MACo Submits Concerns to FCC Over Small Cell Order

MACo submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on a proposed order intended to streamline and reduce industry’s costs for the deployment of small cells in local right of ways at the expense of local authority. The FCC will vote at its September 26, 2018 open meeting on the order.

From MACo’s letter:

Expanding broadband access is an essential component for a county’s economic development and for the socio-economic advancement of its communities. However, MACo is concerned that the proposed language significantly impedes local authority over the expansion of broadband in public rights of way. It does not properly balance industry desires and public welfare.

Local governments are owners and guardians of taxpayer-funded infrastructure inside the local rights of way. Local authority and community decision-making are crucial to the deployment of small cells or any facilities in the local rights of way. Local governments must be able to protect the safety and interest of their communities.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, that the proposed FCC order would create new categories of “shot clocks”, limit application fees for all small wireless facilities, limit recurring fees for small cells in public rights-of-way, and limit allowable local aesthetic requirements among other limitations on local governments. Local governments are bound to manage deployments under FCC requirements.

Prior coverage from Conduit Street:

NACo Prompts County Action to Comment on FCC Small Cell Order

City Trash Cans Get a High-Tech Makeover

What is solar-powered, comes with Wi-Fi, and can notify its owners when it’s full? Baltimore City’s new “smart” trash cans!

The City has contracted with a company to install 4,000 of these new trash cans around the city to help improve trash collection and cleanliness.

WMAR reports:

These smart cans are so smart that the cans will let sanitation workers know when it’s time to empty them! The solar-powered cans come with Wi-Fi, which allows it to send information when it’s full to prevent overflowing.

Each trash can also acts as a trash compactor, so it can make more room until it needs to be emptied.

Visit WMAR to learn more.

Feds Award Maryland $39 Million to Fund Fight Against Opioids

Federal funding awarded to Maryland will be used to increase access to medication-assisted treatment and to fund community health centers, academic institutions, and rural organizations that are providing treatment services.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded over $1 billion dollars in opioid crisis funding this week with Maryland receiving $39.1 million of that pie.

The Baltimore Business Journal reports:

The awards, administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) come as part of the federal government’s “Five-Point Strategy” for facing the opioid epidemic, which it unveiled last year. The strategy calls for better addiction prevention, treatment and recovery services; better data on addiction and overdoses nationwide; better pain management strategies; better use of overdose reversing drugs like Naloxone; and better research around the overall effects of the epidemic.

Read The Baltimore Business Journal to learn more.

Related coverage from Conduit Street:

Feds to Grant Maryland $10M for Opioid Crisis

Allegany Establishes Public Transportation Task Force

The group, approved by the Allegany County Board of Commissioners, is tasked with studying public transit systems within the region. 

As reported by The Cumberland Times-News Allegany’s transportation task force was first proposed in August and already has a majority of the members appointed:

The first 14 members appointed to the board include representatives from local businesses, transportation providers, health care, social services and education.

However, [County Administrator Brandon] Butler said he would like to see at least two members who ride the local public transit system.

Read The Cumberland Times-News for more information.

Better Police Recruits Through Boot Camp? Baltimore City Tests New Programs

Boot camp is just one of the ways Baltimore City is turning to innovative programs to help improve recruitment of police officers.

An article in The Baltimore Sun reports that Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh has partnered with “Bloomberg Philanthropies-funded ‘Innovation Team'” to boost recruitment for the city’s police force. One of the first issues the group has tackled is helping recruits train to pass the fitness test through boot camp classes that meet three times a week:

The fitness requirement is a “huge barrier” for many recruits, said Major Brian Hance, who heads the department’s recruitment section. In 2017, 20 percent of applicants failed the fitness test on their first try, including 55 percent of women, he said.

Rather than turn away candidates who can’t pass the fitness test, “we want to work with them,” Hance said. “There’s a lot of good people out here.”

