Howard County Executive Reorganizes Sustainability and Human Rights Offices

A December 22 Baltimore Sun article reported that Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has announced plans to reorganize the County’s Offices of Environmental Sustainability and Human Rights.  The article noted that the newly named Office of Sustainability will now review all county initiatives and programs for their environmental and fiscal effects.

The Office of Environmental Sustainability, meanwhile, will become the Office of Sustainability under Kittleman, who is proposing to expand the office’s role to “assess the economic, agricultural and environmental impacts of all initiatives and programs across the county” and “advise the county executive on major sustainability challenges facing the county.”  …

Both Ned Tillman, chair of the county’s Environmental Sustainability Board, and Jim Caldwell, acting director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability, called the reorganization a positive step.

“Expanding the office’s mission to incorporate all county initiatives is a logical next step to encompass all the major sectors of our community,” Caldwell said in a statement. “I am confident that the same level of innovation and success realized with our existing programs can be extended to these new efforts.”

The article also reported that Kittleman proposed the creation of a new hearing examiner to consider human rights cases, similar to how the County adjudicates zoning cases.

Kittleman proposes to shift the responsibility of hearing formal human rights complaints to a “trained and experienced hearing examiner,” according to the announcement Monday. Complaints have previously been heard by the county’s Human Rights Commission.  …

Genevievette Walker-Lightfoot, the chair of the Human Rights Commission, said in a statement that she was “enthusiastic” about the change, which she predicted would help the county “render more legally sustainable quasi-judicial decisions.”

Kittleman’s office did not expect either proposal to create significant new fiscal costs.