Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Launch of the Greater Washington Partnership

Interestingly, last week the Baltimore Business Journal ran a piece, "Building a case for regionalism between Baltimore and D.C.," about a meeting of stakeholders from both Baltimore and Washington talking about the opportunity within coming together as a true region. (Note that I define a region as a combination of two or more metropolitan areas.  That's why I try to not refer to Greater Washington as a region, but as a metropolitan area.)

Of course, I don't have a problem with that, but I whipped off an op-ed for the BBJ about necessary antecedents.  I wrote that:

1. Each metro needs to "get its house in order" by functioning and acting at a "best practice" level;
2. More efficient physical connections need to be constructed within and between the metropolitan areas; and
3. More attention needs to be put on working together--rather than reflexively choosing to be obstreperous, the first inclination needs to be to collaborate

and listed eight initiatives that the Baltimore area and or the State of Maryland could take up that would help build what we might call the platform for regionalism. At a list of eight, I had already cut about five items from the list. (I haven't yet come up with an equivalent list for Washington, DC and Northern Virginia.)

My piece was more than twice the length of the 500 words they said to submit, so I will be interested to see the final, edited article.  I'll do a full write up when the piece is published.

In my e-box this morning was the longest press release I have ever received, about the creation of Greater Washington Partnership, which will focus on economic development matters "from Baltimore to Richmond."

From the press release:
A group of leading CEOs and entrepreneurs today announced a first-of-its-kind collaboration for the Greater Washington region – from Baltimore to Richmond – to address the critical economic issues facing the region and ensure it remains one of the world’s best places to live, work and build a business. The new Greater Washington Partnership (Partnership) will advance inclusive, actionable solutions that strengthen the regional economy and position Greater Washington as a leading global region and center for commerce and innovation.

The Partnership brings together civic-minded business leaders who share a commitment to the future of Greater Washington. It draws from a cross-sector of leading industries including health care, life sciences, energy, manufacturing, professional services, education, sports & entertainment and financial services.

The Founding Board of the organization includes the CEOs and leaders of Ramsey Asset Management, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Johns Hopkins University, Capital One Financial Corporation, Dominion Resources, MedImmune, S&R Foundation, WGL Holdings, Inc. and Washington Gas, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP, Under Armour, The Carlyle Group, McKinsey & Company, MedStar Health, T. Rowe Price, Rally Health, and EY.

The Partnership will focus on the high impact drivers of the region’s economic growth including:
  • Advancing infrastructure solutions that strengthen regional mobility and improve quality of life; 
  • Educating and training individuals for the jobs that employers need to fill now and in the future; 
  • Increasing recognition of Greater Washington, from Baltimore to Richmond, as a vibrant hub for business and innovation; and
  • Building long-term leadership positions in high-growth industry sectors.
“The Greater Washington region is more than just home to our nation’s capital, it’s one of the most vibrant, diverse and dynamic places to live and work in the world,” said Russ Ramsey, CEO of Ramsey Asset Management, Chairman of the Greater Washington Partnership, and former Chairman of Washington 2024, the organization established to lead the region’s recent effort to host the 2024 Olympic Games. “The unity, goodwill, and cooperation achieved through the 2024 bid process provided a brief glimpse of what we can accomplish together if we harness the energy and untapped resources available to us. The Greater Washington Partnership is how we do that, and I am thrilled to lead an impressive and dedicated group laser focused on improving this great region we call home.”
-- Greater Washington Partnership

Of course, I would be remiss by not mentioning that this is another example of what Harvey Molotch calls the "Growth Machine," which makes the point that despite seeming intra-elite competition, local political and economic elites are for the most part united on a pro-growth agenda focused on intensification of real estate, since local governments are dependent on property taxes (and sales taxes) for the bulk of their revenues.

(Harvey Molotch's paper, City as a Growth Machine: Toward a Political Economy of Place, published in 1976, and later expanded into the book Urban Fortunes: Towards a Political Economy of Place, serves as the foundation for this theory.)

I don't have a problem with the reality that the Growth Machine exists and operates, but I do have a problem with how the agenda tends to be pretty narrow, developed as it is by a limited number of highly connected people (and their consultants) who don't seek out other ways of looking at the world, with a tendency to focus on big projects (see the discussion in Roberta Gratz's Cities: Back from the Edge, which I think of as a primer based on Jane Jacobs) that often don't have the kind of payoff that is touted.

