D.C.-Area Former, Present Leaders Discuss Issues

Metro, Redskins Stadium Among Chief Topics

A riveting discussion recently took place between D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, two of her predecessors and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks about the future of the Washington region.

The District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, Oct. 5 hosted the State of the District & Region Conference at the University of the District of Columbia in which former Mayors Anthony Williams and Sharon Pratt also participated. The discussion centered on how the District and Prince George’s County are doing well but have similar challenges and how they can work together collaboratively.

“We found out this week that the District has $80 million more coming into the city,” Bowser said, referring to the September revenue estimate by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. “We want to make that Washingtonians are prospering as a result of that growth. For example, we are working to build more affordable housing. The ways to build more housing is one of the critical ways that our city and region are competitive.”

Both Bowser and Alsobrooks say that Metro has been a boon to their jurisdictions but work needs to be done within the transit system and the immediate areas outside of it.

“The health of our Metro is a top issue,” Bowser said. “We could get more funding and support if we had six senators working together regionally.”

The mayor has long argued that if the District became a state, it would have two senators to see that the city would get the federal support that it needs.

Bowser said the bus system will play a key future in the District saying that “public transit is convenient and affordable.” She pledged to keep fighting for the city-owned bus system, the Circulator, to be free of charge instead of riders having to pay a $1.

Alsobrooks noted that Metro stations in Largo and New Carrollton have attracted new government agencies and businesses near them.

“Largo will be downtown Largo soon and there is the new medical center that is being built steps away from the Metro station,” the county executive said. “New Carrollton will be the new headquarters for Metro’s Maryland office and it is the only transit station in the country to have six modes that will include a commercial bus station, Metro, Amtrak and MARC.”

Williams and Pratt talked about the impact of gentrification on the District. Williams, who served as mayor from 1999-2007, said gentrification has come to the city but everyone benefits “when there is a general uplift of the economy.”

Pratt, the District’s mayor from 1991-1995, said gentrification “is a tough issue.”

“You need the taxpaying residents to support the city,” she said. “You have to find a way to attract that taxpaying population but keep your longtime residents. Everybody has to buy end on how to figure this out.”

While Bowser and Alsobrooks are political and personal friends, they do part ways when it comes to the fate of the Washington Redskins stadium. Bowser wants the stadium back in the District but said they are planning the future of the former site, Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, without a team or not.

“We’re not going to chase them down and we’d like them to be winners when they come,” the mayor said. “We don’t feel like we’re in the position to beg for this type of development. We have a great site; we think the best site in the region. And when the time is right, we’re going to make sure the site is activated.”

Alsobrooks said she wants the team to stay in the county but probably at another site other than the Landover location.

“We’ve got to re-envision the way the stadium exists today and have it be more of a destination that doesn’t just end on Sunday,” she said. “We’d want to build something that residents can enjoy all week long, even when games are not happening.”

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