Some reject French sister city proposal

April 14, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

The current international climate, in which relations between the American and French governments are strained over the war on Iraq, is not right for the City of Hagerstown to consider forming a relationship with a city in France, Hagerstown and veterans officials said Friday.

"As far as I am concerned, France does not exist," veteran Ronald Hovis of Hagerstown said. "They have forgotten who liberated them in World War II."

"I think France has kind of let the United States down in not supporting our coalition against Iraq," said Michael Horst, commander of VFW Post 1936 in Hagerstown. "We went over there and lost a lot of people in France."


Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner on Tuesday said he favors a proposal by the city of Saumur, France, for the two municipalities to become sister cities but he wanted to see if the idea has community support.

A Saumur official contacted Hagerstown before the war, but the correspondence containing the official request did not come until last week.

Veterans and city officials said the timing of the request is bad.

"I am not really positive that this is the best time in the world to have a lengthy discussion about the relations on a local level," Hagerstown Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said.

"Right now is not the right time," Councilwoman Carol Moller agreed.

Like many Americans, Metzner said, he is not happy with French President Jacque Chirac's recent actions and comments.

Breichner said he would not object to delaying action on the request if people feel now is not the right time to discuss the matter.

Hagerstown has a citizens committee that coordinates events with Wesel, Germany, its sister city since 1952. If residents are interested in working with the French city, Breichner said he would suggest that a new committee be formed with community volunteers.

The relationship with Wesel initially faced criticism from some residents angry about Germany's conduct in World War II, but citizens of one nation should not judge all citizens of another nation based on actions of their government, Breichner said.

Councilman Kristin Aleshire said for citizens of the two nations to be able to disagree and get along is true democracy, more so than for America to turn its back on other nations.

Aleshire and Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said they might support the proposal if there are Hagerstown volunteers who want to do the work on a partnership. But Hendershot said he would also need to be convinced that Hagerstown has some type of French connection.

Saumur was considering becoming a sister city with Frederick, Md., but Kathryn Sindell, a Hagerstown native who moved to Saumur in late 2002, said she convinced Saumur officials that Hagerstown would be a better match.

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