Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Wichita City leaders are exploring business opportunities half-way around the world.
The 12-member delegation left for Africa on Monday. The group plans to establish a sister city relationship in Ghana.
The mayor and vice mayor are protected by security officers, but Wichita police officers are unarmed.
"The council pays for security here in Wichita and for another country," said Wichita councilman James Clendenin. "We want to make sure the mayor is safe."
But just how safe is the mayor? Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams and police Lt. Kevin Vaughn are along for security, but they are unarmed. The country didn't give permission to carry a firearm until after the group left. And taxpayers are still footing the bill.
"When you are talking air fare when you are talking hotel that's a lot of money, " said councilman Michael O'Donnell. He adds the entire trip in general is inappropriate.
"That's $15,000 dollars that we need in the budget that we are taking in what appears to be a junket in Africa," said O'Donnell.
The ten-day itinerary includes meetings with city and country leaders, receptions, dinners and even a ceremony where delegates can receive a Ghanaian name. The group is also planning a three-hour visit to Dungeons in Cape Coast, a popular historic tourist attraction.
Combine airfare, hotel stays, entertainment and food, the trip is costing a grand total of $15,372, a cost some city leaders believe could lead to economic and business connections.
"If we can bring several million in trade to Wichita, it's well worth the investment made," said Clendenin.
Councilman Jeff Longwell added, "If we can get a deal like we did in Mexico where we brought back $5 million in economic development absolutely it's worth it."