February 11, 2002
Woodinville, Seto: An updated tale
of two cities and their proposed friendship
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
Meet Seto, a pastoral community in Japan surrounded by lush, green, undulating countryside. Its terrain, blessed by high quality clay, provides the city with a major industry.
The majority of its 130,000 citizens earn a living through ceramics making. And though an ocean separates Seto (pronounced say-toh) from Woodinville, the two cities share some common features. Prominent rivers wind through the landscape of both cities, marking the natural beauty.
Citizens in Woodinville and Seto share an appreciation of the environment and plant young trees.
But the feature that brought the two cities together doesn't have anything to do with the environment. Instead, it's their mutual interest in establishing a sister city relationship.
Woodinville's Communications Coordinator Marie Stake says that a sister affiliation with Seto would expand educational, business and cultural horizons on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.
She notes that a formalized friendship would offer a wide range of opportunities for Woodinville including an economic one, particularly if the city has an interest in tourism and trade.
"That's really where the most tangible development of the sister city program is," says Stake and adds, "Part of the idea for the project is to make Woodinville attractive to the international trade companies."
Another part of the project, she says, would be to open educational doors, such as making a student exchange program available.
The city of Seto had the idea of establishing a sister city in the United States after officials received notice their city would host the World Expo in 2005.
One of the Expo board members is a former Woodinville resident. As Expo board members discussed potential sister cities, Russ Tanaguchi thought of his hometown and suggested Woodinville as a possibility. Seto officials liked the idea and began to explore Taniguchi's proposal.
Sometime later, the Woodinville City Council received direct contact from Seto representatives expressing interest in a sister city affiliation.
The Council directed the Woodinville city staff to gauge community support for the idea and to seek out interested citizens and business members to serve on an exploratory Sister City Committee. The city began recruiting committee volunteers through announcements in newsprint, fliers and word of mouth. Seven individuals responded and stated their desire to participate.
The role of the Sister City Committee will be to form a program unique to Woodinville and to present their plan to the City Council for possible acceptance at a later date.
After a friendship stage between the two cities takes its course, which could run two to four years, the Council may pursue an official relationship with Seto.
Meanwhile, Woodinville and Seto agree to take the process slowly, giving both cities time to learn more about each other's community as well as define expectations.
Last October, the mayor of Seto wrote a letter to then- - Woodinville Mayor Randy Ransom indicating the type of approach he'd like the friendship process to evolve before an international relationship is formalized.
Mayor Kinya Masaoka wrote: "In order for a flower to bloom, one must plow the soil, sow the seeds, give it water, and take time to care for it. In the same way, a fruitful relationship between Woodinville and Seto will require time to blossom."
As the friendship continues to blossom, the Woodinville City Council has asked city staff to look into the expense of administration and travel costs that a sister city program would entail.
There are several local models for the city staff to look at as they determine the costs of the program. Bellevue, for example, has four sister cities and Seattle has 21.
Woodinville will also consider other sister city relationships. Lucy DeYoung, Woodinville's first mayor, has recommended that the Council consider the Chinese tourist town, Hegang, for sister city status.
DeYoung recently traveled to China on a trade mission with Washington state business owners and found that Hegang most closely matches Woodinville.
Stake plans to update the City Council in April on the program's progress as well as potential costs.
In the meantime, Mayor Masaoka would like to send a mission to Woodinville sometime this year to discuss the future relationship.
The Woodinville City Council hopes to hear from local business owners, citizens and school district representatives to discuss the possibilities the new relationship will bring to the city.
To gain further support for the Sister City program, the city will stage culturally based activities at this year's annual Celebrate Woodinville event on March 30. The theme for the City's 2002 celebration is "Passport to the World" and the city plans to issue passports to the children who attend. The kids will have their passports stamped as they travel to various cultural "destinations" at City Hall and the Community Center. An adventurous trip to Russia means a walk to the police department and a journey to China involves a venture to Council Chambers. At the end of their globetrotting excursion, the children will receive a souvenir.
Also, the city invites other cultural groups with displays to take part in the city-sponsored event. Stake says that Native American artifacts are one example of the type of display the city seeks.
For more information on the "Passport to the World" Cityhood celebration or on helping the City explore the forming of a Sister City Program, contact Marie Stake at (425) 489-2700.