In addition to making connections, celebrating accomplishments, and nominating new corporate officers, the COG annual membership meeting on December 14 provided area leaders with an opportunity to focus on major regional initiatives, such as efforts to restore the Metrorail system and strengthen homeland security coordination. Officials also urged enhanced cooperation through COG to help the region navigate the uncertain times ahead.
Regional partnership is a key to metropolitan Washington’s success
Regional partnership was a key theme in remarks by officials, including members of the region’s Congressional delegation—U.S. Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and U.S. Representative Barbara Comstock (VA-10)—as well as incoming members, U.S. Representative-elect Anthony Brown (MD-4) and U.S. Representative-elect Jamie Raskin (MD-8).
Many speakers discussed uncertainty surrounding the priorities of the new Administration and Congress, especially in regards to the federal workforce and regional economy. Van Hollen told the gathering of about 200 attendees at the Washington Marriott at Metro Center that area leaders are united by the need for a strong nation’s capital and region. He added that COG’s role in bringing regional leaders together “is more important now than ever.”
COG Board Chairman and Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner was honored by his counterparts on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Chairman Sharon Bulova and Vice Chairman Penny Gross, for his commitment to regional cooperation on issues from Metrorail to economic competitiveness to energy and climate change.
MORE: Berliner wins Elizabeth and David Scull Metropolitan Public Service Award
Officials also lauded partnerships like the COG, Greater Washington Board of Trade, and the Consortium of Universities’ effort to develop a regional export plan as well as work by COG, area planning directors, economic development offices, and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to create a more coordinated land use strategy for locating federal facilities. GSA’s FedScape program won COG’s Partnership Award.
MORE: Tony Costa, FedScape win Partnership Award
Metro remains the region’s top priority for 2017
The regional effort to restore Metrorail to world-class status was referenced throughout the meeting. Van Hollen noted the importance of the current, ten-year federal-regional funding agreement and the need for future federal support. Comstock thanked government and business leaders on their cooperation and recommended examining changes to the system’s governance. Brown and Raskin both stressed Metro’s significance to the region and pledged to work with area leaders.
COG Vice President and City of Falls Church Mayor David Tarter presided over the meeting; Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) provided greetings. (COG)
During his Chairman’s remarks, Berliner discussed COG’s work over the past year—supporting the states and District in creating an independent Metrorail Safety Commission, holding two major forums with the Board of Trade, and convening a task force of city and county managers to explore performance metrics and revenue options. He urged attendees to continue advancing this work in 2017 to help ensure a safe, reliable, and financial-sound system.
MORE: Berliner's full remarks on Metro
Several of these speakers also praised Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, who was in attendance, on his contributions focused on system safety and maintenance.
Homeland security leaders are strengthening ties
In 2016, regional homeland security coordination took an important step forward—and several speakers highlighted this important, and often behind-the-scenes, work. One major accomplishment was the establishment of a Homeland Security Executive Committee that is helping shape a more cooperative, ‘One Region’ concept to homeland security planning.
For their leadership in homeland security, Chris Geldart, the director of the District of Columbia's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, and James Schwartz, Arlington County’s Deputy County Manager, were presented with the Ronald F. Kirby Award for Collaborative Leadership by Maryland Emergency Management Agency Director Russell Strickland.
MORE: Geldart, Schwartz win Ronald F. Kirby Award for Collaborative Leadership
In addition, Major General Bradley Becker, Commanding General of the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, discussed homeland security collaboration with regional partners and the upcoming inauguration.
Fairfax County Chairman Sharon Bulova speaks with Arlington County Board Member Christian Dorsey. (COG)
MORE: 2016 Annual Meeting photo album on COG's Facebook page