AURORA, Colo. — At the International Making Cities Livable Conference, attendees learn tools that can increase the quality of life for people in a number of areas like mental health, housing affordability, and urban planning.
“It is a very municipally-focused conference and it is all about how do we make our cities better,” said Aurora city council member, Juan Marcano.
Last year, the conference took place in Carmel, Indiana. This year it took place in Paris, France.
“It's this kind of learning experience, seeing that it's not just an idea, you can actually take direct action, as an elected official as a local governing body and get the results you want,” said Marcano.
Aurora council members Juan Marcano and Crystal Murillo attended the conference. Despite all the knowledge they’ll be returning home with from France, Mayor Coffman says the trip was completely unnecessary.
“The optics are bad. It reflects poorly on the entire city, when the taxpayers expect their dollars to be spent wisely. In my view, this was nothing short of a European vacation at taxpayers’ expense,” said Coffman.
Each city council member is given $7,000 a year as a travel budget for conferences. Meaning, the trip was legal.
“Is it right? No. Does it reflect poorly on the city, yes,” said Coffman.
Based on travel reports provided by the City of Aurora, the trip cost Councilman Marcano a little more than $3,000 and Councilwoman Murillo around $5,500. The expenses in the reports are preliminary and still subject to reconciliation in the city’s financial process.
An expense Marcano says helps provide the city with new ideas but instead, the focus in on a pointless argument.
“The cynicism and the bad faith attacks from hate radio people and from you know, other elected officials, i don't really give a damn, this is about serving the people. Our people deserve to, you know, have their local elected officials learn from the best and i'm bringing back that information so that we can make our city standard for the country,” said Marcano.
Mayor Coffman says he will be putting forward a proposal to prohibit Aurora City Council members from using tax dollars to pay for an international conference again.
Unless, requested by the Office of International Immigrant Affairs, the city, or Aurora’s Sister Cities Program.
“If you want to learn about the challenges before us, they're really right here. You can learn about them right here,” said Coffman.