City has one sister, not sure it can handle another

Of all the topics presented at Vancouver City Council workshops, a proposal to be a Sister City with Dubrovnik, Croatia, seemed like it would be fairly innocuous.

I wrote about the proposal in February when a delegation from Dubrovnik, including the mayor, visited Vancouver. The council discussed the proposal during a workshop on May 6, but instead of swooning over the idea of having a European sister, councilors expressed several concerns.

First, some background: State law prohibits public funds from being spent on hosting Sister City relationships or buying gifts for Sister City officials, so a city that wants to participate in a cultural and educational bond with a far-away place must rely on a community partner to sponsor the relationship. Vancouver has been a Sister City with Joyo, Japan, since 1995, a relationship sponsored by Rotary Club of Vancouver that has economic ties: Japanese companies such as SEH America, Kyocera and Sharp Corp. have plants in Clark County.

The city started a relationship with Arequipa, Peru, in 1961, but that lapsed in 1993. Relationships have been proposed with Chkalovska, Russia, and Victoria, British Columbia, but never materialized.

The relationship with Dubrovnik would be sponsored by Bravo! Vancouver.  Michael Kissinger of Bravo! serves as guest conductor for the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra and has been promoting travel to Dubrovnik at his annual Vancouver Wine & Jazz Festival in Esther Short Park. Last year, Bravo! hosted the first  International Wine & Jazz Festival in Dubrovnik.

Kissinger wants the city council to adopt a resolution formalizing the relationship with Dubrovnik. The proposal is on Monday’s agenda.

During the May 6 workshop, Councilor Jeanne Stewart said she worries that using any city staff time to coordinate local Sister City-related events would be considered an illegal gift of public funds, as staff time has value. City Manager Eric Holmes said City Attorney Ted Gathe  has said that staff time isn’t an illegal gift of public funds. Councilor Larry Smith said most Sister City relationships that fail do so because there’s no financial support, and Kissinger assured him that Bravo! includes “very sweet people.” Stewart proposed having another workshop on Sister City policies, but Mayor Tim Leavitt pointed out that Dubrovnik is the only current proposal – it’s not as if a lot of cities are clamoring to be Vancouver’s sister.

Kissinger said city approval will mean a lot to the Dubrovnik officials, and they are ready to made the relationship official. He sounded frustrated that the council wasn’t getting behind his “visionary” thinking about how this will promote Vancouver in Dubrovnik, one of the busiest ports for cruise ships in the world.

Will the council get on board on Monday? Stay tuned.






Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice

I cover Vancouver city government. Reach me at or 360-735-4508.

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