To hear members of Youngstown City Council tell it, attending conferences in such tourist destinations as Washington, D.C., and New Orleans, La., isn't fun and games. It's hard work. It's sweaty work sitting in those airconditioned meeting rooms and conference halls hearing experts talk about the future of America's cities.
Members of council are making a major sacrifice, spending taxpayer dollars to leave town only to be holed up in some high-class hotel (no, the National League of Cities' annual conference isn't held at Motel 6). Rather than criticize lawmakers for taking such trips (how dare anyone suggest these are junkets?) we should all be singing their praises.
But there are cynics out there who view it as even more sucking at the public teat by individuals who, by accident of politics, are in positions of power. Thus the question: How do you win over these cynics?
The answer: Require lawmakers who attend conferences away from the Mahoning Valley to wear ankle bracelets to confine their movements. They would only have the ability to move from their hotel rooms to the conference meeting place. Any diversion would be recorded. Indeed, if the technology exists, the bracelets could be equipped with a shock mechanism, so that a council member straying from the permitted distance of travel would get a taser-like jolt.
This test of dedication and sincerity should be launched in November when five lame-duck (as opposed to dead-duck, if the bracelet short circuits) members of Youngstown council attend a five-day conference in New Orleans. Just weeks after they travel to the Big Easy, Artis Gillam Sr., Rufus Hudson, Richard Atkinson, Paul Pancoe and Mark Memmer will leave office.
It's about serving their constituents to the very end, they insist And, attending a National League of Cities conference in New Orleans is the ultimate service to the people.
The members of council would not object to being kept on a short leash, would they?