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Richmond leaders visit Denver hopeful for city lessons

Posted at 12:45 AM, May 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-01 00:45:28-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--From the City of Richmond, to the City of Denver, 150 leaders from local government, businesses, education and non-profit groups will travel to the Mile High city this week.

They are making the trip to learn how to attract more people and businesses downtown. They also want to see how Denver puts on a massive Bicycle race, like the kind Richmond will host in 2015.

CBS 6 asked how much it will cost taxpayers to send 10 representatives from the City of Richmond on this journey.

According to Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the trip, it will cost roughly $2,300 dollars per person.

Suzette Denslow is one of 10 people from the Richmond City government heading to Denver. She says the benefits of the trip outweigh the cost

"This is just a trip that 150 people from the community are going on.  A lot of businesses are investing money and sending people because they see it as so important for their business and for the city,” said Suzette Denslow, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff.

Denslow points specifically to a 2011 trip to Austin, Texas, where she says the city was introduced to a new model of how to improve Public Housing.

On a different trip, she says city officials gathered crucial information about how to develop Richmond's riverfront.

CBS 6 asked Denslow, if it’s necessary for so many people to go in a tight budget year.

“We think that each of the people going has their own unique model of what they need to know and how they can move the city forward when we get back,” said Denslow.

“But if you want to be innovative and take ideas to other cities, it’s going to be a combination of elected officials and the business community and these trips are combination of those entities,” said Kathy Graziano, 4th District City Council member.

Political watchdog Paul Goldman believes the trip is nothing more than a junket, and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

"And this may explain by the way, why Richmond has the most expensive city government in the state.  There’s nobody even close.  We’re looking at everybody through the rearview mirror,” said Paul Goldman.

City leaders will also look at developing a transportation and retail hub that mirrors plans for Richmond’s Main street station.

City Council members did not attend last year’s Boston trip because of pressing city issues which included approving the City’s Bi-Annual budget.