The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa City City Council pursues international sister city

The program would connect Iowa City with another international city.
Sahithi Shankaiahgari
Mazahir Salih smiles at her watch party at fix! Coffee on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. Salih was reelected to her seat on the city council after receiving the highest number of votes.

The Iowa City City Council discussed the possibility of becoming a Sister City with another international city at its April 2 meeting.

Deputy City Manager Redmond Jones II gave a presentation during the work session portion of the meeting and answered the councilors’ questions about the logistics and benefits a sister city would bring to Iowa City.

Sister Cities International is a member organization that connects cities in different countries to allow for economic, cultural, and student exchanges. Jones said the costs for the membership are relatively low and would cost Iowa City less than $1,000 annually.

Other cities throughout Iowa have sister city programs, such as Des Moines with Stavropol, Russia; Muscatine with Kislovodsk, Russia; and Coralville with Taizhou, China. Jones said a city gets out of the program what they put into it, and the relationship takes a good amount of upkeep.

“Building a sister city program is not an exact science, but our city council wants to ensure that any proposed structure for a sister city program is citizen-driven,” Jones said.

Jones said the program would benefit local businesses in both cities and open up the market to that of another country, so products or services could be sold to citizens of the international city. The two cities may also have common goals when it comes to environmental policy, and they can work together on developing technology or adapting successful practices the other city may have.

In their meeting, the council explained that local businessman and owner of Joseph International Freight Service Tony Joseph had brought the sister city idea to them. Mayor Bruce Teague said Joseph has been involved in other sister cities before and coordinated a visit with a delegation from China who may be interested. Jones said Iowa City has the fourth largest Sudanese population in Iowa, so a partnership with a city in Sudan could be another possibility.

Jones said there are also people at the University of Iowa who are interested in bringing the benefits of the program to Iowa City.

Dimy Doresca, executive director of the Institute for International Business in the Tippie College of Business, has been a proponent of bringing a sister city program to Iowa City and has emphasized citizen involvement in a successful partnership with another city.

“It’s citizen diplomacy,” Doresca said. “It’s more of a people-to-people exchange where everybody gets to be involved, and you get to know that sister on a personal basis.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Mazahir Salih, a Sudanese immigrant, has also advocated for bringing the sister city program to Iowa City since she became a council member and has expressed her frustration with how long it’s taken the council to evaluate her idea.

“It’s very disappointing that when somebody like me brings something, it’s always denied, so I’m glad you guys are bringing it now,” she said during the council meeting.

Moving forward, Teague said during the meeting that the council and the city manager’s office need to set a clear list of goals for this program and ensure it is community-based.

RELATED: Iowa City residents request city council issue statement on supporting Palestine

“Part of what the council can do is set up guard rails so the goal of the program that we’re wanting and the makeup of the group does not have to be with no parameters to it,” Teague said.

Councilor Laura Bergus explained during the work session that she thinks the sister city program is outdated and doesn’t reflect the current global landscape.

“I think international relationships have changed a lot and I have some concerns, frankly, with an Eisenhower-era program that, from the research that I’ve done, is very open,” she said. “I personally would be very hesitant to have the city support that or be involved in that without a better subject matter understanding.”

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About the Contributor
Grace Olson
Grace Olson, News Reporter
Grace Olson is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications. She's a news reporter for The DI, reporting primarily on local government. She is from Denver, Colorado and worked on the pirnt publication from her high school prior to her work in college.