Like its sister city Madison, agriculture is important to Obihiro, Hokkaidō.
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz spent last week in Japan, but that doesn't mean he was out of touch. In fact, while he missed the city council's major meeting on the Allied Drive redevelopment, he still found time to lobby Ald. Larry Palm on the issue.
The mayor called Palm from Japan to urge his support for the $28 million project. And taxpayers picked up the cost of the call.
"All calls the mayor makes related to city business are paid for out of our office account," explains Janet Piraino, the mayor's chief of staff. "Regardless of where the mayor is or the reason he is there, it is important for him to stay connected to the city."
Piraino says the mayor is in Japan on official business, visiting Madison's sister city, Obihiro (taxpayers also sprung for the $1,100 plane ticket). But even if he were on vacation, she says, "his calls to alders to discuss city business would be paid for out of our office account."
Cieslewicz didn't actually reach Palm, so he simply left a message. It was probably the cheapest international lobbying ever done: The call cost just 70 Japanese yen -- about 70 cents.
But it was worth the money. Ald. Palm voted yes on the Allied Drive project.