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  Richmond officials' contingent to China tourism fair halved
August 6, 2017

Richmond officials’ contingent to China conference shrunk in half
Critics say the trip to a tourism conference wastes taxpayer money; defenders say it promotes educational and cultural exchanges

Richmond officials’ contingent to China conference shrunk in half
By Tom Lochner | | Bay Area News Group
August 5, 2017 at 8:52 am

RICHMOND — The city government contingent to an island tourism conference in China, derided last month by Mayor Tom Butt as a junket, has shrunken by half.

Port Director Jim Matzorkis and Operating and Marketing Manager Lucy Zhou have pulled out. Councilman Eduardo Martinez and Council liaison Trina Jackson are still in. They will travel to Zhoushan, a Richmond Sister City, in September.

Martinez’ trip will be paid out of the $2,500 annual travel budget allotted to each council member for conferences, meetings and training. Jackson’s trip will be paid out of a similar $2,500 budget allotted to the council liaison, she said. Her role in the trip will be to provide administrative support to Martinez, she said.

“The City of Zhoushan will cover the land costs from 9/20-24/2017, so we are confident that $2,500 per traveler will be sufficient,” Jackson said in an email.

The city duo will be part of a Richmond delegation that was supposed to number about 10 before Matzorkis’ and Zhou’s withdrawal, including representatives of the school district, the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, the Richmond Visitors Bureau, and some business people, Jackson has said. The city will not pay for the travel of non-city officials’ trips, Jackson said.

Asked why he withdrew from the Zhoushan trip, Matzorkis said, “It’s a political issue so I’d rather not comment.” Zhou, in an email, said, “There are some politically related issues involved here. Therefore, I’d rather not comment on this matter.”

Butt had said the trip would be “wasting Richmond taxpayers’ money on vacations in China,” days before it came up for discussion at the July 18 City Council meeting.

The objective of the International Islands Tourism Conference in Zhoushan, according to its website, is “promoting international cooperation in island tourism.” Asked how this furthers Richmond’s interests, Jackson last month explained that tourism is but one of five Richmond-Zhoushan Sister City program areas — the others are economic development, health, arts and culture, and education.

At the July 18 meeting, Martinez objected to what he characterized as efforts to “demean or belittle” the work he does for the city. He noted that the Zhoushan-Richmond Sister City agreement had expired and needed to be renewed, and he praised Jackson for reinvigorating the relationship between the two cities.

Butt said he has no quarrel with Martinez traveling on his council allowance, but that sending city staff members on trips to foreign countries is a waste of taxpayer money.