Those trips to other college towns that Chapel Hill-Carrboro community leaders take every few years have always drawn criticism as elitist. In response, the Public Private Partnership, now the Community Leadership Collaboration, created scholarships to help nonprofit agency leaders attend along with the politicians and more prominent local business leaders.
Past trips to cities such as Madison led to the creation of the Downtown Partnership and encouraged Chapel Hill Town Council members to pursue the 8-story condo/retail project going up on parking lot 5 downtown. But now criticism of the CLC's upcoming trip to Ann Arbor is coming from another town's elected leaders.
Carrboro aldermen Dan Coleman, Randee Haven-ODonnell and Joal Hall Broun all say with gas prices at record highs and the economy in the tank (is that a mixed metaphor?), now is not the time for local leaders to be traveling to other cities to solve local problems.
"This is the wrong time to be spending on non-specific, untargeted items," said Haven-O'Donnell. "I do not think the Ann Arbor trip is a sound investment. Having continued o work with my Madison intercity visitation workgroup, I do not see that the Chamber has maximized the potential return on Madison's huge investment."
"I am not interested in going at this time given the budget and the cost of travel," said Broun. "I think we should be very mindful of whether we should send any Board member given the state of the local, state, and national economies."
Just saw the thread on OrangePolitics about this. Here's an excerpt of Ruby Sinreich's post, which summarizes some of what she's said about these trips. And here's a link to the thread itself where you can read what others have to say.
"I'd be willing to go under certain
circumstances, but I would not pay my own money for a junket that
promotes someone else's agenda," Ruby writes.
"It seems like one the main benefit of these
trips is better relations between the participants, who are already the connected power brokers in town from the university, government,
business, and nonprofit worlds. They could certainly save money and
include more people by having a conference or retreat here in NC and
bringing in experts from other places."