Board Meeting Minutes. Tuesday, September 21 2021
Present: Bruce Adams, Mumin Barre, Tracey-Alexis Dixon, Alicia Lynn Hannon, Sabrina Hsu,
Michael Mills, Joy C. West, Jeannette Noltenius, Clemmie Solomon, Roman Santillan, Nan Qiao.
Excused: Ashwani Jain, Nicholas Arrindell, Absent: Lorna Forde, Matthew Lee
OCP Staff: Diane Vu, Arwa Khadr
Guest: Drew Powell
The meeting via Zoom was called to order at 6:05 p.m. by chairman, Mumin Barre.
On a motion to approve by Clemmie Solomon, seconded by Roman Santillan, the agenda was approved.
On a motion to approve by Jeannette Noltenius, seconded by Roman Santillan, the minutes of the June 22 meeting were approved.
Financial report: Treasurer Roman Santillan discussed the submitted financial report with the board. He stated we received money back from Montgomery County and indicated that all expenses have been paid in full. Roman shared his screen and outlined the expenses received, expenses paid, and total balance. The account balance is $10,929.79. Roman highlighted that he was able to get a debit card from the bank.
On a motion to approve by Michael Mills, seconded by Jeannette, the Treasurer's report was approved by the board.
Update: County Government (Budget/Policy, COVID Vaccine rollout/Staffing)
Diane Wu reported updates related to the county budget, COVID vaccine rollout, and staffing
changes. She informed the board that Susan Hoffman has gone back to the Silver Spring Urban District as a full-time staff. Arwa Khadr will resume role as the new Liaison. Arwa introduced herself to the board. She is currently the Office of Community Partnerships (OCP) Middle Eastern liaison and has extensive experience in international work, social media, and technical writing.
MSC Liaison. The Senior fellow program, currently ran by the Office of Human Resources, was previously terminated, dissolving the senior fellow position. Diane reported that OCP has received additional funding for senior fellows to be ran out of this office. She stated the office is exploring the option to administer the fellow program within OCP which would not tie the program to specific requirements such as the 12-month renewal process. The office is discussing how to administer the program which MCSC fellow would fall under. OCP has hired new individuals to the business management team to assist with the hiring process, hence the delay in solidifying this role. Diane gave the board an option to either proceed with OHR’s position to oversee the Fellow role, or transition to the COP office and wait until they’re internal processes are ironed out.
Joy suggested to move the program under the OCP office. Roman agreed.
Mumin expressed concern regarding the fellow’s task. He wants to ensure they are skilled in working an executive role (i.e., technical writing, social communication skills). Tracey asked Diane if the board can be a part of the hiring process. Diane agreed to include Mumin in formulating the job description and interview process.
Sister City Transparent Act. Drew Powell and Joy West discussed the Sister City Transparency Act with the board.
Background: Drew provided an overview of the ACT. He indicated that Senator Marsha [R-TN] introduced the Senate Bill “Sister City Transparency Act” to Congress. Although the bill did not pass initially, it was reintroduced and incorporated into the “US Innovation and Competition Act” which was passed through the Senate and currently pending in the House.
The bill requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the activities of the sister city program involving foreign communities in countries that receive a score of 45 or less on Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index. This includes four impacted cities within Montgomery County Sister Cities: China (41 corruption index), Ethiopia (37 corruption index), El Salvador (34 corruption index), and India (41 corruption index). The bill allows the GAO to monitor and request information from entities, such as Montgomery County Sister Cities, and inquire questions that may compel us to produce information. The potential impact would be to provide detailed documentation regarding exchanges, contracts, business trades, and identity of any and all individuals participating in the Sister City program (foreign and domestic). Sister City international is contacting U.S. Congress Representatives to get them to remove this language all together and/or modify the Transparency Act.
Joy sent an email on September 12, 2021 outlining the text of the provision in the bill. She has contacted various committees to bring attention to this issue. Joy expressed concern with the overall undercover legislation and strongly encouraged the board to write letters to the members of Congress. The email includes a draft letter to use as a template to send to Congress.
Clemmie Solomon asked if conversations were held with Senator Van Hollen. Joy replied we have not contacted him yet, but a letter has been drafted. She noted that none of our Maryland representatives are apart of this committee. Drew clarified that the bill is currently in the House of Representatives. Thus, contacting Senator Van Hollen may not be useful. However, Jamie Raskin was contacted who was horrified about the bill and willing to support.
Bruce asked Drew if the Sister Cities International has written any formal letters.
1. Joy will contact Jamie Raskin.
2. Drew will follow up to confirm and forward the letters to the board.
3. Joy will send Clemmie Solomon a drafted letter so he can use to contact individuals within
his network directly (i.e., Ohio Congresswoman Joyce Beatty).
Sister City Committee Reports:
India Project/ New Mayor: Nothing to report.
China: Nothing to report.
S. Korea: Nothing to report.
El Salvador: Jeannette Noltenius played the Marazan video created in partnership with
Montgomery College TV. The committee is currently in discussion about funding opportunities to build a campus on Morazan. Letters have been sent to Senators and Congressional staffers.
Bruce stated that Carolina, MCTV, would like this video to be a part of the Hispanic Heritage Month closeout. A potential launch will be held on October 14, 021 7:00PM ET.
Ethiopia: Yasin Yimam expressed concern with the negative balance in the account.
Mumin suggested the committee to decide on a plan to move out of the negative.
Mumin has sent an email to sent an email to the Corvallis, Oregon - Gondar Sister City to schedule a combined call ith Gayle Stallings, Sister Cities Global Awareness Team, Ethiopia Representative. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for October 29, 2021 at 6:45pm ET.
Yasin raised a question to the group regarding supporting Sidiku Group. The committee held a meeting to discuss Sidiku, oldest school in Gondar, who is seeking a partnership with Gondar sister city. More information regarding this partnership will be provided at a later date. The 10-year anniversary is next year and updates will be shared by next meeting.
Lastly, Yasin expressed there are unsettled tensions in Ethiopia regions during this time. He asked if it is appropriate for the Gondar Sister City to initiate a GoFundMe to support individuals impacted by displacement and lack of resources due to the civil unrest. Mumin suggested to discuss this option with the committee for further discussion.
Clemmie asked if there is a mechanism to financially support Molalinge (Molo), a fellow individual met on the Ethiopia trip, who is completing his PHD studies in Canada.
Mumin suggested to solicit suggestions by email and the board will circle back to discuss best options moving forward.
Website. Bruce raised concern regarding the website where the Morazon video indicated to go to our website to learn more about the educational product. Bruce suggested to add a section on the El Salvador page with more information about the education project.
1. Mumin will touch base with Jeannette and Shane to put something under the Morazon tab
on the website.
The meeting ended at 7:27 p.m.
NEXT ZOOM: Discussed via email.
Tracey-Alexis Dixon, MSC Secretary