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Page last updated on November 9, 2021 at 5:37 pm

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Yaël Ksander

City of Bloomington Communications Director



Meghan Horrigan-Taylor

City of Palo Alto Chief Communications Officer





Mayors of Palo Alto, California and Bloomington, Indiana Propose First-Ever Domestic Sibling City Relationship

Palo Alto, Ca. and Bloomington, Ind. – Palo Alto Mayor Tom DuBois and Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton announced today a proposal to establish a Sibling Cities relationship, the first domestic relationship of its kind between United States cities. The relationship seeks to foster community building, further goodwill and enhance civic dialogue and public policy discussions in the two cities through a new organization, Sibling Cities USA. The Palo Alto City council will consider approval of the relationship on November 15 and Bloomington City Council will follow shortly thereafter.


In a joint virtual news conference, carried live on YouTube, Mayors DuBois and Hamilton announced their shared intentions to advance together toward a new partnership, community to community.


“I am thrilled to recommend establishing a Sibling City relationship between Palo Alto and Bloomington and thank the City of Bloomington for their leadership in creating this innovative partnership,” said Tom DuBois, mayor of Palo Alto. “I’ve felt that our country could really benefit from a program that encourages building bridges from coast to heartland.  We can learn from each other and seek ways to combine our strengths for the benefit of the country.  I believe the Palo Alto/Bloomington arrangement will pave the way for other United States cities to establish similar partnerships.”


“Bloomington and Palo Alto share several similarities and also reflect some differences,” said John Hamilton, mayor of Bloomington. “I believe this new relationship can significantly benefit the residents of our respective communities for years to come, with mutual learning and collaborations. We can imagine a focus on priorities such as community engagement, sustainability and economic and business opportunities. I expect some exciting possibilities will emerge that we haven’t yet imagined.  Connecting together as communities is more important than ever, as we recover from the pandemic and address big challenges ahead.”   


The proposed pilot Sibling City relationship would be guided by Sibling Cities USA’s three pillars of Connection:  Community, Commerce, and Civil Discourse. These guiding principles establish a framework for relationship building and community connectedness. Sibling Cities USA was founded this year by Palo Altan Vicki Veenker to promote understanding and unity in the U.S. by connecting cities in different regions of the country. 


“Launching this historic Sibling Cities USA pilot with Mayors DuBois and Hamilton is a first step toward a network of relationships that promote unity across this great country. I am eager to support these first visionary sibling cities, identify the next cohort of city pairs, partner with like-minded organizations and government entities, and expand the program,” said Veenker. “As a mediator and facilitator, I have seen the productive relationships that result from conversation, interaction, and understanding. There is a yearning in our country to be less polarized and my goal is for Sibling Cities USA to help achieve that.”


Local committees will form in each city to connect community organizations and build programs to expand public awareness and generate impact within each city. The committees will include representatives from local government, service organizations, schools and universities, and other community leaders. The committees would report at the one-year mark to each City Council identifying the progress and prospects for an ongoing program.


In Palo Alto, the relationship will be administered by Neighbors Abroad, a local non-profit that represents the city in its Sister Cities International relationships with eight cities outside the US. President Bob Wenzlau has been a major architect of this precedent-setting domestic relationship. Bloomington will form a steering committee to administer the program.  The cities have identified Karen Howe Fernandez and Andie Reed as city coordinators to manage daily activity in Bloomington and Palo Alto, respectively. 


"For Neighbors Abroad, this is another step across our 50-year history stitching cities together. In the 1960s, our founders anticipated a time when a city-to-city relationship in the United States would be formed. Likely they had a hunch we would find the same rewards domestically that we have found internationally," said Wenzlau. “In 2022 community organizations facilitated by Neighbors Abroad will begin exchanges in education, commerce and community building consistent with the Mayor’s vision.”


"On behalf of the Bloomington City Council, we are proud to be on the leading edge of a collaboration that is designed to promote civil exchange across differences in our country," said Bloomington Common Council President Jim Sims.  "In contrast to the destructive polarization of political discourse that is so common these days, this initiative is an affirmation that diversity is a source of strength, because it requires that we listen to and gain empathy for others.  It's an honor to play a founding role in nurturing a national culture of respectful dialogue across differing perspectives."


At the November 9 news conference, Palo Alto and Bloomington announced their intention to advance this relationship as soon as possible, including potential exchange visits early in 2022 and additional programming as identified by the local committees. The mayors encouraged interested individuals and institutions to be in touch with the local coordinators in their respective cities.


Bloomington is located in Monroe County in south-central Indiana. It is Indiana’s sixth-largest city, with a population of 80,500. Palo Alto is located in Santa Clara County in Northern California. It has a population of 69,700 and is known as the “Birthplace of Silicon Valley.” Both cities are college towns with technology sectors helping to drive their local economies, and travel and tourism are key economic indicators.


For information about the City of Palo Alto, go to


For information about the City of Bloomington, go to


For information about Sibling Cities USA, go to


For media interviews, please contact: 


Palo Alto Mayor Tom DuBois

(415) 377-8455  


Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton

(812) 349-3406 


Sibling Cities USA Founder Vicki Veenker

(650) 269-3317




Palo Alto, known as the “Birthplace of Silicon Valley,” is home to 69,700 residents and nearly 100,000 jobs. Unique among city organizations, the City of Palo Alto operates a full-array of services including its own gas, electric, water, sewer, refuse and storm drainage provided at very competitive rates for its customers. The City of Palo Alto offers robust community amenities including 36 parks, 39 playgrounds, five community and youth centers, 41 miles of walking/biking trails and five libraries. The City also manages a regional airport and provides fire, police and emergency services. Palo Alto is an award-winning City recognized nationally as innovative and well-managed, one of a small number of California cities with a AAA bond rating. City services and performance also receive high marks from community members in the annual citizen survey conducted by Polco (previously National Research Center).

