3-2 vote stops Arcadia from publicly declaring friendship with Dongfang City in Hainan Province, China
By Galen Patterson
The Arcadia City Council halted consideration for the first application in the Friendship Cities Program.
The application was brought forth by Councilmember Sho Tay proposing a declaration of friendship between Arcadia and Dongfang City, Hainan Province, China.
The application was denied because a majority of council members had several concerns about Arcadia’s first Friendship City being not as relatable to Arcadia as they had hoped.
Chief among the concerns is the political statement that would be made by supporting a city in China that is currently embroiled in the South China Sea protests, such as Hong Kong.
“I have some reservations about entering into any kind of friendship cities with China at this time,” said Mayor April Verlato. “I’m uncertain that this is the right political climate to be entering into a friendship city that maybe some of our residents would find it offensive … to be extending a hand out to a city in China.”
“I know I have a lot of Hong Kongese neighbors and a lot of Taiwanese neighbors that aren’t particularly happy with China right now,” she said.
Also among the concerns is the belief that Dongfang City is just not very similar to Arcadia, in population, climate, size, geography or culture. Dongfang is a popular tourist destination, with mild weather and beaches situated on the western coast of the Hainan Province, a large island in south-coastal China.
In defense of Dongfang, Councilmember Tay reasoned that the population ratio of human-to-space is relatively close but a city the size of Arcadia simply does not exist in China. Arcadia reported the population of Dongfang as 454,800 over 871 square miles, while Arcadia has 58,156 over 11 square miles.
“Arcadia is about 0.02 percent of the U.S., Dongfang is about 0.03 percent of China. That’s why if we calculate the ratio, it’s about the same,” said Tay.
Mayor Pro Temp. Roger Chandler agreed with Tay, citing his personal experience in China and ultimately supporting the application.
“I’ve been to China and there’s really nothing comparable, it’s just different,” Chandler said in an argument in favor of Dongfang. “Quite frankly, I’m proud that someone wants to model a city, although it’s much larger in size, after what Arcadia has developed,” he said.
Councilmember Tay agreed to the role of ambassador from Arcadia to Dongfang, which would have entailed cultural exchanges between the cities.
In a preemptive test conducted by Councilman Tay, Dongfang officials visited Arcadia where they promptly decided to change their trees to model those in Arcadia, according to Tay. Tay also told the council that Dongfang admires Arcadia’s race track, which Tay says they would also like to have in Dongfang.
However, in a 3-2 vote, the consideration failed.
Having a friendship city is a unique agreement between comparable cities worldwide that allows them to share culture, tourism, and ideas at the municipal level.
Councilmember Peter Amundson suggested a Chiayi City in Taiwan, which is situated near a mountain range in a large metropolitan landscape surrounding. The application has not yet been submitted.