noting has been proven. But still: It sure looks bad. And it's entirely unnecessary.

If the mayor really belives that he needs to go to China to do the city's business, why doesn't he go on the city's tab? Seriously: I would much rather that my tax dollars went for this trip than have the mayor inundated and unduly influenced by corrupt actors who want his ear. If he was going for fun and sightseeing, he could pay his own way; if he's there, as his office says, on official business, then why is he taking private money?

When Dennis Herrera went to Washington DC for the Supreme Court hearing on same-sex marriage, the city paid his way. That's appropriate: He's directly involved in the case, as are some of his staffers. They were meeting with co-counsel, doing practice runs ... working. He stayed at a midrange hotel at the government rate ($200 a night) and was allowed to spend a set per-diem on meals. That's the same rules any city employee follows on official travel.

If you think he shouldn't have gone (as Michael Petrelis clearly thinks), then that's a political discussion. It's appropriate to ask about it, to point out how much money was spent on the trip, to analyze his expenses, and to challenge him about it when he's next running for office. But it's not a corruption probe -- and frankly, I'm happy that some corporate bond-counsel firm that wants the city's legal business didn't pay for the trip and send a lobbyist to hang out with Herrera the whole time.

The city sends people on trips. It's fair to ask if they are an appropriate use of taxpayer money. But if the trip is worth taking, then the mayor should justify the expense -- and not take corporate and lobbyist money instead.

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