Montgomery Sister Cities (MSC) Meeting Notes Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Financial report is needed to determine the remaining amount in the grant and Senior Fellow funding.
County Executive Marc Elrich will be joining the meeting at 6 p.m. The purpose of this preliminary meeting is to discuss matters to be discussed with the County Executive.
Diane Vu provided an update on the 4% savings plan. The Office of Human Resources does not have the funds for a Senior Fellow. The cost of a Senior Fellow is $16,700. The Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC) is a key component in trying to find funding for the Senior Fellow position. MCEDC president Ben Wu is interested in economic development trips and joint economic development activities.
County Executive Elrich is interested in traveling to India. However, based on discussion with Aruna Miller, Sanjay Rai, and Ram Konda, a November 2021 trip to India would not be advisable at this time due to Covid. There will be a new mayor in Hyderabad who will be willing to engage in meetings by Zoom.
MSC Board Meeting
Chair Mumin Barre called for the start of the meeting at 6 p.m.
The Chair called for approval of the meeting agenda. Moved, seconded, and adopted.
The Chair called for the approval of the minutes from the December 1, 2020 meeting. Moved, seconded, and adopted.
Report of the Treasurer (Roman Santillan)
The largest expenses are the Sister Cities International annual dues and the accountant. The checkbook will be needed to confirm the expenses. The treasurer explained that the County deposits grant money into to the MSC account in stages upon receipt of invoices and not all at once.
The balance in the account is $10,700.
The critical question is the amount of money remaining in the FY21 grant. Diane Vu will ask the Contract Monitor the amount of the FY22 grant and the balance of the FY21.grant.
Discussion with County Executive Marc Elrich
Mumin Barre noted that the County Executive was holding a Town Hall on Covid as soon as he leaves our meeting. Our Chair thanked the County Executive for his commitment and leadership. He noted the existence of the MSC since 2009 and thanked Bruce Adams for the assessment of MSC in the first ten years and his recommendations for the future.
The Chair noted that Montgomery Sister Cities connects Montgomery County to the world. The Chair expressed our appreciation to the County Executive for his commitment and his support of the Office of Community Partnerships.
The Chair indicated that the MSC Board would like full time support from the County.
Members introduced themselves to the County Executive.
Matthew Lee thanked the County Executive on behalf of first generation immigrants and expressed his appreciation of the County Executive for his leadership and for the leadership of Bruce Adams and Diane Vu.
Eunmee Shim told the County Executive that Adventist Health Care will be hiring nurses from South Korea as a result of the 2017 Sister Cities trip to South Korea.
Sabrina Hsu explained that the Northwestern Chinese American Association of Greater Washington appreciates the collaboration on Covid.
Nan Qiao and Ashwani Jain introduced themselves.
Clemmie Solomon and Michael Mills noted their association with Sister Cities began when they attended Sister City trips representing Montgomery College.
Tracey Dixon announced that Board member Yasin Yiman is in Ethiopia celebrating the Timket Festival.
Joy C. West said she knows the County Executive from District 20 meetings where she had told him about our Sister Cities travels and urged his support.
Nick Arrindell thanked the County Executive for his support and noted their common city of Takoma Park.
Alicia Hannon said she learned about the Sister Cities program at the inauguration of the County Executive. She has been on the board for two years and traveled to Ethiopia with MSC.
Roman Santillan works for MCPL and serves on the El Salvador Committee.
Bruce Adams shared with the County Executive some of the highlights of his 2020 report and how MSC is thinking about priorities for moving forward:
• Strengthen and add diversity to the MCSC Board. Bruce reported that we have added new members who have added substance, skills, and diversity to the MSC Board.• Strengthen and add diversity to the MCSC Board. Bruce reported that we have added new members who have added substance, skills, and diversity to the MSC Board.
• Work with the Montgomery College TV to produce video programs that showcase our Sister Cities through virtual trips and profiles of successful residents who came to Montgomery County from the Sister Cities. Bruce pointed out this would help us reenergize our country committees. He reported that a meeting has been scheduled with MCTV on February 5 to discuss possible pilot programs.
• Develop a Sister Schools Program. Bruce reported that MCPS’s Deputy Superintendent McKnight has shown a strong interest, but that we might need to put this on hold given the recent announcement that Superintendent Smith will soon leave office.
