City Beat

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August 14, 2012
Sacramento sister city controversy draws attention from Capitol

SISTERCITY.JPGRarely does an issue at City Hall garner much attention from the Capitol. But a proposal to link Sacramento as a sister city with Ashkelon, Israel, has attracted the support of 10 legislators.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat and former councilman, plans to attend tonight's council hearing and speak in support of the sister city plan, his staff aides said.

Steinberg is one of 10 legislators who sent a letter to Mayor Kevin Johnson and the City Council last week urging them to support the Ashkelon proposal. That group was led by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis).

"The Sister City program is intended to inspire partnerships, education and understanding," the letter from Wolk, Steinberg and other legislators read. "Unfortunately, the Sister City process with Ashkelon has been politicized by opponents who wish to use it to promote their particular stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Those signing the letter are members of the California Capitol Knesset, which is made up of people in the Jewish Capitol community.

Opponents to the Ashkelon plan argue the city of Sacramento is endorsing discrimination by linking with a place where Palestinians were forced to flee following the creation of Israel.

Those against the move also say that Palestinian-Americans from Sacramento who wish to visit Ashkelon would face strict restrictions if they hold identification issued by the Israeli government.

Ashkelon was chosen by Sacramento officials and local Jewish leaders after the Ctiy Council voted in 2009 to name the West Bank city of Bethlehem a sister city.

PHOTO CAPTION: Israeli youngsters dance to the sound of electronic music in a bar at the coastal city of Ashkelon, which Sacramento leaders are considering as a possible new sister city.

Related coverage: Sacramento City Council to debate controversial sister-city proposal for Ashkelon, Israel

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

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