Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sister Cities

Sister Cities choose each other on the basis of one or more similar demographic, characteristic, or historical ties and agree by ordinance to participate. They look to each other for assistance and advice on matters including governance, healthcare, housing, and just about anything else facing a city today. The City of Annapolis, Maryland, is proud to take part in this program, partnering with fifteen international cities.

Annapolis first began as a Sister City in 1980, partnering with Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, Canada. Since then, Annapolis has twinned with many other cities, including Wexford, Ireland; Dumfries, Scotland; Tallin, Estonia; NiterĂ³i, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Rochefort, France; and Newport, Wales, as well as cities in South Korea, Sweden, Italy, Gambia, and Russia. In addition, Annapolis has letters of interest with the cities of Changsha, China and Tangier, Medina in Morocco, as well Hamilton, Bermuda.

Recently visiting several of Annapolis’ Sister Cities, Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer called the program “cultural mentoring,” and was surprised to find that affordable housing was a common issue. Her visits to each country are an important part of
reaching out and personally showing support and a willingness to learn about each Sister City.

With over twenty years as a Sister City, Annapolis, Maryland proves the value of international partnerships through exchanges of cultural, educational, and historical knowledge and first-hand experiences. Annapolis will continue to strengthen its ties to its fifteen global partners through mutual visits, events, and exchanges of ideas and information. Through these bonds Annapolis will further its Sister City mission of creating a force for international cooperation and understanding through community involvement and people-to-people relationships.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Enjoy Wexford, Ireland

A statue of Commodore John Barry faces the harbor of Wexford, Ireland near the very place where-at age 12-he entered the Navy as a cabin boy.

Mayor George Lawlor’s grandfather unveiled the statue. Mayor Lawlor wonders why Annapolis doesn’t do more to recognize this Naval hero.

John Barry served with George Washington in our war for independence and was listed as #1 in the American Navy. The competition between the Scots-John Paul Jones is considered by some to be a pirate- and the Irish hero, John Barry, emerges.

Mayor Lawlor, dressed in official red robe and gold chains, welcomed me to the official town chambers. The Chambers are much like a board room with little space for public participation. Pictures of past Mayors line the walls. A photo of former Maryland Senator Gerald Winegrad’s visit to these chambers is included. The Mayor of New Ross, Ingrid O'Brien and Speaker in Parliament, Brendan Howlin, joined as hosts.

Wexford is a town founded by the Vikings. After they plundered the sea coast in the 8th century, Ireland’s rich supply of wood for ship-building attracted the Vikings for permanent settlement. Wexford was a major trading center, exchanging cowhides and agricultural products for luxury goods, wine, figs and olives.

The harbor was a magnet for others expanding their territory. The Normans came in the 12th century. The town's earliest fortifications date to 1169. At the Irish National Heritage Park in Wexford, home sites reproduce the way people lived over a 9,000 year period of time. The son of Pat Collins, Wexford Administrator, explained stone age, bronze age and the 1600 year Celtic early Christian age sites.

In the 1840's, a potato blight forever changed life in Ireland. Over 3 million people died or emigrated to a strange country hoping to survive. One of them was Patrick Kennedy, the great - grandfather of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He arrived destitute in Boston in 1848. The Homestead, a simple farm still owned by the family, still exists and is open to the public. John F. Kennedy returned to this homestead in Wexford County in August, 1963. Videos and pictures of the visit 44 years ago are proudly on display in Wexford shops.

In the town of New Ross, a reproduction of the Dunbrody famine ship supported by the JFK Trust tells the stories of those leaving their homeland for America. Many died of the famine and the ships earned the macabre nickname of "coffin ships." On the voyage researched for the Dunbrody, 8 people out of 300 died en route, including the parents of 5 children. Nothing is known of their fate when they reached Boston. While the Dunbrody carried twice its capacity, the mortality rate from fever and dysentery was low.

During WWI, German U-Boat activity created a grave yard of ships off the Wexford coast. The Lusitania, a Cunard cruise ship, was one of the victims. In 1918, the US Navy established a seaplane base at Wexford Harbor and broke the back of the U-Boat operations. Nothing remains of this important complex today.

