City leader defends Barbados trip

Councilwoman Laura Padgett

Bridgetown, Barbados is promoted as a cozy, Caribbean get-away. Come Monday, it will also be a sister city of Wilmington, North Carolina.

“There are some business and cultural exchanges that have been valuable to the city,” said Councilwoman Laura Padgett.

Valuable, perhaps. But it’s far from free.

The city is spending more than $1,500 to fly Councilwoman Padgett and another official to Bridgetown Friday so Padgett can sign a Sister City charter.

The trip is a tough sell for George Wrage, a representative of Citizens for a Sound Economy, which is a government watchdog for taxpayers. He calls the partnership “a waste.”

“They keep spending… spending like there’s no tomorrow,” he said. “And guess who foots the bill? We do, the taxpayers!”

City leaders say the trip is a heavily scaled back version. Originally, the budget allowed four people to go, setting aside $10,000. Also, this time they’re paying air fare only. Bridgetown will cover the hotels.

But the trip comes just weeks after city leaders decided to cut property taxes, forcing budget cuts and layoffs.

And Wilmington already has sister cities in England and Asia.

Padgett says the cost is relatively small.

“And I think the benefit is at least equal to that and potentially much, much more in terms of opportunity and relationships that could be built,” Padgett said.

It’s a relationship that would connect Wilmington to a far-away tropical land of the steel drum, at a price that’s not music to all ears.

Reported by Aaron Saykin