Building the Region

NCPC and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) recently assembled senior White House officials, local leaders, and federal agency representatives for a discussion on the key challenges facing communities in the National Capital Region.

Penelope Gross, Valerie Jarrett, and NCPC Chairman John Cogbill



The July 20 event at the National Press Club, Building the Region Together, covered several policy areas - including sustainability, transportation, and affordable housing - that can benefit from federal/local partnerships.

Senior White House officials Valerie Jarrett, Adolfo Carrion, and Xavier Briggs attended, along with elected and appointed officials from the District, Maryland, and Virginia. Senior representatives from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), General Services Administration (GSA), Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also participated.

Cooperation across jurisdictions has long been a priority shared by NCPC and MWCOG, the region’s forum for planning and policymaking. This summer’s meeting was convened to evaluate the regional coordination of long-term planning and development in light of the administration’s new focus on urban policy.

“The Administration’s policy advocates taking a regional approach to improving the economic competitiveness, opportunity, and sustainability of metropolitan areas,” said NCPC Executive Director Marcel Acosta. “A strong partnership between federal and regional leaders is key to positioning the National Capital Region as a model for federal and local cooperation.”

Feds Reach Out

With many years of experience at local levels of government, the White House officials were well aware of the challenges in getting federal and local authorities to work together efficiently. Ms. Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement, talked about her experience working in local government in Chicago and her frustrations with the slowness of the federal process.

“I would like to help improve this dynamic,” she said, expressing optimism about the interagency cooperation already underway on the federal level. “I plan to have an open-door policy, and I’m excited about the opportunity to improve the health and quality of life for the residents of this region.”

Xavier Briggs, associate director, Office of Management and Budget, echoed her sentiments. “We are very attuned to these issues,” he said, noting the Administration’s creation of the Office of Urban Affairs and the recent announcement of listening tours across the country. “We are eager for your ideas."

Adolfo Carrion, director of the newly created White House Office of Urban Affairs, praised the region as a pacesetter in federal and local cooperation. “We’re here to be your partners,” he said. “At the end of the day we’ve got to circle back to the nation’s capital, and we’ve got to showcase that it can be done.”

Local Leaders Voice Needs

The meeting provided local leaders with an opportunity to express their ideas, particularly with regard to sustainable transportation and housing policies. Harriet Tregoning, director of the DC Office of Planning, quoted figures demonstrating the District’s strong commitment to mass transit and called on the federal government to act as an “enlightened employer” by linking government workplaces and affordable housing.

Barbara Favola, chair of the Arlington County Board, added that greater flexibility was needed in regional public housing subsidies because of higher land costs in the region.

Gabe Klein, director of the DC Department of Transportation said he’d like to see dedicated sources of funding from the federal government that would encourage “more private sector companies [to get] involved in more innovative transportation solutions.”

Moving Forward

NCPC and MWCOG will continue to work with the Administration, federal agencies, and the region’s local jurisdictions to explore partnership opportunities in the National Capital Region.

“We look forward to collaborating with all of the region’s stakeholders,” said Marcel Acosta. “Our goal is to advance best practices that will help ensure this region sets the standard for America as a great place to live, work, and play.”

Read more about the event in a recent Washington Post column.