Garcetti Makes First Trip to Armenia

Councilmember Working to Create Sister City Program

Ever since Councilmember Eric Garcetti took office in 2001–he has been encouraged by leaders in the Armenian community and many of his constituents of Armenian heritage to visit Armenia. As a former professor of international relations–he has been a student of Armenian history for some years.

Councilmember Garcetti will share memories from his trip with community leaders at a special reception on September 25 at 1 p.m.–at St. Garabed Church Hall–1614 N. Alexandria Ave.–Los Angeles–CA 90027. The community is invited to attend. Garcetti will also discuss the creation of a committee to formalize a sister city agreement with the city of Yerevan.

As a candidate for City Council–Councilmember Garcetti made it one of his priorities to reach out to the Armenian community–from well-established schools–churches and institutions like St. John Garabed–Alex and Rose Philibos–ANC–AGBU–ARS–Homenetmen–as well as newer immigran’s who sometimes were not yet part of more organized entities. Garcetti campaigned in Armenian and Russian and many of the young people who walked door to door with him were Armenian-American youth from Council District 13 and nearby neighborhoods.

Since being in office–Councilmember Garcetti has made the revitalization of the Little Armenian neighborhood of East Hollywood one of his top priorities.

"We have organized and joined clean-ups–neighborhood walks–encouraged new economic development–created parks–put up street banners that welcome people to Little Armenia–and helped to make the area safer–cleaner–and more beautiful," Garcetti said. "I have also sought to make sure that we never forget the Armenian Genocide of last century and I have helped the yearly youth march get city permits and joined in other organizations’ events that commemorate one of humanity’s darkest hours."

This past winter–Garcetti and his Hollywood field deputy–Baydsar Thomasian (one of three Armenian-Americans in the CD13 office)–decided to make the dream of visiting Armenia a reality and to take a trip to Armenia in the summer 2005.

In preparation–Garcetti talked to city officials and Armenian-American leaders about some of the ways in which Los Angeles and Armenia could strengthen ties of friendship–commerce–and exchange.

"Early this summer–I had the idea that perhaps Los Angeles–the second-biggest Armenian city in the world–could be twinned with Yerevan–the largest Armenian city in the world–as a Sister City," Garcetti said. "Yerevan already had a Sister City agreement with Cambridge–Massachusetts–so I went to Cambridge in early August to explore whether or not Cambridge might want to `share’ Yerevan and the wonderful Sister City Committee and the Cambridge City Government agreed!"

The trip to Armenia began on August 17. About a dozen people joined the delegation. Earlier in the year–Garcetti invited Governor Howard Dean–the chairman of the Democratic National Committee–to join the group and he accepted the invitation.

City Planning Commissioner Mike Mahdesian–Baydsar Thomasian–Armen Orujian–Vahag Thomasian–Lynnette Amerian (Garcetti’s executive assistant)–Garcetti’s partner Amy Wakeland–and others all joined together in Armenia.

The delegation stayed in Armenia until August 27–and were able to accomplish many important objectives.

Garcetti met with the Mayor of Yerevan and signed an agreement to form a Sister City Relationship. Garcetti also met with members of Parliament to discuss ways to cooperate with one another in several areas. Garcetti discussed the new trade office that the State of California is opening a trade office in Yerevan.

"We also talked to the US Ambassador about helping him restore a valuable film archive in Yerevan–which was an early filmmaking center last century and has a nascent film industry now," Garcetti said.

Garcetti also met with the deputy foreign minister and also went to major sites–including Echmiadzin–Khor Virap–Sanahin–Hagpat–Garni–and Sardarabad to learn about the history. Garcetti also visited the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan.

"We also ate incredible meals–the reddest tomatoes I have ever seen–some of the best pork chops–yogurt with honey–fresh berries (blackberries–choke cherries–curran’s–plums–etc.)–and of course sampled some of the Armenian wine–where wine first originated," Garcetti said. "The hospitality of everyone was incredible–I have not eaten so much in a long time."

Join Councilmember Garcetti

Sunday–Sept. 25 – 1PM at St. Garabed Church Hall
1614 N. Alexandria Ave.–Los Angeles–CA 90027

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