And many of you paid for it.
So. What did your administrators - who obviously have plenty of free time on their hands - gain from this meeting?
Oodles. As you might expect.
Will Jones, writing for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, gives us the details in an article this morning entitled, "County Officials Say Hawaii Trip Useful."
Edward B. Barber [chairman of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors] brought back healthy respect for the challenge local officials face in marketing the group's 2007 conference in Richmond.He also brought back a deep golden tan, an improved backswing, and a coconut for the little woman.
The economic impact of the five-day meeting in Hawaii was estimated from $6 million to $8 million, he said.Sure. Richmond will see $6 to $8 million when Ed can turn Shakoe Bottom into Maui and the city's riverfront slums into Waikiki. If you're going to dream up a crazy revenue number, Ed, why just $6 to $8 million? Why not $6 to $8 trillion?
At least he's attempting, however fecklessly, to make a connection between his extremely expensive junket and the return from it to be realized by the Richmond metropolitan area. Others are not as politically adept.
Local officials have called the criticism unfair and said the value of information picked up at the conference outweighs the travel costs."I thought about right here ..." They must not have had a speaker lecturing bureaucrats on proper syntax.
"We had a great speaker for the whole group on world globalization and how it's affecting communities," said J.T. "Jack" Ward, chairman of the Hanover County Board of Supervisors. "I thought about right here in Mechanicsville how we lost Reece sewing-machine company that went offshore."
News Flash, Jack! You could have picked up a copy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch on any given day to learn why it is that businesses around the state are closing their doors en masse and moving to Indonesia. What, you had to fly to Honolulu to hear the news?
Here's the formatted response I expected from someone who has become accustomed to wasting taxpayer dollars:
Henrico County Board of Supervisors Chairman Frank J. Thornton, one of three Henrico leaders who attended it, called the conference "very critical" to sharing ideas.We have to attend so that we won't be provincial in our thinking ... I wonder if this guy has the word DEMOCRAT written across his forehead. Or MORON tatooed on his butt. Good grief. Provincialism is a bad thing if you're Pope, Frank. But you're a freaking county administrator. You're responsible for regulations pertaining to grass height and parallel parking. Not global harmonic convergence.
"Sometimes we may think that we have different problems," he said, "and when we attend meetings like that, we learn that other localities have similar problems and maybe they have solutions that we've never thought about.
"We have to attend so that we won't be provincial in our thinking."
Of course there were those who attended classes in Honolulu - was that with Maitai in hand? - on crap they could pick up at Waldenbooks.
Powhatan County Board of Supervisors Chairman Robert R. Cosby said he got information on a range of topics, including the use of eminent domain and conservation easements, as well as the growing problem of methamphetamine.The meth comment is significant. It explains the mindset that allowed grown men and women to think a meeting held in Alice's Wonderland was appropriate to their positions in local governance.
Cosby, board chairman for 27 years, also attended a workshop on how to run public meetings. "I went to see how I was doing," he said. "Other than the location, this was no different than other conferences we attended."Don't you love it? "Except for the concentration camps, his having brought about World War II, and the fact that 50 million people lost their lives, Adolf Hitler wasn't a bad man."
It was all about the location, Bob.
Finally, there is the ominous portent of conferences yet to be planned. Bob gives us an indication that he wasn't impressed with Honolulu.
"It was a good conference," he said, "but I think Hawaii is a little overrated to have to travel 5,600 miles."Hawaii is just être insuffisant. Somebody get the planet Naboo ready for next year's party. Er, conference.