We Need More Sister City Goodwill, Not Less

With our world on fire, the City of Naperville has picked now – a very unfortunate time – to debate abolishing our Sister Cities Commission. The Sister Cities Commission has been part of our community for over 30 years now. It has forged relationships, not to mention positive international goodwill, with the communities of Nitra, Slovakia, Patzcuaro, Mexico, and Cancun, Mexico. These relationships have been emblematic of, and in furtherance of, Naperville’s commitment to building new friendships and awareness of our great City. The work this commission does, and the relationships it forges, are a positive and bring good vibes to our world at time when our world is very much in need of good vibes.

The main argument for dissolving the Sister Cities commission appears to be to save on staff time. Seriously? We have numerous commissions and task forces (we’ll discuss task forces in a future article). Many of these groups have very limited workloads and/or are ripe for consolidation. With wars and violence breaking out around the globe, why pick the single commission that fosters international goodwill as the first to go?

A third-party foundation is not the same as a city commission. City commissioners are council approved and formal representatives of our City. A third-party charitable foundation does not carry the same weight or level of cache as does a formal City commission. Simply put, Sister City relationships mean more, and suggests a greater commitment, when it is a City commission that represents our City in the partnership.

Mayor Pradel certainly saw the value of our Sister Cities Commission as he brought up and celebrated these relationships often. Let’s keep this commission! Tweak it if need be but do not abolish it. Abolishing the Sister Cities Commission would be a terrible step backward. Lets keep it and find more fun, positive, and new means of building new friendships for our City – both in Illinois and abroad.

Watchdog takeaway: The idea of abolishing this long-standing commission is very short-sited and could not come at a worse time for either our community or for our international partners.

Show 12 Comments


  1. Tina

    You are exactly right! There might be ways to improve things but Naperville should keep this Commission.

  2. Steve Chirico

    In my view, a task force or a NFP are just as affective and can be more affective than a city board or commission. In the case of Sister Cities, many, if not most of these organizations across the world are NFP organizations and they function quite well. When government is not needed, it shouldn’t be involved.

    Eliminating and consolidating unnecessary boards and commissions is simply good governance. Many years ago I worked towards consolidating the Advisory Commission on Disabilities (ACD) into the Senior Task Force (STF), a NFP. I failed. It’s difficult to un-ring the government bell.

    The ACD was set up to complete a couple of tasks that were mandated by the federal government’s Americans Disabilities Act. This act required cities to identify areas within the city’s right of way and their facilities that do not meet ADA requirements. This was a huge undertaking and the commissioners did great work over many years to deliver reports with guidelines, timelines and priorities to meet the ADA mandate. Well done! But, since both tasks were completed in 2018, the ACD’s main function has been to nominate and select an ACD person of the year award. It’s wonderful to identify and acknowledge people who are making positive contributions, but it certainly does not require a codified city commission to complete this task. The ACD really should have been a task force from day one…not a commission.

    Which brings me to Sister City Commission; the SCC should have been set up like a NFP from day one, much like we did with the Senior Task Force (STF); which has been a very impactful organization…without being a codified commission. The City of Naperville has supported the STF both with financial resources and guidance and they have successfully created and managed very important programs for seniors over the years. There is no reason I can think of that the SCC can’t operate the same way.

  3. Naperville Tax Payer

    This commission should be kept. Why does Scott Wehrli and city council want to get rid of it?

    BTW, through a FOIA we have all a list of all those who have applied to city board and commissions. Local democrats significantly outweigh local republicans.

  4. Patty Gustin

    With almost 8 years experience as the Naperville Sister Cities Commission Council liaison, the Commission supports diversity, culture, education and business,
    with diplomatic relationships, one very unique to other city boards and Commissions. It is called commonly “Sister Cities” a city government to another city government, not Taskforce to City. The City of Naperville is a member of Sister Cities International that offers a clearer understanding of the mission.

    The Commission and Naperville’s own mission align. City’s mission statement “….Inclusive community that values diversity.”

    In 2020 Cancun was added as a Sister City. The document approved by council and signed by Mayor of Naperville and Mayor of Cancun states “Maintain an active Sister Cities Commission for the benefit of the citizens of both”.

    At this time I am told the legal bylaws of the Foundation, a separate non-government 501(c)3 solely for fundraising efforts, has no provision to absorb the Commission. The Foundation Board was not consulted prior to staffs recommendation. If had, the Foundation would need to vote to consider acceptance, find funds to hire private legal council to address such an option; costs, implications, work involved and diplomatic authority, a change that could take many months, time and work for staff and the Foundation.

