Commissioners OK 'friendship-city' relationship with Chinese city

December 08, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN - The Washington County Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to formally approve an agreement for a relationship between Washington County and Jinhua City in China.

Commissioners President John F. Barr signed a memorandum establishing the "friendship-city" relationship during a trip to China last month.

Barr said he signed the agreement because he thought the commissioners had reached a consensus in support of it, but Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire called for a formal vote on the matter.

Barr and Commissioners James F. Kercheval, Terry L. Baker, and William J. Wivell voted in favor of the agreement. Aleshire voted against it.

Aleshire said he opposed the agreement because of governmental differences between the U.S. and China.

Barr said Tuesday the agreement was a "feel-good" gesture centered on establishing friendship.

"There's nothing committed on behalf of financial or responsibilities of this board," Barr said.

The document Barr signed states that to promote "mutual understanding and friendship" between China and the United States, Washington County and Jinhua will "strive to carry out, in accordance with the principles of equality and mutual benefit, exchanges and co-operation in various forms in the fields of economy, trade, science and technology, culture, education, sports, health and personnel exchanges," and will "endeavor to formally establish friendly relations so as to promote common prosperity and development."


Barr said several other counties in Maryland already have partnerships with communities in China, including one that attracted a biotechnology research firm through that initiative.

Kercheval said he didn't have any problem with the agreement.

"I think it's more of a feel-good and trying to open up the lines of communication between a couple different countries," Kercheval said, adding that China is a "powerhouse" in the global economy.

Baker agreed.

"More or less, I just view this as a goodwill gesture," Baker said. "Their economy is booming over there. If nothing else, we can learn from it."

Wivell said when the partnership was discussed previously, he expressed reservations about the county paying for travel to China, but because Barr paid his own way on the trip, he supported the agreement.

How they voted

The commissioners voted 4-1 to formally approve a relationship between Washington County and Jinhua City in China.

John F. Barr - yes

Terry Baker - yes

Kristin B. Aleshire - no

James F. Kercheval - yes

William J. Wivell - yes

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