'Washington-Baltimore' catches executives' ears

October 17, 1992|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Staff Writer Staff Writer Rafael Alvarez contributed to this article.

Move over, Fort Worth. Make some room, St. Paul. Scrunch on up there, Oakland.

If Maryland's preeminent business organization has its way, Baltimore will join these urban junior partners as one of America's official secondary cities.

The Maryland Business Council, led by former Baltimore County Executive Donald P. Hutchinson, has voted to endorse "Washington-Baltimore" as the name of the proposed consolidated U.S. census region.

Washington-Baltimore? Say it ain't so.

"It makes sense to take full advantage of Washington's name recognition," Mr. Hutchinson said in a statement dated Thursday. "As the nation's capital, Washington is in the national and international news every day. . . . We must leverage this to promote Greater Baltimore and the state of Maryland."

Needless to say, these views did not play well in Baltimore.

"Tell that to the people who wrote the alphabet! Tell that to the people who named the airport!" said Mary Pat Clarke, Baltimore's Democratic City Council president.

Getting in a partisan plug, she added, "Maybe they think that with Clinton in the White House, Washington deserves preeminence again."

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke could not be reached for comment.

According to the Maryland Business Council, the parent organization of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and the Maryland Economic Growth Associates, the U.S. Census Bureau is expected to designate the Baltimore-Washington -- or Washington-Baltimore -- a Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area by December.

Baltimore and Washington business leaders have long agreed that such a consolidation is desirable as a means of promoting economic development in the region. The combined region would add Washington, No. 8 in the country, to Baltimore, No. 18 in the country, and come up with a sum of No. 4 -- as in the fourth-largest metropolitan region in the country, an economic powerhouse of some 6.7 million souls.

But what to call that consolidated region has remained a sticking point.

Washington business, led by that area's Council of Governments, has long pushed for the "Washington-Baltimore" designation -- occasionally letting slip the sentiment that a city without a National Football League team can hardly expect to precede the Capital of the Free World.

Baltimore business leaders have been equally reluctant to play second banana to a city that doesn't have major league baseball and couldn't even keep the British out in 1814. Led by the Greater Baltimore Committee, they have steadfastly pointed

to census custom, which dictates that when two metropolitan regions are joined, the area with the most populous central city (read Baltimore) takes precedence.

But after a long civic stare-down, Maryland's business leaders have apparently blinked.

"It's significant to note that half of the Maryland Business Council board members also are prominent business leaders from the Baltimore area," Mr. Hutchinson said in a press release. "They recognize the need to set aside parochial considerations in order to best market our region for economic growth."

Some Baltimoreans, however, are in no hurry to put aside their cherished parochialism.

A spokesman for Gov. William Donald Schaefer stated that "the governor is on record as supporting Baltimore-Washington, not Washington-Baltimore."

"A lot of us think calling it Baltimore-Washington is a lot more natural thing to do," said Walter Sondheim, one of the architects of the city's Inner Harbor redevelopment.

"Why don't they just go a step better and call it Los-Angeles-Baltimore?" said Stephens Bunker, owner of a Fells Point marine curio shop. "It's much more glittery. It's a much bigger market, and it makes just about as much sense."

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