    A Taskforce would require many staff hours to construct and negotiate such a thing and its work or relationship to Foundation.

    Keeping the Commission is the right choice.

    People want the Commission. We are elected to be transparent, hear all people’s voices and let them be a part of their government.

    Staffs report recommended that all boards and commissions be provided name plates, structured agendas training( happy boards and commissions typically more casual in nature), continue OMA training like every other and for the Sister Cities Commission reduce the number of meetings as needed, if desired by council, eliminate the Liasion position. Prior to me, Emy Trot, administrative assist to Pradel was the conduit to the Commission.

    Of course there will be negatives and positives on every comment, and we can agree to disagree.

    Naperville’s future reputation and brand may balance on the outcome. I have faith in our Mayor and council to do the right thing.

  5. Steve Chirico

    “Naperville’s future reputation and brand may balance on the outcome”. Seriously? You’re just joking with us, right Patty? You don’t really think that Naperville’s reputation and brand hang on the balance on the city’s decision on how to structure the SSC? If the SS foundation is not prepared or is not interested in taking up this role, then lets find or create an organization that is interested in adopting the SSC. And, if no is interested…we have our answer.

    • Naperville citizen

      Or just keep the commission. Thankfully you’re not mayor anymore and you don’t get to make this decision.

  6. Laurie Donahue

    Here is the note I submitted to the city on this topic:

    November 25, 2023
    Mayor Wherli,
    Members of the Naperville City Council,

    I was on the Naperville Sister Cities Commission for almost 5 years and chaired the commission from 2015-2017. During my time as chair we had several exchanges with our Sister City of Nitra Slovakia. These included multiple 30+ student, choir, and orchestra exchanges, as well as a diplomatic visit by the Naperville commission to Nitra. Students and adults on these exchanges were greeted by senior government city officials and officials who held offices in Slovakia (ie Mayors, Ambassador). In talking with people who participated in these visits they uniformly expressed how they were embraced by Nitra and the impressive exposure they experienced with city and even country government entities. This is the essence of creating a sister cities relationship. Doors were opened because of the governmental involvement. I believe removing the Sister Cities Commission in Naperville will eliminate the ability to have this important diplomatic and cultural connection.
    The Sister Cities Foundation has no connection to the City of Naperville government. The group exists to support fundraising for the Commission. The Commission is the governmental connection between our city and our sister cities. Without that association Sister Cities would be like any other organization or club that exists to create cultural connections, but has no authority to build and nurture a city to city relationship. Government entities would be disconnected from the efforts of the group if there is not a formal city connection. Additionally, moving the work to a task force or committee appears to be a short term function. Sister Cities is meant to establish a long term relationship. See the write-up below regarding forming a Sister City relationship.
    I believe there is confusion regarding the roles of the commission and foundation and the relationship to the City of Naperville. Instead of removing the commission, I suggest clarifying the organizations. While it is possible for student or other cultural exchanges to occur without a Sister City commission, the diplomatic connection would be missing. Governmental relations is the foundation for the Sister City relationship. Ideally, Sister City efforts create programs that include cultural, tourism, educational, humanitarian, and international business opportunities.
    Naperville has been focused on culture and diversity. The Sister Cities Commission is in place to support this. There is both cultural and financial value from a Sister Cities relationship. I recommend clarifying the structure and keeping a formal connection to the Naperville city government.

    Laurie Donahue

    A sister city, county, or state relationship is a broad-based, long-term partnership between two communities in two countries. A relationship is officially recognized after the highest elected or appointed official from both communities sign off on an agreement to become sister cities.
    A city may have any number of sister cities, with community involvement ranging from a half dozen to hundreds of volunteers. In addition to volunteers, sister city organizations can include representatives from nonprofits, municipal governments, the private sector, and other civic organizations.
    Each sister city organization is independent and pursues the activities and thematic areas that are important to them and their community including municipal, business, trade, educational, and cultural exchanges and projects with their sister city.

  7. Tina

    I like Laurie’s comments especially in how she clarified the roles of the Commission and the Foundation. It is the Commission that has the authority and government connections which are essential in building city-to-city relationships with foreign countries. Getting rid of the Commission will undermine such a foundation.

  8. Anonymous

    No one really cares. I don’t know of anyone that gives it a second thought. And of course Patty Gustin’s comment about our future brand is hilariously dumb.

  9. Resident

    It is a pity that people care more about the width of a door on a chicken coop than about this

  10. Naper Resident

    Patty was spot on with her comment. City council listened to the people and voted accordingly to keep the commission.

    • Resident

      Unfortunately now the meetings will be only quarterly. That is not often enough I believe.

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