Putting Our Best Food Forward: A Sea of Possibilities at #MACoCon

Maryland counties purchase billions of dollars of food each year for hospitals, jails, schools, senior programs, cafeterias, and other county-owned or -operated facilities. At this year’s MACo Summer Conference, attend this session to learn how to leverage this purchasing power to promote food that aligns with your county’s values of health, local economic vitality, and sustainability.

Putting Our Best Food Forward: A Sea of Possibilities

Description: Maryland counties purchase billions of dollars of food each year for hospitals, jails, schools, senior programs, cafeterias, and other county-owned or -operated facilities. Hear from panelists who have leveraged this purchasing power to promote food that aligns with their counties’ values of health, local economic vitality, and sustainability. Panelists will share concrete, cost-effective strategies to develop and implement food procurement practices that improve health outcomes for residents while supporting our state’s agriculture (and water!) system.


  • The Honorable Danielle Glaros, Council Chair, Prince George’s County Council
  • Chloe Waterman, Senior Food Campaigner, Friends of the Earth
  • Elizabeth Marchetta, Director, Food and Nutrition Services, Baltimore City Public Schools

Moderator: The Honorable Sheree Sample-Hughes, Maryland House of Delegates

Date/Time: Thursday, August 16, 2018; 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

MACo’s 2018 Summer Conference will be held Aug. 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center, in Ocean City, MD.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Finance, Infrastructure Among Local Priorities

In a survey of county and municipal local government officials, 181 elected, appointed an high-level career local government civil servants ranked “Taxation, Finance, and Budget” as their highest priority for the future success of their jurisdictions, followed by “Economic Development” and “Infrastructure/Transportation.”

The survey was conducted by Route Fifty. About 35 percent of respondents worked for county governments (or their states’ equivalent), and 63 percent of respondents worked for municipalities.

The survey acknowledged differing priorities among smaller and larger jurisdictions, as well as career service officials versus elected ones. From Route Fifty:

The type of jurisdiction that respondents served, as well as their career paths into public service, appeared to influence individuals’ priorities.

Career government officials, for instance, prioritized infrastructure and transportation more than their political counterparts did. They were also more likely to prioritize diversity, inclusion and citizen engagement than elected officials and political appointees.

Find the survey results here.

Keeping Cars Off the Boards Ain’t Cheap

Safety comes at a price. Unfortunately, Ocean City’s came in four times over budget.

In an effort to protect vehicular attacks on pedestrians on the boardwalk, the town looked into closing off all access points. Originally estimated to cost about $1 million, the plan is now estimated at more than $4.26 million. The town is looking at ways to reduce the cost without undermining utility.

Delmarvanow covers the story:

The project was originally proposed last fall after multiple deliberate attacks on pedestrians involving vehicles occurred in cities across the United States and abroad. In the last four years, at least 15 such attacks have happened around the world, according to USA Today.

Howard Moves Forward With P3 Deal For New Courthouse

Baltimore Sun article (2018-06-18) reported that Howard County has selected Edgemoor-Star America Judicial Partners to design, build, and operate a new 237,000 square-foot courthouse in Columbia. The new building will replace the County’s current Ellicott City courthouse, which is 175 years old. The article outlined how the public-private partnership (P3) agreement would work:

The project’s development group will finance the construction and also be responsible for designing the building and handling operations and maintenance under a 30-year contract using what the county has called “a hybrid financing solution.”

After 30 years, the county will take over the building, according to terms of the deal.
The article noted that the agreement has requires Edgemoor-Star America to use minority- and veteran-owned businesses for at least 15 percent of the work. Construction is scheduled to begin in August of 2019 and the building will open in the summer of 2021.

White House Releases Government Reform Proposal

On Thursday, the White House released a 132-page report detailing specific opportunities for reform of the Federal government. The comprehensive report lists 32 recommendations for organizational realignments, reassignments, consolidations, privatization of certain government services, disposition of government-owned assets, technology upgrades, customer service improvements, process reform, and more.

The report contends to address the federal government’s inefficiencies. It does not make recommendations for reducing the federal workforce – another goal put forth by the Administration.

The federal government is bloated, opaque, bureaucratic and inefficient.

– Mick Mulvaney, Director, White House Office of Management and Budget

silhouettes-81830_1920The report, “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century: Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations,”  comes out as most of the country focuses on immigration policy and reform. In fact, it appears few news outlets have picked up the report release at all.

But, Route Fifty did – with focus given to potential affects on local governments

One noteworthy change would shift the $3 billion community development block grant program, or CDBG, from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to a new Bureau of Economic Growth under the Department of Commerce. …

The reorganization plan would also move the federal supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, out of the Department of Agriculture and into the Department of Health and Human Services, which would then be renamed the Department of Health and Public Welfare.