Nearby is Duncannon Fort, a fortress for over a 1,000 years. The fort is now owned by the County of Wexford. Duncannon is also the name given to the race horse who won the first Jockey Club Trophy, the Annapolis Subscription Plate, in Annapolis in 1745.

On the Southwest Coast of Ireland, 100 miles from Wexford, the town of Kinsale was hosting Regatta Week. Twinned with Newport, Rhode Island, the Mayor and Council members of this American city were on hand to officially open the 10 day regatta event.

Kinsale and Wexford boast Ireland’s best places to dine. Wexford enjoys the country’s #1 Light Opera Company. Mayor Lawlor is a member- another voice to join with our singing troupe during our Annapolis Alive/Charter 300 Celebration in 2008.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dumfries, Scotland - Our Sister City since 1987

My Scotish heritage on my mother’s side originated in the 14th century in Dumfries. Asmall clan, MacClish, was related to the MacQuillias and to the MacPheron (at least according to what I read in Anderson’s Kilt Shop). The fight against Bonnie Prince Charles and the defeat at the Battle of Culloden in the 1730’s seems to have eliminated most of them.

Dumfries is a border town where hundreds of years of British history can be explored. It was in Dumfries where Robert the Bruce met and killed John Comyn at Grey Friars Church and declared himself King of Scotland in 1306. Contested and embattled “Good King Robert” prevailed and Scotland became the First Nation State in Europe.

This is a region of haunting rolling hills crisscrossed by rubble stone fences and farm fields dotted white with sheep. Castles and Abbeys stand in ruins, not destroyed during World War II, but ordered dismantled in the 1400's by King Henry VIII in his struggle against the Catholic Church and its wealthy land holdings. Iron Age remains of Roman Forts are still visible and present remarkable archeological dig sites.

Lockerbie, where the sabotaged flight of Pan American 747 crashed in 1988 is in Dumfries/Galloway. 270 people, mostly students from Syracuse University were killed in this tragedy. A memorial center is maintained in the cemetery and a memorial window is installed in the Town Hall. Each year 2 senior pupils of Lockerbie Academy receive a year’s scholarship at Syracuse.

This is mournful country yet with a haunting beauty that inspired J. M. Barrie’s Fantasy Story Peter Pan and the songs and poems of Robert Burns. Robert Burns is the Heart and Soul of Dumfries. The simple sand stone house where he lived and died in 1796, at the young age of 37, is a museum.

Some years after this death, the citizens of Scotland took up a subscription to raise money for a proper mausoleum. The elaborate white grave site sits among ancient 5-foot high red stone markers of Dumfries citizens in St. Michael’s, the oldest church in Dumfries.

The Church itself was built in 1741 on the foundations of previous churches spanning 1300 years of time. During the last reconstruction, metal lead for the roof was purchased by the citizens of Dumfries to make shot to protect them from Bonnie Prince Charles. The Prince spent 3 days in Dumfries among the citizenry of non-supporters, but no shot was fired. A common grave marks the site for visitors of cholera epidemics in 1832 and 1848. The first use of anesthetic was in this city.

The Globe Inn, where he ate and drank, and is still a place to eat and drink, is filled with memorabilia and the spirit of Scotland’s National Bard who gave us Auld Lang Syne, Tam O’Shanter, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose and 100's more.

Dumfries/Galloway borders the Solway Firth - a huge estuary that separates Scotland from England and anoints Dumfries as the “Riviera of the South”. It is on this coast that John Paul Jones was born, raised and learned about the sea to become an Admiral and the Father of the American Navy. I visited the Church in Kirkbeon , a 12th century village, that he attended and the cottage where he grew up. The cottage built in 1740 is now a museum thanks to the vision and work of Admiral Jerauld Wright, USN. Supported by a charitable trust, the site was opened in 1991, thirty years after Admiral Wright began his restoration effort. John Paul Jones is buried at the U. S. Naval Academy in a crypt beneath the Chapel. A battle with Ranger, a ship under his command, is featured in Art Walk at Prince George and Craig Street.

Ken Cameron, past Provost (Mayor) introduced Dumfries to Annapolis in 1987 when we became Sister Cities. Over the twenty years, delegations from Dumfries have visited Annapolis several times. We have not been so visible.

The delegation welcoming me could not have been more gracious. David Lockwood, Robert Thom, Alfred Hannay were just a few who spent hours of time introducing me to Dumfries/Galloway. We talked about challenges--affordable housing, the economy, seagulls.

