By Wendy Osher
With an estimated 25 sister city relationships already established on Maui, committee members debated the creation of yet another partnership overseas, this time with Goyang, South Korea.
While committee members expressed strong support of the new sister city partnership, they raised concerns over the county’s ability to maintain existing partnerships, the need to refine criteria for future selection, and ensuring consistent hosting of sister city delegations.
The item was deferred from committee, and will resurface on Friday before the regular meeting of the Maui County Council.
Policy Committee Chair Riki Hokama said it is his hope that protocol is established to provide a consistent level of courtesy and decorum that the relationships deserve.
Committee member and Councilwoman, Gladys Baisa said the reception from sister cities she visited overseas is encouraging. “It tells me that there is so much potential; and I agree that it’s time to take these papers off the shelf, dust them off, and look at them again from the idea of, how can we work together so that both sisters benefit from the relationship.”
Council Member Danny Mateo said he would be forwarding a recommendation to review, discuss and recreate the sister city program based on today’s needs and objectives. “Really, there’s got to be a benefit ratio to our sister city programs,” he said.
In terms of Goyang, Mateo was encouraged by the economic possibilities saying, “This one excites me more because there is an absolute possibility that Molokai coffee can in fact be a commodity that we could ship to this country. If that happens, it provides my economically depressed community the opportunity to grow.”
Mateo also suggested the economic possibilities that exist with Maui Onions as a commodity saying, “The Maui Onion could be an incredible hit there because onion is just served with everything… aside from the cultural values, we need to exchange growth opportunities in economics,” he said.
In exchange committee members said Maui could offer tourism benefits, golf opportunities on the Valley Isle, and the ability to build the coffee trade.
Having lived in Goyang in the 1990s, Deputy Director of Finance, Jeremiah Savage, offered some insight into the similarities between the communities.
Savage, who volunteered at the orphanage and managed an English School in the community, said he saw the small city develop virtually overnight. “The past administration expanded its economy so rapidly that the current mayor does not want to expand so fast that it overflows over the culture and its people,” said Savage.
The sister city relationship idea was born out of an APEC initiative. Representatives from Maui participated in a sister city summit where a memorandum of understanding was signed to enter into the relationship with Goyang.
Members of the Goyang delegation are in Honolulu this week, attending a speaking engagement extended to the city’s Mayor. The delegation asked if they could come to Maui at the same time and solidify the sister city relationship with Maui.
Teena Rasmussen, Coordinator, Maui County Office of Economic Development said, “We were so fortunate that we found a city that just embraced Maui County.”
One of the reasons Korea is a good fit, Rasmussen said is the Visa waiver program that allows for convenient travel, and a much more open trade agreement with South Korea versus other countries.
“We think we are a perfect match; We think this is going to be very strategic for Maui County; that we will be able to do a lot of, not only business, but cultural and educational exchanges; and we’re planning for it to be very active.” said Rasmussen.
***A ceremonial signing has since been planned signifying a memorandum of agreement for a sister city relationship between Maui and Goyang. The event is open to the public and will take place at 4 p.m., Friday, February 17, 2012 in the Council Chambers on the 8th Floor of the County Building.