January 21, 2010 Board Meeting

Montgomery Sister Cities Board Minutes for January 21, 2010

Attendees:  Bill Hudnut, Bruce Adams, Don Mooers, and Harold McDougall, new board members preset at the meeting.  The board then approved the meeting minutes from the December 3, 2009 meeting.

Evelyn Gonzalez Mills made a presentation on the merits of approving Morazan in El Salvador, from which she recently returned, for sister cities partnering.  In her presentation, Ms. Gonzalez provided maps showing general population trends from Morazan and other eastern El Salvadoran communities emigrating to Montgomery County, reported that this Department has 200,000 residents, that she met with the Governor and several Mayors who are enthusiastic about partnering with the county, that educational efforts including computers were a major need of Morazan, Ms. Gonzalez also reported that small business were thriving in communities in Morazan including soap making and that the participants have formed cooperatives for that purpose.  She noted that Morazan communities have internet connections, but not enough computers to serve the needs of the communities there.

The board commended Ms. Gonzalez for the thorough presentation.  There was discussion of trying to implement a Habitat for Humanity project somewhere in Morazan in 2011.  The board was interested in defining the goals of undertaking projects in Morazan.  It was suggested in defining the goals with the Governor and mayor of whichever community we might enter that we review a department wide development plan devised by the department to make sure we comply with department, community and our County goals.  It was also mentioned that if we partner with a primarily business oriented community elsewhere in the world, that we might encourage them to invest in Morazan.  Given the educational needs of Morazan it was mentioned that we should do outreach to MCPS (contacting Frieda Lacey at MCPS) and Montgomery College (through Ms. Gonzalez) for their participation in educational projects in Morazan.  A visit to Morazan in August should help clarify the terms for any partnership Morazan and the County might enter.  Dr. McDougall moved that our organization proceed exploring a partnership with Morazan and pursue mutually agreeable deliverables with them.  Mr. Nance seconded the motion.  The motion carried unanimously.  We will inform Morazan of this decision by letter.  We expect that a number of board members will visit several communities within Morazan in early August with a goal of Morazan and Montgomery County Sister Cities, Inc. entering into a formal agreement in the fall of 2010.

The Board then moved to a discussion on Beit Shemesh.  It was reported that Beit Shemesh was ready to partner with the county.  Beit Shemesh and the County have participated in informal exchanges for a number of years.  The most recent one involved Ethiopian Jewish settlers in Beit Shemesh visiting the county in December to talk about their flight from Ethiopia to Israel.  Beit Shemesh has solar power and environmental protection industrial activity which might develop into doing business in the County and in turn the County being able to do business in Beit Shemesh.  That is true of their small wine industry, too.  Beit Shemesh is a location of great Biblical interest which should be good for the tourist industry.  Mr. Mooers moved and Mr. Adams seconded a motion whereby the county will notify Beit Shemesh by letter of its enthusiasm for partnering with them and reinforce the enthusiasm with a phone call between Ike Leggett and the Mayor of Beit Shemesh on April 20 which is Israel’s Independence Day.  Beit Shemesh will need to await finalization of the County’s partnership with Morazan before it partners with the county.  The board has previously voted that El Salvador would be its first sister city partnership location.  In the meantime, Beit Shemesh exchanges between now and then will continue to receive County cooperation as they have for several years.  It is a goal for this prospective partner that the County have both Jewish and non-Jewish members on the sister city committee that implements projects in Beit Shemesh.

Boris Foxman made a presentation on the Moscow Region from which he recently returned.  Mr. Foxman reported that 26% of all Russian science research occurs in the communities that constitute this County- like entity. There are six million residents in approximately 30 cities which include defense Science centers, biology research and nuclear surgery research among a number of sciences studied there.  Mr. Foxman met with the personal assistant to the Minister in charge of Foreign Affairs for the region. He learned of their enthusiasm for exploring a. partnership with the County. He will send a letter to that effect.  They would like a letter from Ike Leggett confirming the County’s interest in exploring a partnership, though they already have a letter from the Chair to that effect.  Mr. Foxman asked the board about emphases in this prospective partnership.  The region would like it to relate to science business. The board noted that it would like a science and business emphasis as well.  The board further mentioned an educational and cultural relationship possibility with the region. It was reported by staff that Elaine Amir, Director of the Hopkins facilities in Shady Grove is joining this organization’s board which should be vital in connecting the Shady Grove science interest with the region’s.  Mr. Foxman awaits confirmation about the region’s interest by letter.  Then we will ask County Executive Leggett to send a letter to the region about the initiation of exploration of a partnership.  In the meantime Mr. Foxman and Mr. Wolf will meet with Ms. Amir and also representatives from the County economic development department.  Board members encouraged Mr. Foxman to establish a work group similar to the one that is developing the Morazan relationship with the County.

The board was then informed generally about inquiries from South Korean communities, Kenya and India.  Kenya and India inquiries come from within the County while two South Korean communities have approached this organization.  The County Executive’s African Affairs Advisory Group has begun discussions aimed at identifying an appropriate sister city in Africa.  Further information will be provided the board as developments occur with these prospective sister city partners.  Their inquiries are in a very preliminary stage.