Local leaders aim for regional approach -- Gazette.Net







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After the success late last year in coordinating passage of a minimum wage bill among Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and the District of Columbia, leaders from local jurisdictions will meet periodically to address regional issues.

Montgomery County Council President Craig L. Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown hosted the heads of the Prince George’s, Howard and Arlington county councils and the Washington, D.C., council on Wednesday in Rockville, in the first of what leaders hope is an ongoing series of meetings.

Wednesday’s event was a great discussion that centered on issues such as economic development and transportation, Rice said Monday.

The different jurisdictions in the Washington area need to start approaching transportation from a more regional approach, he said.

After the recession, more collaboration is needed than in the past, when counties were more likely to tackle big projects on their own, he said.

While Montgomery is planning a bus rapid transit system and Howard is also looking at the possibility of a similar system or light-rail project, there hasn’t been any discussion about collaborating despite the fact that commuters don’t stop at the county line, Rice said.

Rice said the group hopes to meet every few months, and the next meeting could include looking at how to address issues facing returning veterans, such as providing workforce development training and robust mental health services.

The four jurisdictions are members of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, a group of counties and municipalities that stretches from Frederick County to Charles County, Md. and Prince William County, Va.

Rice said in a release that Wednesday’s meeting was a chance for leaders to meet in a less formal environment than the group’s official meetings.

He said the meetings can be a chance for officials to talk about what their priorities are and make sure they’re included in the respective budgets.

He pointed to the coordination in November between officials in the District, Montgomery and Prince George’s in passing minimum wage increases in each jurisdiction as a model for similar efforts in the future.

Each of the jurisdictions will raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2016 in the District and 2017 in Montgomery and Prince George’s.

Calvin Ball, chairman of the Howard County Council, said collaboration would help jurisdictions figure out how to make their proposals more effective when they’re seeking more state and federal money.

The coalition can also address issues such as economic development and environmental sustainability, Ball said.

Environmental issues often cross jurisdictional borders and require a regional approach to address them, he said.

Ball said he’d also be interested in looking at how the region can leverage its economic development abilities to attract companies looking to relocate.

There will be times when it makes sense for a certain business to be located in one county or another, and the areas can compete to draw those businesses, he said.

But if they’re looking to attract a certain industry or business, one office could be located in Howard and another in Montgomery, or some other combination that benefits multiple jurisdictions, he said.

“We can even be more than the sum of our various parts,” Ball said.