Committee hopes to rekindle international relationships by reviving Sister City program
By Kendall Balchan
A new committee wants to restore the bonds between Palm Springs and international cities. Remnants of those bonds can still be seen hiding in plain sight all over the city.
A totem pole on a stone monument sits at the corner of Racquet Club Road and Via Miraleste in Victoria Park. A large metal bell is tucked away at City Hall. Both of these items were gifts from sister cities of Palm Springs. The totem pole came from Victoria, British Columbia, in 1968. Nikko, Japan, gifted the bell to the city in 1980.
Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Palm Springs had robust connections with three international cities as a part of the Sister Cities program — Victoria, Nikko, and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. One of the most significant relationships was with Victoria. The two cities not only exchanged tourists and business, but students, doctors, sports teams, and artists.
In the 1980s, then-Mayor Frank Bogert wrote a letter to the Mayor of Victoria terminating the relationship. Bogert described the program as “just too cumbersome” and discontinued the relationship because “it was too time-consuming.”
Now, the new Palm Springs Sister Cities committee is hoping to renew those severed ties with international cities, and they’re hoping to start with Victoria. Business owner Jeffrey Bernstein — a current candidate for City Council — co-chairs the committee with Al Jones, formerly of the Airport Commission.
The committee is made up of all volunteers, and Jones said there’s room for more. Those with with diverse backgrounds, different jobs, and different ages are especially welcome to join.
Bernstein says the idea first came to him before the pandemic, but he sees even more urgency for the project as the world emerges from COVID-19 restrictions. It’s hoped that the the Sister City program will re-energize the city, promote tourism, and boost hotels, restaurants, and retail sales.
“This is an opportunity to respond to Covid and come out of it positively,” said Jones, adding that San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Aix-en-Provence, France, and Henley-on-Thames, England, are all currently under consideration.
David Perry serves as the communications and public affairs professional on the committee, and he’s a veritable expert on the Sister Cities program. He served on the committee in San Francisco, which has almost 20 Sister Cities, including Shanghai and Cork, Ireland.
Perry says he’s seen for himself how much good these exchanges can do for a city. “I’ve seen a direct economic result, Perry said. “Citizens in both cities doing business with each other that would not have happened without the program.”
The committee hopes to take advantage of the obvious link between Canadian tourists and the Coachella Valley, with thousands making their way down south as temperatures in their hometowns drop.
With the Sister Cities program, Perry says Palm Springs would become a year-round destination.
“You can work remotely from here, and you’re two hours from San Diego and Los Angeles, a one-hour flight from San Francisco, and an airport with great connecting flights and a growing number of direct flights.”
Jones left his position as chair of the Airport Commission last summer. He says the city is coming back strong from the pandemic.
“(Palm Springs International Airport) in the past few months has had not only the highest monthly passenger numbers since the start of the pandemic, but the highest passenger numbers ever,” he observed.
As for the next steps, the committee is continuing conversations with City Hall and local business organizations. The mayors of any future sister cities will need to make the final call by signing a letter of intent and formalizing the agreement.
There is an annual fee to be a part of the Sister Cities Organization, which the committee says it will take care of through fundraising and donations from its own members.
Jones stresses that the program is not just about tourism. He says, “We want to increase awareness and foster an exchange between two different cities.”
That’s another reason why Victoria is an attractive choice for the committee. The culture and demographics of the city are so different from Palm Springs that student and cultural exchanges would greatly benefit both cities.
More information: The Palm Springs Sister City Committee meets on the second Thursday of every month on Zoom at 8:30 a.m. You can join the group’s Facebook page here.
