Leery, perhaps, of the image of lei-wearing conventioneers imbibing parasol drinks at taxpayers' expense, county officials from several states have pulled out or balked at attending the National Association of Counties' annual conference July 15-19 in Honolulu.
County Board members Barbara A. Favola (D) and Walter Tejada (D) plan on going. Favola said she would combine her attendance at the convention, at taxpayers' expense, with five days of rest and recreation with her family, at her own expense.
Favola made no apologies about her decision to attend, saying that the county pays membership dues to the group and that she recently was elected to chair NACo's subcommittee on human services and education.
"I think it is an appropriate use of county dollars," Favola said. "We are members of NACo and we pay dues. For us to benefit from our dues, we need to participate in their workshops and hear what other localities are doing."
In addition to costly airfare -- Favola's plane ticket was around $900 -- the convention costs between $415 and $600 to attend, depending on registration date. Room rates at several big-name Waikiki hotels range from $179 to $295 a night.
County executives can pay extra to choose from a variety of special tours offered, including a Barefoot Fun Cruise, with snorkeling on an Oahu motor yacht, or an Ali'i Kai Catamaran Dinner Cruise, where guests can dine on a "generous buffet of island favorites" and watch the sun set. They can also attend a seminar on the island of Maui with such enriching topics as "Budgeting for Outcomes That Citizens Value." Its content description goes like this:
"Tired of delivering bad news about declining county revenues and yet another round of budget cuts? Would you like to take a new approach to budgeting that starts with what really matters -- the results that citizens value? . . . You'll learn about one county's plan to provide an open, clear window into the often complicated world of county budgeting and how they involved citizens to prioritize services, create measurements, and report results."
Some local citizens expressed dismay at Favola's and Tejada's decision to make the trip.
"Even in Arlington, there are still a large number of citizens who scrimp and save all year so they can take a vacation," said Timothy M. Wise, president of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association. "Here are County Board members taking a vacation financed by outrageously increased property taxes that were paid this week."
Is Fear a Factor for You?
Alexandria is known for a lot of things: George Washington, the tony homes that fill Old Town and the city's historic waterfront, to name a few.
But it seems the city could soon be adding another line to its distinguished resume: Host of the television show "Fear Factor Home Invasion."
Producers say the show is coming to town -- specifically, the home of a chosen contestant -- and to 22 other cities across the country to film shows for its fall TV lineup.
And yes, you guessed it, they're looking for applicants, or rather "the single most energetic and fearless household in Alexandria," to perform those scary stunts that sometimes involve eating putrid creepy-crawlies.
The segment will be taped in either July or October and will be aired either later this year or next year. In this iteration of the show, contestants will perform a stunt rather than compete against each other. The reward will be a $5,000 prepaid credit card.
Mikey Glazer, cast producer for "Home Invasion," was a Washington intern during the early 1990s and said he got his start doing eating stunts at Generous George's Positive Pizza and Pasta Place on Duke Street.
"I didn't have any money," he said, noting that friends would dare him to eat copious amounts of food. In exchange, they'd pay the bill. "I'd get sick, but I didn't have to pay. . . . I guess 'Fear Factor' was always on the horizon for me."
Glazer said the show will be taped on private property, where producers will bring in stunts of the "scary, disgusting and gross" variety.
"Will we be having you jump between two helicopters outside your house?" Glazer said. "Probably not."
Alexandria households that think they have what it takes can get complete details about how to apply by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.fearfactor.com and clicking "Apply" at the top of the page.
Are you oozing with civic pride? Do you possess lungs of steel allowing you to shout and still be understood? Do you have a sense of humor that can stand up to extreme heat and cold, and a love of tourists?
Would you be caught dead wearing 19th-century attire?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, Alexandria officials say you may have what it takes to be the city's new town crier.
Officials announced their search last month after crier John I. Yagerline, 75, passed away. He had served in the role from 1998 until he died in April.
If you're interested, applications for the job must be received by the Office of Historic Alexandria by next Thursday. Women are welcome to apply.
Auditions will be held next month, when finalists will participate in a "cry-off" -- a lot like a bake-off but without the sweets -- in the City Council chamber.
Applicants will be judged on (we're not making this up) call content, clarity, sustained volume and deportment.
According to the American Guild of Town Criers, there are about 30 of these dedicated folk working across the country.