Montgomery Sister Cities Board Minutes for June19, 2012
Attendees: Hudnut, Adams, Nance, Barre, Cameron, Foxman,Doolan,Bogage
Since Evelyn Gonzalez is in El Salvador, Bill Nance was designated Secretary for this meeting with his approval
Chair Bill Hudnut initiated a board discussion about possible partnering with Beit Shemesh/Mateh Yehuda. The board praised the Chair for running an excellent community meeting at CountyEOB on the subject on March 13. The presentations by the attendees and subsequent dialoguing were impressively informative and civil. For now boardmembers Barre, Nance and Cameron suggested that the board needed more time to consider this partnering. The Chair reminded the board of the need to weigh matters including issues of human rights in Beit Shemesh as well as the 15 year history of good works there by the Jewish Federation. He said that there should be no “rush to judgment” so that the board taking more time on this subject was the way he recommended to go. Board members agreed to delay further consideration of partnering with Beit Shemesh/Mateh Yehuda with future information gathering and discussion on the subject.
Neftali Granados, Chair of the El Salvador Committee gave a report on progress of sister city activity in Morazan, our sister city partner in El Salvador. His report included information about Habitat For Humanity which is now active there. Habitat will build 38 homes with volunteers in the coming years. He mentioned the excellent efforts of Mover Moms led by Rebecca Kahlenberg which will go to Morazan again this summer to help in schools and community centers. The committee shipped $22,000 of donated medical supplies to clinics around Morazan . Finally the committee sponsored 11 teachers at a central America teachers’ conference in San Salvador related to improving teacher techniques in the classroom. The committee did some successful fundraising at a Fiesta event in December.
Soulelem Ayele , a leader in the Ethiopian Committee and Daniel Koroma, County liaison to the African American community, reported on developments in the county’s upcoming plan to partner with Gondar, Ethiopia. In January a small group of individuals including Ayele, Koroma, Adams and Nance traveled to Gondar to look for projects which in which sister cities and Gondar might partner. They met with officials from a major university there which looks promising especially since MontgomeryCollege has an interest in the Gondar program. There were other opportunities identified including computer labs, sports and waterworks. Around September 23 County Executive Ike Leggett will lead a sister cities delegation to Gondar for the signing of a partnership agreement. The trip will include visits to historic sites in and around Gondar as well as to its more modern developments in the education and other fields. The upcoming trip will cost the travelers approximately $2,000 for travel, accommodations, guides and other amenities. It is a very low price for this undertaking. Some travelers will extend their trips to see other sites in Ethiopia including some spiritual historic sites.
The board led by Adams honored Mier Wolf for his service to sister cities as he retires from his county senior fellow position at the end of June. The surprise celebration included a cake and spoken tributes by Adams and Chair Hudnut. Wolf thanked the board for its excellent efforts and reminded everyone that sister cities is succeeding because in Morazan, Neftali and Jorge Granados, Evelyn Gonzalez(board member), Karla Silvestre, county liaison to the Latino community, and for Gondar Soulelem Ayele and Daniel Koroma have made extraordinary personal commitments to this cause. They have made the “people to people” spirit of sister cities live in our county and in Morazan and Gondar.
Board member Foxman reported upon the continuing interest of Luhansk, Ukraine to partner with the county in the sister cities program. Luhansk governmental leaders have previously visited the county for that purpose and intend to return. He reported that a well known oncologist had gone from Maryland to Luhansk to supervise surgery in a hospital there which drew great interest in Luhansk. Foxman noted, however, that for Luhansk to proceed further in seeking partnership with the county, it needs to demonstrate strong interest and commitment from the local Ukrainian community which has yet to occur.
The board then heard an impressive presentation by several Chinese American county residents advocating the county partner with Xi’an China. Xi’an is noted for a remarkable display of ceramic soldiers which tourists from around the world visit. The presenters, however, emphasized the broad based benefits the county would enjoy by partnering with Xi’an. It is a strong biotech and high tech community. It is a university center in China with a number of higher education institutions located there including an national agricultural lab. They have contacts with the University of Maryland in College Park. Xi’an has a population of 8.5 million people and a gross national product of $62 billion. Thirteen dynasties have ruled Xi’an and it was part of the Silk Road. Xi’an appears to have a very interesting past and a very dynamic present.
A second presentation for partnering in China came from county residents supporting Bexin, China located in the LiaoningProvince. In this impressive presentation by a U of Maryland student the board learned that Bexin is a healthcare and pharmaceutical center in China. Within Bexin is Shenxi which has a number of large pharmaceutical companies. It is a growing pharmaceutical city within Bexin. Bexin, with a population of 3 million people, is located near Shenyang, with a population of 10 million people, one of the largest cities in north eastern China. Bexin also has a significant steel industry. For tourism there is the well known BendWaterCave. Board member Adams reported that a small group of county representatives will go to China this fall in part to explore possible sister cities options there. The itinerary has yet to be set.
Diane Vu, Asian American liaison for the county, has informed us that Chungbuk, South Korea is no longer a candidate to partner with the county. They will seek partnership with the state of Maryland which is in compliance with Chungbuk’s own partnering requirements. It appears, however, that another South Korean city or province will be identified for possible partnering so that Ike Leggett can visit South Korea for exploratory purposes as well China, once the China partnership is defined.