Like us, Dumfries is a city of small shops, but too many young people leave town to find a job. We discussed ways to strengthen our ties, small business opportunities. I immediately thought of the sheep everywhere in view and of woolen goods. But despite all the sheep, Ivor Hyslop, councilman and farmer, says it costs more to shear sheep than to sell the wool-an industry in decline.

Dumfries is, of course, a center for anyone interested in exploring history to visit. The Iron Age, Romans, early Christians, battles with England, religious struggles-the stories are all here.

In 2009 Scotland is promoting a special year for those of Scottish heritage to explore this homeland. A Navy town, Annapolis and Dumfries are forever linked with John Paul Jones, the father of America’s Navy. Friends of John Paul Jones Charity are under the Naval Historical Foundation.

My stay in Dumfries was concluded with a Scottish Dance and a group of students from a sister city in Germany were learning the folk dances similar to our square dances. I wanted to bring this fun to Annapolis. Councilman Jack Groom agreed to come to Annapolis to sing with Tony Spencer and Ray Weaver. Janice Hawkins, who arranged the events, agreed to come and teach the dances. Alfie and Robert wanted to play golf. And so we agreed as we shook hands good-bye that during 2008, Annapolis’ Charter Celebration year, Dumfries and Annapolis will join in a special event to showcase the history we share.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Welcome to Newport, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Entering the town of Newport an official highway sign says "Annapolis, MD, USA", acknowledging our Sister City Link.

Immediately I felt welcome.

Newport is an ancient and charming coastal town at the foot of Carningli and the Presili Hills and the estuary of River Nevern. Although this Norman town received its official Charter in 1197, it is much older. Stone tools place settlement as early as 7000 B. C. and burial chambers date to about 3500 B.C. A settled iron-age agricultural society established forts in the hills above. The Romans came in the 1st century, the Celtic Saints in the 5th century and the feuding Dynasties before the Normans arrived to govern the whole of Pembrokeshire in the 12th century.

While there were skirmishes with the Welsh to maintain control, Newport received a charter in 1197 from its founder, Lord William Martin. It became the larger of medieval towns of Wales.The first recorded Mayor was appointed in 1275 by the Marcher Lord, an inherited position of trusted supporters, created by King William I who did not have the resources to conquer the Welsh. To this day, the Mayor of Newport, population 1,000 and the Mayor of London are the only two civic heads in the United Kingdom still appointed to office. The selection is made by the Marcher Lord on November 9th from a list of four names submitted by burgesses of the town.

Newport is on the West Coast of Wales, in Pembrokeshire, a countryside of great diversity with deep valleys, green hills, rocky cliffs and long beaches. It is on the edge of Britain’s only coastal National Park that includes the drowned estuary of the River Nevern, old sea walls made from slate on edge and old lime kilns. It also includes the Presili Hills where it is believed Blue stones were quarried and transported to Stone Hedge some 200 miles away. No one knows how.Wild horses and sheep now roam this wild upland moor.

The Town Houses, a Norman Castle built in the 13th century and an historic church first built in the 7th century dedicated to Saint Curig and rebuilt by the Normans in the 13th century. The original plan of the medieval town exists unchanged in its narrow streets and meandering lanes. Stone-built and whitewashed cottages, and the changing light of a seaside town give it an air of tranquility. Flowers are everywhere-purple heather and lavender color the hills. Travel posters from the turn of the century suggest Newport as the destination for those seeking scenery, health and repose.

Workshops of artists – painters, weavers, wood-turners, potters – abound. The Welsh language is spoken and taught in school. Wales in Anglo-Saxon means "foreigner’; in Celtic, Cymry, it means "fellow countrymen". Eighteen per cent of its population speak Welsh. Wales is of Celtic origin.

Mayor Barry Onions welcomed me with a walk around town. At the Parrog , a 14-foot tide was out. People and dogs played in the sand and shallow water. Today there is a bird habitat nearby. Two swans have finally returned to the area. Mayor Onion would like more.

