The Sister Cities relationship between Lansing and St. Petersburg, Russia might have a limited future.
Lansing has had a sister cities relationship with St. Petersburg since the early 1990’s, though the exchange program has been dormant for many years. The push to formally sever the relationship came after St. Petersburg enacted an anti-gay ordinance and arrested LGBT activists in recent weeks.
Jody Washington is a Lansing city councilwoman. She plans to introduce a resolution next week setting a timeline for reviewing the relationship.
“Activists in St. Petersburg, they are looking at us. I’ve gotten emails from all over the country. They are looking at what we’re doing,” says Washington.
Washington met with Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero on Monday to discuss the issue. Bernero is a supporter of the Sister Cities program and has said he would prefer to maintain the relationship with St. Petersburg.
Washington says she and Bernero agree that the city of Lansing should communicate its displeasure with its Russian sister city’s treatment of homosexuals
“To me it’s critically important to me that we start that dialogue, that we start that process,” says Washington, “and if it comes to severing, then we sever.”
Supporters say sister cities provide an opportunity for citizen level diplomacy with cultures different from our own.
While some city council members have suggested Lansing review all its current sister city relationships, Washington’s resolution will only deal with St. Petersburg.