Elk Grove City Council Changes Sister City Approach, Faults Own Process

March 13, 214 | In a turn-around from their last meeting, the Elk Grove City Council last night acknowledged the process by which t...


March 13, 214 |

In a turn-around from their last meeting, the Elk Grove City Council last night acknowledged the process by which the city approves sister city agreements needs to be formalized and said the process for the most recent agreement was flawed.

The discussion came about following public outcry raised after the council's Feburary 26 meeting where they agreed to formalize and host officials from the city and state of Katsina Nigeria. Much of the criticism leveled at the city was the $14,000 estimated price tag to host the Emir of Katsina as well as that Northern Nigeria province's recent criminalization of same-sex relations.

In response to the outcry, the sister city agreement and hosted visit were cancelled within days of the council approval. At last night's meeting, the council heard a presentation from city staffer Angela Frost, who acts as the city's liaison with the non-city-sanctioned Sister City Committee (SCC).  

After giving a history of the sister city committee, Frost explained how the proposed relationship with Katsina developed. According to Frost, SCC President Ty Sorci was approached by Davies Ononiwu about initiating an agreement with the city.

Ononiwu, who is originally from Nigeria, traveled to Nigeria last August at his own expense and presented a letter to the Emir, who accepted the invitation and later said he wanted to visit Elk Grove on March 20, 2014. Subsequently, Mayor Gary Davis sent a letter to the Emir in January extending a formal invitation for a hosted visit. 

Also appearing before the council during public comment was Ononiwu who acknowledged a faulty process but defended the proposed agreement. Sorci, who presented with Ononiwu at the previous meeting, was not in attendance.

"I am a little disappointed with the outrage of the community here," Ononiwu said. "They did not know the process we went through."

The former city council candidate said Katsina is a nice place and that if it was not, he would not have recommended the sister city agreement. Ononiwu noted that maybe "we didn't dot all our I's or cross our T's, but still the incidents that resulted in the public outcry from this community is something that happened 500 miles from Katsina."

Referencing one of the more controversial aspects of the relationship with Katsina, that provinces recent criminalization of same sex relations which could result in lengthy prison terms, Ononiwu said that the same things happen in the U.S.

"The issue with the LGBT is the same things that happens here in the U.S." he said. "There is no country that is perfect." 

During their deliberations, Davis, Vice Mayor Jim Cooper and Council Member Pat Hume all acknowledged the process for approving sister cities and the Katsina agreement in particular, where poorly handled. The council unanimously voted to formalize the SCC by making it a subcommittee of the city's Multicultural Committee

"Clearly, this wasn't vetted thoroughly," Davis said. "And I am grateful we were able to push pause before it was too late." 

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16 comments

Anonymous said...

And, note that Hume was the only one with the guts to apologize. He was the only one to express heartfelt remorse to Mr. Ononiwu.

Anonymous said...

The sad part is the public outrage did not carry through with a packed house at the council meeting to at least hear the explanation and how they decided to go forward. This will soon be old news and voter amnesia will once again set in by the time November rolls around. Bring on the sound bites and big signs, we're entering the election season!

Elk Grove Stonewall said...

One of the bigger points that got past over by the council, with maybe the mayor realizing this based on the quote at the end of this story, is the lack of thoughtfulness regarding this relationship. Given Nigeria's (the country, not the people mind you) abysmal human rights, particularly Gay rights, is that if we go into a relationship with any city in this country we are legitimizing their practices. This wold be like starting a sister city relationship with a South African city during the depths of the apartheid era. Contrary to what Mr Hume and Mr. Davies say about business connections, what matters most is human rights. If we go into a sister city relationship with any of country like Nigeria or Russia, we are essentially legitimizing their behavior.

Anonymous said...

I watched the tape and if Mr. Ononiwu is the saying the USA treats homosexuality the same as they do in Nigeria, he is incorrect. States not passing same sex marriage laws is a far cry from a government criminalizing homosexuality. There has been a lot of news of late on this human rights issue especially since the Winter Olympics and a boycott by some because of Russia’s laws against their gay citizens.

