Arizona Boycott? Not for Hypocritical Attendees of National League of Cities Conference
Faced with the choice of sticking to principles or attending a fun-filled fall conference in Phoenix on the public dime, guess what politicians from El Paso, Texas and Washington State are doing?
That's right -- margaritas and networking! Whoo-hoo!
In fact, the National League of Cities itself -- which officially condemned Arizona's SB1070 immigration law last year -- could have canceled its conference here, but chose not to. The Wednesday-through-Saturday conference at the downtown Phoenix Sheraton will take place as scheduled, though attendees can assuage their guilt during several discussion groups on immigration issues. The League is expecting about 3,000 people at the conference, says League spokesman Gregory Minchak, who added that he's not sure if boycotts against Arizona in other states have had any significant impact on the event.
A look at Internet news from the last week or two, we saw that a couple of the hypocrites are taking a few licks from critics.
A year ago, El Paso Mayor John Cook was among the majority of city council members who voted to ban any city-funded travel to Arizona by municipal employees. Conferences were specifically mentioned in the resolution, say news reports. But the El Paso council recently voted to pay for Cook's trip to the conference in Phoenix.
Says the story linked above:
The league booked conference space before the law was passed, and it would have lost money if it moved the meeting to another state, Cook said.
Minchak, however, tells New Times the conference could have changed the location without losing any cash.
Washington's Bellingham Herald noted today that Tacoma City Councilwoman Lauren Walker "spearheaded" that city's Arizona boycott, but chose to let taxpayers fund her trip to Phoenix for the "opportunity to learn about budgeting and economic development."
The same article says that Seattle's council president, Richard Conlin, will also be traveling to the conference despite Seattle's ban on travel to Arizona "to the extent practical."
A spokeswoman for Seattle's council told the Herald that Conlin's scheduled to speak on a conference panel and is a leader with the League, and therefore "doesn't really have a choice."
Life is tough that way.
The Los Angeles city council has stuck to its guns, despite some talk of backsliding. But avoiding the Phoenix conference is something of a pointless gesture, since L.A. has so much business with Arizona already exempted from the council's attempt at a boycott.
Part of the problem is that the economies of various states are too interwoven to have a boycott -- sort of like how a boycott against Toyota could put U.S. workers out of a job. Would-be boycotters are also mindful that by not spending money in Valley hotels and restaurants, low-income workers might be hurt the most.
Attendance at the conference could be "just slightly below" expectations due to the boycotts of Arizona, Minchak says, though he has no supporting figures. While some attendees expressed interest that was later withdrawn, others may have never considered the conference, making the boycotts' impact tough to measure, he says.
With some of the same people who called for boycotts of Arizona now flocking here for an optional conference, in part to discuss immigration, maybe the best form of protest against SB1070 is to do a sit-in.
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