Wednesday, March 18, 2009

international trade?

Yael's blog says my former boss supported "keeping the International Trade Office open" in his budget recommendation. I was very surprised to read this, because when I was still there we were not big fans of the program.

From our perspective, the expense was hard to justify in hard times. Hell, it was hard to justify in good times.

We wondered, Just what does the program do?

Kendrick Blackwood, the mayor's chief of staff, went on one of the trade office's junkets to Mexico back when he was still assistant director of communications. He came back utterly baffled as to why the city spends money on it. He said he made it his mission on the trip to find out what the city gets out of its involvement.

The best explanation he could come up with was that it's a way to meet people.

He said, with utter incredulity, that the director of the program, Jodi Edgerton, measures her success by how many business cards she gives away.

Not dollars and cents for the city. Business cards.

It seemed to us a classic example of City Hall bureaucratic bloating. What started several years ago as a volunteer gig for one woman became an $800,000 per year department with a full staff. (Oh, and another thing about that one woman. Gloria believed that Jodi was trying to sabotage the mayor because she was supposedly good friends with the previous mayor, Kay Barnes. So we were particularly indifferent to the expense.)

At any rate, the International Trade Office was a point of contention between our office and the City Manager. Last year's budget stipulated a major cut to the program. But it was our understanding that the manager was refusing to make those cuts, as he did with other mandates in the budget, and we were highly annoyed by that. I even wrote a terse memo to the manager, which Mark signed, that demanded an explanation as to why the program was still being fully funded.

So why would Funk support it now?

I suddenly remembered: George Blackwood -- Kendrick's dad and key kitchen cabinet member for the mayor -- is big on this international trade thing. He goes to Mexico every once in a while to promote it. On the city's dime, if I'm not mistaken.

I'm trying to keep my mouth shut about this stuff, and not turn my blog into a bash-the-mayor thing. But when I read this in Yael's column, I just had to say something about it.

Supporting a wasteful, unnecessary program just because an ally benefits from it?

That is definitely not the kind of governing folks like me thought we were getting when we put our lives on hold to get Mark elected.


Angie said...

They touched on this a bit in Nick Haines' show Sunday too.

Angie said...

They touched on this during Nick Haines' show Sunday also.