Mayor Dana Ralph says she jumped at the opportunity to take an all expenses paid trip to China to help develop Kent’s sister city relationship with Yangzhou as well as attend the 2018 World Canal Cities Forum.
Ralph and Patrick Briggs, executive assistant to the mayor, took the Oct. 13-17 trip to Yangzhou at the invitation and expense of the World Canal Cities, Ralph said. They attended a forum co-hosted by the World Historic and Cultural Canal Cities Cooperation Organization and the China National Committee for Pacific Economic Cooperation.
“I thought as the new mayor it would be a chance to develop our relationship with one of our sister cities,” Ralph said during a phone interview.
Kent and Yangzhou have been sister cities since 1993 when each city exchanged commemorative garden pavilions. Kent’s Sister Cities Program provides opportunities to establish meaningful and lasting global friendships, partnerships, connections and high school youth exchanges, according to the city’s website. Kent’s other sister cities are Tamba, Japan and Sunnfjord Area, Norway.
Previous Kent mayors Jim White and Suzette Cooke also took trips to Yangzhou, Ralph said. Representatives from Yangzhou visited Kent in 2016 as part of the sister city program’s economic exchange.
Ralph said it’s important to keep strong relationships with China because of all the Chinese students who attend either Green River College (with campuses in Auburn, Kent and Enumclaw) or Highline College in Des Moines.
“A lot of students come here from China to study,” she said.
As for the conference, more than 400 officials from 30 countries attended. While Kent doesn’t have a canal, Ralph said several of the topics applied to the Green River that runs through the city.
Ralph talked with the mayor of a town in the Netherlands about fish habitat restoration. Kent has been involved in several Green River fish habitat enhancement projects including future work at the Downey Farmstead and the Lower Russell Road levee.
Ralph said she also looked at how China uses land along its canals to help draw people to them whether it’s basketball courts or even a library where people can look across the canal as they read and enjoy a cup of coffee.
Although Ralph didn’t report to the City Council about the trip or issue a media release, she did post a video to the city of Kent Facebook page about the trip.
“The most important thing was for the sister city relationship to keep things going,” she said. “I’m glad I got to go.”