Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott Talks Restaurant Grading

October 29, 2014

In an interview on Center Maryland’s: Inside Out, Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott discussed proposed legislation for restaurant grading as well as greater transparency and citizen access to health inspection information.


Montgomery County Council Votes to ‘ban the box’ for Job Applicants with Criminal Records

October 29, 2014

Montgomery County’s Council voted unanimously in favor of legislation aimed at helping those with criminal records find employment.

The council unanimously passed “ban the box” legislation that prevents employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal record until the end of the first interview.

However, it excludes any jobs where state or federal law requires a completed background check, such as child care workers, teachers and those working with vulnerable populations.

According to Montgomery County Council’s press release,

The movement to “ban the box” began in Hawaii in 1998. There are now 13 states and more than 60 local jurisdictions that have adopted some form of “ban the box” legislation.

For more information, see the full story on Gazette.net and our previous posts, Prince George’s County Council Considers Bill to “Ban the Box”Baltimore City Council Passes “Ban the Box” Bill for Ex-Offenders, or this detailed information on Montgomery County Council’s Bill 36-14.


DHS Secretary Urges Local Governments to Remain Vigilant

October 29, 2014

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson has requested enhanced Federal Protective Service presence at U.S. government buildings as well as increased vigilance from local governments and the public at large against suspicious activities. As reported in a NACo County News Alert:

In a statement released late this afternoon, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson announced he had ordered the Federal Protective Service to step up its presence at various federal buildings in Washington, D.C. and throughout the country. He also urged “state and local governments and their law enforcement personnel… to be equally vigilant, particularly in guarding against potential small-scale attacks by a lone offender or a small group of individuals.”

For more information read the NACo County News Alert and DHS Press Release.


New Report Urges Changes to the Tax Sale Process

October 29, 2014

A new report released by the Abell Foundation urges changes to the tax sale process in Baltimore City.

As reported by the Baltimore Sun,

The report calls on Baltimore officials and the Maryland General Assembly to add protections for owner-occupied homes and simplify a city system that often confuses homeowners, enriches investors and adds to the number of vacant properties that line neighborhood streets.

Tax sale reforms have been raised in the past and statewide legislation passed in 2008 to provide additional protections to homeowners and to improve the fairness and accountability of the tax sale process generally. However, the fair application of public taxes and charges necessitates that these be paid by all taxpayers – sporadic or uneven implementation simply permits some to avoid paying while the vast majority bears their fair share of the costs of public services. Property taxes are the primary source of revenue for government budgets and holding or the potential of a tax lien sale is an effective way for local governments to collect the money to pay for critically needed local services, such as education, police and fire protection.

From the Sun story, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake noted the City’s multiple advances on these fairness issues:

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she’s committed to finding ways to make sure residents can stay in their houses, but her administration sees the $250 threshold as constructive by forcing homeowners to address the debt before it grows any larger.

Rawlings-Blake pointed toward multiple programs the city has in place to help low-income and elderly residents, including discounts on water bills, savings accounts for future tax bills and energy assistance. She said the city also has an early warning system in which city agencies reach out to identify residents at risk of losing their homes.

 


A Map of Broadband Infrastructure in Counties

October 29, 2014
Screenshot 2014-10-29 08.44.42

Courtesy of NACo research.

The National Association of Counties (NACo) recently added broadband data to its County Intelligence Connections (CIC) mapping tool, with information from Federal Communications Commission.  The CIC tool includes indicators of fixed internet connections, fixed internet providers, and mobile internet providers, which may each be selected through a dropdown list under “utility” data.

Screenshot 2014-10-29 08.57.08

Courtesy of NACo research.

For Maryland, the map shows the number of fixed internet connections, fixed internet providers, and mobile internet providers in each county and Baltimore City. The numbers differ from county to county, with the following ranges:

  • fixed internet connections, ranging from up to 1000 to less than 200 connections per 1,000 households in a county
  • fixed internet providers, ranging from up to 24 to less than 6 providers in a county
  • mobile internet providers, ranging from up to 8 to less than 4 providers in a county

Broadband infrastructure partnerships between the public and the private sector will likely be essential to developing the nationwide public safety broadband network known as FirstNet. The Maryland Association of Counties continues to follow and play a role in the progress of planning for FirstNet’s deployment in Maryland.  For more information, see our previous post,  Maryland Seeks to be First in FirstNet Public Safety Broadband and Maryland’s FirstNet website.


Commuters to Monitor Road Conditions Through Online Pilot Program

October 29, 2014

Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation is getting ready to pilot a new program that will allow commuters to monitor road conditions from their computers or mobile devices.  County officials plan to have the “situational dashboard” operational by the first snow fall.

As reported by The Gazette,

This winter season, we will continue to work to ensure that our roadways are cleared and safe for the motorists in Prince George’s County, and we will also take a proactive approach to enhance communications with our residents,” Darrell Mobley, director of the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation, said in a statement.

Paulette Jones, Mr. Mobley’s Special Assistant, shared additional information about the dashboard.

The Situational Dashboard will provide weather reports and real-time views of major county roads, Jones said, through a partnership with the State Highway Administration, allowing access to their cameras.

It will also link with the county’s Automated Vehicle Locator system, which allows travelers to track all county and contractor snow vehicles to see where they’ve been and where they’re going, Jones said.

The situational dashboard is being developed by the county’s engineers and information technology department.


Fitch Reaffirms Talbot County’s AAA Bond Rating

October 28, 2014

Fitch Ratings has reaffirmed Talbot County’s AAA Bond Rating stating that it believes “the County’s stable economy, ample revenue flexibility, and careful expenditure management should support sound reserves over the longer term.”

From the county’s press release,

In their rating assessment, Fitch noted, “Despite a structural imbalance in the general fund from fiscal years 2010 to 2012, the County consistently exceeds its fund balance policy, which calls for unrestricted reserves in the general fund to exceed 15% of general fund spending.”

County Manager Clay Stamp said, “With a conservative approach to budgeting during unprecedented fiscally challenging times, Council leadership, along with a highly capable staff, has well-positioned Talbot County to continue to provide services to the citizens of our community.”

The County Council recognized Angela Lane, the county’s finance director, for her oversight of the finances and applauded her staff for their financial management.


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