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March 7, 2014

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Governor Considers Executive Order for Risk Assessment Tool Pilot Program

April 17, 2014

There may still be hope for a pretrial risk assessment tool in Maryland’s future. Governor Martin O’Malley is considering issuing an executive order creating a pilot program to test a statistical risk assessment tool for pretrial assessments. As reported in The Daily Record:

Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he may issue an executive order creating a pilot program for reforms to criminal bail procedures.

It would be the next chapter in Maryland’s efforts to comply with a Court of Appeals ruling that defendants have a right to legal counsel at every bail hearing. Legislators failed to agree on a solution this past session.

The order would create a pilot program that uses data on each defendant, such as criminal history, to assess the person’s risk of committing more crimes if released from jail.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, a bill (SB 973/HB 1232) revamping the bail reform system through a new pretrial service division and statistical analysis tool failed when the House and Senate could not agree on a compromised proposal to address the issue raised by the Richmond v. DeWolfe cases. Instead $10 million was added to State budgeted funds for panel attorneys to provide indigent representation at bail review hearings. One of the key areas of disagreement with the risk assessment tool proposal was the bill’s complete reliance on a computer running the tool without a court official making the final call. As noted in The Daily Record:

Anne Milgram, a former New Jersey attorney general now working with the Arnold Foundation, said criminal justice is far behind industries like health care and education in reliance on data.

“There is no area in America I can think of where it’s more important to do it,” Milgram said.

Milgram said computers aren’t necessary to run the Arnold tool — it can usually be done on paper within 30 seconds. So the process doesn’t need to shut down when technology malfunctions.

As for prior arrests, Milgram said some risk assessment tools do account for them, but the Arnold Foundation’s does not.

However, naysayers in Maryland are right concerning a key point: In Maryland, policymakers have discussed keeping human discretion out of the bail process, while in other states a court official makes the final decision.

Milgram said every jurisdiction using the Arnold tool still has a judge or court employee making the final decision about each defendant. The risk score is just a guide.

For more information read the full article in The Daily Record.

Analysis Questions Success of Light Rail Investments

April 17, 2014

An April 10 Atlantic Cities article  analyzed light rail investment made in five cities in the 1980s and found that the systems did not increase transit use or prevent a decline in the center city’s share of urbanized population, although it did appear to lessen the amount of decline compared to other cities that have not adopted light rail.  The article concluded that light rail can be an important component in revitalizing center cities but will not be successful on its own – transit-oriented development and planning and zoning changes de-emphasizing automobile usage are also necessary.

Based on the decisions to build these projects, which were made by hundreds of local officials and often endorsed by residents through referenda, you might think that the experience building light rail in the 1980s had been unambiguously successful. Yet it doesn’t take much digging to find that over the past thirty years, these initial five systems in themselves neither rescued the center cities of their respective regions nor resulted in higher transit use — the dual goals of those first-generation lines.

According to an analysis of Census data, in four of the five cities with new light rail lines, the share of regional workers choosing to ride transit to work declined, and the center city’s share of the urbanized area population declined, too. San Jose was the only exception, seeing a quarter of a percentage increase in the percentage of workers using transit and a 6 percentage point increase in its center city’s share of the urbanized area.  …

There is one metric by which the metro areas with 1980s light rail investments “thrived” more than others: core population….The median 1980s light rail metro saw its center city’s share of the urbanized area population decline by just 6 percent by 2012, compared to more than 10 percent for the 45 other regions with populations of more than 500,000 in 1980.  …

Even this relatively positive outcome doesn’t compensate for the fact that regions that invested in light rail in the 1980s largely failed to increase the share of workers commuting by transit, or to increase the vitality of their center cities with respect to the surrounding regions. Does this mean we should cease investment in new light rail lines? Certainly not; in many cases, rail has provided the essential boost to reinvigorate communities, and in some cases it has also resulted in higher ridership than before: just look at Rosslyn-Ballston in the D.C. region or Kendall Square in the Boston region.

But spending on new lines is not enough. Increases in transit use are only possible when the low costs of driving and parking are addressed, and when government and private partners work together to develop more densely near transit stations. None of the cities that built new light rail lines in the 1980s understood this reality sufficiently. Each region also built free highways during the period (I-990 in Buffalo, I-205 in Portland, US 50 in Sacramento, CA 54 in San Diego, and CA 237 in San Jose), and each continued to sprawl (including Portland, despite its urban growth boundary). These conflicting policies had as much to do with light rail’s mediocre outcomes as the trains themselves — if not more.


California Court Holds Electronic Communications on Private Devices Not Subject to Public Records Act

April 17, 2014

An April 9 Governing article reported on a recent decision by the 6th District Court of Appeals in California, which held that electronic communications about public business are not subject to the California’s public records laws if the communications occur on a private computer or device.  If upheld or let stand, the case could establish a precedent and affect public information laws in other states.  The article also discussed the challenges rapidly changing technology poses for public information laws.

Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit group that advocates for free speech and open government, explained that public records laws are built on a presumption that when writing or communicating about government business, that speech is public record. There are exemptions that address policy considerations that justify confidentiality at times, but it’s generally accepted that government communications can be requested by the average citizen.

“This goes way beyond that,” Scheer said, referring to the 6th District’s decision. “This simply creates a whole new parallel channel of communication which is totally untouched and unregulated and is outside of the freedom of information system and rules we have.”

The 6th District Court of Appeal’s ruling overturned a lower court decision that would have enabled a citizen to obtain messages sent on private devices through private accounts of the San Jose mayor and city council members. The California Supreme Court may take up the case, but if it doesn’t, the 6th District’s decision would stand, creating a precedent for similar situations in the future.  …

Chuck Thompson, general counsel and executive director of the International Municipal Lawyers Association, felt the situation in California was hard to judge because all states have slightly different open records laws. But he said the appeals court decision “does seem to conflict” with the laws other states have on the books.  …

Thompson believes there are a number of additional issues that states need to consider that could become public record law nightmares. He pointed to cloud storage and the federal communications storage laws and how they may impact future public requests for information.

Cecil County Executive Moore Selected for National Leadership Program

April 17, 2014
Cecil County Executive Tari Moore

Cecil County Executive Tari Moore

Cecil County Executive Tari Moore has been selected by the National Association of Counties (NACo) to be one of the 25 county leaders from across the United States to attended the County Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C. in June.  The institute is offered in partnership with Cambridge Leadership Associates.

Moore was nominated by Maryland Association of Counties’ Executive Director, Michael Sanderson, as

“an official with a commitment to developing collaborative and innovative solutions to local issues.”

From the Cecil Whig article,

“I am very excited about attending the leadership institute,” Moore said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s an honor to represent Maryland and I’m looking forward to meeting other leaders and sharing ideas that I will bring back home.”

The Cecil County press release notes

The Institute, now in its eleventh year, has graduated nearly 250 members from 45 states and 172 counties across the country.  Known for enhancing the capacity of county officials to identify and implement innovative solutions to the complex challenges facing county government in the 21st century, this year’s program will focus closely on the demands of personal leadership in a new era of government, one characterized as a “permanent crisis” by Cambridge Leadership co-founder Marty Linsky.

“The local elected officials who participate in the County Leadership Institute get tools, ideas, and perspectives they can’t get anywhere else,” said Karon Harden, Director of Professional Development, Education & Training at NACo.  “These county leaders not only discuss the core principles of public service leadership with prominent experts, they also collaborate intensively with each other to develop new ways to attack real-life issues of importance to the citizens of their counties.”

Extra for Education in Baltimore County Budget

April 16, 2014

As reported by WBAL,  Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced his proposed budget for fiscal year 2015, which devotes more money to schools with no increases to property or income taxes for the 26th year in a row.

Under the plan, $1.1 billion would go to school renovation and construction as part of a 10-year plan called Schools for Our Future. Kamenetz said it would add an additional 11,000 seats in county schools and would bring air conditioning to 97 percent of school buildings.

The school funds would also go toward investing in wireless classrooms, digital instructional materials, the One-Card safety identification system and expanded pre-Kindergarten access, as well as start-up costs for a new elementary school in Owings Mills.

The plan would also implement 90 new teaching positions to support enrollment growth and the opening of the new Mays Chapel Elementary School, as well as increase special education staffing.

For more information, see the full story from WBAL.

Other highlights of the Baltimore County proposed budget can be found on Baltimore County’s website.

Radio Show Covers Common Core Bills in General Assembly

April 16, 2014

Maryland Morning with Sheila Kast reviews education bills affecting common core implementation in Maryland from this past legislative session. Kast speaks with John White of the Maryland State Department of Education, Sean Johnson of the Maryland State Education Association, and the Maryland Reporter’s Glynis Kazanjian about several bills that would have changed implementation of the common core standards and the use of common core student test scores in teacher evaluations.

As described,

The General Assembly considered several bills to change implementation of the Common Core State Standards—or as Maryland refers to it—the ‘Maryland College and Career Ready Standards.’ Only three bills passed.

HB 1167 is one of the bills that the General Assembly passed this year.  HB 1167 Teachers and Principals – Performance Evaluation Criteria – Use of Student Growth Data prohibits use of student test scores for teacher evaluations and personnel decisions before the 2016-2017 school year. According to the Department of Legislative Services, as revised, the prohibition does not apply to a local school system and an exclusive employee representative that mutually agree to use student growth data based on the State assessments to make personnel decisions in accordance with an agreement executed on or after January 1, 2014, and before March 1, 2014.

For more information, listen to the complete segment of Maryland Morning.

2014 “90 Day Report” Now Available On General Assembly Website

April 16, 2014

The “90 Day Report” is now available online on the Maryland General Assembly website.  The Department of Legislative Services produces this report each year, which summarizes major issues discussed and/or enacted during the General Assembly session.

Sections of particular interest to local governments are listed below.


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