Mayor Phil Gordon's finding out what it's like to be a big fish in a small oasis during a junket to Saudi Arabia this week with nine other U.S. mayors: Phoenix is by far the largest city represented.
Middle Eastern media reports the mayors were received today by the Acting Governor of Riyadh, Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz. Most of the other mayors, while bigshots in their own communities, are pikers compared to Gordon, who helps manage the fifth largest city in the country. The mayors represent obscure towns like Denton, Texas, and well-known (but relatively small) cities of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Tallahassee, Florida, among others.
One blog report from last month about the junket was headlined, "Saudis Seduce Small Town Mayors."
Why was Gordon selected for this trip, anyway? We couldn't find out despite repeated calls to the U.S. Conference for Mayors, which organized the Saudi-funded trip. The mayors' group is dodging us on the question of how these mayors were selected since we raised the issue last week about the all-male makeup of the group. The group referred our questions to the Saudi embassy, which embarrassed itself with the disingenuous explanation that no female mayors were selected due to "coincidence."
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Media coverage of the 10 mayors' trip has been minimal. Bill Bell, mayor of Durham, North Carolina, is publishing short updates on his trip. Nothing too interesting yet: Bell fell behind a day after missing a flight. His second entry has him stuck in the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris for an eight-hour wait. Hopefully, Mayor Gordon is having better luck.
Bell says the Saudis have prepared for the mayors "a very strenuous and tight schedule from sun up to late in the evenings."
Tough work, all those royal receptions.