ANNAPOLIS – They dreamed of Super Bowls, snacked on crab cakes and braved blustery winds in shirtsleeves, and the chief executives of Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia came away from their summit Tuesday with warm feelings.
“We enjoy each other’s company,” said Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, going on to rib District Mayor Anthony A. Williams for overindulging on crab cakes at lunch.
Homeland security, tourism and other shared concerns topped the agenda for the trio, which included Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner.
This was the group’s second meeting and part of a push to cut through bureaucratic barriers. Greater coordination, the three leaders say, can result in improved security, better environmental protection and more tourist-grabbing events.
“When we came together this past summer, in June, it was the first time that the chief executives of the three jurisdictions had sat down for a dozen years,” Warner said. “That makes no sense,” he said, considering how interrelated the three are.
Ehrlich, the only Republican, crowed about his Bush administration connections and his guests’ cooperation: National Homeland Defense Secretary Tom Ridge has pointed to their inter-jurisdictional cooperation on security issues as an example for the rest of the country, he said.
“We are a model for other regions and other states,” Ehrlich said. “We’re very proud of that, and the mayor has really been a terrific leader in that regard.”
The three leaders also braved the elements in the name of tourism, standing outdoors in shirtsleeves to film a commercial promoting the region, Ehrlich said.
The advertisement was the result of their last meeting, they said, and they’ll be filming a series of the promos in the spring.
“When people come to Washington, D.C., they’re going to stop in Maryland, they’re going to stop in Virginia,” Williams said. “We’re all one market when it comes to the tourism world.”
“We believe that even more coordination between the three of us will lead to landing additional major events, such as Super Bowls and U.S. Opens,” Ehrlich said, downplaying the region’s recent failed bid for the 2008 Super Bowl.
The three are also taking a “regional approach” to improving air quality, Warner said. Jurisdictions are developing a plan to “reduce key pollutants approximately 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2005,” according to a joint press release.
They will submit the plan to the Environmental Protection Agency in March, Warner said.
Warner has also won support from Williams and Ehrlich for his plan to create a “workforce readiness certificate” to show employers that job applicants have adequate reading and math skills.
“So many of our people live on one side or other of the river but work on the other side,” Warner said. Rolling out the project in all three jurisdictions, he said, “would advance the whole region’s economy.”
The three are also cooperating on transportation initiatives. For example, Warner said, they are cutting red tape to clear traffic accidents quickly from the bridges linking the states and the District.
But there’s still friction on some issues, including the District’s plan to tax commuters living in Maryland and Virginia. Washington has argued commuters should pay for services they enjoy while in Washington.
“There’s a healthy disagreement,” Williams said. “But that doesn’t stop us from working together.”
The three plan to meet in Richmond, Va., this spring.