Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr. said yesterday that he will meet on Tuesday with D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman John F. Herrity to iron out details of a regional job program.
Last week, in an action that was both criticized and praised by other area officials, Moran sent a letter to Barry expressing disapproval of a District plan to train and transport workers for suburban jobs.
After Fairfax County officials announced a glut of unfilled blue-collar jobs brought by rapid development, Barry, a Democrat, outlined a plan June 11 to spend more than $300,000 to screen, train and transport District workers to the suburbs, particularly Fairfax. On July 10, he asked other Washington area officials to assist in employing District workers.
"Since Alexandria has more low-income job-seekers than jobs, it does not seem fair or logical to set up a program to bring in D.C. residents to compete with our own low-income unemployed," Moran, a Democrat, wrote in a letter to Barry July 24.
Yesterday, Moran said he changed his mind about cooperating in a regional plan because he had received assurances that Alexandria's unemployed would also be eligible for job openings in Fairfax and other jurisdictions.
Herrity, a Republican, said yesterday that he believed that Moran needlessly criticized Barry's plan last week. "If any county wants to participate they can; that's the way the plan was originally stated," Herrity said.
The Fairfax board chairman noted that the new Radisson Mark Hotel in Alexandria advertised for weeks before attracting enough workers to fill 450 openings. He suggested that the new Alexandria mayor was seeking headlines in his attack on the job plan: "He's the biggest flannel-mouthed Irishman I've met, and my grandfather's from Ireland . . . . I think he felt he wasn't getting enough press."
While the District has the area's highest unemployment rate, 8.0 percent in May, Alexandria, at 5.5 percent, has a higher unemployment rate than Arlington County (4.4 percent), Fairfax County (3.1 percent), Prince George's County (3.0 percent) and Montgomery County (2.2 percent), according to employment officers.
Alexandria City Council member Lionel R. Hope, a Democrat, said at the conclusion of a council meeting early yesterday that he would have preferred for Moran to have consulted with the council before sending the letter to Barry. "We could have gone about it another way . . . . We like to cooperate with other regions."
Prince George's County Council member Jo Ann T. Bell, also a Democrat, said yesterday she supports Moran's insistence that suburban job-seekers be encouraged to use the proposed regional job bank. "I think we should all be included," Bell said. She added that Barry's policy of refusing to hire suburban residents for District jobs was "hypocritical."
Edward Meyers, planning director for the D.C. Department of Employment Services, said the city has already begun spending the $300,000 allocated for matching District workers with suburban jobs. Meyers, who is supervising the regional job plan, said he did not believe that any suburb, including Alexandria, would have as great a need or commitment to finding jobs for its unemployed.