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Baltimore, Washington Vie To Be First In New Metro Name

December 1, 1992

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Washington may be the nation’s capital, but Baltimore wants top billing when the government names a new metropolitan area combining the two cities.

Washingtonians, on the other hand, say that playing second to the more working class Baltimore is unacceptable.

While most of the 6 million-plus residents of the Baltimore-Washington Combined Metropolitan Statistical Area - or Washington-Baltimore Combined Metropolitan Statistical Area - won’t care a lot, those who worry about image do.

The Census Bureau, following the 1990 census, decided that the two cities 30 miles apart had become so tied together in terms of development, commercial ties and commuting that it made statistical sense to consider them as one.

Whatever the name, it will become the nation’s fourth largest combined metropolitan area, after New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The federal Office of Management and Budget, after seeking the opinions of local congressional offices, will announce the official name by year’s end.

Baltimore says it’s entitled to go first because the city itself has slightly more residents than the District of Columbia. In other combined metropolises, such as Dallas-Forth Worth and Minneapolis-St. Paul, its always the larger city that gets top billing.

Decatur H. Miller, chairman of the Greater Baltimore Committee, notes in a letter to The Sun in Baltimore that there are other precedents - the Baltimore-Washington International Airport and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

″It’s a familiar and comfortable order. Why change it now?″ asks Miller, whose organization represents 800 Baltimore-area corporations.

Robert Grow, executive director of the (Washington-based) Washington- Baltimore Regional Association, disagrees.

″It’s not just an ego or provincial thing,″ says Grow. ″It’s best from an economic standpoint″ to emphasize the Washington end of the area.

Washington, as the capital, is a national and international focus of attention, and ″it makes sense to take advantage of that,″ he said.

Jerry Lowrie, president of The Greater Washington Board of Trade, also said it’s important that Washington goes first. ″Any trips that we’ve been on in terms of economic development, people always say Washington first and then they inquire about Baltimore.″

He said that besides being the capital, Washington has the nation’s highest median income, leads in high-tech employment and has a $3.7 billion hospitality industry.

As far as the population question, Washington-firsters argue that the Washington metropolitan area - the District of Columbia and its Virginia and Maryland suburbs - has nearly 4 million people, well above the 2.4 million of the Baltimore metropolitan area.

Among politicians, Sen. Charles Robb, D-Va., cites letters from local chambers of commerce and others in support of Washington going first. On the other side, Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who was mayor of Baltimore for 15 years, backs - surprise 3/8 - Baltimore.

″Baltimore has more people,″ asserts Schaefer press spokeswoman Page Boinest, ″and he wants to showcase Maryland.″ But she said the governor hopes the dispute can be settled amicably. The new metropolitan area ″is an exciting marketing tool, and we don’t want to get too bogged down with the name.″