2013 COG Chairwoman Karen Young delivered these remarks at last week’s Annual Meeting: Shaping Our Region’s Economy for The Metropolitan Revolution.
This past year the Council of Governments once again demonstrated its great value to members and area residents through a number of initiatives that put our region on a more prosperous accessible livable and sustainable path toward our Region Forward goals.
The COG Board started the year with a renewed focus on Activity Centers—the 141 locations that will help the region best accommodate future growth and attract workers and businesses.
Following approval of an updated Activity Centers map in January our Region Forward Coalition turned its attention to creating a Strategic Development Plan. The plan which is nearly complete offers COG members and stakeholders strategies tailored to different types of Centers that will help them ‘be all they can be.’
In regards to the environment area leaders had much to celebrate.
In May officials gathered at COG to announce a landmark agreement to support the world’s largest advanced wastewater treatment plant the Blue Plains plant in Washington D.C. The pact represents a major investment in our region’s critical infrastructure. The participants will share annual costs totaling over $800 million. It ensures service for 2 million area residents and cleaner rivers and a healthier Chesapeake Bay. It also supports regional growth and development for the next 40 years. Reaching the agreement was a long journey and every step of the way COG assisted in its development and will continue to support its members with implementation.
In air quality we enjoyed a summer with no Code Red unhealthy air days—despite several days of above 90 degree weather. New COG data reveals an improving trend in ozone pollution since 2006 while another recent plan shows the region now meets fine particle pollution standards.All the progress on air quality has been made through combined efforts at the federal state and local levels and thanks to the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee which coordinates air quality planning in our region.
Regarding public safety and health the COG Board approved a report calling on Verizon to take actions to prevent outages to 9-1-1 such as the one that occurred in the summer of 2012. COG’s report was praised by state and federal officials for supporting their investigations. COG’s Public Health Program brought together officials and experts to discuss topics like aging and age-friendly initiatives as well as access to healthcare for area Latinos.
In the coming year COG will look to explore more public health topics such as mental health and will seek out additional partnerships to support these efforts.
In Transportation the year began with the welcome news that our state partners in Virginia and Maryland passed new bills to significantly increase transportation funding something that COG and the Transportation Planning Board have strongly supported in recent years. In the coming years the additional funding that is now available will allow transportation agencies to move forward in developing new projects and initiatives which makes TPB data and studies even more valuable to help inform decision-makers. This year alone the TPB released new data on regional commuting driving trends and telework that received a great deal of attention from our members stakeholders and the media.
Finally I am pleased to note that the Regional Transportation Priorities Plan is quickly nearing completion.
The Priorities Plan is a new effort for the TPB. It identifies strategies to address the region’s major transportation challenges. The plan has been based on extensive public input which found transit crowding roadway congestion and Metro and highway maintenance as the region’s most critical transportation challenges.
For example it calls for Metro and highway maintenance to be given the highest priority when area agencies develop and budget for a major update to the region’s long-range transportation plan in 2014. To bring together our Priorities Plan and Activity Centers work COG hosted an event for regional leaders in September at the National Press Club to examine how transportation and land use decisions inter-relate and impact our region’s economy.
In the year ahead COG is committed to advancing other parts of Region Forward including goals in education and workforce development. I am extremely proud of our accomplishments over the last year and I am confident we will carry this good work forward from 2013 into 2014.