Mayor Shirley Franklin won’t confirm Atlanta’s pending sister relationships with cities in India and China before her term ends next year, she told a gathering of ethnic media professionals at City Hall on Monday, Jan. 26.
The mayor will not cancel the agreements but will “hold them” to allow her successor to “re-invest” in the city’s overall international affairs strategy.
Ms. Franklin said that the recession and the city’s budget crunch last year forced her to terminate its two-person international affairs department as part of widespread cuts that claimed hundreds of city jobs.
Any new relationships like the ones pending with Ahmedabad, India, and Ningbo, China, should be confirmed only after the city is able to fully administer the ones it already has in place, she said.
“So I made a very unpopular decision, which is that if we cannot service the 18 cities that we have, we should not expand to Nos. 19 and 20,” she said.
She said international affairs are “essential” to the city’s success, but these relationships only work when properly supported by city personnel.
“What makes the relationship a success is our ability to actually work on it with professionals,” she said.
Atlanta has built 18 relationships through Sister Cities International over the past four decades. These pacts foster cultural exchange and economic collaboration between municipalities around the world.
Ms. Franklin signed a memorandum last year with the mayor of the Indian city of Ahmedabad to work together on environmental issues.
Three Chinese cities – Dalian, Ningbo and Wuhan – began vying for another sister city slot in 2007.
After an extensive evaluation, the Atlanta Sister Cities Commission recommended Ningbo, but the Atlanta City Council and the mayor have not issued final approval.
Ms. Franklin visited Wuhan in September 2006 on a trip with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.
Meanwhile, three coastal Georgia cities – Brunswick, Hinesville and Savannah – are close to formalizing sister city pacts with three much larger cities in China’s Jiangxi province.
The Georgia mayors visited Jiangxi last November, and Brunswick’s potential partner, Ganzhou city, sent a delegation to the state this month.