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News / Clark County News

Seeking a sister-city bond with Croatia

Music group hopes to sponsor a Vancouver-Dubrovnik link

By Stephanie Rice
Published: February 15, 2013, 4:00pm

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt on Friday met at City Hall with the mayor of Dubrovnik, Croatia, as part of an effort to establish a sister-city relationship with the popular port city on the Adriatic Sea.

The music organization Bravo! Vancouver has submitted a business plan to City Manager Eric Holmes outlining its intention to sponsor the sister-city relationship, just as the Rotary Club of Vancouver has sponsored a sister-city relationship with Joyo, Japan, since 1995.

Outside sponsors are necessary because Vancouver’s charter doesn’t allow dedicated money for sister-city relationships.

The Vancouver City Council still has to vote to approve the relationship, but Leavitt said Friday he hopes it produces the same types of student exchanges, cultural exchanges and business relations that have come out of the city’s relationship with Joyo.

“I wish it was mandatory for every high school student to study abroad for a year,” Leavitt said. Students learn not only about another country’s music, food and traditions, but see there are other ways of governing and providing basic services.

Dubrovnik Mayor Dr. Andro Vlahusic said his city has been a favorite port of call for cruise ships, and has even seen a boost in tourism since it became a location for the filming of the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”

He has welcomed Bravo! Vancouver, which hosted the first Dubrovnik International Wine & Jazz Festival last May.

Michael Kissinger, the artistic director of Bravo! Vancouver, has been conducting with the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra since 2006 and brought the symphony to Vancouver in 2008 for a series of concerts. Kissinger’s wife, Maria Manzo, the music director for Bravo! Vancouver, has family from Croatia, so that’s how the couple became familiar with the country.

Kissinger said he instantly fell in love with Dubrovnik, a city of red-roofed buildings and home to approximately 43,000 people.

Leavitt, who paid his own way to go to Dubrovnik for the festival last year, called the city stunning and was struck by the warmth of Dubrovnik residents.

Vancouver doesn’t have the Adriatic Sea on its doorstep, Leavitt said, but the city does have the largest amount of property along the Columbia River. He said Dubrovnik’s use of its shoreline can inspire the city as it continues developing the waterfront.

Vlahusic expressed interest in learning more about how Vancouver uses volunteers. Holmes said the city relies on volunteers to do community policing, help the fire department, and help maintain parks and trails.

Without the ability to tap into that passion for the community, Holmes said, a lot of work would go undone.

The next International Wine & Jazz Festival in Dubrovnik will be in September, Kissinger said. He said he hopes to start a tradition of bringing high school jazz ensembles, noting they can raise money throughout the summer for the trip. He also hopes to arrange travel packages for Vancouver residents who want to go during the festival.

They’ll receive insider tours, he said, and get more out of the city than they would on a day excursion during a cruise.

On Friday, after an interview that was filmed by CVTV about the benefits of a sister-city relationship, Vlahusic and his wife, Marina; and Igor Deranja, chief director of the office of the mayor, and his wife, Dr. Zana Deranja, took a tour of City Hall. They were expected to see Multnomah Falls after lunch.

They arrived in Vancouver on Thursday, after visiting Monterey, Calif., which has a sister-city relationship with Dubrovnik.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.