Lynn said...

A couple council members followed Mr. Ononiwu's suggestion that this relationship could be economically beneficial as Nigeria is an up and coming superpower in the region. Ok...so big corporations are on the move to this country to do business; to capitalize on cheap labor and natural resources. This, does not sit well with me. How will this create jobs for us in Elk Grove or California......AS Ross Perot said with NAFTA...."That sucking sound you hear is the jobs leaving America". This takes advantage of the poor and...the corporations become richer....and we loose even more of our middle class. GREED who is it good for?..

BR said...

Brett Rosario said...
Gary Davis showed last night that he is the spineless jellyfish that so many have said he has become.

It needed to be a leader last night and take accountability for his actions. He's the mayor, this happened on his watch. He signed the letter inviting the Emir here without proper vetting.

He owed the people of our city an apology and he refused to do so.

Like a child, he took his ball and went home.

Grow up and take responsibility, Gary. Your kids are watching. Set a good example.

Anonymous said...

Need to find a dynamic leader who can lead this city forward rather than backwards into the swamp of suburban mediocrity.

From aloft, this place looks like Vegas without the bright casinos, large regional shopping centers and airport.

In other words a flat boring mess like a cheese pizza with a couple of olives on it for garnish.

Angela said...



I was at my first city council meeting on Wednesday night as my husband and I are relatively new to Elk Grove. I had read how so many were upset with the council for this Nigerian sister city issue, that we thought we would attend and meet some of our neighbors.
We were surprised to see such a poor turnout. I guess we expected the room to be full. I was glad to see one of the councilmembers apologize for what had happened, but was disappointed the others took no responsibility at all. Where I was raised in the mid-west, this shows poor leadership.
I was taught at an early age to take responsibility for my actions and not be afraid to apologize when I did wrong. To err is human.
I was also disappointed on one councilman's comment that the comments from Monday morning quarterbacks was improper and unwanted.

Public engagement is what our government is all about. I struck me one the way home that maybe these are the kind of comments that keep the citizens away from engaging in local government. If so, new blood should be injected into our city council. The government belongs to the people. All the people.
My husband and I will unlikely attend any future meetings until our leaders take responsibility for their actions and engage the public.

Anonymous said...

Come on you guys & gals, give the Mayor a break. Do you have any idea what his day is like? Running a city, making all those media appointments, serving coffee & at the same time slapping HHC up the side of the head. That takes a lot of energy. No wonder he seems zoned out at city council meetings. Probably need to pass him a joint instead of a donut...just read that was less dangerous than sugar in your diet.

Joe Namath said...

Detrick's comments show his total ignorance of the process. and once again, his only offering is a bullish comment to the people.

If this issue had been vetted properly, been an agenda item whereby the letter was put forth to the entire council and the public to weigh in before the mayor signed it, there would have been no "Monday Morning Quarterbacking."

What Detrick isn't getting, and no surprise there given his lack of intelligence, is that this is what happens when this government does the business of the people in secrecy.

If those "Monday Morning Quarterbacks" hadn't spoken up, there would have been no revisiting of this important issue.

Anonymous said...

I was a little surprised to hear Detrick comment on the situation since he wasn't even in the country these past two weeks...those "Monday morning quarterback" comments were inappropriate and demeaning. Why would he label his residents so when it was the residents who educated the council on Nigeria human rights violations? The situation was handled badly due to the city's lack of transparency.

Also, why did Detrick use his "Council Announcement/Update" time to tell us all about his son's venture in Australia? He failed to attend any meetings the prior two weeks, so he should have just said that. Instead, we get the Detrick Family tweeter feed. This guy’s arrogance is getting out of control. On one hand, Detrick doesn’t want any citizen’s criticizing his son's business ventures; but then spends 4-5 minutes during a formal meeting to bring us all up to date on his son's ventures!! WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH CITY BUSINESS????

Anonymous said...

