Last Friday the Region Forward Coalition met for the first time in 2014 to celebrate the completion of the Place Opportunity report and to identify the areas of focus for the new year. Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan and District of Columbia Planning Director Harriet Tregoning – Co Chairs of the Coalition – started the conversation by discussing how new investments in infrastructure can be leveraged to support our shared regional goals.
Tregoning provided the group with a particularly vivid depiction of how the District is planning to address water quality needs and strengthen the local economy. DC Water is proposing a green infrastructure approach to help minimize stormwater and sewage overflows from select portions of the city by reducing and capturing stormwater runoff with rain gardens green roofs porous pavement and other tools. Building and maintaining this type of green infrastructure would not only provide a broad range of environmental benefits but it would also provide more reliable middle-class jobs.
Patricia Mathews from the Northern Virginia Health Foundation built on this point noting that 80 percent of health problems have non-medical causes such as unemployment. The Coalition showed strong support for an increased focus on health and education over the next year to impact the “social determinants of health” a subject examined by COG and the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers in a 2009 regional community health indicators report.
Senior Director Stuart Freudberg of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments demonstrated that COG has specific strengths in land use transportation the environment public safety and housing which can be leveraged to achieve the goals of Region Forward. He said COG’s proven track record for collaboration on these issues can be used to build partnerships in other areas. Amy Fishman-Kruz from the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington added that the nonprofit community was hungry for a solution-driven partnership with COG the Region Forward Coalition and area governments.
Over the next two months the Region Forward Coalition leadership and COG staff will be working to collect information to help the Coalition achieve its goals.