Spokane Mayor Mary Verner last week rekindled the city’s relationship with its first sister city.
This year officials from Nishinomiya, Japan, and Spokane celebrated the 50th anniversary of their sister city relationship in events on both sides of the Pacific. In May, Nishinomiya leaders, including Mayor Masahiro Kouno, visited Spokane and participated in the Lilac Festival’s Armed Forces Torch Light Parade. Officials from both cities signed a charter reaffirming the partnership.
Last week, it was Spokane’s turn in Nishinomiya, a city of about 480,000.
“When we went there they referred to that charter and that recommitment to the relationship repeatedly,” Verner said. “It means a great deal to both cities to have this relationship.”
Spokane has four sister cities. The relationship with Nishinomiya has been particularly fruitful and led to the Mukogawa Women’s University placing a branch campus in Spokane.
Verner traveled to Japan with her granddaughter. The city picked up the mayor’s airfare and hotel expense, which cost about $2,000. Verner picked up meal and other costs associated with her visit. The mayor’s office travel budget for 2011 is about $23,000.
The mayor has now visited three of Spokane’s four sister cities. In 2009, she visited Jilin City, China, and Jecheon, South Korea, during a trip that was focused on trade and was paid for by the U.S. State Department.
Roland A. Herriges, president of the Spokane-Nishinomiya Sister City Society, said 27 people, including Verner, traveled from Spokane to celebrate the anniversary.
The group attended a banquet commemorating the partnership and visited several cultural sites and attended a baseball game. Verner presented the city with a medicine stick crafted by the Spokane Tribe of Indians, he said.
Three lilac trees were planted across from Nishinomiya City Hall and were dedicated to the Susie Forest, a nonprofit group that works to plant trees.
Verner spoke to a group of incoming students at Mukogawa Women’s University. She also was briefed extensively by Kouno and other city officials about Nishinomiya government services, Verner said.
“I was able to discuss with their mayor how they do things and learn from them,” Verner said. “The sister city relationship really allows us to have a formal, structured way in which to build relationship with another city on the other side of the world.”