Councilman Kansen Chu Charges Expensive Yosemite Retreat to the City

All work and no play makes Kansen Chu a dull councilmember. Back in March, the representative for San Jose’s Berryessa district (and 2014 State Assembly candidate) took a trip with his wife—on the city’s dime—to Yosemite National Park to attend the 22nd Annual Ahwahnee Conference for Local Elected Officials. What initially caught Fly’s attention was the conference, titled “Building Livable Communities: New Strategies for a New Age,” was sponsored by a who’s who of who-cares-about-the-environment: PG&E, San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison Company and the Southern California Gas Company. But a closer look at Councilman Chu’s expense report shows he barely attended the event, despite shelling out $809.54 of taxpayer dollars. The conference was set to begin on a Friday at 7:15pm, but that didn’t stop Chu from pulling off the road to have an 8-oz. sirloin steak and soup du jour at the Cali-terranean restaurant Cellar Door, located at the Groveland Hotel. By the time the check came, 7:10pm, the Chus were still more than an hour’s drive from their hotel and the conference. They would miss the first night. This bummed Chu out for reasons one might not expect. “I got there late,” he said. “I wish I got there earlier, because it wasn’t fun to drive in the dark when I got closer to the mountains. I wish I got there in daylight. I could have enjoyed the scenery.” (That was a real quote. Seriously.) The next day was chock full of presentations and panels, one of which included fellow San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo and city department heads Kerrie Romanow and Kim Walesh. None of these three, of course, used city money to attend the conference, as they were invited speakers. As for Chu? “I don’t know why they didn’t have me on the panel to talk about north San Jose,” he said. Thankfully, Chu didn’t let that slight get him down. By the end of the conference, he felt he got to “really know other players” in the sustainable communities movement, which is obviously important for someone trying to ascend the political ladder. And, as the junket—er, conference—brochure promised, fun was always just around the corner. “Saturday afternoon there will be time to ski, hike, or curl up by the fire,” the brochure read. Chu told Fly he spent Saturday afternoon taking a hike up to the Yosemite Falls. The conference was set to conclude at noon on Sunday, but the Chus are early risers, as their parking receipt attests. Instead of hanging around for the last day’s speakers, Chu’s ticket stub says he exited Yosemite National Park at 9:59am. So, to recap the conference, Chu arrived late, left early and dropped nearly a grand in city money so he could rub elbows and stare at a waterfall. Asked what specific work he’s done on building a more sustainable community in San Jose since the retreat, Chu mentioned something about being on the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). He seemed a little surprised when informed he never gave a report back to the council on the conference. Asked if he thinks it was worth it: “Do I want to go every year? Probably not,” he said. “But once in eight years on the council? Yes.”

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

10 Comments

  1. First and foremost, I have to say this is just a waste of money.  Tax payers should not have to be paying for this.  It is convenient that “The Fly” doesn’t mention the cost (or the potential cost)  associated with soon to be retired City Manager Figone’s Trip to Ireland.  Also we just learned (Via “The Daily Fetch”) that Councilman Khamis is going to join her on this trip that is sure to “advance partnerships that will enhance job creation and competitiveness in San Jose”.  Are you f%$&ing; kidding me?  What intern wrote that?

  2. So what’s Fly’s problem?
    San Jose’s government exists to serve those in San Jose’s government.
    The system’s working fine.

  3. Here is the memo for council member Johnny “I’m a leprechaun” Khamis, requesting permission to miss city council meetings and have the city pay for his trip to Ireland. Maybe he thinks we can start growing potatoes in San Jose, so this is really an economic development trip. This trip has to be waaaaay more expensive that council member Chu’s trip. SJI should have covered this one too, as well as Shamrock Figone going to Ireland.

    http://www.sanjoseca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/21643

  4. Also, you should have covered Pete “Quadruple Dipping” Constant, as he traveled to Washington DC last week on a political junket, paid for by San Jose taxpayers. That was way more expensive than Chu’s trip too.

  5. Fly,  Why don’t you write about all the trip Big boy Constant, PO and Sam take or talk about all the free events they get to take on the city dime.

  6. shame on Kansen Chu – good thing I did not vote for him.  This tells me that I will not vote for him for any SJ office.