To the above poster, you are so correct. If Steve Detrick wasn't on the city council, would his son be getting all this press?

Jim Cooper's daughters were big local sports stars in softball, and as amateurs, not professionals making money like Junior, and never once did we hear him brag about them as Detrick consistently does from the dais.

Detrick wasn't elected to the city council promote his kid; but we are forced to hear his bragging anyway.

Anonymous said...

There's plenty of blame to go around, that's for sure. Mr. Detrick did his share+, but they all failed us in the process. Plus the city council put the financial load on Mr. Davies O. for travel & presentation of the invite to his people and then, even worse, the uninvite. Now we have placed the Multiculture Committee in the middle of it. Would that be their desire and would it be what the community wants the monies spent on instead of the original purpose and what has become very successful? On the other hand we will be, as a community, noticed of all meetings in regards to this Sister City project. It is IMO critical that businesses & the community be involved in this process should they wish.

Anonymous said...

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Just today, these articles appear in The Bee. Those "Monday morning quarterbacks" sure were right when they objected to considering Nigeria as a sister city. Nigeria has a very long way to go before they get any of my tax dollars. In just a few days, Nigeria has shown us they are barbaric and unrelenting when it comes to solving social problems.

Mr. Davies mentioned at the podium on Wed night that Nigeria wasn't perfect but neither was America. He went on to mention how acts of terrorism such as Columbine and the Colorado movie theater killings shows that America is just as dangerous as Nigeria. I almost fell off my chair. To equate Columbine with "state sponsored killings" is outrageous. Now, I like Davies O, but his passion for his home country has blinded him into thinking Elk Grove would benefit from a relationship with a Nigeria. I disagree completely. Let's hope the next sister city has basic protections for citizens and provides an open policy on people of color; people of diverse cultures and a society that embraces free thinking and transparent government. Nigeria does not fit, IMO.

Lynn said...

Angela,
Please come to city council meetings. It is so important!
I usually do try and talk to people sitting nearby...initially when many people attended council I met many and they became my friends. This is one of the very best positives of my years of attending. Students usually attend meetings too. Usually there are presentations recognizing the great works of many community groups.

I am concerned about What I was hearing about how this sister city would be an economic benefit to Elk Grove, that Nigeria will become a power house in economic growth ect.....That big corporations are going over there; why cheap labor and natural resources. How will this bring jobs to our city? How will big corporations setting up shop in Nigeria help the poor people there? This is about GREED for a few. I was opposed to NAFTA because at the time I felt it would not bring jobs to our country and would not improve the standard of living for those in Mexico...I took a college course and the professor provided statistics and information that proved that right....what happen with that one; corporations moved out of the USA, set up shop in Mexico and paid workers nothing...their standard of living did not improve... Morally and ethically do our leaders have the majority of residents best interests in mind with their decisions?

Please people come to city council meetings; you don't have to speak; come and listen; bring a friend!! The meetings are two nights a month....you don't have to stay the entire time....

On the walls of the Chambers are pictures of Elk Grove's past....the buildings and people who left us so much...are we destroying it or are we building upon it? What are we leaving the future? Is it bright? or dull? I ask; Please come to council meetings, Please bring a friend!!! This will keep the hope alive! This will help to spread the word! My passion for the people of our city is still alive....I can not make a difference by myself...you can not make a difference by yourself...but together WE can. WE can overcome the power of GREED.....WE just need to unite! IT is possible, history through so many has proven that.

NEXT important city meeting: SEPA
MARCH 25th 6-9pm City Hall.

Bainc said...

Sad to hear a new resident of EG turned off by the city council already. Angela come back or at least watch online, participate on the various Elk Grove websites, or email your council member. I have 5 little kids so coming to council meetings isn't always on my priority list but I always watch the replay online. The city's website is really good for watching the replays. You can skip the garbage and get to the meat quickly.

I wanted to come to this council meeting on Wed but I had a prior commitment. I was a little shocked at the lack of public comment based on all the comments on EGN and EGO regarding this topic the past two weeks. What happened?

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