• Delegation Trip to India in November 2021. Bruce noted the County Executive’s interest in traveling to India. However, based on a recent discussion with Aruna Miller, Sanjay Rai, and Ram Konda, it was decided a November 2021 trip to India would not be advisable at this time due to Covid. There will be a new mayor in Hyderabad who will be willing to engage in meetings by Zoom. All agreed that would be the most prudent way to reengage with our Sister City in India.
County Executive Elrich said he liked the idea of a Zoom meeting with the new Mayor of Hyderabad and that this might be a good way to reengage with all of our Sister Cities. He was interested in going to China and India but Covid prevented travel. He recognized that it is unknown when people will be able to travel.
The County Executive pointed out that the County receives only 7,500 doses of the vaccine per week and that we need to vaccinate 750,000 people.
The County Executive said he looks forward to being able to visit our Sister Cities. He thanked Bruce and Diane for their support of MSC. He hopes for a continued discussion. He was involved in the Takoma Park Sister Cities program and travelled to El Salvador during the civil war.
He said he valued the robust discussions he had with the Ethiopian delegation and looks forward to resuming talks.
The County Executive pointed out that it is a challenging budget year and that he is trying to preserve the budgets of groups like MSC that strengthen the community.
Alicia Harmon asked if the County Executive will be able to maintain our staffing. He said he is just now getting budget briefings, but that he will try to preserve programs like this as he understands the value of Sister Cities.
Michael Mills asked if there is a Sister City that the County Executive has a particular interest in adding? The County Executive said he would be interested in adding a Sister City in Cuba. He pointed out that the Cubans like Americans, we are so close geographically and that talking with people helps. Nick Arrindell asked if the new national administration might make that possible. The County Executive said the Trump administration recently designated Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Matthew Lee pointed out that Sister Cities can be important for the economy. As a member of the board of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, Matthew suggested MSC work closely with MCEDC. The County Executive said he is interested in economic development opportunities in our Sister Cities. Foremost, however, are the friendships between the people.
The Chair noted that we will need to follow up with the County Executive about an unresolved issue that involves expenses from when the Mayor of Gondar visited in 2019. The County Executive asked whether we contacted Marriott or whether Craig Rice who was supposed to contact Marriot. Diane Vu agreed to follow up.
Before leaving for his Town Hall, the County Executive said he would like to schedule other Zoom meetings with the Committee. He said he appreciates the work of Montgomery Sister Cities.
Diane Vu said she would follow up: (1) with the Contract Monitor on the FY2021 grant and possible FY2022 grant funding; (2) on the Marriott-Gondar issue; and (3) on funding for a Senior Fellow in FY2021.
Diane Vu explained that the closing date for the Covid 19 Community Survey is February 4. The survey is seeking community opinions on the vaccine. 12,000 survey responses were received with in four days of the survey going live. There is a 20% response rate in communities of color. The survey is in eight languages.
The pre-registration for the vaccine is Thursday, January 21for those 75 and older for Tier 1B. The problem is that there is not enough vaccine for Tier 1A. The County is still vaccinating Tier 1A. There are 75,000 people in Tier 1B. In the pre-registration system, they are looking at equity in distribution. The system is in English and Spanish. There have been 60,000 people registered, 50,000 of whom are majority white.
Bruce Adams asked if the County Executive is aware that we don’t have our staff person anymore. We need the County Executive’s help just to get back to the part time staff person we had.
The Chair reminded the Board the meeting with Montgomery College TV is on Friday, February 5 at 2 p.m.
The Chair asked when we would meet with MCPS about Sister Schools. Bruce Adams pointed out that the MCPS Superintendent recently announced his resignation. Bruce said he would follow up with MCPS.
Michael Mills asked about recruiting an intern. Bruce noted there had not been follow up.
Eunmee Shim noted this is a good time to talk about promoting tourism activity. Issues such as hotels, schools that could lead to economic activities. This should be worked on now while travel is down and people in the travel industry will be anxious for new business. There is an interest in people from our Sister Cities in sending their children to schools in Montgomery County. We could package tours to include information on schools and business opportunities.
The Chair called for Country Committee Reports. No reports were presented.
The Chair noted we need to work on getting the Hyderabad Committee reenergized.
Roman Santillan recommends Jeannette Noltenius from El Salvador, who has done programs with the libraries. She would be good for producing programs with Montgomery College TV.
Next meeting: Tuesday, February 16, 2021 at 6 p.m.
Meeting adjourned at 6:55 p.m.
Minutes submitted by Joy C. West