Issuu on Google+

Report Working Visit to Tallahassee, Florida 10th anniversary sister city agreement Tallahassee – St. Maarten The St. Maarten delegation was headed by Leader of Government, Commissioner W. Marlin. Page | 1 Other members of the delegation were C. Mardembrough – section head study financing and D.R.A. Christian – office of Commissioner Frans Richardson. Overview At the invitation of the Tallahassee – St. Maarten Foundation (TLH-SXMF), a 3-person island government delegation represented the government and people of St. Maarten at the 10th anniversary commemoration of a sister city agreement existing between Tallahassee, Florida and St. Maarten. The St. Maarten Delegation was greeted upon arrival by TLH-SXMF members Ben Harris, Martijn Niekus and Arthur Lugisse and members of (St. Maarten – Tallahassee Student Association) SMTSA. Welcome gifts for members of the delegation were made available by the Leon County Department of Tourism and SMTSA board members. All preparations, including the scheduling of meetings, were arranged and coordinated by Mr. Arthur Lugisse, executive director and founder of TLH-SXMF; Mr. Lugisse is additionally St. Maarten’s liaison for students in Tallahassee. Commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the sister city agreement was held at the Tallahassee City Hall, attended by government, education and community leaders, on Wednesday, September 23. The trip lasted from September 22 to September 25, 2009 – thus additionally serving as a working visit, enabling the delegation to: 1. revisit the original objectives of the agreement 2. assess the success of the agreement 3. Explore other areas of cooperation – such as economic development, sports and technical assistance - made possible through the agreement. 4. Explain to Tallahassee officials the pending constitutional change of St. Maarten becoming a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 5. Meet with St. Maarten students attending institutions of higher learning in Tallahassee.

Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson


It was confirmed during the visit that while the sister city agreement has done much to benefit education, other components of the agreement were largely untapped and that St. Maarten can use available expertise in other areas. Representing the commissioner for tourism, economic affairs, sports and aviation was his Page | 2 advisor, David Christian. Tallahassee officials were told of the commissioner’s interest in a number of areas related to his portfolios and that commissioner Richardson would be visiting Tallahassee, at a future, yet to be determined date. With the visit, important contacts have been (re)-established, paving the way for concrete steps to be undertaken by the commissioner for tourism, education and sports – supported off course by the Executive Council. It is expected that facilitating the process would be the first hand experience of Leader of Government, Commissioner Marlin and the continued involvement of the TLH-SXMF. The following is a synopsis of scores of meetings held with city, state and other officials as part of the program of activities marking the visit to Tallahassee.

Note For the sake of efficiency and clarity and in keeping with my assignment of representing the office of the commissioner of tourism, economic affairs and sports, while in Tallahassee, I limit most of the observations to those meetings with direct bearing on the aforementioned portfolios. This even if all meetings were attended by the delegation in its entirety. Additionally included in this report are recommendations for follow-up to the visit and the strengthening of the agreement within the framework of St. Maarten becoming country status as well as the island government’s desire to achieve tangible results for the people of St. Maarten, in the shortest possible time. Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson


Synopsis Tuesday / September 22, 2009

Dinner Meeting TLH-SXMF Immediately following arrival in Tallahassee, the official program of activities was kicked-off with a dinner meeting attended by the delegation and TLH-SXMF executive board: Ben Harris (chairman), Stephen Knight, drs. Martijn Niekus, Jomar Floyd and Arthur Lugisse . The latter informed the delegation regarding the ongoing relations and future plans of TLHSXMF, indicating the many benefits which can be obtained though the assistance and involvement of a group such as TLH-SXMF, which already has a presence in the capital of the state of Florida. The foundation outlined its goals and reiterated its commitment to the sister city agreement. TLH-SXMF used the opportunity to ask what support St. Maarten is willing to give to the foundation, considering, among others, its having taken the initiative to establish contacts with numerous entities. The foundation stressed that expertise is available to St. Maarten with just a call away. The foundation is of the opinion that some of these entities can contribute in specific areas, facilitating St. Maarten’s role of becoming a country. Tallahassee entities of interest to St. Maarten Some of the entities with which the foundation has established contacts are: Fire DepartmentICT DepartmentParks and RecreationCity Hal Human Resources Department – FAVACAUniversitiesJacksonville Chamber and Revitalization PlansSERT Hurricane preparedness groupFSU MET department – City Utilities – EDC – Sports Department – Enterprise Florida – Florida Export Finance CorporationReport compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson

Page | 3


Areas for immediate exploration discussed Ideas for immediate exploration are assistance which may be granted in developing strategies for among others, the structuring of initiatives related to: Human resources infrastructure Trade relations (Trade Agreement with USA) Trade relations with CARICOM and rest of Caribbean / Latin America / Africa Development of a Financial Sector (SMIFA) Tax Structure to fit the island’s economic development E-Zone Development. Medical Tourism Sports and Cultural tourism Medical issues such as acquiring equipment for facilities in St. Maarten.

