Saudi Arabia Junket for Mayors Includes No Women; Mayor Phil Gordon and Nine Men Selected by Mayors' Group

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and nine other mayors will travel to Saudi Arabia this month on a junket paid for by the Saudi government, Arizona Republic reporter Scott Wong reports this morning. When we looked at the list of mayors Wong published, though, something struck as odd: They were all men.

But of course, there's nothing odd about that in Saudi Arabia, a backward land of oil and kings, where women aren't allowed to drive and little girls are sold off as brides to polygamous men. Obviously, a female mayor would stick out like the amputated stump of a Saudi thief.

What the hell, though -- it'll be a fun trip. Here's the list of mayors:

* J. Christian Bollwage, Elizabeth, N.J.
* Ardell F. Brede, Rochester, Minn.
* Mark Burroughs, Denton, Texas
* William D. "Bill" Euille, Alexandria, Va.
* Bill Gluba, Davenport, Iowa
* Bill Bell, Durham, N.C.
* Mark Mallory, Cincinnati
* John Marks, Tallahassee, Fla.
* James J. Schmitt, Green Bay, Wis.
* Mark Stodola, Little Rock, Ark.

The junket is getting some press in the Middle East, though some of the mayors' offices haven't yet announced it to their constituents. We can only assume that's because of the potential embarrassment factor.

For instance, take J. Christian Bollwage, Mayor of Elizabeth, New Jersey, the first name on the list. During 2006 coverage of the possible deal to let Dubai, a city-state in the United Arab Emirates, operate a U.S. shipping port, Bollwage said:

"We're putting the fox in the chicken coop," said J. Christian Bollwage, Democratic mayor of Elizabeth, N.J.

When we called Bollwage's office for comment this morning, his press secretary, Bill Reyes, tells us he'll get back to us. We'll let you know if he does.

We're also still waiting for a call back from representatives of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, so we can ask them about the selection process. [Click here for update and response from Saudi embassy].

Amusingly, one mayor didn't even know why the group picked him:

Brede was selected by the US Conference of Mayors, a group with whom he has been closely involved since first elected mayor in 2002.

He said was not sure what prompted the invitation but believed it might have been because of his involvement with the mayors' organisation or because of Rochester's reputation as a favoured destination for Saudis seeking expert medical care at the Mayo Clinic.

Maybe he's right. But we think it didn't hurt that he has a pair.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.