Redondo Beach officials meet with possible new sister city in ChinaBy Kristin S. Agostoni Daily Breeze Staff Writer
Redondo Beach and the Chinese city of Chengdu have taken the first step in developing a potential long-term partnership.
Redondo already has ties to the port city Zhangjiagang in eastern China, which in 2007 joined Ensenada and La Paz, Mexico, as one of its sister cities.
And a recent trip to the Wenjiang district of Chengdu - the capital city of China's Sichuan province with a population of nearly 10 million - could be the start of another international friendship, city leaders said.
During the 10-day trip that ended last week, Redondo Beach City Manager Bill Workman signed a "friendship agreement" with Chengdu officials - outlining the possibilities of creating mutually beneficial business partnerships, organizing student exchanges and sharing information on health, environmental and education policies, among others.
A formal sister city partnership would come later, assuming both cities agree to follow suit.
"This was really our first formal meeting with them," said Workman, who was among nearly two dozen people making the trip, which also included a stop in Zhangjiagang.
"They have great interest in us (and) while they're really big and we're small, I think there's some quality things they want to learn," he said.
And Redondo Beach, in turn, could benefit from learning about Chinese business practices and trade, said Workman, who was joined on the trip by his wife, a schoolteacher.
Their time in Chengdu offered a chance to tour schools and meet with city leaders, students and bureaucrats, Workman said, before the group traveled to Shanghai and then to Zhangjiagang.
In addition to the Workmans, the local delegation included residents, retired city employees and others with City Hall ties, including Mayor Mike Gin, Planning Director Aaron Jones and Engineering and Building Services Director Steve Huang.
A native of Taiwan, Huang has been traveling to China for some time on trips sponsored every two years by the Redondo Beach Sister Cities China Committee.
For his role in planning the excursion and serving as a translator, Huang was the only city employee or elected official who didn't pay his own way. He also received his regular City Hall salary for seven days - $4,832 - a decision that raised a few eyebrows when the expenses were approved early last month.
Huang, though, said planning the trip required "lots of groundwork," and he pointed out that he continued to keep up with e-mails while traveling. Workman said Huang's role in planning, translating and ensuring everyone traveled safely was crucial.
Huang's expenses, including airfare and hotel, cab and Internet charges, totaled $2,577, according to receipts obtained by the Daily Breeze.