Wednesday, December 11, 2002

City Hall

Sister cities in family squabble


Cincinnati's Sister Cities Association, which is supposed to build tolerance and cross-cultural understanding, is being torn apart by what might be called sibling rivalry.

Tension boiled over this week as City Council considers whether to continue to fund the agency at $20,000 a year. Finance Committee Chairman John Cranley, for one, would like to take that money and give it to the Greater Cincinnati Film Commission.

Robert W. Stevie of the Munich sister cities program says that would be fine by him. He said the Munich program, a founding member of the Sister Cities Association, had split from the mother group.

He told City Council on Monday that dealing with the mother organization was a "nightmare" that had become more about filling out forms and reports than doing anything worthwhile.

The Harare, Zimbabwe, sister city is "nonfunctional," said Sister Cities president David Savage, the mayor of Wyoming. And the Gifu, Japan, relationship is "dysfunctional."

Mark Gable, who has been lobbying unsuccessfully for a Latin American sister city and who vows to start a newsletter exposing alleged incompetence at Sister Cities, called the situation "a cultural disaster for Cincinnati."

Mr. Savage acknowledged some problems, but said the association was still working on joint projects such as a multicultural art work at Ted Berry International Friendship Park.

"The sister city committees are all staffed by volunteers, and they have the strengths and weaknesses of any volunteer organization," he said.

Thanks for the Memos: Two days before City Manager Valerie Lemmie released her proposed budget - which included 47 layoffs - she sent a memo to all city employees suggesting ways to cope with the uncertainty. Among them:

"Release feelings of anxiety."

"Develop a plan, or road map, for short-term and long-term goals."

"Reassess your skills. Organizational change can be a catalyst for change if you take an inventory of your skills and your needs. ... Consult a career counselor. Use this time to realize a dream."

City Hall reporter Gregory Korte can be reached at 768-8391 or

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