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Council delays decision on China trip

By Staff | May 8, 2019

Cape Coral City Council authorization for a “sister city” trip to China hit a snag Monday when cost and changes made to the initial itinerary were questioned.

Ricardo Noguera, the city’s newly hired economic development manager, said the plan was for the party to visit Chengdu for a day before heading to Baise for two days to establish a sister city relationship and explore potential economic opportunities.

Staff requested $17,000 for the trip to take place from May 31 to June 7. Five people are scheduled to go – Mayor Joe Covilleo; Community Development Director Vince Cautero; Noguera, the mayor’s administrative assistant, Pearl Taylor; and JoAnne Killion, who was instrumental in bringing the proposal for the sister city exchange forward.

Councilmember John Gunter expressed concern regarding the changes that seemed to come out of left field, particularly the decision to bring Taylor, and whether the trip would bring any return on investment..

“I don’t see the need to bring support staff, and nobody mentioned another city that was thrown in at the last minute,” Gunter said. “I cannot support this without further discussion.”

Councilmembers Jennifer Nelson and David Stokes were also against the trip as presented.

Coviello said he thought the objections were disingenuous.

“All of us talk about wanting to increase the commercial tax base. I’m only going because I want to develop these economic opportunities that we may lose out on,” Coviello said, before tabling the motion for discussion at a later date.

The trip is expected to be discussed again in two weeks.

A delegation from Baise visited Cape Coral in February.

As proposed, the host city pays for costs related to the visit such as accommodations, food, gifts and tours to introduce the visiting delegation to the community.

The visiting city delegation pays for its travel-related expenses.

The city of Cape Coral expended approximately $6,600 to host the delegation from China for two days. Costs included $1,710 for lodging at the Westin; $2,405 for video and photography, and $210 for a gift and gift baskets, according to information provided by the city in March. Most of the food costs were provided by the venues visited.