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DOWNEY - A split City Council agreed Tuesday to pay $5,000 in travel and lodgings expenses to have Mayor Mario Guerra represent Downey at a ceremonial sister city event in Ireland next month.
Roscommon County became a sister city to Downey earlier this year and a ceremony to mark the relationship is scheduled for May 24 in Ireland.
John Gately Downey, this city's namesake, was born in Roscommon County.
Guerra will represent Downey in an official capacity during the visit, which is expected to include a meeting with Ireland's president, Michael Higgins.
The vote to send Guerra passed, 3-2, with council members Luis Marquez and Roger Brossmer dissenting, citing budget concerns. Downey laid off more than a dozen employees last year and instituted mandatory furloughs for other workers.
"In these tough fiscal times this is not something I'm comfortable in supporting," Brossmer said. "I don't think it's prudent to spend $5,000 on this."
Marquez expressed a similar opinion and claimed council members had previously agreed to curb non-essential spending.
"Mr. Guerra can attend on his own dime," Marquez said.
Guerra defended the ceremony as a "once-in-a-lifetime historic event" and said the city's finances are 10 percent better than originally projected, which resulted in the elimination of two furlough days.
He also claimed the city issued merit raises to department heads this year.
Mayor Pro Tem Fernando Vasquez and Councilman Alex Saab supported the trip as well.
The non-profit Downey Sister Cities Association is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to send its own members to Ireland at no cost to taxpayers.
Roscommon County is Downey's sixth sister city, joining Guadalajara, Mexico; Ensenada, Mexico; Valle of San Quintin, Mexico; Fresnillo, Mexico; and Alajuela, Costa Rica.
Published: April 11, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 52