PALO CA, and BLOOMINGTON, IN – Palo Alto Mayor Tom DuBois and Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton announced Tuesday a proposal to establish a Sibling Cities relationship, the first domestic relationship of its kind between United States cities.
The relationship seeks to foster community building, further goodwill, and enhance civic dialogue and public policy discussions in the two cities through a new organization, Sibling Cities USA. The Palo Alto City council will consider approval of the relationship on November 15 and Bloomington City Council will follow shortly thereafter.
In a joint virtual news conference, carried live on YouTube, Mayors DuBois and Hamilton announced their shared intentions to advance together toward a new partnership, community to community.
“I am thrilled to recommend establishing a Sibling City relationship between Palo Alto and Bloomington and thank the City of Bloomington for their leadership in creating this innovative partnership,” said Tom DuBois, mayor of Palo Alto. “I’ve felt that our country could really benefit from a program that encourages building bridges from coast to heartland. We can learn from each other and seek ways to combine our strengths for the benefit of the country. I believe the Palo Alto/Bloomington arrangement will pave the way for other United States cities to establish similar partnerships.”
“Bloomington and Palo Alto share several similarities and also reflect some differences,” said John Hamilton, mayor of Bloomington. “I believe this new relationship can significantly benefit the residents of our respective communities for years to come, with mutual learning and collaborations. We can imagine a focus on priorities such as community engagement, sustainability, and economic and business opportunities. I expect some exciting possibilities will emerge that we haven’t yet imagined. Connecting together as communities are more important than ever, as we recover from the pandemic and address big challenges ahead.”
The proposed pilot Sibling City relationship would be guided by Sibling Cities USA’s three pillars of Connection: Community, Commerce, and Civil Discourse. These guiding principles establish a framework for relationship building and community connectedness. Sibling Cities USA was founded this year by Vicki Veenker, of Palo Altan, to promote understanding and unity in the U.S. by connecting cities in different regions of the country.
“Launching this historic Sibling Cities USA pilot with Mayors DuBois and Hamilton is the first step toward a network of relationships that promote unity across this great country. I am eager to support these first visionary sibling cities, identify the next cohort of city pairs, partner with like-minded organizations and government entities, and expand the program,” said Veenker. “As a mediator and facilitator, I have seen the productive relationships that result from a conversation, interaction, and understanding. There is a yearning in our country to be less polarized and my goal is for Sibling Cities USA to help achieve that.”
Local committees will form in each city to connect community organizations and build programs to expand public awareness and generate impact within each city. The committees will include representatives from local government, service organizations, schools and universities, and other community leaders. The committees would report at the one-year mark to each City Council identifying the progress and prospects for an ongoing program.
In Palo Alto, the relationship will be administered by Neighbors Abroad, a local non-profit that represents the city in its Sister Cities International relationships with eight cities outside the US. President Bob Wenzlau has been a major architect of this precedent-setting domestic relationship. Bloomington will form a steering committee to administer the program. The cities have identified Karen Howe Fernandez and Andie Reed as city coordinators to manage daily activity in Bloomington and Palo Alto, respectively.
“For Neighbors Abroad, this is another step across our 50-year history stitching cities together. In the 1960s, our founders anticipated a time when a city-to-city relationship in the United States would be formed. Likely they had a hunch we would find the same rewards domestically that we have found internationally,” said Wenzlau. “In 2022 community organizations facilitated by Neighbors Abroad will begin exchanges in education, commerce, and community building consistent with the Mayor’s vision.”
“On behalf of the Bloomington City Council, we are proud to be on the leading edge of a collaboration that is designed to promote civil exchange across differences in our country,” said Bloomington Common Council President Jim Sims. “In contrast to the destructive polarization of political discourse that is so common these days, this initiative is an affirmation that diversity is a source of strength because it requires that we listen to and gain empathy for others. It’s an honor to play a founding role in nurturing a national culture of respectful dialogue across differing perspectives.”
At the November 9 news conference, Palo Alto and Bloomington announced their intention to advance this relationship as soon as possible, including potential exchange visits early in 2022 and additional programming as identified by the local committees. The mayors encouraged interested individuals and institutions to be in touch with the local coordinators in their respective cities.
Bloomington is located in Monroe County in south-central Indiana. It is Indiana’s sixth-largest city, with a population of 80,500. Palo Alto is located in Santa Clara County in Northern California. It has a population of 69,700 and is known as the “Birthplace of Silicon Valley.” Both cities are college towns with technology sectors helping to drive their local economies, and travel and tourism are key economic indicators.
For information about the City of Palo Alto, go to www.cityofpaloalto.org.
For information about the City of Bloomington, go to www.bloomington.in.gov.
For information about Sibling Cities USA, go to www.siblingcitiesusa.org.