Nowadays it's tough to get District, Maryland and Virginia officials to agree on anything. But on one burning issue, they appear united in their opposition: Uncle Sam's attempt to mingle the name of Arlington with that of Washington.
If the Federal Committee on Metropolitan Statistical Areas, an interagency task force, does not change its mind before June 30, the Washington metropolitan area will become known--in federalese--as the "Washington-Arlington Metropolitan Statistical Area," and will be expanded to include Frederick, Calvert and Stafford counties.
Metropolitan Statistical Areas, basically a central city and its surrounding areas, are designated by the Office of Management and Budget and are used by the Census Bureau and federal agencies for doling out money. Arlington and Washington became a couple because Arlington has more than 100,000 jobs and is considered, at least by the Census Bureau, the equivalent of a city.
So, what's in a name? Quite a lot, judging from letters received by the Office of Management and Budget from protesting local officials.
D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy writes: "Washington is the nation's capital. Thus it holds a position unlike that of any other metropolitan area. The image of the city would be tarnished if the name . . . were changed."
D.C. Mayor Marion Barry Jr. says: "To link it Washington with a suburb in nomenclature would tend to diminish its national image."
Northern Virginia Rep. Stan Parris worries "that such a change would be harmful to the county of Fairfax and the City of Alexandria," both of whom oppose the new name.
And Maryland Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes complains that the new title "would create the inaccurate perception that Arlington is more urbanized that other suburban areas of Maryland and Virginia."
Some businesses worry privately about the consequences of the name change on marketing, although none have filed public complaints. Some in the advertising industry believe the name "Washington-Arlington" would be confusing. Others says companies can avoid the whole mess by using the term "Greater Washington Metropolitan area."
For newspapers, radio and television stations, there is an additional problem. When they want to determine how well they are read, listened to or watched, they survey the people who live within the Metropolitan Statistical Area. The addition of outlying counties like Calvert, Frederick and Stafford, where the Washington-based companies are probably not as popular, could lower those averages, some marketing analysts said.
OMB spokesman Edwin L. Dale said Friday that none of the "preliminary designations"--also known as proposed name changes-- are set in stone. The Federal Committee on Metropolitan Statistical Areas is reviewing the complaints, and the final verdict will be out in the new few weeks, according to Dale.
Meanwhile, the folks in Arlington are being philosophical.
"We've always thought that Arlington was the center of the metropolitan area and we're glad the federal government finally recognized it," said Arlington Del. Warren G. Stambaugh. "But I don't think it's one of those big burning issues here. . . ."