08/10/05 — After Hawaii: Commissioners who went have a duty to citizens

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After Hawaii: Commissioners who went have a duty to citizens

Well, they are home and the Wayne County commissioners have issued their report on their trip to Hawaii for the national county commissioners’ convention.

And there weren’t any pictures of luaus or hula lessons included, either.

The commissioners who went said they learned a lot — and brought home some tips they can apply back here at home.

But before we get into that, let’s pass out a few pats on the back.

Three commissioners attended the four-day conference, down from five who were originally slated to head across the Pacific.

Of those three, one, Bud Gray, paid his own way. And for that, Mr. Gray should be commended. There was really no need to have more than two people attend the conference. After all, at a time when the county is asking residents to dig deep, and cut back to pay more taxes to fund county needs, there is little reason why two commissioners could not attend the conferences, take notes and present what they learned to the rest of the group.

Mr. Gray’s move was responsible and showed a sensitivity to the fact that many of the people he served would much rather have taken a convention trip to Hawaii than pay an additional 7 percent in taxes.

And the commissioners who decided not to attend should be commended as well. Atlas Price and John Bell also understood that this was a sensitive issue for their constituents and decided there were better ways to spend taxpayer dollars than a convention trip.

Some have defended the convention trip as a necessary bit of education for the local leaders, saying the information they would bring home would be worth the cost of the trip.

They pointed out that many companies send employees to educational conferences just like these.

And that used to be true, when budgets were a little less strained. Today, conventions in all professions are going begging. No one wants to drop thousands on trips like these when there are more pressing capital needs or the year’s revenue is not where it should be.

So, when someone goes on such a trip, companies try to maximize the benefits by sharing information and asking for specifics that will benefit the operation.

And that is what should happen now in Wayne County.

Over the next few months, Wayne County residents should see demonstrated benefits from Hawaii, not just in “contacts” which could have been made with a few phone calls and e-mails, but with concrete ideas and information that could improve this community.

Commissioner Andy Anderson started such an approach with his discussion of ports and their potential influence on economic development in this part of the state.

We need more of just that sort of focus.

Maybe, if we see some tips turn into demonstrated improvements in the county, in the end, we will be glad we sent the commissioners to Hawaii, and might be more willing to plan ahead for another fact-finding trip next year.

Published in Editorials on August 10, 2005 11:20 AM