September 9, 2009 > Sister Cities Commission
Sister Cities Commission
The Sister Cities Commission (SCC) would like to include a non-voting student member. Jenny Chen, from the Youth Advisory Commission, attended the August meeting and said "I want to know what my role would be if I become a non-voting student member."
Chair Grilli explained in concept what they're looking for is "someone in the student community... that can kind of build inroads for us because we, on a regular basis, need participation both for families to host visiting students from our sister cities, as well as students, high school students, to participate in travel to our sister cities."
Grilli continued that non-voting student member would most likely work with the Milpitas High School principal and a teacher who has been heavily involved in the past, to find students to participate in the program.
SCC is looking for someone in the student community who can generate interest and promote international exchange programs.
The commission approved a motion to make a recommendation to City Council to amend the commission bylaws to allow for a non-voting student member, to act as a liaison between the SCC and the student community.
Grilli explained "as of right now we are still planning on hosting a group of ... 6 young ladies and a teacher" from Huizhou (way jo), China, the week of October 11.
SCC will be looking for six, preferably female, students to host the six visiting students.
Last year, Grilli spoke with the Milpitas High School principal about finding a teacher to host the visiting teacher because she expressed an interest in being hosted by one of the teachers in the high school.
Grilli explained how it all works: "The students from our sister cities come and they are hosted by a family here, and they stay the week with that family, and experience the American experience. And then they go to classes with their host students. And, during the course of the week... We take (the students) on a field trip to San Francisco or whatever, but other than that it's pretty much the activities at the school."
The reason for having this visit the week of October 11 is because that is homecoming week, so there will be a lot of activities for the visiting students to attend and experience.
Then, the reverse is Huizhou will host Milpitas students.
The Milpitas students who hosted Huizhou students will have first choice.
Huizhou has also agreed to host any of the students who hosted students from the Phillipines, Chair Grilli explained.
"By hosting you get yourself on the top end of the list for the opportunity to go" Grilli said. It's not free, but for what you get, it is certainly inexpensive, he stated, less than $2000, including one way airfare. There is no city subsidy for adults or students.
SCC is planning the trip to Huizhou for Milpitas High School's Spring Break in 2010.
If hosts for the visiting students can be found, the only time the SCC would need volunteer assistance would be the San Francisco field trip, which has not been scheduled yet.
Grilli does not know if any Huizhou city official will be joining the group, he said "they usually do send somebody."
Dagupan City, Phillipines
Holly Cuciz, Public Works Secretary, has sent letters to the US embassy to expedite the visas for the 7 visitors from Dagupan, scheduled to be at the City Council meeting where the council will approve the renewal for the memorandum of understanding (MOU) to continue exchanging with Dagupan for 5 years.
The exchange between Milpitas and Dagupan is usually government to government, rather than students.
Cuciz has scheduled the Dagupan visitors to receive presentations on waste management strategies and anti-cyber trafficking.
She explained that normally Dagupan city officials will request of her information about how our government works, and this municipal sharing has worked out.
Dagupan delegates will watch the presentations, have dinner, go to City Council, council approves the MOU, and all officials participate in the signing ceremony. Mayor Livengood will present a gift to the visiting vice mayor: a crystal stand with a globe on it that says Dagupan City, sister cities with Milpitas.
This MOU renewal will be the longest, from 2 years to 5 years. They will present a plaque to the Milpitas mayor.
Dagupan City officials try to schedule the visit to coincide with the city council meeting to approve the renewal of the MOU.
An existing ordinance dictates that international flags cannot be flown at City Hall without the necessary requests approved by City Council 45 days prior. To get the item on the agenda would require at least 60 day notice, including knowing the specific dates of the international visit.
With council approval other issues still need to be determined, such as is the City purchasing the flags, and other things, Cuciz said.
Vice Chair Arbaugh said "We know who our sister cities are, and we know that displaying their national flag is potentially a very powerful thing to communicate" and it seems that the SCC should at least ask someone on the council whether there could possibly be a blanket ordinance passed that would the SCC a kind of legal authority to consider flags.
Chair Grilli said that Mayor Livengood has expressed interest in resolving the matter, referring to flying international flags at the White House.
Grilli continued that this ordinance, and subsequent debate, is the result of a difference of opinion.
"The powers that were at the time got their way on it, and that's what we're living with at the moment" Grilli said.
However, he continued, say if there is 60 days prior, maybe the protocol of what the SCC does in preparation could be changed to include an inquiry about the interest of flying the national flag with the US flag.
In such a case the SCC may have to budget for the purchase of flags for all sister cities.
Cuciz said it's "a sensitive issue." There are two sides, and if it is put on the council agenda, it is also very public.
The City and the SCC must act in accordance with this particular ordinance.
Grilli said that a lot of times the advanced preparation necessary for flag display is a moot point because most sister cities do not request it, and are not comprised of government officials.
He continued that this is not a unique problem, describing a visit to Japan. The US flag was flown at a high school in honor of their visit, but was not allowed to be displayed on city hall property.
Originally the flag poles in the plaza just outside of Milpitas City Hall were supposed to be for the flags of visiting dignitaries from other countries, Grill said. A flag was put on display that offended veterans, and the current ordinance emerged.
Cuciz said that a city councilmember would have to be willing to push the issue forward to reach a resolution.
City Council approved the MOU renewal at the August 18, 2009 meeting.
There are no visits or activities planned at the moment.
Cuciz said that something will very likely happen on the 15th anniversary, but not in the near future.
The MOU states that there will be one visit from each city within the timeframe of the MOU.
Milpitas signed a Friendship City agreement with Nam-Gu City, Incheon, South Korea, on July 28, 2009.
The commission and city are working to schedule a visit.
Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) Board member Alisantosa reported that the school board approved the proposed boundary change, so students in the transit area development would go to Randall Elementary School.