Montgomery Sister Cities Board Minutes for February 3, 2011
Attendees: Bill Hudnut, Bruce Adams, Dianne Smith, Adrienne Van Late, William Nance, Boris Foxman, Barry Bogage, Don Mooers and Evelyn Gonzalez
Guests: Elizabeth Hugley, county resident interested in Morazan, representatives from ADEL and a microfinance institution in Morazan and Adrian Karmazyn, a county resident interested in the Ukraine
The board approved the minutes for the September and November 2010 board meetings.
The meeting began with a discussion of our county exploring partnering with Luhansk, in the Ukraine. Luhansk, with approximately 2 million residents, is a government entity somewhere between a county and a state in comparison with the U.S. It is located in the eastern part of the country so that it is very Russian culturally. It is the second largest country in area next to Russia in Europe. Luhansk has approached our county with an interest in sister city partnering. They have provided us with a Luhansk mission statement for that purpose. Furthermore, they have obtained a grant from Open World to send a delegation to our county next fall (2011) for them to learn more about us and we about them. They have identified a mix of governmental, sports and other professionals who have formed a sister cities committee in Luhansk. Six of those individuals are expected to visit our county in the fall sponsored by an Open World Grant for this purpose. Adrian Karmazyne, who professionally works at the Voice of America and is a county resident, described strong interest from Urkranian county residents that this partnership be explored. He reported that Luhansk is diverse ethnically. In our county, he reports there are two strong Ukranian churches with approximately 700 parishioners in each of the churches. There is also a Saturday school at Westland Middle School where children of Ukranian ancestry study their heritage including language. A meeting was held in January about possible county/Luhansk partnering that included representatives from the Ukrainian Embassy and from the Arlington County, VA sister cities program which partners with a community in the Ukraine. State House of Delegates member Resnik is also interested. The board agreed that it would like to host the Ukraine delegation in the fall and look forward to the event. It was suggested that the delegation might come in September when there is a county Ukrainian cultural event in which the visiting delegates might participate.
The next subject the board addressed was Beit Shemesh, in Israel. It has been the intent of the board that this community be the second one with which the county partners after the Morazan agreement is concluded. Several years ago the County Executive visited Beit Shemesh and agreed with their mayor that we would become sister city partners one day. Since then there have been exchanges from Beit Shemesh to the county completed in which sister cities has assisted. One exchange involved Ethiopian Jews coming to the county to demonstrate their art of coffee preparation and to describe their experiences in emigrating to Israel in the 1980’s. There was also a group of environmentalists who visited the county to learn how we deal with matters like recycling and greening programs. Mier Wolf will set up a meeting with local Beit Shemesh advocates which available board members can attend. The mayor may visit the county next fall.
Several Morazan visitors including the Director of ADEL, a development organization, explained the purpose of their visit to the county. They are arranging for a business opportunity which will allow a microfinance institution (70% of which will be owned by ADEL through its subsidiary AMC) to do the remittance work for people sending funds from the county to El Salvador. Part of the proceeds the company realizes for this service will be directed to social service programs in Morazan. There are already 800 farmers who benefit from these programs through a dairy plant created with funds from the ADEL subsidiary, AMC. The Morazan visitors among other places visited LEDC in the county. The expanded remittance program in Morazan will include more branches in outlying areas as well as office space in the county.
Evelyn Gonzales then gave an update on the December visit to the county by the Governor of Morazan, an ADEL representative and the head of the Mayors’ association in Morazan. She reported the visit was a great success. They attended the inauguration of County Executive Leggett for a second term in office (where they met Bill Hudnut), had a meeting at LEDC and toured a county school. They had a dinner which several of the county travelers last summer to Morazan attended. Finally, they toured Capitol Hill and met with Congressman Van Hollen. For this coming summer, Evelyn reported that she would be sending out information to possible county travelers to accompany the County Executive on his five day trip to Morazan at the end of July. He will sign a partnership agreement with the Governor of Morazan at that time. Bruce Adams reported that Habitat For Humanity has agreed to build 38 houses over 5 years in Morazan – a very significant development for Morazan residents and the sister cities program on which Bruce and John Pauksis from Habitat have worked for some months. Evelyn also reported that she would be identifying a list of other projects for this summer which might include providing musical and sports equipment for schools and community centers. Bruce reported that a soccer team from Long Branch expects to go to Morazan this summer, too.
It was reported that the county African Advisory Board is at work in identifying a possible community with which the county might partner in the sister cities program. Since there are a number of possibilities, it takes time to cull them down to the recommendation the advisory board wants to make. China is another prospect for sister cities partnering. Several communities have made inquiries of us, but the county has to coordinate local Asian American and other resident interest in this association. It appears that might be more promising in 2012 after Morazan and Beit Shemesh are solidified as official sister city partners.
The board learned that our sister cities program should have a website launch in March. A web site creator, VDO Technologies, has been working with Bruce and Mier to accomplish this.
The board also discussed some publicity for the sister cities program especially prior, during and after the County Executive’s trip to Morazan in July.