The mayor of National City fired back Friday against critics of his recent trip to Hawaii and Guam.
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Mayor Ron Morrison recently traveled to Guam, through Hawaii, to help Micronesia government leaders set up an agency similar to the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), which is made up of leaders from local jurisdictions.
"We had meetings going on from day one. These went on right into the evening," Morrison told 10News.
Morrison is the president of the National Association of Regional Councils, which oversees 420 agencies like SANDAG. As president, Morrison thought it was necessary to go and help Guam -- a U.S. territory -- organize its leaders. He said the relationship could also benefit the San Diego region.
"It certainly expands our influence and expands our opportunities and particularly when you start looking at trade and everything else that's involved," said Morrison.
10News learned the trip was funded by taxpayers, albeit loosely. The trip was paid for by grants and the National Association of Regional Councils. The group collects dues from its supporting agencies, which are funded by local taxes. The trip was questioned in the U-T San Diego Watchdog section, and the questions frustrated Morrison.
"Automatically when we see something go into Watchdog, it involves elected officials, especially spending money or traveling. The automatic assumption is they've done something wrong," he said.
The article also mentioned a two-day layover in Hawaii. Morrison argued that layover was spent working with Hawaiian officials in a Starbucks. He added the total cost of the 10-day trip was less than $3,000.
"I was offered first class. I said, 'No, I'll go economy.' I had my knees up against my eyeballs, the whole bit, for a 17-hour flight," said Morrison.
Morrison even posted his phone number on his personal Facebook page so that anyone could question him directly.
"Give Ron Morrison credit. He did it on the cheap," said Richard Rider, president of San Diego Tax Fighters. "He should probably be giving advice to other government officials on how to do it inexpensively."
However, Rider said Morrison could have presented his information via teleconference.
"He had information, perhaps valuable information, to impart to Guam officials. Does he really need to fly over there and spend ten days? No," Rider said.
Morrison disagreed and said he'd go again.
"Because we got a lot accomplished and that's what we went there for," said Morrison.
At the end of Morrison's presentation in Guam, the local leaders voted in favor of creating their own agency and joining the National Association of Regional Councils.
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