The top elected officials in Virginia, Maryland and the District met here Friday to discuss regional issues, including the proliferation of youth gangs, homeland security and preservation of the Chesapeake Bay.
In a two-hour meeting at the governor's mansion, Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner (D), D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) met for the third time since April 2003 in what has become a regular event. As they have before, the governors and the mayor pledged to address traffic congestion in the District and promote tourism throughout the region.
In between jokes about the efforts of Virginia and the District to be the new home of the Montreal Expos baseball team, the mayor and governors said the region has taken "enormous" strides in developing anti-terrorism and preparedness measures.
Warner said it was essential for representatives of the two states and the city to be in contact with one another at all times, whether for planning or response.
"One of the most important things is making sure you don't have the duplication of efforts," he said at a news conference after their meeting. "One of the things we come away with is reiterating that if there is an incident or even the possibility of an incident that happens on either side of the Potomac, all three jurisdictions and all three chief executives need to know about that."
Williams and Ehrlich addressed concerns about the effectiveness of anti-terror spending, raised this week by the General Accounting Office, which found that as much as $340 million in federal funds to secure the Washington area against terrorism has been spent without a disciplined plan or system.
But both said that as Homeland Security's regional offices continue to develop, there will be fewer concerns about its functions.
"Now we have a department and a regional director, and you've got these two states and a city with guidelines," Williams said. "I don't think you're going to see that problem in the future."
Ehrlich added, "By and large, I've been pleased with the response from our local responders."
Ehrlich and Williams said the prompt response on the ground to an unauthorized plane that entered restricted airspace near the District before the memorial service for former president Ronald Reagan illustrates that security forces are on alert to potential emergencies.
"Step by step, you're seeing improvement," Williams said.
The Transportation Security Administration said that incident, which led to the evacuation of the U.S. Capitol, was the result of a communications failure between Federal Aviation Administration flight controllers and Washington air defense officials.
The summit also included a discussion about the proliferation of gangs, which has led to deaths and mutilations in Northern Virginia and the District recently. The three leaders were briefed by Richmond and Washington field officers for the FBI, who gave them updates on how the agency is tracking the gang activity. The leaders also said that the experience of working together on anti-terrorism efforts will help their governments jointly combat violent gangs.
Warner said gangs are not an urban issue only. He pointed out that the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia is also beset with the problem.
"We'll need the sharing of information with the authorities out there as well," he said after the news conference. "And we'll need it at the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland."
Warner and Ehrlich also said they hoped to draw more federal aid to help clean the Chesapeake Bay.