Encinitas gave Japanese a $12,000 welcome
ADAM KAYE does a little digging to see how our tax money is getting spent these days. Keep in mind this is the same city council that keeps trying sneaky ways to raise fees and taxes and just took out a $20 million bond debt. Italic quotes are excerpts from article.
When a sister city delegation from Amakusa, Japan, visited Encinitas last month, the group received a $12,000 welcome.
At taxpayers' expense, the 11 visitors slept at the Best Western Encinitas Inn & Suites. They enjoyed catered meals and were treated to lunch and dinner at restaurants. City records show they took a $524 trip to SeaWorld and received more than $1,000 in gifts.
The invoices show payments of $34.60 for chopsticks and $129.30 for Cross pens to sign "treaties" at a ceremony where Japanese and Encinitas officials reaffirmed their ties.
Invoices show the city spent $27,304 to produce the Oct. 1 "Picnic in the Park," where residents could meet and greet the Japanese visitors and celebrate the city's birthday at a free, all-day party. Officials say thousands of guests attended the event, and about one-third of the costs were covered by sponsors.
In June, the City Council approved $10,000 to host the Japanese guests and $20,000 to throw the anniversary party at Cottonwood Creek Park. The money came from the city's operating budget.
Expenses for the Amakusa delegation's visit, however, totaled $12,154, according to the invoices. To pay those bills, city officials tapped $2,500 from the sister city program's $12,000 annual budget.
For the Picnic in the Park, Encinitas paid $27,304. Records show the city received $9,000 in sponsorships, however, which raised the event's budget to $29,000.
All were welcome to the Sunday afternoon picnic, where the city offered free burgers and hot dogs to thousands of visitors. (Records show the city spent $767 at a nearby Smart & Final store for beef patties, plus $332 for wieners and $72 for vegetarian patties).
*note-this was pretty frugal in my opinion.
Food costs at an invitation-only dinner earlier that weekend also were significant.
On Sept. 30, at the exclusive "Mayor's Dinner," the city paid $576 for catering.
The dinner was held at the home of fire Chief Mark Muir ---- a friend of Guerin's ---- with support from firefighters past and present.
The catering was provided by "Firehouse Gourmet," a one-man company run by Don Heiser, Encinitas' former fire chief, who visited Japan at public expense just weeks before he retired June 30.
Party rentals ---- which included dinner china, 13 round tables, linens and red carpet, at a cost of $707 ---- were ordered by Fire Department Division Chief Scott Henry, according to the invoice. Firefighters helped with the set-up.
Some residents criticized Guerin when invitations for the dinner revealed that the get-together "also happens to be on her 50th birthday."
"I can't help it that my birthday is on Sept. 30," Guerin said.
Was the timing unfortunate? Community activist Gary Murphy said he thinks so.
One night after the Mayor's Dinner, the city held a $5,414, public event at the Encinitas Community and Senior Center ---- the "Sister City Signing Ceremony" ---- where officials from Amakusa and Encinitas formally renewed their sisterhood.
Records show 68 guests paid for the $10-a-plate dinner.
The city paid $3,275 to Four Seasons Foods for crab and cream cheese spring rolls, vegetable skewers, macadamia nut-crusted chicken, barons of beef, teriyaki chicken breast and various side dishes.
The second-most-expensive cost was $490 for linens.
Decorations cost $488 and included $90 for flowers and $34.60 for 9-inch, painted chopsticks that a city staffer ordered off the Internet.
The city paid $1,100 for entertainment from three different groups, which included steel-drum players and a choir.
A former deputy fire marshal in Encinitas, Mike Castaneda, earned $175 for videotaping the event, according to an invoice approved by Henry and Guerin.
A party of 17 ---- 11 from Japan and six from Encinitas ---- racked up a $602 tab at Pino's Cucina Italia in Encinitas. The midday meal included pollo marsala and creme brulee.
A Sunday night dinner in San Diego, at a restaurant called Sushi Ota, cost $222.
Two passenger vans, rented for $915 and driven by city employees, provided transportation for the visitors. The city paid $80 for gas and parking.
One outing, to SeaWorld, generated $524 in charges, which included $352 for admission and $96 for lunch at the SeaWorld deli, among other costs.
After the full days, the 11 visitors retired to the Best Western Encinitas Inn & Suites, where taxpayers paid to rent five rooms for three nights, at a total cost of $1,484.
The hotel commands a view of Cottonwood Creek Park, where the Japanese visitors sang "Happy Birthday" to Encinitas and grooved to classic rock furnished by the band Rockola, Guerin said.
Rockola received a $3,850 paycheck.
A company from San Diego that provided four clowns to paint faces and tie balloons for five hours was paid $1,750.
A Carlsbad-based home builder, Barratt American, Inc. gave a $5,000 sponsorship; a waste hauler, EDCO, donated $3,000 for the event; $500 sponsorships came from My Gym and San Diego Medical Supply Equipment, although the city has yet to receive a check from the final sponsor.
*Barratt American has sued the city several times. Barratt American has outraged many residents for their building tactics in older neighborhoods. Barratt American is an interesting player in all this.
To recognize the sponsors, the city paid $168 for customized plaques.
Early on the morning of Oct. 2, the Japanese visitors began their long trip home, but at least one gift made did not travel with them. The city paid $500 to one of its employees, Alex Long, to fabricate a hand-thrown urn adorned with Japanese symbols representing joy and friendship. The iridescent vase weighs 20 pounds, and to ship it, the city paid $545.
Other gift receipts include $55 at Paper Rose for wrapping and $85 for See's Candy.