As the global center of technology and innovation, Palo Alto is the corporate headquarters and home for many world-class companies and research facilities such as VMWare, Hewlett-Packard, and Stanford Health Care. Home to Stanford University and a top-ranked public school system, Palo Alto also features beautiful and historic residential neighborhoods, vibrant shopping and retail districts. Palo Alto has a highly educated and culturally sophisticated citizenry that is actively engaged in making a difference both locally and globally.

For more information, visit the City of Palo Alto’s website at, or follow the City on Twitter, Facebook, Medium, Next Door and Instagram, by going to Sign-up for City newsletters by going to




Home of the original and largest campus of Indiana University (IU), Bloomington is Indiana’s sixth-largest city, with a population of 80,500.  Along with its Tier One Research University, Bloomington is also home to Ivy Tech Community College and numerous other scientific, technical, and professional establishments. IU attracts students from around the nation and the world with numerous top-ranked programs, including those in music, public affairs, and business, and teaches more than 80 international languages--more than any university in the U.S.   

The largest employers in Bloomington are Indiana University and the nearby Crane naval installation.  Once limestone quarrying as well as furniture, television, refrigerator, and elevator manufacturing helmed the city’s economy. These industries have largely been replaced by the healthcare and technology sectors. The community’s medical manufacturing and pharmaceutical sector is anchored by multinational corporations Cook Group, Incorporated and Catalent, Inc., as well as Boston Scientific and Baxter, among others. Half of Bloomington’s workforce is engaged in white-collar work.

Tourism and the arts are also significant economic sectors in Bloomington. Bloomington is the seat of IU’s Jacobs School of Music, one of the nation’s premier music conservatories, and thousands attend the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival each fall.  Bloomington has a vibrant food and retail scene, active nightlife, strong public schools, and is considered a great place to raise kids.  Big Ten sports add to the cachet, as does the annual Little 500 bicycle race, canonized in the Oscar-winning 1979 film, “Breaking Away.”

The city’s culture is also informed by its international population and a diversity of faith communities. Bloomingtonians are known for their commitment to social justice and human rights, and their embrace of natural beauty and outdoor opportunities.  The City’s national gold medal-winning Parks and Recreation department maintains 32 parks, 11 interconnected trails, two public pools, four sports complexes, a golf course, and an ice arena among other amenities. Now in its third century, Bloomington continues to grow and thrive while maintaining its Midwestern university town charm.  Find out more at or




“I commend Mayor Tom DuBois of Palo Alto, California, Mayor John Hamilton of Bloomington, Indiana, and Sibling Cities USA Founder Vicki Veenker for coming together for this historic launch of our nation’s first-ever Sibling Cities USA relationship to build unity in America. The need for unity is now. I applaud this inaugural effort to build community and understanding across the miles in our great country and hope it leads to many future Sibling City relationships that connect and unite us as a nation." - Palo Alto’s Member of Congress, Representative Anna Eshoo  


“Our great nation is made up of people with diverse experiences but common goals, always working to better ourselves and our communities. I’m thrilled that Bloomington and Palo Alto are part of the launch of Siblings Cities USA, and I know these communities have a lot to learn from each other and will continue to make their cities great places to live.” -Bloomington’s Member of Congress, Representative Trey Hollingsworth


“Really delighted to hear about the Sibling Cities effort. If ever there was a time when we need to connect with our fellow Americans, this is it. It is so, so important that we understand the lives of folks in cities and towns across the country. The only way we can ever bridge the divide is to listen, learn and understand one another. Finding common ground requires just the kind of person-to-person interaction Sibling City relationships can provide.” - Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian

“Sibling Cities USA takes an approach to building understanding between American cities that recognizes the essential role communities play in our democracy. It is a welcome effort in these divided times.” - former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and Chair of National Issues Forums Institute David Mathews

“As the official non-partisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more, the United States Conference of Mayors is a strong advocate of sharing best practices, fostering connections, and building camaraderie and lasting friendships between cities. Developing a program to intentionally connect and pair cities in different parts of the country to build cultural, civic, and economic relationships could advance these goals….We look forward to the mutual respect, bridging of divides, and unifying pride in being fellow Americans that we believe could result from such a program. We hope that all Americans can engage in these efforts.” - Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director, United States Conference of Mayors

“I am heartened to see Sibling Cities USA launch at this critical moment to bridge the growing and troubling disconnect among Americans from differing political parties and geographic areas. SCUSA’s Three Pillars of Connection are a deft strategy for building trust, relationship, and cross-regional connection that will move us past “red” and “blue” to greater unity in our country. Founder Vicki Veenker has recognized a great need and opportunity—and has unique skills and background to bring this vision into reality.” - Rob Fersh, Founder of Convergence Center for Policy Resolution in Washington, D.C. 

“This sibling city relationship between Bloomington, Indiana and Palo Alto, California is a model for building understanding, respect and friendships across our regional divides. Sibling Cities USA is a wonderful addition to the bridge-building field. Its use of conversation as part of its Three Pillars of Connection is a powerful tool in promoting healing and unity.” - Joan Blades, Co-Founder of Living Room Conversations



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