Grass Valley votes to send Mayor to Limana, Italy |

Grass Valley votes to send Mayor to Limana, Italy

With little ado, the Grass Valley City Council OK’d plans Tuesday night to spend $1,000 to send Mayor Gerard Tassone to Italy next month.

The four councilmembers – minus an absent Lisa Swarthout – voted unanimously for the trip, which will be used to formally consecrate a “sister city” relationship with the northeastern Italian city, Limana.

“When you go and shake hands, it gives (the sister city relationship) a foundation,” Councilman Mark Johnson said.

Limana, a community of 5,000 nestled in the foothills of the Alps, would be Grass Valley’s second sister city; the Cornish city of Bodmin has been Grass Valley’s sister city for seven years.

Visitors from Bodmin have toured Grass Valley nearly every year since then and Grass Valley has sent former mayors Johnson, Patti Ingram, and Linda Stevens to England, City Clerk Bobbi Poznik-Coover said.

Stevens raised money for her trip, as did Johnson, but the city partially covered Ingram’s fares.

The city has exchanged musical groups with the town and dignitaries from both sides have traded pins, seals, photos and other mementos, which are displayed in the Bodmin Room in City Hall, Poznik-Coover said.

“Mostly it’s been an exchange of visits,” Poznik-Coover said.

The city has a “sister city budget,” which is currently $2,000, Poznik-Coover said.

Although no one spoke against the trip at Tuesday’s meeting – the only comment came from John Tassone, an Italian teacher, who plans to accompany his brother on the trip – several locals queried randomly said they weren’t so fond of the plan.

“I’m sure we could spend our money on other things instead of sending the mayor on vacation in Italy,” said lifelong resident Terry Lewis, pointing out the money could be used for libraries or parks.

“Well, it seems to me they could use the money locally,” said Bob King of Grass Valley.

Sister cities don’t have to be costly. In fact, they can bring money into communities, said Ami Neiberger-Miller, a spokeswoman for Sister Cities International, an organization to which both Grass Valley and Nevada City belong.

Sister cities promote tourism and can even bring businesses into town, Neiberger-Miller said. St. Louis scored a major economic deal through its sistership with a city in China, she said.

Neiberger-Miller also pointed out that sister city relationships are used to address common problems like setting up sewer systems or addressing security issues.

Former councilwoman Stevens said Limana representatives have been enthusiastic about the relationship and might expand the relationship beyond formal exchanges to include students and others.

“People have to learn about each other and realize we’re all the same,” Stevens said.

Stevens birthed the idea of an Italian sister city two years ago while cutting the hair of Oscar Fistarol, Grass Valley resident and former owner of the Villa Venezia restaurant.

Fistarol was born in Limana and mentioned it would make the perfect sister for Grass Valley due to the city’s similarities in size and their proximity to beautiful mountains and recreation areas.

A few phone calls to Italian relatives and a visit and letters from Limana officials followed, Stevens said.

Gerard Tassone will formalize the relationship when he heads to Italy next month.

The sister city movement formed after World War II to encourage citizen diplomacy, Neiberger-Miller said.

Nevada City has a sister city in Cornwall, Penzance. Unlike Grass Valley, Nevada City does not have a sister city budget and officials have paid for their own trips in the past, said City Clerk Cathy Wilcox-Barnes, who has traveled to Penzance three times.

About Limana

Grass Valley’s new sister city is in northeastern Italy, about 60 miles north of Venice. It is a bit smaller than Grass Valley and located on a river near mountains, the Dolomites.

Factories and other small industries, particularly the manufacturing of eyeglasses, have replaced agriculture as the primary economic force in the area.

The region is now one of the wealthiest in Italy, said Grass Valley resident Oscar Fistarol, who was born in Limana.

Sources: Oscar Fistarol and

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