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Summerland sister city relationship still strong
While Penticton’s sister city relationship with Ikeda, Japan, is on the back burner, Summerland’s connection to Toyokoro is still going strong.
Darlene Forsdick, chair of the Summerland Sister City Society, recently returned from leading a delegation of 19 people to Toyokoro. While she isn’t sure why the Penticton-Ikeda relationship is flagging, she wanted to talk about their program in hopes it would support the Penticton group.
“I feel bad for Penticton, they had such a strong relationship,” said Forsdick. About 20 minutes apart, Toyokoro and Ikeda have a similar relationship to Penticton and Summerland, with Ikeda being the larger of the two.
In August, before the municipal byelection, Bob Harvey authored a letter to Penticton city council on behalf of the society, asking if the city remains committed to the sister city agreement signed with Ikeda in 1977.
Without any successful Penticton-Ikeda exchanges since 2011, when a delegation from Ikeda visited, Harvey said the society, of which he is treasurer and past president, had also got a bit out of touch with the city. Their counterparts in Japan, he said, had similar concerns and cancelled planned trips.
The Penticton Sister City Society, the letter said, was considering options for the future and wanted to know if the city remained committed to the relationship with Ikeda.
In Summerland, Forsdick said mayor and council are very supportive of the arrangement.
“On this last trip we had the urban planner go as well, and he just came back with so many ideas. He was just absolutely thrilled with the trip,” she said, adding there was ongoing interest from community members as well.
“We have several people that do repeat trips with us. Right there, that shows they are very interested.”
With the byelection over, Harvey said they hope to meet with the city soon.
“At some point in the next few weeks, we have to get together with council and find out what is going on from their perspective,” said Harvey.
Mayor Garry Litke said it is important for council and the society to sit down and talk about the Ikeda connection.
“That discussion does need to take place, because over the last few years, we’ve seen some actions on the part of council without, perhaps, the discussion around why we have this sister city relationship in the first place,” said Litke.
“There has been a good history of that sister city relationship, but in the past number of years, the councils have decided not to put that line item into the budget. I guess we need to have a healthy discussion with Bob Harvey and others about what the cost benefit is of continuing the relationship.”
“Years ago, it was hard to get council to see what was going on. You would tell them, but you have to see it for yourself. And then, once they started participating, it has just gone straight forward from there,” said Forsdick.
A tradition of Toyokoro hiring a Summerlander to teach English, which stopped for a few years due to the economy, she added, had restarted, showing the ongoing closeness of the communities.