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S.L.-AREA CITIES BRIMMING WITH SISTERHOOD

Midvale, West Jordan and Bountiful have one. South Salt Lake considered one earlier this year. West Valley City has two and Salt Lake City has a whopping five.

Murray adopted its second one last month.What are they? They're sister-city relationships, those diplomatic ties between American and overseas cities established to promote personal cultural exchanges, foster economic development opportunities and advance education efforts.

Murray's relationship with its newest little sister began last spring, when Polish Mayor Krystana Rawska - whose title is actually president - approached Mayor Lynn Pett at the United Nations-sponsored International Year of the Family conference. Pett said during the weekend conference he and Rawska spent a lot of time together at convention panels, then touring Murray.

Rawska's city, Swietochlowice, is a highly industrialized city whose market is based entirely on coal mining, steelmaking and "a lot of the smokestack operations," Pett said. Now Swietochlowice and its 66,000 residents are going through environmental cleanup, something former smokestack-city-turned-economic-powerhouse Murray experienced years ago.

"She's really interested in seeing the city go to the commercial and attract more retail. They're six or seven years into democracy and she's real interested in jobs," Pett said. "She could really see the ties between her city and Murray."

Swietochlowice has already attracted a French perfumery, Pett said. He added that Rawska's task is providing employment for the influx of women now entering the Polish labor market.

"She was very interested in our government and all the departments. She wanted to see how an American city operates," Pett said. "Hopefully, we can help them out by providing information."

Murray had the same idea for Chia-Yi City, Taiwan, the sister-city it adopted eight years ago. Every other year since then, it has hosted young teachers eager to improve their English-speaking skills. A delegation of five or six Taiwanese visit Murray for studies, cultural exchanges and ideas on how to grow their economy. The last time they visited, the delegates lived with Pett, his executive assistant and the fire chief for five weeks.

"If you want to do goodwill work in another country, there's no better way than this," Pett said.

To the contrary, City Council members and taxpayers have wondered out loud if instituting a sister-city relationship is worth the financial hassle.

In February, South Salt Lake considered such a relationship with a town in mainland China. Gary Sessions, former executive assistant to the mayor, broached the issue after a University of Utah student - a native Chinese - approached him. The council said it is in favor of the relationship as long as it doesn't mean a commitment of general funds or tax dollars to overseas travel for city delegates. Since Sessions resigned, though, council chairman Boyd Marshall said the issue is "just kind of hanging in limbo."

"Not many people were interested in pursuing it again. Some think it's a good idea, but what really kind of turns everybody else off is you spend money (on the relationship)," Marshall said. "They don't realize it's your own money."

Murray City Councilman Leon Robertson noted "there's always some concern on cost and time," but said staffers use their vacation time to visit the faraway lands - with their own money.

Pett said that when sister-city delegates come to town, Murray seeks donations. "We host one party where we spend $500 to $600. That's not a lot of money for a city like Murray," he said.

On the other hand, Salt Lake City, which has five sister cities, allocates $7,000 in annual support for the program, according to Thom Dillon, executive assistant to the mayor. The money includes $600 in annual dues to Sister Cities International, dinners for the visiting delegates and travel for the mayor. So far, Mayor Deedee Corradini hasn't taken a city-sponsored trip. In the past, though, the city has even used some of the money to fund a Days of '47 float, Dillon said.

Salt Lake City may have the oldest and greatest number of sister-city relationships of any Utah city. In 1958 it established its first sister city with Matsumoto, Japan.

When the city received the bid for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in June, Matsumoto's Shi-min Times newspaper was among the first to send a congratulatory fax. The newspaper also ran stories about the celebration at the City-County Building.

Salt Lake's relationships with its sister cities differs slightly in each case, however. While interaction with Keelung City, Taiwan, is based on cultural and governmental exchange, ties with youngest sister Cherniztsi, Ukraine, centers on humanitarian aid.

Some cities, like Draper, don't have a sister city and aren't especially interested in having one. Others, however, are thinking even bigger.

When Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini suggested Salt Lake County Council of Governments members adopt a country for the 2002 Winter Olympics and invite that nation's delegates to stay during the Games, Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan immediately stepped up to bat. Dolan said his city wants to be among the first to adopt a country.

Sandy has some experience in that area. It has maintained a friendship with the city of Sandy, England, since 1993, when a globetrotting Colombian with a broken heart brought them together. The Sandy Rotary Club, to which both Dolan and chief administrative officer Byron Jorgenson belong, has kept that long-distance relationship alive.

Now, another foreign city is courting Sandy. Officials from Dachuan City, a community of 250,000 people in the People's Republic of China, plan a visit to formalize a sister-city relationship with Sandy soon.

The exchange with Dachuan City would be one of a cultural nature, but officials with both cities appear interested in an economic relationship as well.

"We'd look at it as the opening of the door," Dolan said, adding that China will be one of the "great markets into the future."

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Ties that cross many borders

Six Salt Lake County cities and one Davis County city have established sister-city relationships. Here's a list, including the year ties were established:

- Bountiful: Whanagarei, New Zealand (1986).

- Midvale: Piedras Negras, Mexico (1989).

- Murray: Chia-Yi, Taiwan (1987); Swietochlowice, Poland (1995)

- Salt Lake City: Matsumoto, Japan (1958); Keelung City, Taiwan (1981); Quezon City, Philippines; Oruro, Bolivia; Cherniztsi, Ukraine (1989).

- Sandy: Sandy, England (1993); Dachuan City, People's Republic of China (1995).

- West Jordan: Votkinsk, Russia (1993).

- West Valley City: Votkinsk, Russia (1988); Wendover, Utah (1992).