Youth development In the area of youth development, the TLH-SXMF foundation announced that has partnered with the Youth District Band and Victorious Living in St. Maarten to work together to address issues of youth delinquency and come up with tangible solutions to the problems facing the St. Maarten community, youth in particular. Rotary club donation A. Lugisse disclosed that he is a member of the Rotary Club of Tallahassee North-side, which is desirous of donating some 50 used computers; the club would additionally be interested in teach the users refurbishing tactics at the Rotary club in St. Maarten. Sports – cultural tourism The foundation is interested in marketing St. Maarten from Florida through sports, cultural exchanges, trade fairs and other events. The foundation would also like to take the Tallahassee Cricket team to St. Maarten.

Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson

Page | 4


Wednesday / September 23, 2009 Separate meetings were held throughout the day with various officials representing numerous entities and services. Meeting with Commissioner Proctor a.o. – tourism, sports The first meeting held was one with County Commissioner Bill Proctor, Lee Daniel (director tourism and economic development) and Kaye Strong Hogan of the Leon County Tourism Development Council. Commissioner Proctor expressed how ecstatic he along with officials of Tallahassee was with the presence of St. Maarten’s Leader of Government and the delegation. He spoke of the history of the agreement and reiterated his willingness and availability to assist St. Maarten. Commissioner Proctor also offered an extended partnership agreement with the Leon County. The benefits of this proposed agreement was discussed and a draft was presented to Commissioner William Marlin. The extended partnership agreement with the county hopes to include components of the Tourism and Sports relations between both parties. Commissioner Proctor is of the opinion that the County can now play a more vibrant role in this partnership; his sentiments are based on, among others, his having visited St. Maarten. He has had great expectations of working along with the Raoul Illidge Sports Complex and sports programs with St. Maarten. Commissioner Proctor has been talking to the foundation concerning a disc golf program, targeting cruise ship visitors and locals alike. Commissioner Proctor also indicated that the President of FAMU (Florida A & M University), Dr. James Ammons, is very much interested in visiting St. Maarten to help motivate more students to come to FAMU in the near future. As would become a recurring theme, Commissioner gave an extensive description of St. Maarten’s position with regards to the present constitutional process and areas that St. Maarten will be looking at for collaboration in expertise in the USA. Lee Daniel was curious about tourism promotion by St. Maarten; while Florida has been marketing itself for decades, he believes it would be educational to exchange experiences. Lee Daniel (who also involved with sports) is keenly interested in working with the foundation to bring about sports exchange and training programs between Tallahassee and St. Maarten.

Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson

Page | 5


Page | 6

Meeting IT, CIS and HR departments Of great interest was a meeting with senior officials of the city’s IT, CIS and HR departments. Those present included a Senior Management Analyst, a Business Systems Analyst, an MIS Application Coordinator and a Database Administrator. The composition of the group served to share practical knowledge and ideas on the setting up of systems (CBS, HR, payroll, communication technology) for country St. Maarten. Their central message was that one need not repeat mistakes of the past; in other words, St. Maarten would do well to note the kinds of experiences the city experienced in setting up systems from scratch. The group recommended that in setting up any program or system, the training of personnel is fundamental. Issues touched on included: 1. Software packages 2. Relationship between databases 3. Challenges of feeding information into database from various sources 4. Security and reporting 5. Developing in-house expertise and limiting dependency on consultancy 6. Risk of developing expertise and then losing the expertise to private sector 7. Maintaining adequate training programs 8. Central payroll system Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson


