Two years ago, Ivano-Frankivsk and Arlington (Virginia VA, USA,) signed a twin-city relations agreement. In an interview with a Washington-based UKRINFORM correspondent, Ivano-Frankivsk Mayor Viktor Anushkevychus told about the actual content of the fraternity, and about the experience of Arlington, which can be useful for Ukrainian cities.
Q.: Mr. Anushkevychus, what do you think is the main achievement of the past two years in the partnership between the two cities?
A.: A telling example is that during this period the number of visitors of Ivano-Frankivsk from the United States has tripled. This is proved by figures from our tourism and international relations office, and data that we received from hotels. Our city has been visited before only by a small number of Americans, mostly from the Ukrainian diaspora originating from Ivano-Frankivsk.
Exchanges of students and professionals as part of twin-city cooperation are also increasing. During this time, about two dozen of our students during the holidays had the opportunity to travel to Arlington to get acquainted with the United States, and even earn some money.
Under the Open World program, the US has already been visited by more than 20 specialists from Ivano-Frankivsk. They return to Ukraine with new ideas and approaches to work. Now, we are preparing another trip to the US for young professionals in the field of local self-government.
Q.: What do you find useful in Arlington's local government?
A.: There is a somewhat different model. A municipality management system is based on the principles, when there is a board of directors, and they manage the city by turn.
However, when compared with Ukraine, there is much higher degree of freedom, and at the same time less delegated authority, with increased funding. In a conversation with my Arlington's colleague I joked: "I wish I would have got your problems and your money."
In Arlington, public utilities are virtually not subordinated to municipality. Homes are not serviced by it, Arlington City Council is not responsible for water supply and for drainage, and other structures are engaged in it. Arlington's utilities are actually owned by only one enterprise which is engaged in sidewalks, lawns, parks and squares. Local landscape architecture can be interesting to us.
One is struck by the fact that much is being done in Arlington for children to promote healthy lifestyle. There are many sports fields and arenas, a child has many opportunities for going in for sports. This is very important. We can talk about high medicine, but, first of all, we should try to raise our children healthy.
We are interested in the experience of strategic planning, expansion of the city, infrastructure development, investment, tourism, development and disposal of garbage.
Q.: What infrastructure solutions should be drawn?
A.: For a long time in Ukraine there has been a tendency to concentrate all administrative agencies, offices, large commercial buildings in the city center, which, as a result, is now overloaded by people and vehicles. In Arlington, like across America, municipal authorities are trying to move the most of such facilities outside the center.
This problem is also acute for Ivano-Frankivsk, which historically has a radial construction, that is, all the streets lead to the center. Over the last decade, the number of registered vehicles in the city has increased by 10 times. So, for example, I was interested in the experience of companies involved in the construction of underground and surface parking lots.
Q.: Do you think that an American company can provide best proposals in terms of the value of projects?
A.: This is just one of the options. I have to learn everything. For example, when I was in the Baltic region, I met with leaders of such company. There is a preliminary agreement on the negotiations with a Polish firm, which also builds parking lots. We will consider all proposals. But it must be done.
Q.: Will you also make use of the experience in developing cycling?
A.: America did not surprise me at bicycles. Yes, I saw a cycle track, cycle parking areas where you can take the bike and go to the other side of the city. But in Washington, Arlington I did not see a lot of cyclists.
In Ivano-Frankivsk, we have already provided sites for bike parking. Certainly, it is a long process, for it is not so easy to build a bike track. But we are working on it. And we have submitted a project to develop cycle routes in Ivano-Frankivsk under EU funding.
Q.: What strikes you most in America?
A.: For me, one of the phenomena in the United States is that here you can see American flags on the houses, people sing a hymn, they proudly say "I am - an American", regardless of color, creed. And I think that the Americans show a good example how to respect their country, no matter who you are by birth, which church you go to, where you are - at home or abroad. It strikes most of all, and everything else is probably already derivative.
At a recent meeting with representatives of the American side, I said - I dream that my native Ukraine be as developed as the United States.