December 8, 2014 Board Meeting
Approved by Montgomery Sister Cities Board at April 14, 2015 meeting.
Montgomery Sister Cities Board Minutes for December 8, 2014
Place: County Executive’s Conference Room, Executive Office Building
Attendees: Chair Theresa Cameron, Treasurer William Nance, Secretary Dianne Smith, Bruce Adams, Mumin Barre, Evelyn Gonzalez-Mills, Ram Konda, Tom Raffa, Carol Rhees, and Solomon Teklai.
Absent: Lorna Forde, Neftali Granados, William Kaschak, and Nan Qiao.
The meeting began at 5:40 p.m. with a welcome from Chair Theresa Cameron and introductions. Ram Konda, our newest Board member representing the India Sister City committee, was born and raised in our new Sister City of Hyderabad, India. He is a founder and now serves as chair of the 1,000 member Capitol Area Telugu Society. Evelyn Gonzalez pointed out that Monica Delgado should be the Board representative from the El Salvador Sister City committee. Dianne Smith said that the bylaws leave plenty room for new members and that Neftali Gonzalez could stay on the Board and need not be replaced.
Approval of Minutes for September 17, 2014 Board Meeting The Board unanimously approved the minutes of the September 17, 2014 Board meeting.
Theresa Cameron explained that the County Executive had been called away to the site of a tragic plane crash that occurred earlier in the day. She said that we would flip the agenda in the hope that he would be able to join us later.
Update on Indian Sister City (Dianne Smith and Ram Konda) County Executive Leggett led a Joint Sister City-Economic Development Mission to India November 11-22, 2014 and signed a Sister City agreement with the City of Hyderabad on November 14, 2014. Four Board members were part of the 42 member delegation – Bruce Adams, Lorna Forde, Ram Konda, and Dianne Smith. Dianne began the report by saying how inspiring the trip was with visits to rural schools, hospitals, historic sites as well as a grand signing ceremony. Ram explained that the trip was more productive than the Governor’s 2011 trip which did not result in a signed agreement. Bruce pointed out that we were able to get a signed agreement because of Ram’s connection to the Mayor and to one of the members of City Council. Ram explained that Hyderabad is known as the Pearl City. It is 30% Muslim and has strong interfaith relations. Hyderabad is India’s sixth largest city with 8 million people. It has a strong IT sector. Bruce said that the Mayor and Councilmember both expressed strong desires to visit Montgomery County in the near future. The Mayor is interested in briefings on transportation, infrastructure, solid waste and recycling, and storm water management. Theresa Cameron noted the importance of letters of thanks and other follow up to retain interest in the relationship. Bruce said Ike and Catherine Leggett have agreed to host a reunion for the delegation early in 2015.
Update on Ethiopian Sister City (Solomon Teklai) Solomon Teklai reported that the Ethiopian Sister City committee has adopted bylaws and created four subcommittees. The committee will hold a fundraiser in April 2015.
Update on Salvadoran Sister City (Evelyn Gonzalez) Evelyn Gonzalez reported that the Salvadoran Sister City committee held a successful Fourth Annual Fiesta in September. She said progress is being made to bring a university program to Morazán and that the committee is trying to bring a university vice president to visit Montgomery County. Evelyn said that the committee needs logistical and financial support from the county. She noted that the cost of renting the Silver Spring Civic Building ate up much too much of the money raised at their fundraiser. Carol Rhees suggested using the embassy to host the fundraiser.
Newsletter, Six Year Report, and Annual Meeting (Bruce Adams) Bruce Adams reminded the Board that former Senior Fellow Bob Levey sold Montgomery Sister Cities pins for $20 each with the promise of a quarterly newsletter. Bruce said that he is working to get an electronic newsletter out in December that will provide updates on the four Sister Cities and promote the January 13, 2015 annual meeting. Theresa Cameron asked each Board member to send us at least ten names and email addresses for the newsletter and annual meeting invitation. Theresa said that our bylaws require an annual meeting. She envisions this as a friendraiser, not a fundraiser but that it should lay the groundwork for future fundraisers. Evelyn Gonzalez said January is a terrible time to hold an annual meeting. The consensus was that this is long overdue and that we should stick with the January date. Acknowledging Evelyn’s point, Theresa suggested having another friendraising meeting in April. Bruce said that he believed this is a great time to do a substantive report to the community on our first six years. Theresa said that Text Design, our graphics firm, will do an outstanding job on the report.
Theresa asked all Board members to plan to attend the January 13 annual meeting and be ready to say a few sentences about why they serve on this Board. Ram asked that we write a clear statement defining what a Sister City is and why people should attend our annual meeting.
Update on Bylaws (Dianne Smith) Theresa Cameron thanked Dianne Smith for her work updating the bylaws and said that she would email all Board members copies of the proposed revised bylaws. Dianne asked that members send comments directly to her.
Update from Board Chair (Theresa Cameron) Theresa said she had spoken with our accountant (Grossberg) and that we will get set up with Quick Books and have financial reports for the Board at future meetings. She asked Tom Raffa to get additional quotes for liability insurance for Board members.
Conversation with County Executive Ike Leggett County Executive Leggett thanked the Board members for their commitment to the Sister City program. He said that when he first suggested a Sister City program, he did not anticipate such a robust international engagement. He said we have created a groundswell of support. Now, he noted, we need to take stock and think hard about sustainability. We need to be careful that we sustain what we have and that we not undermine existing relationships. He said we cannot sustain this effort with the volunteer oriented approach that launched it. He said we need to enhance county financial support over time and seek private sector sponsorships.
We want to stay engaged with the people from our Sister City communities who live here. They are our most important ambassadors. We need to maintain and strengthen these relationships. We need to take a step back before we add additional relationships.
Theresa Cameron agreed that we need to build a stronger foundation. We need to tell our story better and get the word out about what we are doing. She told the County Executive that we need help with fundraising. Solomon Teklai said that his committee understands that Montgomery County will have only one African Sister City, but the committee members hope Takoma Park or other county municipalities will entertain Sister City relationships with some of the countries that competed for the African Sister City.
Evelyn Gonzalez said that she was glad we are all of the same frame of mind. She said the Salvadoran Sister City committee feels we need more county support. El Salvador, for example, could use computers that Montgomery College no longer needs. County Executive Leggett said that was a great example of his point. We could give the computers, but we would also need a plan to transport, install, and maintain them.
County Executive Leggett said that we will build financial support over time. Tom Raffa said we could provide ideas on the cost of the things we need.
County Executive Leggett explained that when we were in Xian, China last year, we had an engraved plate to give as a gift until we saw the magnificent model terracotta warriors and horse drawn chariot the Mayor gave us. He said he told Bruce Adams to come up with a better gift. Bruce suggested a limited edition print by local artist Joseph Craig English. County Executive Leggett said the print should feature Strathmore, and the artist came up with the idea of an orchestra to showcase Montgomery County’s diversity and our tradition of working together. He said the print was very well received in Hyderabad.
Solomon Teklai said that the Sister City committees need clear guidance on the relationship between the country committees and the Board. Theresa Cameron said the relationship is laid out in the proposed bylaws. Acknowledging Solomon’s point, she said this is an important topic for a future meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at 7 p.m.
Minutes prepared by: Bruce Adams, Director, Office of Community Partnerships