2013 Local Government Exchange

The Cincinnati-Kharkiv Sister Cities Project completed a Regional Government Exchange project in the fall of 2013 which involved delegation visits to both cities during the year. This self-funded exchange began in March 2013 when Vladimir Bulba (Open World Alum 2009) selected a group of five mature and experienced mayors and administrators from the Kharkiv region and escorted them to Cincinnati for 10 days of local governance programming in Wilmington, Ohio and the Cincinnati suburbs.  Thanks to an Open World Leadership Center invitation, five members of that group joined Open World’s Washington, DC program for their introductory program on US governance, prior to coming to Cincinnati.

Three months later (June 2013) CKSCP hosted Open World’s “Accountable Governance” program. The June delegation was made up of young administrators from the Kharkiv region – a contrast to the more experienced and mature March delegation.  Both programs in Cincinnati went well.  When it was time to select the Cincinnati area delegation, CKSCP considered professional characteristics and needs of both Kharkiv delegations before selecting 5 administrators from Wilmington and the Cincinnati suburbs to conclude this first exchange.   

October 15-24, 2013: Cincinnati delegation in Ukraine.

Delegates chosen by CKSCP, with Vladimir’s approval, were:

1.      Randy Riley, Mayor of Wilmington, Ohio (where the March group spent one day.)

2.      Tom Moeller, City Manager of Madeira, Ohio

3.       Mike Burns, City Manager (ret.) of Indian Hill, Ohio

4.       Bob Derge, Jr., Clinton Co, Health Commissioner (ret.)

5.       Susan Neaman, President, CKSCP

The program focused on 3 cities in the Kharkiv Oblast: Solonysivkva, Chuguiv and Merefa.  CKSCP had hosted the Mayors of each city in March.  Sister City “Partnership” agreements were signed between the 3 Ukrainian cities and the cities of Madeira and Wilmington.  Everywhere the Cincinnati delegates visited they were warmly greeted – often with a Ukrainian choir singing traditional songs.

In Solonysivkva the group visited laminated panel and soap factories, an elementary school, an afterschool club academy and City Hall.  In Chuguiv they visited an orphanage, a park, the railroad station and several museums.  In Merefa they visited a glass factory, a daycare facility, a school, and a history museum.

 On the last two days of the trip the group had meetings at the Kharkiv Regional Administration and Council, where mayors from other small town and cities, not part of this exchange, politely complained that they were not included in the working exchange!  The Public Administration Institute of Kharkiv State University was part of the last day’s visits and, finally, there was a meeting at Kharkiv City Hall with city officials.

 The conclusion is that the trip was successful and that the stage is set for our exchanges to continue.  The Cincinnati delegation not only worked well together, but the delegates were popular and respected by their Ukrainian hosts.  CKSCP, along with Vladimir Bulba, were able to develop partnerships for change that were not thought possible with the current City of Kharkiv regime.

 CKSCP receives requests from its Open World “Accountable Governance” alumni to reach out to even more Ukrainians.  A recent request to host 15-20 Kharkiv high school students explained that there is a “lack of interest and understanding in Kharkiv’s schools about governance, voting and the role that volunteers play in community services, and in a democracy.”  CKSCP is always ready to help, but must explain that as an all-volunteer organization it must fundraise in order to organize and implement such programs as the recent  Regional Government Exchange and the Teenage Community Service exchanges of 2010 and 2011.