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Trip to France while nation at war, irresponsible
When I received an invitation from the VFW to attend the recognition ceremony at Mercerdale Park on July 11, I was delighted to attend. The service was, of course, to recognize and honor the families of those currently serving in the military and to pay tribute to them for the countless sacrifices they make to ensure our freedom and to keep us safe. My son is one of those courageous men — from Mercer Island High School to West Point and now to Afghanistan, where he was decorated with a Bronze Star medal. Thank God he has now recovered from the cholera he contracted while there and survived the 123 degree heat while being required to wear full body armor. At the ceremony that day, you (Jim Pearman, Rich Conrad) were both there as the VFW Commander handed me a blue star flag to hang in my window indicating a family member in the service. Then both of you came to shake my hand for pictures I have never seen. I proudly display the flag in my window. What a shock and disappointment it was to me when recently I learned that while my son was protecting and defending your freedom, both of you were frolicking in the French countryside for a week at Mercer Island taxpayers’ expense under the guise of it being the 10th anniversary of our relationship with our sister city there.
In case you were not aware, we are currently at war. Men are dying and thousands have been wounded. Mercer Island people are losing their homes and jobs. Many are on food stamps and 15 percent of all Americans are living in poverty. Any public official that would think that this is the time for a free trip to France doesn’t have the brains that God gave a goose.
My late husband Major Elfendahl served on the Mercer Island City Council and how proud he was to be entrusted with the fiduciary responsibility of the community he so loved. I wish you both could be more like him with his honesty and loyalty. I would suggest to you both that if additional festivities are scheduled at our sister city in the future that you simply send flowers.
Editor’s Note: City Manager Rich Conrad responded to questions about the Sister City trip.
For the record, I paid all of my own expenses (airfare and hotels). No city funds. All non-city members of the delegation paid their own expenses. No city funds. Mayor Jim Pearman and Deputy Mayor El Jahncke each had approximately $2,700 total expenses in airfare and hotel costs. The city paid those costs. All other food, touring and entertainment expenses were paid by our French hosts. The City Council has $10,000 in each biennial budget for Sister City-related expenses. Those funds are only used for travel when an official delegation trip occurs. Over the past 10 years, there were just three trips: 2001, 2007 and this past summer. As for the mayor and deputy mayor, they represented the city in their official capacity. The mayor’s monthly salary is $400 and the deputy mayor receives $200. And, no one on the City Council receives health care insurance. In other words, we don’t pay them much for all the hours they put in.