Councilwoman Blames Own Panel for Irvine Sister City's Demise

The Irvine Sister City Foundation--which has helped make Irvine a truly international city thanks to successful partnerships with with Tsukuba, Japan, Hermosillo, Mexico, and Taoyuan, Taiwan--voted to dissolve last night. Despite the denials of Irvine Mayor Suhkee Kang, an Irvine City Council colleague blames the nonproft's demise on "political pay back"--from her own city council.

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"This is a travesty. A political carving out . . . a tossing aside of an outstanding volunteer organization that was punished for a deed not their own," claims Councilwoman Christina Shea. "Sister City is an international organization, and not to have this organization funded and maintained at the minimum level, which we have provided for years, is inexcusable."

A council majority of Kang, Larry Agran and Beth Krom voted in December to stop funding the foundation. "The only support we are getting now is paying for our post office box for the next few months," foundation president James Dunning tells the Register's Sean Emery "Other than that we are completely on our own."

Unnamed foundation officials believe the council knotted its purse strings due to embarrassment that resulted in 2006 when a city staffer, attempting to forge a sister city relationship with a Chinese city in the Xuhui District, signed an agreement stating Irvine would not recognize Taiwan. Anticipating a wrath of shit from the city's large Taiwanese population, the council voted quickly rescinded the agreement--and then re-evaluated their relationship with the 20-year-old foundation.

"It was based on political pay back for the incident in China that Sukhee, Larry and Beth proposed as the next sister city relationship," Shea writes in email. ". . . The council majority sent them out to sea . . . with no provisions . . . and, of course, they drown. Another sad day for Irvine."

Shea explains that a death in her family prevented her from attending Thursday's foundation meeting. "But I needed to make a statement in hopes some will see and realize what a travesty this is, what a punitive action to a wonderful grassroots 20-year organization in Irvine," she writes.

Counters Kang in the Register piece, "I hate to see them continually think this was a political move. I can assure you that was not the case. All they had to do was maybe re-organize their membership, have some new ideas and some fundraising efforts so they could sustain and support their programs."

Mr. Mayor called for "new blood" at the nonprofit organization that now has absolutely no ties to the city government, and city officials reportedly assured the populace that Irvine's sister city relationships will continue with or without the foundation.

How very Chinese of them.


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