Speak Out: Should CA Pay for Trip to France?

Up to four CA representatives have been invited to a "Twinning Celebration" in France, but airfare would cost around $1,250 per person.


Up to four representatives of the Columbia Association have been invited to attend a "Town Twinning Celebration" in Columbia's "Sister City," Cergy-Pontoise, France. Cergy-Pontoise has offered to pay for the hotel accomodations during a weekend schedule that would include official meetings, cultural activities and sightseeing tours, according to the CA.

But there's a catch. The CA must provide airfare costs for the representatives who attend. The CA estimates the cost per person to be $1,250, according to an article on Explore Howard.

What do you think, should the CA fund the trip, partially fund the trip or save the money?

The question the CA is now asking itself, is should representatives who want to attend pay their own airfare or should the CA cover it?

Tom Coale, a CA board member and blogger at HoCo Rising, has . Coale wrote, "The Board has an obligation to consider how it appears to the public, particularly when it is effectively rewarding itself an opportunity to fly to France."

He said that it's important to send at least one representative to maintain Columbia's presence in the "Sister Cities" program and offered a compromise of partially funding up to four representatives' airfare, only one of which will be a board member.

Three board members, Gregg Schwind (Hickory Ridge), Cynthia Coyle (Harper's Choice) and Michael Cornell (River Hill) thought the CA should fund the trip, according to Explore Howard, while board member Alex Hekimian (Oakland Mills) said funding the trip would send the wrong message.

CA currently has two sister cities, Cergy-Pontois and Tres Cantos, Spain. Both are similar to Columbia because they are planned suburbs of a major city (Paris and Madrid) and are similar in size to Columbia, according to the CA.

The relationship with Cergy-Pointoise was established in 1977.

The "Sister Cities" program was started by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It's dedicated to creating and strengthening partnerships between the U.S. and international communities and promoting peace through mutual respect, cooperation and understanding, according to the Sister Cities International website.

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Brook Hubbard August 02, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Columbia Association funds are collected from the community to fund projects and programs that ~help~ our community. The question is, is this trip to France one of those projects? I would say "No" as there is nothing but a sociopolitical benefit, and even then it's one that has no direct effect on Columbia residents. As this is not a project our funds are meant for, then it is up to the CA board members to pay their own way if they want to go. None of our money should pay for their jaunt to a foreign city that has nothing tangible to do with us. Brook Hubbard Long Reach
Shannon Franks August 02, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Candace August 03, 2012 at 11:46 AM
I need some more details about this trip and how it will directly affect Columbia Association members. It sounds like an over the top meet and greet. Weren't these the same people who were crying for money for swimming pools not too long ago? Well every penny counts. At first blush I would say save some money and fund your own trip.
Kevin I. August 06, 2012 at 02:46 PM
I commented on this on Explore Howard, glad to see it covered here as well. I think this is absolutely ridiculous, particularly when the exchange students participating in events for the sister city program had to pay for their own airfare. I see no reason why the board should not do the same if they want to participate in what is labeled a celebration. This is not a planned community summit where important topics of relevance to Columbia's operation will be discussed. The board should be grateful that Cergy-Pontoise is paying for lodging and transporation and swipe their own credit cards if they want to attend this event.


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