Learning How PALS Program Can Help County Governments at #MACoCon

A panel discussed how the University of Maryland’s new Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) program can assist local governments in tackling complex policy issues broadly related to economic, social, or environmental sustainability at the 2015 MACo Summer Conference on August 12. Under the program, a county simply articulates its needs and University faculty and students from across campus pool their resources and thinking to analyze and address those needs.

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(Jan Gardner (standing) introduces PALS panelists (sitting from left to right) Matthew Davis, Jahantab Siddiqui, and Uri Avin)

National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education Planning and Design Center Director and Research Professor Uri Avin urged counties to view PALS as extension of your staff and stressed the cost-effectiveness of the PALS approach.  He also highlighted the “tremendous range of issues” the PALS program can tackle, including economic development, land use, transportation, environmental, and public safety challenges.

City of Frederick Comprehensive Planning Division Manager Matthew Davis discussed Frederick City’s positive experience with PALs.  The City felt it got a high return on the $90,000 it invested and received feedback on a variety of projects, including a hiking trail, and the Greater Carroll Creek revitalization project.  He also noted that the program provided a “morale bump” as students and professors were very interactive with the City.  Frederick City endorsed PALS and plans on using the program again.

Howard County Deputy Chief of Staff Jahantab Siddiqui noted that under the direction of County Executive Allan Kittleman, the County has expanded its sustainability office beyond just an environmental focus to cover a broad range of community issues.  The County felt PALS was a good investment despite budget pressures and both the Columbia Association and University of Maryland have shouldered some of the costs. The County is paying $75,000 and the Association is paying $25,000 for PALS to examine 38 wide-ranging county issues.  Several examples include: Route 1 revitalization and employment, a business model for profitable farming, returning offenders as employees, using the arts as a development tool, addressing stormwater runoff, and meeting the needs of an aging population.

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner moderated the Session.

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