Commentary: Trade trips must yield more than expense reports

Miami-Dade is an international hub for trade and tourism. So it's to be expected that the county's trade and tourism executives would be traveling abroad to pump up business here.

What's inexplicable is why county commissioners get to go along for the ride — without any real accounting of the trade mission's success.

There's not even a requirement that any such mission by the county-run International Trade Consortium should have Miami-Dade business people participate. Instead, a trip last month to Senegal and South Africa included Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, four county employees and business people from Jacksonville, Palatka, Daytona Beach and Boca Raton.

Nor is it clear why the ITC, overseen by a commission committee headed by Commissioner Natacha Seijas, is necessary when there are public/private partnerships like the Beacon Council, World Trade Center Miami and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce focused on expanding business opportunities. Ms. Seijas didn't return phone calls to Herald reporters who were looking into the ITC's spending, which only serves to highlight the disconnect between certain commissioners and the struggling communities they serve during this recession.

The bottom line is that the ITC -- its critics have dubbed the acronym "International Travel for Commissioners"-- spent $217,000 on nine trips since 2007 and has produced virtually nothing in return. During that time Ms. Seijas and four other commissioners -- Ms. Edmonson, Sally Heyman, Dennis Moss and Rebeca Sosa -- have gone on what many people would call junkets on the taxpayers' dime.

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