FOURTH HOMICIDE OF 2022: For the third time in three weeks and the fourth time this year, Palm Springs police are investigating a homicide in the city. The latest incident occurred Tuesday when authorities say an unidentified woman was stabbed in the 1700 block of East Arenas Road and died at the scene. Police arrived at around 10 p.m. and detained a person of interest, saying, “The preliminary information indicates the subject detained is most likely the suspect in this homicide.” Police Chief Andy Mills said the stabbing appears to be an isolated incident and that officers remained at the scene to collect evidence. Tuesday’s apparent homicide follows two others in recent weeks. On Feb. 19, a woman was found dead in her home in the 600 block of Rosa Parks Road. Her death was later ruled a homicide. On Feb. 25, a man whose vehicle slammed into a power pole at Rosa Parks Road and Granada Avenue was found to have a gunshot wound. It was not immediately clear if he died due to the gunshot or the impact of the collision. The woman who died on Feb. 19 has not been identified, and police have released no other details about her death. The man who died on Feb. 25 was identified as 45-year-old Jermaine Hamilton. The Riverside County Coroner’s Office did not list Hamilton’s city of residence, but public records show a man matching his description had a Cabazon address. The city’s first homicide of 2022 occurred the evening of Jan. 11, when the body of a 32-year-old man was discovered in a parking lot in the 56000 block of Ramon Road.
ART CENTER NEEDS TEACHERS: Do you enjoy inspiring young minds? Did you know that one of the most vibrant arts programs offered at the Desert Art Center (DAC) is for children? DAC is currently looking for art teachers in a variety of mediums — painting, ceramics, animation, sculpture, drawing, collage, mosaics, Paper Mache, and jewelry-making to name a few — to work as instructors for its Middle School Art Program (MSAP). The MSAP consists of sessions of four Saturdays, with classes running from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. The commitment would be for four Saturdays, in a given session, and all instructors are paid a stipend. If you are interested in being part of the educational team, please include your qualifications in an email to Kevin Allen, program coordinator, at [email protected].
CLARIFICATION: In a story yesterday on the Rainmaker fountain at Frances Stevens Park, The Post failed to note that the $220,000 in Measure J funds sought for the artwork by the city’s Public Arts Commission includes $125,000 for ongoing maintenance over five years and $95,000 for repairs needed immediately, not $220,000 for the repairs alone. The Post regrets the error. If you spot something that needs correcting, please email [email protected]. To view our corrections policy and other ethical guidelines we follow, turn here.
? Today’s events
Highlights from today in Palm Springs. Complete listings are on our community calendar.
- Mizell Center offers multiple classes and programs today starting at 8 a.m.
- Palm Springs Sunshine Sisters are going hiking at 8:30 a.m.
- An introduction to street hockey will be held today from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. at Sunrise Park, courtesy of the Coachella Valley Firebirds. Students age 7 to 18 can participate.
- The Palm Springs Equity & Social Justice Committee meets at 3 p.m.
- Teen gaming for students in grades 6 through 12 is offered at the Palm Springs Library starting at 3:30 p.m.
- Planning Ahead for LGBTQ Seniors (PALS) meets online at 4 p.m. via Zoom.
- The next free concert at the city’s new Downtown Park takes place this evening at 7 p.m. Tonight’s performer is a Madonna impersonator
? What to watch for
- A homeless navigation center discussion is planned for Thursday at the James O. Jesse Desert Highlands Unity Center.
- Dezart Performs presents a play titled The Mountaintop starting this weekend and running through March 13.
- Mina Hartong hosts a free event at Mizell Center titled I’m Speaking: Reflections on International Women’s Day on March 9.
- Palm Canyon Theatre continues performances of Palm Springs Getawaythrough March 13.
- The Richard M. Milanovich Legacy Hike and 5K Run at Indian Canyons on March 11 is open for registration.
- The Shamrock 5K will be held the morning of March 12, starting at the Palm Springs American Legion. Registration is open now.
- Heart-to-Heart Palm Springs is selling tickets for its March 12 Military Women Appreciation Luncheon. Details are here.
- The Palm Springs Post and Palm Springs Cultural Center present their first free “Community Conversations” event on March 14.
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