Plus, while I believe this is an important initiative, it will be very difficult to balance the competing interests of two states and three metropolitan areas.

Relatedly, I wrote this as part of the BBJ op-ed:
While as a Washington resident I would never argue for re-merging the city into Maryland, Maryland should "take [virtual] ownership" of DC by recognizing it is the linchpin of the economies of Anne Arundel, Charles, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George's Counties.

For example, when we need a plumber at my house, we call one plumber exclusively. He lives in Charles County, but only works in DC, because he knows he can charge much more for his time and expertise--we're fine with that because he's willing to work with "historic buildings"without trying to make over the bathroom or kitchen fixtures into the latest and greatest from Home Depot--compared to his home market.

Like our plumber, with National Harbor and the new MGM Casino in Prince George's County, Maryland recognizes proximity to DC as a key competitive advantage.

But rather than cherry pick, the state needs to acknowledge the place and position of DC within its economy and act collaboratively rather than competitively.

In this vein, the State government needs to have an open mind about financial solutions for the DC-area's sputtering Metrorail system and should be "all in" on not only building the Purple Line as currently planned, but should initiate the planning process now for extending the Purple Line from New Carrollton to Alexandria—and extending the Purple Line from Bethesda to Tysons in Northern Virginia should be part of any discussions about rebuilding the American Legion Bridge.
And I think this verysame point is the crux on whether such an initiative can be successful.  Virginia and Maryland "have to take a kind of ownership" in DC being successful, even though DC will get some of those benefits too, not just their respective states.

It's about cooperation and collaboration not just marketing their states against DC on an almost continuous basis.

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At 5:05 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

At 9:03 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Looking at the list, seems far more Virginia dominant than Baltimore dominant.

You've got JHU and T.Rowe Price.

Bad hangover from the 2024 Olympic bid? Of course this idea goes all the way back to George Washington and his view of DC as a entrepoint to the west.

At 11:55 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I think your last paragraph is the best summation. Not wrt Geo. Washington, but a post-Olympics way to "keep the momentum going." And yes, much more DC-NoVA focused than DC-Maryland-VA focused.

2. Plus UM Baltimore's health sciences are significant too, not quite at the level of JHU but definitely up there. There are still some insurance companies in the area, although most have decamped from the city.

3. The thing about Washington is of course, once the railroads came about rivers and canals were no longer so important. I guess Washington was particularly focused on the C&O canal as the entrepoint to the west. Geographer Don Hawkins argues that became less important with the Louisiana Purchase, and the Mississippi River and New Orleans. But even so, the railroads meant that other more direct ways to the west were available rather than going through Washington.

4. Speaking of Baltimore, my op-ed published, and I am checking in with my ability to reprint it in the blog. It's locked so it isn't easily accessible without membership (or presumably using a more serious articles database).

they excised 3 items, which I will add to the blog reprint as a post-article addendum.

Anyway, for the most part, except for a couple elements, it is Maryland focused.

At 12:49 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Hey that is great about the op-ed!

I saw a presentation at the ANC on the "Douglas County MD" idea or retrocession.

Yes, the B&O made baltimore, and basically removed Washington.DC as "Gateway to the west".

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I don't like retrocession because DC controls its income tax revenue stream. Unless Maryland agrees to separate treatment. cf. Hong Kong, what China agreed to, and the reality. It's not like the UK is in the position to enforce the agreement, even if they cared to do so.

I think we do better the way things are as a city-state on a financial basis.

What do you think?

At 10:47 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Yes, the retrocession is a good way to frame the representation argument from the city -state argument.

I don't think having a voting congresswoman, or two senators, is going to give us the ability to tax consumers.

Or have a local justice system.

I'd rather see deals on returning local controls -- say allow a local district attorney, but one appointed by congress.

At 9:26 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Right! Build the case for "statehood" incrementally by taking on the responsibilities of a state and executing them at best practice levels, do innovative stuff, etc.

Yes it's true we "deserve" statehood as we are US citizens. If we can't have statehood then we shouldn't have to pay federal tax.

But few people care and they aren't going to be so motivated by a sense of justice that they will do much about it.

Better to build the case through successful action.

It will take decades to do it. The current state of affairs doesn't help. The bankruptcy in the 1990s didn't help. Etc.

At 12:48 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Minneapolis city leaves regional ec. partnership, questions benefits to the city.


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