The county executive of Prince George's County wants to work more closely with the District of Columbia in solving problems that are common to both jurisdictions by utilizing a concept that has worked in other major cities across the country.
"Our future in Prince George's County is tied to the District of Columbia," said Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker.
"I consider the mayor [of the District] a good friend and we work in partnership."
Baker made these comments during a visit to The Washington Informer newspaper in Southeast on Wed., Feb. 29. The 90-minute editorial board meeting dealt with a wide range of issues – from working in tandem with the District to scarce affordable housing in Prince George's County.
Baker, 53, who lives in Cheverly, Md., said that the D.C. and Prince George's County governments should apply for federal grants in target areas inside the Beltway.
"We should go after development projects jointly," he said. He noted that the Metro stations in both areas are close by.
The county executive is a strong advocate of a concept known in some academic and business circles as regionalism. It is the belief that cities, counties, and in some cases, states, that are in close proximity should work together to accomplish common goals.
The District is the cultural and economic epicenter of the Washington, D.C. region that covers the city, Prince George's and Montgomery counties, and Northern Virginia areas that include Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, and increasingly Loudoun and Prince William counties.
New York City and Philadelphia are model examples of regionalism by urban planning experts in the same mode of the District. New York City serves as the economic and cultural hub for parts of New Jersey and Connecticut while Philadelphia does the same for southern New Jersey and Delaware.
Prince George's County was once largely a bedroom community to the District until the late 1960s, when Blacks began to move there in large numbers. However, many Black Prince Georgians still worked, attended church, entertained and even built and maintained their businesses in the District. That started to change in the 1990s as the county increased its Black population. Today, it's not unusual for Black Prince Georgians to come to the District only to work and to shop on occasion.
A great example of regional cooperation is health care, Baker said.
"Health care is a concern because Prince George's Hospital Center will be a regional health care facility because it transcends borders," he said. Baker said that Prince Georgians use the services of the United Medical Center in Southeast as District residents have historically used the Prince George's Hospital Center, which is based in Cheverly, Md.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) enthusiastically embraces regionalism and works closely with Baker, Doxie McCoy, a spokeswoman for the mayor said.
"We are working with Prince George's County and the other jurisdictions regarding Metro and transportation in general, as well as crime," McCoy said. "The mayor looks forward to speaking with the county executive on these matters."
Baker frequents the District on a regular basis to talk with federal officials, business leaders and for speaking engagements. He also attended the Ward 8 Summit last summer and said that he would like to have a similar event in the county.
Last year, Gray and city officials visited the Wegmans Woodmore in Lanham, Md. It's no secret that Gray wants to bring the high-end retailer to the city, with the Walter Reed site in Northwest as a possible home.
The Metropolitan Police Department and the Prince George's County Police have worked together to combat crime in the municipalities and unincorporated areas along the D.C.-Prince George's border. In February, the two police departments and the police force in Fairmount Heights, Md., started cracking down on prostitution on Eastern Avenue, which is a border between the two jurisdictions.
Baker said that in reference to the Washington area "that people are beginning to understand that this is a region."
"The issues that we face are regional," he said.
That's the point that Stephen Fuller, the director of the Center for Regional Analysis for George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., has been trying to make for years.
"Regionalism is critical to the success of the regional economy," Fuller said. "Too few public and business leaders don't get together to look for regional solutions to problems. The leaders get together in a crisis but they don't talk on a regular basis and they should."
Fuller praises Baker for his passion for regionalism, saying that "it is a rare leader that talks about this." He said that in the case of Prince George's County, it is often pitted against Montgomery County and that is not right "because we are in the boat together."