The Sun article notes the boot camp has shown promising returns with half of the participants passing the fitness test — all of which were women. The team has also launched an online application which has generated a jump in the number of applications the department has received. These initiatives are part of broader efforts by the Mayor’s office to boost attraction and retention of police officers as the department has been beset by vacancies and overtime hours officers must work.

To learn more read:

Baltimore police fitness ‘boot camp’ among new efforts to boost recruitment (The Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore City Looking to Diversify Police Force (Conduit Street)

NACo Prompts County Action to Comment on FCC Small Cell Order

Small Cell TowerComments are due to the FCC no later than 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, September 19. NACo has provided instructions and a template letter to help counties voice their concerns. 

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote at a September 26, 2018 open meeting on an order intended to streamline and reduce industry’s costs for the deployment of small cells in local right of ways at the expense of local authority. The order is modeled after preemption legislation that has been enacted in 20 states nationwide and has been pursued in other states with varying levels of success.

NACo explains that the proposed FCC order would create new categories of “shot clocks”, limit application fees for all small wireless facilities, limit recurring fees for small cells in public rights-of-way, and limit allowable local aesthetic requirements among other limitations on local governments. NACo remains concerned that the proposed order would impede a county’s ability to address public health and safety issues associated with deployment. Local governments are bound to manage deployments under FCC requirements:

If approved at the FCC’s September 26 open meeting, the new regulations would go into effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. Counties would then face enforcement action if wireless providers or other small cell applicants challenge them in court based on noncompliance with the above requirements.

To help protect local zoning authority, you can send a letter to the FCC expressing your opposition no later than 11:59 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, September 19. NACo has provided detailed instructions and a template letter to assist with registering your opposition with the FCC. Please be sure to customize this letter to provide information about your county before submitting your comments.

Small cells are wireless antennas that have a smaller footprint and shorter range than macro-cells (traditional cell towers) allowing them to be placed on shorter poles and existing structures such as streetlights and buildings to enhance broadband connectivity. Counties own substantial amounts of public rights of way therefore local authority and community decision-making is crucial to the deployment of small cells and any facilities in the local rights of way. While counties embrace innovation and the advancement of broadband technology, MACo opposed statewide legislation introduced last session that similarly would have significantly preempted local authority and also had inequitable impacts on local communities.

For more information:

America’s counties fight to protect local authority in broadband deployment (NACo)

Instructions and Template Letter (NACo)

FCC Announces New Order to Guide Small Cell Deployment (Conduit Street)

Streamlining Deployment of Next Generation Wireless Infrastructure (FCC)

City Sues Circulator Company Alleging Overbilling

Baltimore City is suing the company that operates the Charm City Circulator alleging that they have overbilled the City by $20 million.

As reported by The Baltimore Sun:

The city’s complaint, filed Wednesday in Baltimore Circuit Court, alleges the company billed the city for thousands of hours during which the free bus service was not operating since 2010. The city is seeking compensation for the alleged over billing.

The articles explains that Transdev Services Inc., disputes the City’s complaints as “meritless litigation” as they had an “unwritten mutual agreement.”

Read The Baltimore Sun to learn more.

24 Hour Crisis Center Could Come to Washington County

Washington County could be home to a 24/7 mental health and substance abuse crisis center if funds from the State come through. The Herald-Mail reports:

Vicki Sterling, director of behavioral health services at the Washington County Health Department, said she informally requested about $2 million annually for two years from the state to run the program.

In addition to the crisis center, Washington County’s request would include enough money to hire two more mobile crisis workers, joining one current employee. It also would allow the county to expand services and hours in assisting local authorities who encounter people with mental health or substance-abuse problems in the field.

The article notes that the center if funded could be up and running by December and would have space for 12-15 people at a time.

For more information read the full article in The Herald-Mail

Related coverage from Conduit Street:

Treatment Center Eyes Location in Washington County

Dr. Leana Wen Resigns from City to Take Helm of Planned Parenthood

Photo Source: Twitter @DrLeanaWen
Dr. Leana Wen (source: Twitter @DrLeanaWen)

Dr. Leana Wen has resigned from her position as Baltimore City Health Commissioner to head the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. 

