Sistercity proposal voted down again

Published on Thu, Aug 31, 2006 by ara Nelson

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Sister city proposal voted down again

By Tara Nelson

The Blaine City Council once again voted to strike down a motion to forge a sister city relationship with the city of Pugwash, Nova Scotia.

In an August 28 council meeting, council member John Liebert introduced a second resolution to the council after they first rejected the idea last April. Pugwash, a small fishing village on Canada’s east coast, is internationally known for its annual peace conferences.
Local author and historian Richard Clark, along with former Blaine resident Jerry Gay asked the city council at an April 10 council meeting to officially endorse the sister city relationship. At the time, John Liebert was the only council member to support the idea.
In April, council members Jason Overstreet and Bonnie Onyon both said they had “serious concerns” that a relationship with Pugwash, birthplace of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, would be “too political” and that the city of Pugwash had “serious political overtones.”

Council member Charlie Hawkins seconded Liebert’s notion but the measure was voted down 5-2.

Council member Bonnie Onyon reiterated this sentiment during Monday’s meeting, saying she would not vote for the resolution because she thought the peace conferences are inextricably linked to the city of Pugwash. She added that, for Blaine to forge such a relationship with Pugwash, it would be affiliating itself with that organization.

“The village of Pugwash acquired its theme because of the Pugwash Peace Conference and it cannot really be separated from that origin,” she said. “Since the city cannot be affiliated with this organization, even by extension or secondary affiliation, I will not vote for the proposal. The local peace group is free to explore peace as they wish, but without the city as an endorser or sponsor of Pugwash.”

Liebert disagreed. “I have attended the Pugwash sister city group that initiated this originally. Pugwash itself might have some questions, as to why would we want to align ourselves to the city of Blaine. This doesn’t establish anything that has to do with the Pugwash conference, this is merely to have a sister city relationship. We could have a sister city relationship with another city in Korea or Iceland. So I have difficulty in understanding why council members can’t separate these two things. We are not establishing any relationship with the Pugwash conference. This is the city of Pugwash, who has a city council similar to us.”

Onyon added that while she is not condemning the city of Pugwash for its affiliation, a sister city relationship with an Icelandic city might be more appropriate.

Hawkins disagreed, saying that Pugwash and Blaine had similar themes that should be recognized.

“We have a lot of themes,” Onyon said. “Such as the fact we are a fishing village and a border town.”

Local author and historian Richard Clark, who has long campaigned for a sister city relationship with Pugwash, said he was disheartened by the council’s general response.

“I left the city hall with a broken heart,” he said in a subsequent email. “We were called the Peace Arch city. ‘Promoting Peace’ is our official theme and Pugwash would have been a marvelous sister city. But a wonderful opportunity was crushed Monday night, and the Peace Arch city is the big loser.”