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      Columbia council approves Benjamin trip to Paris Air Show

      Photo Credit: Emily Pace

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Columbia City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to spend up to $6,000 to send Mayor Steve Benjamin to the Paris Air Show .

      Mayor Benjamin was invited to join Governor Nikki Haley, Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt, as well as delegations from cities, including Greenville and Charleston on the trip from June 18-23.

      According to the Columbia Economic Development Office, the Paris Air Show is the largest aeronautical gathering of manufacturers and suppliers in the world.

      A summary of the trip says, "South Carolina will be marketing our state as a ~cluster TM location for aircraft-related support operations and an attractive location to establish a business. Mayor Benjamin will join the Central S.C. Alliance to promote Columbia and the Columbia region as a great place to locate."

      The Economic Development Office breaks down the expenses:

      • Travel (Airfare) estimate $1,400
      • Hotel 5 nights @ $500/night $2,500
      • (Hotel accommodations arranged by SC Commerce)
      • Per Diem (Federal Government rates) $1,032
      • Total $4,932

      The office has requested $6,000 for the trip. That includes an allowance for other unknown, at this time, expenses.

      "All of Boeing's current, future and potential supplier are going to be there," Mayor Benjamin says. "If we want to have any hope of leveraging Boeing's significant investment in South Carolina into jobs for our city and region then we must be there as well."

      He adds several citizens have offered to pay for the trip, but believes it's a slippery slope if public officials accept money from the private sector to go to meetings.

      "I think we don't go we will have missed an opportunity," councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine says. "I think we will get more calls and more emails from people saying, what are you doing? Why did Rock Hill get such and such or why did someone else?"

      The trip comes as Columbia City Council continues work on the proposed 2011-12 budget . First reading on the budget is set for Tuesday night as well.

      Council recently approved increasing SCE&G's franchise fee to raise more than $3 million to help fund the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority . Customers currently pay a 3 percent franchise fee on their power bills, but that will soon change to 5 percent.

      Council is also considering up to a 5 percent increase to the water and sewer rate.

      Click here to see the entire agenda for Tuesday's Columbia City Council meeting.

      Click here to read more about the Paris Air Show.

      Do you agree with the city approving to send the Mayor to the Paris Air Show? Vote in our poll and leave your thoughts below to weigh in.