The Norwalk City Council believes the article published in the Los Angeles Times, "Junkets by Norwalk Council Double Travel Tab Since '82," on Sept. 15, was not objectively reported and that the facts were presented in a manner that left the reader with erroneous information and a general misconception as to the policies, purpose and intent behind City Council travel and attendance at various conferences during the last three years.
The Norwalk City Council has had a long and proud tradition of prominent involvement and high visibility in a number of outside organizations that we sincerely believe further the interests of our city and its citizens.
Our city's first mayor, Roy Reynolds, was the founding father of the California Contract Cities Assn., as well as its first president. Councilman Cecil Green has also served as president of contract cities and is currently on the board of directors. This year's contract cities annual conference in Palm Springs was particularly special in that our present mayor, Rod Rodriguez, was being installed as treasurer of that organization and this places him in the line of succession for the eventual presidency. This information was not brought out in The Times article.
As a leading city in that organization we have traditionally hosted a hospitality suite during the conference as well as a special Friday evening dinner for a number of dignitaries beyond the immediate Norwalk delegation. This year we organized our hospitality suite knowing full well in advance that we would be the only city having a hospitality suite. Therefore we took full advantage of this opportunity to promote this city and the California Contract Cities organization.
The complimentary glasses given out at our hospitality suite in Palm Springs are a promotional expense item just like our complimentary lapel pins, trophies, plaques, keys to the city and Norwalk bumper stickers. As a promotional item it is part of our community promotion budget and is not a City Council travel expense as was inferred in the article. The glasses are still being given out at various city functions and to various visiting dignitaries so their use and application go well beyond the annual contract cities conference in Palm Springs.
The substantive importance of this year's conference in Palm Springs cannot be overstated. Going into the conference, three issues provided a backdrop for potential disharmony between Los Angeles County and the general membership of the contract cities association. Those issues were the general quality and responsiveness of contracted county law enforcement, the fair share revenues for no/low property taxes cities and the ambulance service contract. This conference provided an opportunity for county and city officials to amicably meet and confer over these issues and avert a possible impasse that would be counterproductive to our respective communities.
The most glaring misconception conveyed in the article was to imply that the totals represented for City Council travel over the last three years ($42,140 for fiscal year 1982-83, $54,453 for fiscal year 1983-84 and $87,019 for 1984-85) were travel expenses alone. The truth of the matter is that these totals represent not only travel but a variety of City Council-related expenses lumped together into one account. To compare these totals to other cities when the other cities are only asked to provide their respective travel costs amounts to nothing less than an unfair apples-to-oranges comparison that invariably will always rank Norwalk as higher.
Illustrating this lack of an appropriate distinction between travel costs and other legitimate council-related expenses was the last portion of the article in which a series of expenses were listed under a 1984-85 travel subheading. Included in this list was $4,092 that the city expended for a mayoral installation and reception that took place in our own city last April. This was a legitimate City Council-related expense that was not a travel expense, and it was included in the article as such an expense item.
We are the first to admit that we are an active and a highly involved city council. Our leadership responsibilities in the California Contract Cities Assn., U.S. Sister Cities Assn., Southern California Joint Powers Insurance Authority, National League of Cities, Hispanic Caucus and the state Department of Transportation Advisory Council come back to benefit our community.