Former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams -- and, no, he’s not running for mayor again, so stop asking -- knows something about the Olympics.
Williams helped promote the 2002 Washington-Baltimore bid to host this year’s games. The Washington region lost out to New York City as the representative city from the United States. New York subsequently lost to London. “I supported our bid, I was hugely behind it,” Williams said this week in his offices at the Federal City Council. “It’s an enormous amount of work, and it does require a lot of lead time.”
But what does he say about a nascent effort to reunite the region to bid on 2024? Dan Knise, who was president of the 2012 bid for this region, floated the idea in The Baltimore Sun. But Williams says not so fast.
“This is a different story,” he said of the intervening years. “We want to talk to our business leaders and our community before we step behind something like that. But it’s worthy of consideration.”
Williams only recently became head of the Federal City Council, an influential business group. He was careful to embrace the idea of an Olympics bid, but also to draw a sharp line on whether it would be pursued.
A similar tone of cautious inquiry came from Jim Dinegar, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade.
“The Olympics are really the granddaddy of all the sporting events,” he told NBC4 Monday, “and there’s no better region in the United States, certainly maybe in the world, than the greater Washington region with Baltimore -- wonderful partners, great venues, Potomac River, Chesapeake Bay, so much going on around here.”
But like the former mayor, Dinegar knows the hurdles involved.
“It would be a wonderful place … to host this event. Having said that, it’s an enormous undertaking, and it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The business community is well aware of the opportunities associated with it, but we don’t underestimate the challenges associated with putting on such a spectacle.”
DC Chamber of Commerce president Barbara Lang echoed the other leaders.
“I think that would be cool having the Olympics in Washington,” Lang said, noting she was the new leader of the Chamber when it helped support the 2002 bid.
“It was a major undertaking. It would be nice if the regional partners came together, but we can only do this if it is a regional initiative.”
And this being the nation’s capital, what of the tremendous security concerns? Given the day-to-day security presence, that might not be a huge problem.
“If anybody can handle the security and all that kind of preparation, it’s certainly this region, certainly this city,” Williams said.
Keep in mind that the bids to host the 2024 Olympic Games will be reviewed beginning in 2015, and the host city or country will be chosen in 2017.
• Commuter tax time? If we could, we would have positioned ourselves simultaneously in each of the Maryland and Virginia suburbs recently to see and hear the gasps when someone dared mention the words “commuter tax” for our region.
The congressional delegations from Maryland and Virginia, regardless of party, were apoplectic at the thought that the District might tax the workers who stream in from the suburbs every day. That’s about 400,000 workers, according to the city’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer.
In simple language, Maryland and Virginia have been draining billions of dollars from the nation’s capital. The suburban states made sure the city’s Home Rule Act in the 1970s banned a commuter tax. If the city -- like any other jurisdiction in America -- were able to tax commuter earnings, then the city would be in a position to lower the overall tax burden for everyone.
But that means commuters would deduct from their state tax returns the 1 or 2 percent paid to the city. And that would mean the states of Maryland and Virginia would lose huge sums.
It’s been a hopeless battle for the District to even think about changing the Home Rule Charter, until now.
California Republican Darrell Issa, who chairs the U.S. House committee that oversees District matters, surprised everyone recently by saying he wants to revisit the issue after the summer recess.
Here’s the only argument he has to make: Why do the other 48 states allow Maryland and Virginia to use the nation’s capital as their own piggy bank?
As one regional official said, it’s not fair, it’s not right and it’s not defensible.
To sweeten the deal, the District could agree with Congress to use all of the commuter tax revenue for roads and Metro. Something like that would make sense. Stiffing the District doesn’t.