Asheville City Council travel expenses examined

Since the beginning of 2007, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy has taken nine trips to other cities for official business, for a total cost of $8,561, according to a summary she released last week at the request of City Council member Carl Mumpower. City staff also compiled and released the expenses for three other Council members who have traveled on city funds in the same time period.

Do the math: Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy says her $8,561 in travel expenses for the past year was money well spent, as it helped her garner some $1 million in federal funds for city projects.

In a Feb. 20 e-mail, Bellamy said her travel expenses constituted a good investment for the city, because those trips helped her to “leverage nearly $1,000,000 for our community (new dollars awarded to the Homeless Coalition, new dollars for replacement vehicles for transit system, new dollars for Asheville Police Department, and new dollars for the Reid Center).”

“As you can see the majority of my trips were to Washington,” Bellamy wrote, adding that those trips were instrumental to the city’s effort to garner federal funds. “While I did attend various conferences to learn, I spent time lobbying our Federal legislators during my visits. I met with Senator Burr, Senator Dole, Rep. Shuler and/or their key staff members. At each meeting I presented council’s legislative agenda, which the majority of council adopted, as well as information on key grants that staff had applied for or were in the process of applying for.”

Bellamy itemized trips for other purposes, as well. For example, the city spent $1,267.08 on her trip to Boston, where she met with Staples executives in order to urge the office-supply company to modify parts of its Merrimon Avenue store.

Here are the totals for her other official trips: $1,403.65 and $1,620.23, U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meetings, Washington, D.C.; $995.59, National Congress on Secure Communities (sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security), Washington, D.C.; $106.43, Gaston County Chamber of Commerce forum, “Successful Partnerships among N.C. Larger Cities,” Gastonia; $1,036.74, African-American Leadership Conference, Washington, D.C.; $14, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Visit, Washington, D.C.; $314.84, N.C. Metro Coalition Legislative Day, Raleigh; $1,892.45, National League of Cities Conference, Washington, D.C.

And here are figures and other details the city released for other Council members’ official-travel expenses since January 2007:

Robin Cape: $238.36, International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives Conference, Chapel Hill, N.C.; $2,312.45, National League of Cities Conference, New Orleans, La.; $2,041.96, Asheville Sisters Cities trip, Samur, France; $1,598.98, New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, Los Angeles, Callif.; Climate Diet Conference, Atlanta, Ga., $150. Total for Cape: $6341.75.

Bryan Freeborn: $1,889.95, Association for Commuter Transportation Conference, Seattle, Wash. Total for Freeborn: $1,889.95.

Carl Mumpower: $1,030.90, “observing law-enforcement operations related to drug enforcement,” New York, N.Y. Total for Mumpower: $1,030.90.

Visit mountainx.com/xpressfiles to read the full text of Bellamy’s travel summary, along with a Dec. 31, 2007, e-mail in which she catalogued recent federal appropriations for Asheville-based projects and organizations.

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About Jon Elliston
An Asheville-based mountain journalist: Former Mountain Xpress managing editor. Investigations and open government editor at Carolina Public Press. Senior contributing editor at WNC magazine.

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3 thoughts on “Asheville City Council travel expenses examined

  1. Alan Ditmore

    Travel uses fossil fuels and is therefore of questional environmental cost effectiveness as well as economic. Environmental travel may not be cost effective even comparing apples to apples.

  2. Dear Brian Freeborn,

    Do you really think flying 7000 some odd miles is environmentally sustaionable?

    Other Council Members: EG. “National League of Cities Conference, New Orleans, La.; $2,041.96”

    What, do ya’ll fly first-class and stay in 5-star hotels, plus have the taxpayers foot the bill for every incidental that comes along? Holly, I could drive or fly to NO for a fraction of that. A round trip ticket to NO out of Charlotte costs as little as 200 dollars. A hotel should not be more than a hundred a night, i would hope, which leaves maybe 50 bucks a day for food. which is a lot. Then, maybe a rental car. But that still doesnt add up. So HOW exactly, did you spend 2 grand? We’re you hanging out with Lil’ Wayne and the Birdman?

    And what exactly costs a grande to go up and annoy the NYPD, Carl?

    God, what a bunch of pathetic public “servants”

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