Other noteworthy recommendations include:

  • Merging the Departments of Education and Labor into one Department of Education and the Workforce
  • Moving the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) Civil Works out of the Department of Defense (DOD) to the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of the Interior (DOI)
  • Reorganizing the Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Food Safety and Inspection
    Service and the food safety functions of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into a single agency within USDA
  • Merging the Department of Commerce’s (Commerce) National Marine Fisheries Service with DOI’s Fish and Wildlife Service, centralizing dam permit review
  • Selling specific transmission assets owned by the Department of Energy (DOE), and generally, focus on disposing unneeded or undesired federal real estate
  • Either wholly restructure the postal system or privatize it altogether
  • Reorganize the Department of Transportation
  • Limit federal support for home purchasing:

….ending the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reducing their role in the housing market, and providing an explicit, limited Federal backstop that is on-budget and apart from the Federal support for low- and moderate-income homebuyers.

Read the full report here.


NJIT Offers Two Free Brownfield Training Sessions




The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is offering two one-day training sessions on brownfield redevelopment on August 1 and 2 in Catonsville, MD. The courses are part of NJIT’s Technical Assistance to Brownfield Communities Program (TAB).

TAB Background

Basic background on the program is provided by an NJIT TAB Flyer:

NJIT provides free technical assistance to state, regional, county, tribal, and local government entities and nonprofit organizations interested in learning about, identifying, assessing, cleaning up, and redeveloping brownfield sites in EPA Region 1 (New England), Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic), and Region 4(Southeast).

Types of Assistance provided by NJIT TAB include (but are not limited to):

  • Guidance on funding opportunities
  • Explaining laws and regulations
  • Navigating regulatory programs
  • Consultant Procurement (review of draft RFPs, creation of evaluation criteria, consultant selection)
  • Review and critique of grant applications
  • Interpretation of technical and scientific reports and data (such as site characterization results)
  • Development of Strategic Plans
  • Development of community specific site evaluation and prioritization processes
  • Development of Corridor Assets and Needs Studies
  • Development of Site Redevelopment Visions
  • Explaining clean-up technologies
  • Design and conduct of community engagement activities
  • Educational workshops such as Brownfields 101
  • Seminars, Webinars, and Boot Camps on specific brownfield related topics
  • Community planning and visioning workshops
  • All-EPA Brownfield grantee meetings
  • And much more!

All services under TAB are provided free of charge.

Brownfield Basics Seminar

Date & Time: August 1, 2018, 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm

Location: 5522 Research Park Dr. Catonsville, MD 21228

Basic Information from the Brownfield Basics Flyer:

WHAT:  Join us in learning about Brownfields, methods for grant writing, and funding sources available for brownfield redevelopment.

WHO:  This workshop is open to Communities and non-profit groups from the Mid-Atlantic area interested in learning about Brownfields and federal funding programs to support Brownfields revitalization community efforts.

The cost of the seminar is free but attendees must register in advance.

Brownfields Green Infrastructure Boot Camp

Date & Time: August 2, 2018, 9:00 am – 3:30 pm

Location: 5522 Research Park Dr. Catonsville, MD 21228

Basic information from the Brownfields Green Infrastructure Flyer:

WHAT: This boot camp will be a hands-on session which will provide attendees with an understanding of the challenges, applications, techniques, and benefits of using Green Infrastructure (GI) on any project site, including the challenges of implementing GI on brownfield sites.

WHO: This boot camp seeks to engage community stakeholders, municipal officials, redevelopment authority staff, and planners.

There is no cost for the boot camp but attendees must register in advance.

If you have questions about TAB or either of the sessions, please contact Gary White at gwhite@njit.edu.

U.S. Senate Committee Passes Water Resource Authorization Bill

The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has passed a version of the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) authorization bill, the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 (H.R. 8). The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is scheduled to mark up the bill tomorrow.

NACo provides information on the bill. 

From the letter to the House advocating for WRDA, sent by NACo, National Governors Association, National League of Cities, United States Conference of Mayors, and National Conference of State Legislatures:

WRDA is critical in helping to protect, maintain and further develop our water infrastructure systems including, ports, waterways, and clean and safe drinking water. It provides states and local governments with added stability and certainty to meet water infrastructure needs while also supporting the safety, environmental protection and economic development of our communities. Following a seven – year gap in the passage of WRDA, Congress was able to enact both the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA) and the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016 (WIIN) on a bipartisan basis. We strongly urge Congress to stay this course and approve bipartisan WRDA legislation in 2018, and continue to authorize WRDA every two years moving forward.

The Senate version of the bill includes extensions to the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which provides low-interest loans to local governments and utilities to repair existing water and wastewater infrastructure. Route Fifty reports:

The version of the bill the Senate committee approved includes language that would effectively extend WIFIA lending terms to another set of waterworks programs known as the drinking water and clean water state revolving funds.

With the revolving funds, EPA awards “capitalization grants” to states. States contribute a 20 percent match, and then use the money to provide low-cost loans and other financing assistance for drinking water and wastewater projects. The funds are one of the primary ways the federal government provides support for local water infrastructure across the U.S.

The extension to WIFIA was originally proposed in the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now Act.

The National Rural Water Association supports the expansion, which it says will make it easier for rural communities to access the funds. The American Water Works Association, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, and the Water Environment Federation oppose the move, however. They argue:

…it would undermine the purpose and ability of WIFIA to effectively leverage limited federal dollars to support major water and wastewater infrastructure investments.

