Worthington leaders, visiting Russian counterparts compare cultures
When officials from Volgograd Oblast, Russia, sat down to discuss city government in Worthington last week, the issues transcended the differences in geography and language.
Like their local counterparts, topics on the minds of the Russians ranged from development standards and building codes to fire trucks and trash collection.
A council member from the southwest Russian city even asked if Worthington would permit a private company to build a carousel in a public park, suggesting both cities are grappling with the issue of private sponsorships.
The four city officials from Volgograd, a community of about 1 million people along the Volga River, visited Worthington on Feb. 22 as part of a four-day stop in central Ohio and as part of the Open World program.
Open World attempts to build understanding and cooperation among nations by sponsoring visits of federal, regional and local government officials.
Last week, the Russian local government officials were hosted by the Columbus International Program and stayed with central Ohio families.
During their time in Ohio, the delegates also attended sessions at the Ohio House of Representatives and the Legislative Service Commission and visited the governor's office, the Supreme Court of Ohio, the city of Columbus and Nationwide Insurance.
In Worthington, they visited the Community Center and then sat around a conference table to learn about small-city government from City Manager Matt Greeson.
He explained the council-manager form of government and how services are delivered. Mostly, though, he and other city officials answered Russian delegates' questions.
The visiting delegates were Andrey Fedorovich Bilenko, member of Volgograd City Council; Arina Yuryevna Novikova, general counsel of Volgograd City Council; Natalya Nikolayevna Zhukova, chairwoman of Volgograd City Land Committee; and Sergey Olegovich Loginov, manager and mass-media coordinator.
In Russia, they said, cities could decide what new buildings are permitted, but the federal government is strictly responsible for adherence to building codes.
They asked about how rights of way are obtained when new roads are built.
Worthington law director Pam Fox explained the concept of eminent domain, and the Volgograd delegates said the law is similar in Russia.
They also asked about the balance in the city budget.
"We take in more revenue than we spend," Greeson said. "We're required to have a balance, unlike our federal government."
Two interpreters assisted in the fast-paced exchange.
Greeson said discussing local government with counterparts from so far away really helps keep issues in perspective for representatives of both countries.
"I love the questions," Greeson told the Russians. "It is interesting to see how you do it, too."