City Retreat: Would Trips to Scotland, Canada Preserve Dunedin's Sister City, Spring Training Relationships?
Commissioners discussed the possibility of sending a local delegation to Stirling and Toronto in order to preserve and maintain the city's international partnerships during a Feb. 28 retreat on Dunedin's future.
The last thing any Dunedin official wants to see is an empty stadium on Douglas Avenue.
And it would be a faux pas not to attend sister city Stirling, Scotland's rather important anniversary celebration next year.
To avoid either scenario, Dunedin commissioners proposed budgeting to send at least one among them to Toronto and Stirling to keep up its long-distance partner relations, during an all-day commission retreat focused on Dunedin's future Feb. 28.
Travel to Canada Protects Blue Jays Relationship, Officials Say
As the agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays nears its 2015 expiration date, so are fears the team will vacate Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in favor of another city.
Many residents in recent months have called for swift and meaningful action to sustain community ties with Toronto and Major League Baseball, to include sending a delegation to Toronto for opening day festivities.
The idea came up during a Feb. 28 commission retreat, to which City Manager Rob DiSpirito shared research on how Dunedin's neighboring spring training cities Clearwater and Bradenton maintain mutually beneficial MLB partnerships.
He said Clearwater sends a delegation to opening day festivities in Philadelphia for the Phillies every year for about a week, "to do a number of things," he said, including "outreach to the community."
He pointed out that travel to Philadelphia is something Clearwater has done "right through the recession." Pinellas County representatives and Clearwater Chamber of Commerce members also go, DiSpirito said.
DiSpirito said these types of trips were important to keeping baseball teams from looking to other states for their spring training needs.
Dunedin, Pinellas County and the state have sunk a combined $12 million in upgrades to Florida Auto Exchange Stadium since 2000 as part of its 15-year agreement with the Blue Jays.
Dunedin Presence in Stirling Needed to Maintain Ties, Leaders Say
Dunedin's sister city in Stirling, Scotland, celebrates a significant anniversary in 2014.
Its 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn marks Scotland's most decisive battle in its victory for independence against England.
And Dunedin hasn't sent someone to Scotland in six years, Vice Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said. "It's a huge anniversary for them."
Commissioner Ron Barnette suggested sending a Dunedin representative to Scotland for the July 2014 anniversary. He said there should be a balance between being frugal and responsible with the taxpayer's dollar.
"We need to assure people we're not going on a pleasure junket. ... Nothing wasteful," he said. "But polite."
Mayor Dave Eggers said participation was important "if you're going to have the kind of relationships that are big and impactful."
Bujalski suggested creating an entire sister city program, which could include a bagpiper student exchange and other necessary relationship-building practices, so money could be budgeted.
"It's hard to tell what to budget if you don't know what you're trying to put together," she said.
What's your take? Is sending city officials to Toronto and Stirling a good move for maintaining Dunedin's international ties? What should be done to ensure good relationships with Canada and Scotland?
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