One of the responsibilities of the Mayor is the "Beating of the Bounds", a custom dating from the 5th century when the boundaries of a parish were established. Today, walking the boundaries takes place in Newport annually. The procession of town folk and children halt at boundary marks where small boys are whipped, afterward treated with cakes, so they will always remember where the boundaries are located. On August 12th, Mayor Barry Onion led the 8-mile procession to mark the bounds of Newport.

Retired Mayor Reverend Bob Jones and his wife Libby introduced us to St. David’s, the ruined monastery of Wales Patron Saint. The Vikings, King Henry VIII and Cromwell ravaged this area. The majestic cathedral has been restored, Christian services are conducted, visitors are welcome – it is a pilgrimage site.Newport became our Sister City over 20 years ago. Maryland’s late Senator Charles Mathias traces his roots to this area. Bob and Libby have visited Annapolis twice, as have others from Newport. Libby’s wardrobe includes a jacket with the large red dragon of Wales that attracted the attentions of our friends in Annapolis Irish Pubs.

No one knows how the red dragon was adopted for the Welsh flag. Legend suggested it was a standard in an 8th century battle. No doubt the same side carrying it was victorious. It must have been a Welsh victory.

Libby has pointed out opportunities in Newport ripe for archeology. The town is a microcosm of 10,000 years of human history.

Our links with Wales are solid. I look forward to our friends visit in 2008. Perhaps we can present the Mayor with two white swans to meet his dream for Newport’s bird refuge. Perhaps we can share our 30 year archeology program recording the 300 year history of Annapolis.

Leaving Newport I followed an old drover’s trail, the pathway where farmers walked livestock to market to industrial Newport, 150 miles, 6 hours away. Distance between towns is measured here not in miles but in travel time. Roads are narrow with little opportunity to pass. But then all of Wales seems like the slogan for visitors to Newport .... A place to enjoy beauty, secure health and repose...relax.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Two Continents- One Humanity

Although 3,000 miles away, I felt like I was home. Our Sister City, Wexford, had just completed a new fire station. Firemen were unhappy with the station’s amenities. Others were complaining about the location. The local paper asserted that "after what seemed to be a lifetime in its construction ... even after all the time in planning and development... There are already several teething problems emerging." Letters to the editor complained, cast aspersions, and played the blame game.

As the mayors and I talked about the challenges we face for providing public service, the similarities between us emerged.

Most mayors are concerned about the long-term sustainability of their cities. They are concerned that as young people move away to find a job and the population ages, the pressure will increase on small businesses to close shop.

Real estate values have escalated. Affordable housing emerged at the #1 concern in every city. Budgets for museums, historic renovation, and points of interest that would attract visitors – one of the top three industries on the globe, are strained.

This was particularly true for the John Paul Jones home and Hermione and to a certain extent Dunbrody and Kiplin Hall. All are linked with U.S. history and had received initial funding from foundations in America.

But it was also hard to find strategic and coordinated marketing plans to tackle concerns. Mayors are generally appointed by the Council for one year. They lead many ceremonial functions. In the UK and Ireland the symbols of ermine coats and gold chains are worn on all official occasions. Municipal government is dependent on provincial, borough or county government for funding to accomplish local initiatives. Citizen participation on advisory boards and commissions is rare. The lack of space in Council meeting rooms closes out public participation as we know it in Annapolis.

There were some things that surprised me. Of all the people I talked with, no one liked retired Prime Minister Tony Blair. Universally they believed him to have abused his power and lied to the public. Interest and talk about politics is ever present. The other surprise was the abandonment of reference to England substituting U.K. – United Kingdom, in its place. Given the thousands of years of battles on this tiny island, and England’s victories over Scots and Welsh perhaps U.K. is a safer term.

"How does it feel to be without a nationality?"

A curious question posed to me in a bookstore by 3 residents of Cardigan, Wales. Thousands of years of wars have established the loyalties to clan and countries and family heritage that is so important to natives of the U.K. and Ireland. Americans don’t have that experience. We are a nationality of immigrants from many countries who fled to America to survive harsh conditions at home. Our family heritage is a mixture of many cultures. I can trace mine back to Holland, France, Scotland and England. America is our nationality.

Attention to the environment and meeting green goals seems a standard way of life. Hotels boast of having a green rating based on recycling, energy efficiency and use of organic foods.
Climate change is discussed freely. This year -the rainiest on record in the British Isles and the resulting floods in England - raised questions of infrastructure capacity and other environmental concerns.

