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Let's go on vacation
by Samuel Bergeron


March 22, 2004

At the last tribal council meeting of the Ketchikan Indian Community we voted on this year's travel budget. If you combine the City and Borough travel Budget, then multiply it by more than 2, it would equal what KIC plans to spend this budget year.

One of main contributing factors of this outrage is the line item "Stipend" in this year's and previous years' budgets. The dictionary defines a Stipend as a "fixed and regular payment, such as a salary for services or an allowance." The tribal council has chosen to pay those of us who travel $150.00 a day stipend. This is on top of $160.00/ day (average) per diem. Plus, if you rent a car, we'll pay you back. Even if you don't need it for tribal business.

To make things worse, the proposed tribal council travel budget has nothing in it for the battle against regionalization. So we can all count on spending lots more money on this crucial issue on top of our other planned excursions. As a first step I propose to reduce the travel stipend by 66%. We should pay actual travel expenses plus $50.00/ day for food and transportation. (This is more that the City and Borough pay) So if you are so inclined to rent a convertible sports car while traveling for the tribe and staying at the same hotel as the convention you are attending, that also offers an airport shuttle, you can do on your own expense versus tasking the enrolled natives in our organization to pay for it. This step alone would save almost $20,000.00 in this year's budget. This would fund the excess travel needed for the regionalization issue. Secondly, we should all travel the same amount or not at all. No one council member (except the president) should go more often than the others, because it has the appearance of impropriety. Furthermore, some of us have seemingly made a career out of traveling last year. That's not what we were elected to do. We were elected to make the lives of our enrollees better not go on junkets just because they are there to go to. We should have a good reason to travel, not just because it is fun and it pays. Our travel should pass a needs assessment. For example, it should be as important as meeting the emergency housing needs of our elders, otherwise, how can we justify the expense of traveling while we have unmet emergency housing needs? We must ask ourselves, is this necessary? Does this travel coincide with our mission statement and is this expenditure worth not funding some of the other dire needs we now have? You tell me.

It is a privilege and an honor to travel and represent the tribe. Getting to go is reward enough for council travel. Lastly, you should only be allowed to travel if you have demonstrated that you are a worthy and capable steward of the tribe and have demonstrated that you can represent the tribe's views, not your own.

As one of the policy makers tasked with guarding the coffers at KIC, I can honestly say that we travel too much. We pay ourselves too much and we fight over who travels because of it. That is why I'm asking for a reconsideration of the travel budget for this year and a schedule of who is traveling and when.

I would very much like the tribe to travel to anything that's relevant to KIC but again it is a matter of priorities and money. I feel strongly that if we must go to these things, budget it, send less people, get rid of the largess we pay ourselves in stipend and everyone travels the same. We need a formalized travel policy that addresses the inequities we now have. We must also operate in the open. We should submit to the tribal council and our members what we spend and pay ourselves for travel on a regular basis at every tribal council meeting, how it relates to our mission at KIC and what we are not funding to go travel. Whatever we do, it must always pass the "Red Faced" test with our members. What we are doing now does not.

Best personal regards,

Samuel Bergeron
Member: KIC Tribal council; Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly.



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