Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Do you know how to tell a business trip from a boondoggle? Let me help you out.
This describes a business trip: “Dang. This really isn’t a convenient time for me to have to go out of town. My bowling league championships start on Tuesday night. I wonder if I could take care of this business with a few phone calls, maybe a tele-conference or a Skype, two tweets and a couple of texts. I could do a little of the research on the Internet, draw up the plans and send out a copy by e-mail. Yeah, that’ll work … Uhggg. I forgot that ACME will be there. If I don’t show up and meet them in person we’ll lose the bid. Crap! I don’t see any way around it. I have to go. Oh, well, I may as well make the best of it. I’ll catch a ball game and maybe on that afternoon before I head home I can swing down and check in on Aunt Beth and see if the health department followed through with their threats about all those cats (sigh) … This stinks.”
This, on the other hand, is a boondoggle: “Whew! I can’t believe it costs that much to fly to Europe! Son of a Brie, you’d think I was staying at the Ritz instead of this Paris-size shoe-box I’ve booked. This trip is going to cost me an arm and a leg! The arm I’m not worried about, but I need the leg to ride my bike through the wine country, which is going to cost a small fortune, too. … What to do, what to do. I’ve got it! I have a few old business contacts over there. I don’t have any pressing issues with them, but it doesn’t hurt to maintain personal contact. That’s a great idea! The company’s not going to pay for my whole trip, but if they pay for half my airfare and rental car, some gas and a few meals, well, that’s better than a saddle sore, that’s for sure. I’ll run it by accounting tomorrow. Heck, I approved some of their expenses for that Celebrate the Birth of Debits and Credits Party they threw last fall. They have to approve this. Yesssss!”
And yes, the second scenario was meant to resemble our mayor’s trip to Europe this summer that the city reimbursed a portion of to the tune of $2,418.16. Mick, you are the man and I support you 82.4516 percent, but this was a boondoggle that should never have been submitted for reimbursement by the taxpayers of this community.
I know it was only a measly twenty-four hundred bucks, but that is not the point. The point is basically that The Sister Cities program is a sham and we don’t really care how Chamonix, France, deals with the “problem” of rich people preferring to buy condominiums over staying in hotels or why this would induce developers to build them and how the denizens of that lily pad in the French Alps plan to “incentivize” people to do otherwise. … OK, I have to admit, there is a part of that that sounds fairly interesting. But, for Pete’s sake, I can find out more about that online in 15 minutes than you did in two weeks of smearing goose liver on crackers and washing it down with really inexpensive, truly excellent wines.
I mean, really, you charged the taxpayers of our community $53 for the toll to go through the tunnel underneath Mont Blanc into Italy? What, are you considering the feasibility of a tunnel under Independence Pass to Twin Lakes in order to make employee housing in Leadville viable? Again, that’s not a bad idea since land over there is contaminated-dirt cheap. But still, do you have to fly to Europe to drive through a tunnel to understand tunnels exist and we have the technology to dig long ones? I hope you took the train through the Chunnel while you were there. I foresee someday we might need to build a train and tunnel underneath Reudi Reservoir or Maroon Lake.
So, Mick, to be clear, I am not upset about the money. In an annual city budget of more than $60 million this amounts to .004 percent or about a quarter, a dime and a nickel for every citizen to come up with for your frolic in France. If you’d have juggled balls next to the fountain on the Mill Street mall and set a can on the ground next to you, we would have given you the money, and maybe even more than you needed for the whole trip if you swallowed a sword or lit something on fire. But, honesty, integrity and recognition that we are not fools comes into play in the way you went about this. I’m not saying that what you did is not common in the business world. I’m saying that because it is, we know the charade.
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Columnist Roger Marolt is learning to hold his breath longer during these hot, dry summers, he writes.