9. Human Resources 10. IT 11. Making good decisions quickly 12. Changing job descriptions to accommodate introduction of systems 13. Decentralized system 14. Central database 15. Online applications (limiting use of paper, tracking applications faster etc.) On the topic of human resources management, for instance, Commissioner Marlin remarked how in St. Maarten, there may exist several files on one government employee – who has moved from one department to another, sometimes on more than one occasion. This brings with it the expected challenges with regards to records with accurate information pertaining to that employee. It was agreed that the momentum of the 10th anniversary of the sister city agreement is the right moment to establish the necessary contacts, initiating the actual facilitation of expertise in all of the aforementioned (and other) areas. Meeting Mayor John Marks III During the meeting with Mayor Marks at the latter’s office, St. Maarten’s Leader of Government informed the mayor of the ongoing constitutional process and pending changes for St. Maarten, in detail. Commissioner Marlin jokingly stated that if all goes well, country status would be attained on the birthday of A. Lugisse, 10-10-10. The mayor seemed very interested and committed to the sister city agreement. An invitation was extended to the mayor to visit the island for St. Maarten’s Day, this November 11, 2009. Meeting with FAMU / Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (programs offered a.o.) At FAMU University, a group of professors and leading representatives of the institution sat in on a meeting with the St. Maarten delegation, which was informed of ongoing efforts in HIV/Aids education, a sports graduate program, training on how to run a sports facility, globalization in the processing of grants (with St. Maarten as a component) and certification for coaches, among others.

Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson

Page | 7


Page | 8

10th Anniversary presentations at City Hall Leader of Government, Commissioner William Marlin, did the honors in presenting appreciation plaques to leading government officials and Tallahassee personalities who have been instrumental in initiating and keeping the sister city agreement alive. At the well-attended gathering, held at City Hall, some of those honored were: Anita Favors, City Manager Mayor John Marks Commissioner Andrew Gillum Commissioner Bill Proctor The Links –association of ‘moms away from home’ (which also looks after St. Maarten students) Former Mayor Scott Maddox (who signed the agreement in 1999) Michael Parker Ben Harris Lee Daniel FSU President T. K. Wetherell FAMU President Dr. James Ammons TCC President William Law Jr. Lively Assistant Principal – Vernea Randolph FAMU’s Rudy Slaughter Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson


FAMU’s Roland Gaines the Vice President Division of Student affairs J.R. Richards, CEO Bond Community Health Center FAMU’s Agnes Coppin TCC’s Betty Jensen (students’ main contact at TCC) FSU’s Rob Rinehart (student’s main contact at FSU) Kaye Strong Hogan Jeff Sharkey (FAVACA) - who came to St. Maarten to develop a strategic plan with TLH-SXMF Another highlight of the festive occasion was the presentation and reading of a proclamation to the city of Tallahassee by Leader of Government, Commissioner William. Receiving the proclamation was the Mayor of Tallahassee. TLH-SXMF Chairman Ben Harris and President Stephen Knight presented a plaque of appreciation to Commissioner William Marlin.

Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson

Page | 9


Page | 10

Thursday/ September 24 Meeting Dr. William Law Jr., President Tallahassee Community College (TCC) Joining Dr. Law at the meeting was TCC official Betty Jensen (a main contact for St. Maarten students attending the institution). The occasion was used to renew a MOU for in-state tuition opportunities for St. Maarten students. Meeting with the Governor’s Office-Trade and Tourism At the office of Florida Governor, Charlie Crist, the delegation met with Eric Graham, international business & energy liaison / office of tourism, trade and economic development. He noted that the U.S. government funding is focused on Latin America but that the Caribbean is however essential to the strategic position of the U.S. (EPA’s between EU and ACP). Using the services of FAVACA (The Florida Association for Volunteer Action) to enable training and development for St. Maarten public and private sectors is being mentioned by TLH-SXMF. Commissioner Marlin mentioned St. Maarten’s role as trans-shipment port for the Greater Caribbean. Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson


The meeting discussed some of the opportunities offered because of Florida’s strategic hub role. Meeting Florida House of Representatives - Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Rep. Rehwinkel has entertained discussions with the foundation and would like to work with Page | 11 the foundation on a few projects of mutual significance. She mentioned the need for Florida to diversity the economy and expressed great interest in issues of renewable energy using sun, wind and water. She spoke of the film, entertainment and television industry as well the role of the Florida film school and Florida’s natural infrastructure for film production and pool of film professionals. Meeting Parks, Recreation & Neighborhood Affairs Department (sports tourism) The meeting was attended by 2 athletics experts and a recreation supervisor. The meeting addressed among others: Introduction of disc golf as a component of sports and tourism A strategic work plan for expertise provided to St. Maarten Community sports and recreation programs Parks & Recreation paid much attention to disc golf. Detailed explanation was provided on what the department called ‘the fastest growing sports’. Disc golf was presented as a possible attraction for cruise ship visitors. (D. Christian along with A. Lugisse was taken for a tour of facilities, including some where the sports is practiced – see ‘tour’…) The delegation was informed that Tallahassee had won a coveted national award for best ‘parks and recreation’ in the U.S. Meeting with the City Manager Anita Favors - Thompson City Manager Anita Favors-Thompson expressed her support and encouragement with the partnership. She expressed the hope that the socio-economic component would also play a greater role in the near future. She commended Arthur Lugisse on keeping the relationship active and spoke of the need to document achievements, since some commissioners in Tallahassee did not appear to know much of what the partnership entails. She mentioned that maybe a quarterly report would be a vehicle for information dissemination. Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson


