Two cities fall silent

Chico and Tamsui have grown apart, but a renewed friendship isn’t out of the question

SET IN WOOD<br>This sculpture, located in Chico’s municipal building, was given to the city by the mayor of Tamsui, Taiwan.

This sculpture, located in Chico’s municipal building, was given to the city by the mayor of Tamsui, Taiwan.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Siblings aren’t always born of the same blood, but share a friendship and closeness nonetheless. Sometimes, too, they grow apart.

Chico and Tamsui became sisters back in 1985, after two Chicoans, Amy and Bill Pang, suggested the idea to the City Council. Through the nonprofit organization Sister Cities International, whose mission is to “promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation—one individual, one community at a time,” a relationship was born.

In the following years, a group of Chicoans, led by the Pangs, visited Tamsui. A few years later, residents of Tamsui made the trip to Chico. During that visit, the city was bestowed a wooden sculpture, with a plaque affixed memorializing the sisterhood. That sculpture now sits on the third floor of Chico’s Municipal Building.

Since the late 1980s, little has come of the partnership between Chico and Tamsui. But one man is willing to change that.

In 2003, George Huang, a retired Chico State professor, and his wife, Linda, approached then-Councilwoman Maureen Kirk about renewing the relationship. Huang, who is from Taiwan and visits once or twice a year, even made a visit to the small town and spoke with the mayor by phone.

“We talked about the past relations and the possibility of future growth from the old relations,” he said.

Kirk, in a city memo, named the Huangs the official ambassadors for Chico in Tamsui. George Huang passed information on to the councilwoman, but nothing more came of it. Kirk said a lack of money plus the amount of effort it would have taken to revive the relationship led to the idea being dropped.

“I’d like to renew contact and a friendship so the mayor of Chico can go there and re-establish a tie,” Huang said.

As far as Chico’s current mayor, Andy Holcombe, is concerned, the idea sounds like a good one. At least in theory.

“I’d want there to be some connection—social and cultural exchanges, or trade and economic development, or even educational ties,” Holcombe said. “There are lots of reasons to do it, but I’d want it to have some substance and not just be a matter of form.”

Since Holcombe became mayor last fall, he said he’s received two requests to link up with other cities. He asked the Internal Affairs Committee to provide information on the policy for such partnerships, but the documents could not be viewed by press time.

“Tamsui is a city I’m quite familiar with. I went to school in Taipei, and used to take short trips to Tamsui,” said Huang. “I would certainly be willing to continue working on rebuilding our tie.”