Lansing, MI has had a “sister-city” relationship with St. Petersburg, Russia since the mid 1990’s. Recently, with the new “anti-gay” laws Russia has enacted, many requests have been made to Lansing to formally sever its ties with St. Petersburg.
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.
Jody Washington met with Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero on Monday. Washington brought up the idea of severing ties with St. Petersburg to Bernero, but the Mayor didn’t feel the same as Washington. Bernero said he is a supporter of the Sister Cities program and would prefer to see the relationship continue with St. Petersburg.
Bernero did agree that the City of Lansing should communicate with St. Petersburg its “displeasure” in Russia’s treatment of LGBT people.
“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.”
The supporters of the Sister Cities program say that the program helps facilitate diplomacy between citizens of different cultures.
This is true, but in my opinion when a country blatantly discriminates against a group of people, we must make it known that we do not accept this. I do think that opening a dialogue between the two cities is a good idea. We must let St. Petersburg and Russia know that what they are doing is wrong, but I don’t think we should continue the Sister City program with St. Petersburg.
If supporters want to argue that this program helps establish diplomacy between two different cultures, well, there are plenty of other countries and cultures that Lansing can establish a relationship with. Cities and countries that treat their citizens equally.