Wen will replace Cecile Richard who decided to step down from the position earlier this year.

NPR reports:

Wen was an emergency room physician before she transitioned to the world of public health. She will continue to serve as Baltimore’s health commissioner for one month before she departs, according to a statement from the city.

In her new role, Wen will also be the president of Planned Parenthood’s advocacy arm, which lobbies for reproductive health issues, including wider access to abortion.

As reported in The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh will be immediately launching a national search to find a new health commissioner.

For more information:

Planned Parenthood Chooses Baltimore’s Health Commissioner As Its Next President (NPR)

Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen to serve as new head of Planned Parenthood (The Baltimore Sun)

MACo Announces 2019 Legislative Initiatives

MACo to prioritize education, public health, implied preemption, and NG 9-1-1 in 2019 legislative session. 

MACo’s Legislative Committee voted at their September 12, 2018 meeting to adopt the Association’s four priorities for the 2019 Session. These issues — Continuing State Commitment to Education; Re-Prioritizing Public Health; Repeal “Implied” Preemption Doctrine; and Next Generation 9-1-1 Implementation — cover a broad range of important county concerns that MACo will proactively advocate for in front of the General Assembly.

Each year MACo adopts a slate of top legislative initiatives, typically representing the wide swath of services counties deliver to Maryland residents. The Initiatives Subcommittee meets through the summer to refine and focus a list of dozens of proposed initiatives into no more than four as required by the Association’s bylaws. The slate is then presented to the Legislative Committee for adoption. With the upcoming election in November and potential changes in local elected officials serving on the Legislative Committee, the 2019 Legislative Committee will also discuss and vote to approve the initiatives again in January.

Continuing State Commitment to Education

Maryland’s commitment to Pre-K – 12 education must continue to meet the needs of a diverse student body, and to prepare Maryland’s children for a global economy.

The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education will recommend major shifts in the relative role of state and local funding in each of Maryland’s twenty-four jurisdictions. At the same time, the 21st Century School Facilities Commission and its legislative outcomes recommended an increased annual State contribution for capital projects, and required ongoing study of school construction project funding and priorities.

MACo advocates for a partnership approach to meeting the education and facility needs of Maryland’s students that fairly balances state responsibilities with local obligations, and seeks equitable and efficient solutions to meet current expenses and future goals. 

Re-prioritizing Public Health

Local Health Departments are the state’s frontline for public health services and education. Over the years, dramatic and lasting funding reductions as well as threatened cost shifts have endangered their capacity to provide these crucial services in our communities and have forced them to do more with dramatically fewer resources.

These cuts have been exacerbated by the opioid epidemic that continues to plague the state. The deadliness of the opioids that have permeated our communities makes it even more critical that local health departments and associated treatment services – beds, facilities, providers – are available to meet our residents’ needs on-demand.

MACo advocates to prioritize public health in the face of the opioid epidemic and crises to come by reviving local health department funding and targeting drug treatment funding to address demand where it is needed most.

Repeal “Implied Preemption” Court Doctrine

Maryland courts have adopted an inconsistent but growing theory of State preemption over local actions – finding that counties may be preempted even without any State law explicitly stating so. This principle was used years ago to invalidate multiple local tobacco regulations, and more recently on local pesticide oversight, and energy facility siting.

Legislation should specify that preemption should not take place in the courts by mere interpretation, but in the open and accessible lawmaking process, where all stakeholders may be heard on the merits of their arguments.

Next Generation 9-1-1 Implementation

It is time for Maryland to move to the Next Generation of 9-1-1 (NG911) service. Maryland’s current 9-1-1 Call Centers need additional support to accurately and expeditiously handle an increasing number of cell phone-based calls for emergency service. In addition, local call centers in Maryland are seeking to offer potential service enhancements for cell phone users, including video and text messaging, and improved location tracking accuracy.

Updating state laws, and the 9-1-1 financing system, to provide the flexibility and resources needed for this important step is a public safety priority affecting every part of Maryland.