In Scotland there was excitement over the return of the Osprey and the success of the re-population effort. The Park Service published brochures on the otter, the red squirrel and the Osprey’s return.

Newspapers in England headlined perceived increase in crime. The BBC prepared a 10 year analysis – was crime up, down, different?

We all share similar concerns and we are all more alike than we are different.
Our hosts were generous and gracious and eager to share "their" home – 12 hours a day. I learned about Scottish folk dancing, toured museums and industries and participated in viewing a parade of troops on Bastille Day in France. I noted that Public Housing was indistinguishable from owner occupied homes. How do they do it? I was introduced to many dignitaries who are now eager to visit Annapolis for our Charter celebration in 2008. Everywhere a framework for cultural exchange was set. Annapolis could also gain from business links in the hospitality industry and a revitalized oyster industry. Fountaine Pajot Maritime manufacturers from La Rochelle will be sailing across the Atlantic to come to the Annapolis Boat Show.

I sailed on the Queen Mary II. 1,500 miles from land the Captain announced we were turning around to inspect something he had seen in the water. The rescue boat was lowered, and a wreck of an overturned catamaran, no people, was discovered.

I was on a ship with 14 decks and great stability in rough seas. When there is no land in sight, and fog envelopes you, it can be scary. The ocean is vast, covering 71% of the globe. Dolphins play, so do flying fish. Whales larger than a sailboat surfaced.

I thought of the famine ships, tossed by the seas and the clipper ships racing goods around the world. I imagined the vessels outfitted for war as the Hermione that brought Lafayette to help in our struggle for independence and of the modern day leisure sailors such as those in the Volvo and our ambassador ship Pride – driven by the power of the wind. I thought of those that didn’t make it to a "promised land", and I am humbled and in awe of their courage.

Next year I hope you too will have the opportunity to meet and greet and host our friends from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ellen Moyer's Bio

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer's re-election as the first woman Mayor of the City of Annapolis culminates a career in public service of over 40 years.

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer's election as the first woman Mayor in the 300 year history of the City of Annapolis culminates a career in public service spanning more than 40 years. She came to Annapolis in the 1950’s as a district coordinator for the Girl Scouts of America. Later, as first lady of the City, she spearheaded a number of initiatives in conjunction with Keep America Beautiful involving beautification, recreation and the arts.

As a community activist, she was the founder of Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, served as president of the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, and developed the Parks and Paths for People program. She represented Ward 8 on the City Council from 1987 to 2001. During her tenure as alderman, she was responsible for founding GreenScape and the Maryland Maritime Heritage Festival, initiating the Street End Parks, promoting the Barge House Museum and the Eastport Historic Walking Trail, developing an innovative zoning overlay to protect the maritime industry, and bringing the world famous Whitbread yacht race to Annapolis.

Retired from a career as a teacher and Director of Government Relations with the Maryland State Teachers Association, Ellen earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Penn State University and her Master of Education degree from Goucher College. She received the Citizen of the Year Award from Maryland Citizen Action in 1995; she was inducted into the Towson High School Alumni Hall of Fame in 2004; received the YWCA Leadership Award in 1991, 1995 and 1996 and received an SPCA Award in 1994; was acknowledged Volunteer of the Year with Citations for Excellence by Maryland Recreation and Parks for 1991-1992; and was honored with the Fannie Lou Hamer Award for Women of Excellence in 1999.

Ellen has been named three times as one of Maryland's Top 100 Women by The Daily Record. In 2004, she received the Spencer P Ellis Award for outstanding commitment and contribution to the environment by the American Society of Landscape Architects In 2005 she received the Liberal Arts Alumni of Penn State University's Service to Society Award. In 2007 the Penn State University Board of Trustees honored her with a Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Ellen received appointments from five different governors to state boards, including the Maryland State Board of Education and the Maryland State Racing Commission.

Along with performing her duties as Mayor of Annapolis, Ellen Moyer serves on the Advisory Board for the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the Adventure Sports Center Board, the Baltimore Area Council of Girl Scouts, Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Vistors Center Executive Committee and advisory boards for the Heritage Area and Annapolis Alive! Charter 300.

Ellen Moyer's commitment to community and citizen involvement and the quality of life is her legacy of public service.