It’s been eight years since Savannah’s last active sister city relationship dissolved, but the cosmopolitan Georgia port city is looking to continue building its international family, said Sean Brandon, assistant to the Savannah city manager.
The Sister Cities International Web site shows Savannah already paired with cities in Burkina Faso, Georgia (the European nation) and Greece, but Mr. Brandon told GlobalAtlanta that a now-defunct relationship with Zimbabwe was the last one to carry any actual weight.
A spokeswoman for Sister Cities International said the organization has methods to measure levels of interaction between cities, but she wouldn’t confirm Mr. Brandon’s statement.
In the meantime, Savannah has carried on international relationships with other foreign municipalities, but not under the banner of Sister Cities International, an organization that fosters citizen diplomacy through cultural and business exchanges around the world.
Well-known for its 275-year history and more recent emergence as an educational hub, Savannah has spread the wealth on both fronts by engaging in a four-year relationship with Indonesia, helping a Jakarta technical college get off the ground and offering advice on framing the country’s historical preservation laws, Mr. Brandon said.
But the city is pushing for more relationships. Mr. Brandon told GlobalAtlanta that Savannah is in the process of establishing sister city relationships with Valparaiso, Chile, and Jiujiang, a city with a Yangtze River port linking landlocked Jiangxi province with China’s eastern seaboard.
The colonial section of Valparaiso, a port city on the Pacific Ocean, has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Although Mr. Brandon said municipal legal structures mostly keep U.S. cities gaining from gaining such a designation, Savannah and the Chilean city have plenty more in common with regard to history.
“Both respectively in their regions are considered the most cultural and historical cities,” Mr. Brandon said.
The talks between the South American city and Savannah have been going on since last year, but personnel changes in Valparaiso city government positions vital to the deal have kept it from formalizing thus far, Mr. Brandon said.
Otis Johnson, Savannah’s mayor, and the mayor of Valparaiso have tentatively scheduled a conference call early this month to iron out some of the details, said Jeff Breedlove, Georgia’s state director for Sister Cities International.
A memorandum of understanding could be drafted within a few months that would begin laying the framework for formalization.
The relationship with Jiujiang is also making strides, Mr. Breedlove said.
State Sen. Judson Hill of Marietta, who originally called together a sister cities task force last May to help pair Georgia cities with Chinese partners, participated in a Jan. 27 meeting that brought city officials from Savannah, Brunswick and Hinesville together with representatives from Jiangxi province, Mr. Breedlove said.
The meeting was to lay the framework for cities the Georgia and Jiangxi sides for the correct execution of the documents that will lead to the approval of the relationships by Sister Cities International.
Mr. Breedlove, who also attended the meeting, told GlobalAtlanta that the three Georgia cities will be officially paired individually with three cities in Jiangxi, but that an agreement will be drafted to make the alliance a regional relationship between the province and the Georgia coast.
“This is going to be among the first times that a regional approach will be approved by Sister Cities International, and it will be the first time that a regional approach is approved by the Chinese government,” Mr. Breedlove said. But he noted that no documents have been signed and that all three cities reserve the right to go it alone.
The potential relationships are as follows: Savannah with Jiujiang; Brunswick with Ganzhou and Hinesville with Yichun.
If approved, these relationships would be the first sister city relationships ratified between Georgia and China.
Savannah is also looking on a smaller scale to form ties with Ajalli, Nigeria, and St. Mark, Haiti.