The governors of Maryland and Virginia trekked to Washington yesterday for lunch with Mayor Anthony A. Williams, the fourth time in the past two years the three leaders have met to discuss regional issues.
Their agenda, as in the past, included tourism, youth gangs, homeland security and the health of the Chesapeake Bay. They also signed a memorandum of understanding creating a tri-state council to develop a strategy for improving air quality in the region.
Though the Washington area has dramatically reduced ozone emissions since 1990, new federal standards require further effort, Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) said at a joint news conference at the John A. Wilson Building. "We're not going to get there with just local strategies. We've got to have state strategies," he said.
They worked during a 90-minute lunch at the Willard Hotel and an hour-long meeting in the mayor's ceremonial conference room, but Williams, Warner and Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) also focused on the bonding rituals that mark their meetings. In Annapolis in 2003, they shot a tourism commercial and ate crab cakes. In Richmond last spring, they joked about Washington's quest for a baseball team. And yesterday in the District, they joked about sports and voiced eager agreement on most issues.
"After two years, the governor of Maryland and the governor of Virginia still like each other. And that's the big story of the day," Ehrlich said.
They agreed, for example, that federal officials have improved communications about terrorist threats since the days after Sept. 11, 2001, but said more can be done. Ehrlich learned about a recent breach of Washington airspace by two confused Pennsylvania pilots from his homeland security adviser, Dennis R. Schrader.
Both Williams and Warner got the news from "the press," as Warner put it.
But "since it appeared that Congress, the president and others may not have been notified, either, the fact that the governor of Virginia wasn't notified puts me pretty far down the list. And in fairly good company," Warner said, to laughter.
One of the few uncomfortable moments came when someone asked whether Warner and Ehrlich would help Williams fight off a congressional attempt to repeal the District's handgun ban. Both governors said they hadn't been following the issue and couldn't comment directly.
But, Ehrlich said, "I have very clear views with respect to gun control. It doesn't work." And Warner added that he is "generally very supportive of people's Second Amendment rights."