Helpful Links

SC18 Brochure Cover - final
Like water? Join us for MACo’s Summer Conference, “Water, Water Everywhere,” August 15-18, 2018 at the Ocean City Convention Center!

NACo Coverage

NACo’s WRDA letters to the Senate

NACo’s WRDA letter to the House

Route Fifty: Senate Panel Passes Water Bill That Would Rework Lending Program

Route Fifty: Tension Bubbles Up Over Water Infrastructure Bill in Senate

Prior Conduit Street coverage


Could a New Governance Board Guide MD School Reforms?

The Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education held its most recent meeting yesterday in Annapolis. Known as the Kirwan Commission because it is chaired by former University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan, much of yesterday’s meeting focused on creating a system of governance and accountability to coordinate, monitor, and evaluate the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.

The Commission was originally set to complete its work in time for the 2018 session of the General Assembly, but last October asked for an extension when it became clear the deadline was not realistic. Prior to breaking for the 2018 legislative session, the Commission released a preliminary report detailing its preliminary recommendations.

While the preliminary report did call for a strong system of governance and accountability to oversee the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations, it did not provide specific recommendations on the structure, role, and authority of such a system.

The discussion was centered around a set of design assumptions – an outline of potential recommendations based on previous discussions – focused on three elements:

  • The creation of an Independent oversight body to coordinate, monitor, and evaluate the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations via a strategic plan, with the body ceasing to function at the end of the implementation period.
  • Formula funding designed so that some meaningful portion of the funding will be subject to the approval of specific plans to implement the recommendations and subject to demonstrated progress toward greater student success.
  • Inspection teams to visit struggling schools and pair high performing school leaders with struggling ones to provide support and mentorship, and a complementary system designed to provide the State with a profile for every school.

The Commission grappled with how to structure the oversight body within State government, as well as the role and authority of the oversight body relative to existing State agencies, such as the State Board of Education and local school boards. Perhaps the most controversial question is whether or not the oversight body should have authority to withhold new funding from jurisdictions that fail to implement the Commission’s recommendations in a timely manner. That authority currently rests with the State Board of Education.

Although it’s clear the Commission is nowhere near reaching a consensus on how to best hold the State and local jurisdictions accountable for following through on its recommendations, Dr. Kirwan is confident the group will be able to work out their differences over the next several meetings.

In other news, each of the Commission’s four working groups met to continue their work on developing a consensus on the design, implementation plan, and cost for each of the preliminary recommendations. Once the working groups have completed their work, they will present their recommendations and cost estimates to the full Commission. The chair will work with staff and consultants to develop a draft cost estimate based on the recommendations of the working groups (as considered by the full Commission) for the full Commission’s consideration.

The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education was created by legislation introduced in the General Assembly. The Commission membership parallels that of the earlier Thornton Commission.

MACo is entitled to two representatives on the Commission, under the legislation. Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Chair, and Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Vice Chair, represent MACo on the Commission.

The Commission’s next meeting will be held on Thursday, June 28, 2018; 9:30 am-5:30 pm, at 120 House Office Building (House Appropriations Committee Room), 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, Maryland.

Materials from today’s meeting are available on the General Assembly website, and the meetings viewable online by searching the House Appropriations Committee room on the dates of each meeting.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Useful Links

2017 Preliminary Report

Previous Conduit Street Coverage

Conduit Street Podcast: Procurement, Property Taxes, & Public Works

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Barbara Zektick discuss the importance of procurement in county government, review a number of tax bills from the 2018 General Assembly Session, and explain the relationship between local departments of public works and the United States Federal Highway Administration. MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

May is Maryland Podcast Month! Visit Marylandpodcastmonth.com for more information.

Listen here:

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: 2018 End of Session Wrap-up: Property Taxes

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Yellow Lights: Don’t Mess With the Manual

Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)

Baltimore County Hears Budget, Two Post

Two people weighed in at the Baltimore County budget hearing this week – and one was not even a Baltimore County resident. But, that is still two more than spoke last year, Pamela Wood reports for The Baltimore Sun.

Mark Baskervill, a resident of Harford County but head of the Baltimore County Campaign for Liberty, spoke against cost-of-living increases to county employee salaries.

He also called attention to the fact that Moody’s, which rates the County triple A, had recently revised its outlook for county finances to “negative”:

“I would recommend spending cuts rather than increasing the debt to finance whatever programs you’re trying to do,” Baskervill said.


Moody’s still gives the county its highest rating of triple-A, but noted that the county faces “mounting challenges” and the need to borrow more money to pay for upcoming construction projects, including schools.

Wood also highlighted on Twitter that the County, in compliance with State law, had to advertise that it was increasing its property tax rate – even though it isn’t. That is because Md. TAX-PROPERTY Code Ann. § 6-308 requires this, right down to specifying the notice language and timeline. If a county will receive increased property tax revenues over the prior year, it must advertise that it is increasing the tax rate, although the rate will stay the same. This part of the law – much like Baltimore County’s existing and proposed tax rate – has been the same for decades.