PORTLAND – Portland Mayor Charlie Hales is making a trip to China to discuss sustainability, bolster student exchange programs and possibly score a new piece of public art for the city.
The trip to Portland’s sister city of Suzhou will take Hales out of the country from Oct. 25 to Nov. 3. The city of 4 million is located on the lower Yangtze and is a major tourist destination known for ancient architecture, canals, pagodas and gardens.
The cultural partnership between the two cities was formed in 1988 and helped to build Portland’s Lan Su Classical Chinese Garden.
Dana Haynes of the mayor’s office said Chinese leaders recognize that Portland is a leader in the Green Cities movement and want to discuss environmental issues.
"They've got a real, real bad pollution problem relative to ours,” Haynes said. "And they want to hear what we've done.”
Hales will also promote student exchange programs like those at Lincoln High School and Jackson and Hosford Middle Schools.
Lastly, the mayor plans to take a side trip to the city of Xi’an, to see his old friend, foundry artist Huo Baozhu. Twelve years ago Huo donated the metal elephant sculpture that adorns the North Park Blocks (pictured right) and Hales is hoping to seal the deal on a new public work of art.
Earlier this year, Huo spoke to the Portland city council and said he wanted to donate more public art to Portland and dedicate it to fighting homelessness.
“It was a verbal commitment,” said Haynes. “But the mayor thought that was great.”
Most of the trip would be paid for by the Portland Suzhou Sister City Associations and the hosting communities, but that some public funds might be used, Haynes said.
“He’ll have to pay about $200 out of his own pocket for a hotel room,” Haynes said. “But we’ll know more when we get back.”