COG Board Chairman William Euille of the City of Alexandria delivered the following Year-in-Review remarks at the COG Annual Meeting on December 9, 2015.
At the Council of Governments, partnership is at the heart of our work. Every year, so much of what we accomplish is the result of people working together across borders, and often across subject areas. And this year was no different. I believe we once again demonstrated the great value of regional partnership.
In 2015, COG brought leaders and experts together on a variety of issues. We held high-level forums on topics like clean technology, Latino health disparities, and Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. We celebrated a third straight summer of no ‘Code Red’ air quality days as well as new data showing the region will now meet current federal air standards. This milestone resulted from more than a decade of actions by governments, businesses, and individuals. We also continued to support regional homeland security planning and coordination. As the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino remind us, terrorism remains a serious threat. Maintaining a strong partnership among the many local, state, and federal agencies in our region is vitally important to our safety. There are so many examples of the value of our regional work that I can’t do them justice in these brief remarks. But I do want to focus on three major, ongoing efforts to identify solutions to some tough challenges.
Firstly, COG has played an important role in helping enhance the safety of the Metro system. Following the January Metrorail smoke incident, Senators Mark Warner and Barbara Mikulski asked COG to work with WMATA on radio communications and evacuation training for first responders. Through the leadership of our Fire Chiefs Committee, COG coordinated with Metro to respond to the Senators’ requests and outline safety activities. The Fire Chiefs worked with WMATA to add a full-time fire and rescue liaison in the system’s Rail Operations Control Center. They also partnered with the District of Columbia on a study of the underground communication network. In addition to this public safety coordination, COG is also supporting the District, Maryland, and Virginia, to expedite the creation of a new State Safety Oversight Agency consistent with federal requirements. It is tentatively called the Metro Safety Commission. Metro is critical to our region’s success, and I am pleased that COG and our members are stepping up to assist these efforts.
Secondly, I’d like to mention a collaborative initiative that kicked off this January. COG’s Multi Sector Working Group was created to identify viable, cross-sector solutions to reduce the region’s greenhouse gas emissions and help achieve the goals adopted in our 2008 Climate Change Report. This multi-sector group consists of technical and policy staff from local, state, and regional agencies with expertise in energy, transportation, land-use, and the built environment. The group found that current policies in these sectors, if fully implemented, are projected to account for about one-third of the reductions needed to achieve our regional goal for the year 2050. To get us the rest of the way toward our goal, the group has been focused on other potential strategies, including some more substantial actions. I commend this group for its inclusive and fact-based process. And we look forward to our policymakers helping move this initiative to the action plan phase.
Finally, I’d like to highlight work on yet another top priority—growing our region’s economy. We are all aware that federal spending is decreasing. And we understand that our real competitors are other regions like Los Angeles and London, not our neighboring jurisdictions. The challenge has been identifying activities to further strengthen our expanding industries and jointly promote our goods and services. To advance this effort, we invited a diverse group of leaders and stakeholders—including Governor Terry McAuliffe, GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth, Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, officials from universities, federal labs, and more—to speak with our Board of Directors and Region Forward Coalition. Through these discussions, we’ve gained a better understanding of our economy, and our human and built infrastructure. Next month, COG will release its report on this work, and focus on opportunities for regional cooperation, such as the Global Cities Initiative to help area businesses find new markets.
Through these and a number of other initiatives, COG and our many partners are helping address major challenges and putting us on a path toward our Region Forward goals. I’d like to close by saying that it has been an honor to serve as COG Board Chairman this year. And I have appreciated the many years of working with my regional counterparts on the Board as well as COG staff. And to all in attendance today, thank you for your support of the Council of Governments and our regional work.