Arthur Lugisse informed the city manager of his plans to publish a book on the sister city agreement and which would contain information and photos of the 10 years relationship between Tallahassee and St. Maarten. Commissioner Marlin indicated that he was involved with the sister city agreement from the beginning and is in Tallahassee, since he still has confidence in the relationship and would like Page | 12 to take it to the next level, with TLH-SXMF representing the ongoing relations, as a body sanctioned by both the city of Tallahassee and St. Maarten.

Meeting with Economic Development Council At the Economic Development Department / Minority Business Enterprise Office, the St. Maarten delegation held discussions with director Thomas Lewis and MBE/DBE Administrator Ben Harris. Mr. Lewis mentioned his interest in jumpstarting the economic component of the sister city agreement. He is of the opinion that this particular aspect has been one that continues to float around ‘and never coming in for a landing�. The EDC has various thoughts on economic initiatives benefitting Tallahassee and St. Maarten. They include looking at lists of imported goods with an eye on reducing prices. Mr. Lewis remarked how he was involved with the partnership agreement from the beginning and still supports the initiative. Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson


He expressed his interest in coming to St. Maarten in November with two teams to play football. The teams would be accompanied by a marching band. He further explained that he was involved with similar events in the past (Black College Classic). Mr. Harris (who by the way is also a member of TLH-SXMF) provided information on the Page | 13 operation of his department and how the MDE program works. He mentioned how, for instance, government awards contracts to larger established companies but that a percentage of works to be carried out, are assigned to certified minority businesses. The EDC was told how food prices are high on St. Maarten, as are prices of utilities. The meeting discussed the idea of a system of acquisition of goods, with export from Miami to St. Maarten – consolidating buying from the U.S. Knowledge and expertise sharing on the topic is available from the City of Tallahassee.

Tour of Bond Community Health Center CEO J.R Richards and senior members of the management team met with the St. Maarten delegation, outlining the role of the facility in the community. The facility is a federally funded health care institution specializing in caring for persons with no health care, persons with limited health care and the destitute. Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson


No person is turned away for treatment and the facility prides itself on its achievements in, among others, HIV/AIDS education and treatment. The institution prides itself on being a facility “in the community…for the community”. The St. Maarten delegation was given a tour of the facilities by its medical director, who Page | 14 explained the role and functioning of the various services available at the institution, which receives some 300 persons daily, on average.

Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson


Tour Traffic Control Center The St. Maarten delegation was given an opportunity to visit the traffic control center of the City Traffic Department. While there, staff provided a demonstration of how traffic is monitored, particularly at major Page | 15 intersections. Cameras placed at those locations record continuously and allow officials to see when/if there is a problem with, for instance, a traffic light, an accident etc.

Friday, September 25

Tour of facilities Officials of the Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Department provided a tour of community facilities to D. Christian and A. Lugisse. The group visited the Tom Brown Park Tennis Center. The facility has 12 hard lighted tennis courts and 12 outdoor racquetball courts. It also features a bike trail, a fitness trail, a nature trail, picnic shelters and tables, and a children's playground. The group was additionally shown a section serving as a multi-purpose facility offering opportunities for gymnastics, outdoor swimming and meetings. Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson


The children’s playground features something unique: outdoor grounds covered by shredded pieces of tire. Walking on the grounds provides a comfortable, soft feel. A child falling on the ground is thus spared injury. Another attraction placed on the grounds is a game equipment known as NEOS – which enables adults and children to have fun and exercise while they play the game; it requires you to remain Page | 16 alert and moving as you try to tap large buttons with similar color, within an allotted time space. The officials used the opportunity to take the visitors to sites where disc golf is played; they brought along the equipment that are used to practice the sports – a portable ‘basket’ and discs. These articles are relatively cheap to buy. On most sites, baskets are already secured to the ground. The group envisions a similar area / trail / park in St. Maarten where cruise ship passengers would go to have some fun (the game is usually played by teams of 4 persons competing against each other). On St. Maarten, the trail could have sign boards placed with names and explanations of flora and fauna, island attractions etc. The group has expressed great interest in coming to St. Maarten and working along with government to identify an area where the sports can be practiced. The department has offered expertise, from drafting the plans to expertise on building, for the realization of a disc golf trail.

