City spends $20K to send leaders to London

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - While the Jaguars are shaking off the loss in London, the city of Jacksonville also made an investment of sorts overseas.

The mayor, City Council president and Jacksonville's development director were in the United Kingdom for the game -- a trip paid for by local tax dollars.

The city is hoping the payoff will come with exposure and international business to Jacksonville.

"We were able to expose 20 new businesses, several which are interested in investing in Jacksonville, about the economic, cultural and lifestyles, virtues of the city," said Ted Carter, head of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission.

Channel 4 got a chance to review just what it cost the city to send Mayor Alvin Brown, City Council President Bill Gulliford and Carter to London.

A charter flight with the Jaguars cost each person $2,696.

Mayor Alvin Brown missed that flight because of passport problems. He had to fly to Miami at his own expense and then flew out of Miami. There, he got a cheaper flight by several hundred dollars, but flew back with the team.

Once in London, the cost of the hotel rooms for each city leader ran at about $2,592.

And there was the cost of the game itself. Each had to pay for their own ticket, which was about $288 each. Gulliford said he would pay for that personally.

That does not include meals and transportation in London. The city estimates the total cost of the trip will be around $20,000.

"I think everyone will say, 'Let's see down the road,'" Gulliford said on whether it was a good investment for the city. "I think it's a good enough investment that I would personally encourage the next council presidents to go. Because the first thing we did is Jacksonville exposure."

John Winkler, of Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County, said sometimes it's necessary to spend to grow. He said that's the purpose of bed tax money, which is what people in hotels in Florida pay.

Winkler said that money should not be used for other football projects like the new scoreboards that will be built at EverBank Field.

"It's probably an appropriate use of bed tax funds to do things like this, to spend $20,000 here and there to promote the city," Winkler said. "As versus $43 million, which has to be bonded in order to build what amounts to be giant television screens."

The city takes exception to that and says that money for the scoreboard could not be used on trips.

Copyright 2013 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.