The Dublin Diaries: Highlights from San Jose’s ‘Sister City’ Trip

Great news. San Jose’s elected leaders had a total blast on their “Sister City” trip to Dublin, Ireland. In addition to a bunch of meetings, which appear to have had nothing to do with city business, goodwill was spread and Guinness hats were purchased. And in a true show of solidarity with the Dubliners, some of San Jose’s councilmembers even came back with a case of the common cold! Fly called around to find out what San Jose officials learned during their time in Dublin—at an anticipated cost of $20,000; although Irish Times writer Mark Paul called our estimate low—and we’re happy to report nothing substantial. Councilman Johnny Khamis came back with an idea to link GPS signals on public buses to handheld mobile devices. That way, hypothetically, a councilmember from Almaden would never again miss a bus, or at least he would know how late his bus would be as he tapped his foot and watched SUVs and luxury sedans drive by his stop. Khamis, who brought along his chief of staff, Shane Patrick Connolly, also picked up some T-shirts, a few Guinness hats and what we will henceforth call the “Green Flu.” At least three of the 10 city officials who went on the trip came down with a similar bug. Councilmember Rose Herrera and chief of staff Mary Ann Groen—the latter paid her own way—both went to the doctor to get checked out Monday. Khamis told Fly he was impressed with the way Ireland relies on alternative fuel sources, mainly by burning garbage. “I was constantly looking for meaning while I was there, but I found it quickly,” he said. “I cannot believe that 51 percent of their energy comes from burning garbage.” Neither could we, and that’s because the claim seems to be garbage. Oil, as far as we can tell, supplies more than half of Ireland’s energy—Khamis says he got the factoid from the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. True to his word, Councilmember Ash Kalra reimbursed the city $1,824.40 for the trip. Kalra said the sister city group ate dinner one night at the Lord Mayor Oisín Quinn’s mansion but spent most of the Dublin tour in back-to-back meetings from 8am to 9pm. Neither he nor anyone else could immediately recall a major development or breakthrough from these meetings. According to Groen, her boss Herrera, who heads San Jose’s Economic Development Committee, learned a lot about the political workings of Dublin’s largely ceremonial municipal government. Dublin’s Lord Mayor doesn’t have much say over the budget—the state does. And the City Council is made up of 52 members. “Can you imagine trying to get anything done?” Groen said. After some consideration, Fly has decided it would be almost as difficult as trying to get work done while traveling in a foreign country. Khamis said he was repeatedly asked to share the pros and cons of having a mayor elected by the general population. In Dublin, other councilors elect a mayor, but they’re considering switching to a direct democracy. “I was honored to have them ask us those questions, because it kind of shows that they’re also thinking about how we do things here,” he said. Councilmember Xavier Campos’ office declined comment on the trip. We’ll just assume he had an awesome time.

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

5 Comments

  1. Total waste of public funds.  This is a microcosm on how our city council wastes our money.  Hope you all enjoyed your paid vacation on our dime.  And you wonder why this city is a mess.

  2. Shane Patrick Connolly and Johnny Khamis are giving Pete Constant a real run for his money for the king of the hypocrites honor.

  3. After returning home from his Ireland junket, Mr. Kalra quickly went to work on his resolution affirming San Jose’s “valued relationship” with Ekaterinburg, a San Jose “sister city” and condemning Russia for its treatment of gays.

    Too bad not own of these world travelers has any clue how to address the many problems San Jose residents face on a daily basis.

    See http://www.mercurynews.com/politics-government/ci_24364762/san-jose-memo-russia-anti-gay-not-ok