Observations Whereas the partnership agreement between St. Maarten and Tallahassee has served the education component well, areas of economic development, tourism and sports have been left largely underdeveloped. Tallahassee officials have reiterated their commitment to the partnership and stand ready to offer whatever assistance St. Maarten may require in the aforementioned fields. The role of the TLH-SXMF foundation has remained pivotal. The newest addition to the TLH-SXMF is drs. Martijn Niekus, an international economist, who has worked with successive governments of the Netherlands Antilles.

Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson


Achievements working visit SXM delegation to Tallahassee September 2009 1. Commissioner Bill Proctor presented a draft of a proposed partnership agreement between Leon County, Florida and St. Maarten, to Commissioner William for consideration and follow-up by the St. Maarten government. Page | 17 2. Commissioner W. Marlin signed an MOU with Tallahassee Community College President Dr. William Law. 3. Commissioner W. Marlin expressed government’s commitment to TLH-SXMF for the purpose of representing ongoing relations between Tallahassee and St. Maarten. 4. The introduction of disc golf for St. Maarten was explored. 5. The city manager Anita Favors-Thompson and Mayor John Marks III reaffirmed their full support for the Government of St. Maarten and the Tallahassee-St. Maarten Foundation. 6. Invitation was extended, verbally, to the City to be represented at St. Maarten’s Day in November upcoming. 7. Commissioner W. Marlin pledged support to St. Maarten Students in Tallahassee and presented the students association with a long awaited cheque. 8. Agreement was reached to work on an agricultural exchange with FAMU and to institute a faculty, student and staff exchange between Tallahassee and St. Maarten. 9. Followed up Bond Community Health Center on an agreement to provide medical services for St. Maarten students in Tallahassee. This is applicable to those with the Nagico card since most other institutions in Tallahassee do not accept the card. 10. The Economic Development Department discussed the opportunities for a hotel development in Tallahassee; the city is willing to give incentives to the group or company that is interested. 11. FAMU presented a total health package development plan for St. Maarten students in Tallahassee; he is interested in doing the same in St. Maarten. 12. The delegation which included D. Christian who represented the commissioner of economic affairs, tourism, sports and aviation, Frans Richardson, paved the way for the commissioner to follow-up and interact with counterparts in Tallahassee, in subsequent visits to Tallahassee. 13. The delegation’s visit provided the St. Maarten government with an initial opportunity to develop relationships at the House and Senate levels in the capital of the state of Florida. 14. The opportunity was provided to rekindle the light with the Lively Center for students who need certification with a trade.

Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson


Recommendations The Executive Council is advised to approve initiatives as follow-up to the visit. The initiatives entail, but are not limited, to the following: Page | 18 1. Appointment of a public-private sector workgroup to liaison between TLH-SXMF, city of Tallahassee, government of St. Maarten, private sector in St. Maarten. 2. Appointment of the following persons to said work group: R. Pantophlet (economic advisor commissioner F. Richardson), D. Christian (advisor commissioner Richardson / member of SXM delegation to Tallahassee), C. Mardembrough (section head study financing / member of SXM delegation to Tallahassee), D. Lake (representing Leader of Government), B. Hunt (a founding member of the partnership initiative) and D. Fleming (a principal figure spearheading the initiative in the beginning). 3. Charge the group with identifying projects for realization on short term and mid term periods. 4. Incorporate a component of the partnership into SXM Day 2009 celebrations. 5. Officially invite Tallahassee officials to SXM Day 2009 celebrations in St. Maarten. 6. Acquire office space for TLH-SXMF in Tallahassee and provide the foundation with whatever assistance is needed in their role as facilitator and representation of St. Maarten as country, in the capital city of Florida. 7. Signing of the partnership agreement between Leon County, Florida and St. Maarten and St. Maarten – to expand the economic, cultural, social and inward investment opportunities between both parties. D.R.A. Christian Advisor Commissioner Frans Richardson September 28, 2009

Report compiled by D.R.A. Christian – Office of Commissioner F.G. Richardson


David christian tallahassee[ report (1) pdf2