Despite the objections of one critic, the Crescent City Council unanimously authorized spending up to $3,000 per person to send and Crescent City Fire Battalion Chief and Crescent City Councilor Darrin Short, to Rikuzentakata, Japan for their ceremony to officially sign the sister city agreement.
Several ambassadors, including Mayor Futoshi Toba and Council Chair Akihiko Ito came to Crescent City for its signing ceremony April 16 at the Crescent City Cultural Center.
According to staff reports, the ongoing exchange, which began two years after the 2011 tsunami delivered a boat from Rikuzentakata to Crescent City, has identified many similarities between the two cities. Not the least of which is a propensity for tsunami damage.
“There has been a mutual desire of the parties to strengthen the ties of friendship and develop collaborative activities and efforts in areas of business, culture, emergency planning, disaster recovery, and the hope of contributing to peace and prosperity,” the staff report reads.
The estimated cost of all aspects of the trip came to about $3,000 per person, with all lodging and food provided by the City of Rikuzentakata.
At a city council meeting Monday, Mayor Blake Inscore noted Rikuzentakata recently sent several people to Crescent City to attend the Sister City Signing ceremony. Interim City Manager Eric Wier said the dollar amount was a high estimate and spending would likely come in less than the estimated $3,000 per person.
Inscore said all previous trips to Japan have been funded by Rikuzentakata or out of the pockets of those who have gone. Saying he has gone twice, Inscore added, “The City has not paid one penny for me to make either of those trips.”
Mayor Pro Tem Heidi Kime said having city staff see Rikuzentakata first hand and hear from residents there is vital and worthwhile. Having grown up in Crescent City, Councilor Alex Fallman said Sister City efforts are uncommon to Crescent City, and are a great opportunity for the city to “join the world, in a sense.”
“This says we’re not just some podunk town, 80 miles from a mall or from anything special going on,” Fallman said. “Something special is going on here.”
Short said he’s looking forward to speaking with Japanese city officials about roads, evacuation plans, public notification systems and tsunami planning.
Linda Sutter said in two trips to Rikuzentakata, Inscore “has plenty of time to learn what’s going on, in regards to disaster preparedness, economic development, and cultural awareness.” She claimed the city has no money for the trip when streets need repair and stores are empty.
“You gotta say, ‘Thank you very much for this invitation, we are honored, but we can’t afford it right now,’” she said.
Sutter claimed city officials have had plenty of time to learn about emergency planning and response and said she recently made a trip to Greece for less than half of $3,000 price.
Del Norte County Supervisor Chris Howard arrived during the council meeting to say that while the city and county have financial struggles, there is a desire to reciprocate in signing a sister city agreement in Rikuzentakata.
“They’ve taken so much time and effort, not only through their youth, but also through their council, to make sure it happens,” Howard said. “It’s not something we can just ignore or brush aside.”
Howard said if collaborating with a city that has endured the devastation of a tsunami can be used to save one life, “I don’t care how much it costs.”
Kime responded as Sutter attempted to leave, saying she has spent her own money, knowing the value of international relationships and how it will benefit the community.
“It’s one of those things you can’t understand fully until you go,” she said. “That’s why I think it’s so important to have our engineer, our finance director, our fire battalion chief (there), they need to go, they need to see it.”
Sutter left the room, commenting that council members should pay for the trip out of their own pockets, to which Kime and Short replied, “We’ve done that.”
The council voted 4-0 to spend the $12,000, with Councilor Jason Greenough absent.
Howard, Inscore, Short and Interim City Manager Eric Wier will be making the trip. County supervisors also approved the use of travel funds for Howard to travel to Japan to attend its sister city signing ceremony.
The council issued a proclamation for National Police Week, May 13 through 19, a proclamation for Kids to Parks Day May 19, a proclamation thanking the Redwoods Art Association for the art display in the Cultural Center for the Sister City ceremony and another thanking all the local businesses, officials and community members for participating in the Sister City signing Ceremony.
Council also heard a presentation on hazard mitigation from Community Development Director Erik Taylor.
The council also heard a presentation from Girl Scouts of Northern California Troop 90648 regarding ocean pollution and authorized the troop to place a mural of discarded bottle caps on a wall at the City’s wastewater treatment facility.