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The National Association of Counties caught flak in June for scheduling its annual convention in Hawaii.  Mainland media accused county officials of taking a free vacation on government money. Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn joined the chorus of condemnation:

All of this talk about grass skirts, mai tais and goofing off on the beach vexes Hawaiians who are trying to turn the island chain into a convention powerhouse.

“We’re competitively priced and a great place to do serious business,” said Frank Haas, vice president of marketing for the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority. “But because it’s such a paradise here, we have a perception problem.”

The world’s saddest song on the world’s smallest ukulele.

Sorry, Hawaii, but you can’t be heaven on Earth—average high temperature last July, 89 degrees; last January, 79 degrees—and a hotspot for public servants traveling with their constituents’ money.

It’s greedy of you to want that, and it was politically tone-deaf of the National Association of Counties to choose a convention site with such obvious potential for indignation and mockery.

When they must convene, government officials should meet in a centrally located city—preferably an air and rail hub. Such a city should have numerous fine restaurants, theaters, music venues and recreational opportunities, yet not so many that the folks back home will angrily assume they’re simply on vacation.

Zorn’s suggestion? His own city, Chicago.

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Honolulu Magazine December 2017
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