BPW Approves Grants to Reduce Pollution, Improve Water Quality

The Maryland Board of Public Works has approved more than $92 million in grants to reduce pollution, improve water quality, and save energy and money. The board is composed of Gov. Larry Hogan, treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, and comptroller Peter Franchot.

According to The Garrett County Republican,

“These are smart investments to protect public health, prevent water pollution, and save money and energy in Maryland communities and the Chesapeake Bay. The Maryland Department of the Environment thanks Governor Hogan for his leadership as the new head of the six-state Chesapeake Bay Program and his support for local investments to protect a national treasure,” said Maryland secretary of the environment Ben Grumbles. “Providing nearly $100 million to upgrade key sewage treatment plants, septic systems, drinking water systems, and clean energy projects will help us to green and grow the state’s economy and lead in the race to protect and restore Chesapeake Bay watersheds.”

A $46,219,057 Bay Restoration Fund grant to Baltimore City will help fund the planning, design and construction of Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) and Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR) upgrades at the 180-million-gallons-per-day Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant. After the upgrades, the facility will reduce its nitrogen discharge by 83 percent, significantly reducing the amount of nutrients discharged to Back River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

Grants from the Bay Restoration Fund totaling $15 million will provide statewide funding for counties to upgrade on-site sewage disposal (septic) systems to significantly reduce the discharge of nitrogen, one of the most serious pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay. Counties will focus on upgrading septic systems located within the critical area. All 23 Maryland counties will benefit from the grants, a spokesperson said.

Grants from the Bay Restoration Fund totaling $4,776,900 will provide funding for operation and maintenance costs for 41 wastewater treatment plants operating at enhanced nutrient removal levels in 20 counties. The Bay Restoration Fund provides for up to 10 percent of the annual revenue generated from wastewater treatment plant users and deposited with the Maryland Department of the Environment to be allocated for such costs. The grant for each plant is up to $30,000 per million gallons per day of design capacity, with a minimum award of $30,000 and a maximum award of $300,000 per year for any plant.

Enhanced Nutrient Removal upgrades allow facilities to significantly reduce the amount of nutrients discharged to local waterways and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Excessive amounts of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus lead to lowered levels of oxygen needed to support aquatic life in waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay. The plants receiving these grants have reduced nitrogen discharges by more than 4,547,000 pounds per year and phosphorus discharges by more than 542,000 pounds per year. ENR upgrades of wastewater treatment plants are a critical component of Maryland’s Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan.

In Allegany County, a $2,135,875 Bay Restoration Fund grant to the city of Frostburg will help fund the next phase of the city’s efforts to separate its combined sewers and reduce the frequency and volume of combined sewer overflows during wet weather.

Read The Garrett County Republican to learn more.

Learn about how counties are addressing failing septic systems and reducing the amount of pollutants such as nitrogen that can flow into the Chesapeake Bay at this year’s annual MACo Summer Conference, “You’re Hired!” During the session, Flushing Your Troubles Down the Drain, the South Kent Island Solution, representatives from Queen Anne’s County will discuss how the county and the Maryland Departments of Planning and the Environment were able to solve this dangerous issue by connecting 1,518 existing homes and eight commercial properties to a safe and effective public sewer system.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Feds Cancel Plans For New FBI Headquarters

Federal decision-makers are scrapping the government’s decade-long plan to close the FBI’s deteriorating headquarters in downtown Washington and replace it with a new building in the Maryland or Virginia suburbs.

The Baltimore Sun reports,

The General Services Administration, the government’s landlord, plans to announce the decision Tuesday morning, according to an administration official familiar with the plans.

The GSA decided it could not go forward with the elaborate plan to replace the J. Edgar Hoover building because the project did not obtain all the required funding, the official said.

The agency had been planning a complex swap in which a developer would receive the rights to construct a new building at the current headquarters site, just off Pennsylvania Ave., a few blocks from the Capitol. In return, the developer would cover much of the cost of the new building.

With that plan now abandoned, the administration will need to come up with a new approach to resolving the FBI’s need for a new headquarters.

Maryland’s congressional delegation reacted with dismay to the news.

U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer called the reports “extremely alarming.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said it would be “unacceptable” for the administration to abandon relocation plans.

Officials from Maryland and Virginia have competed intensely for years to land the new headquarters, which would have been the largest new government building project in decades. But the rest of Congress had repeatedly balked at the huge price tag.

The previous administration had sought $1.4 billion for the project, which would have covered only part of the cost, but Congress earlier this year appropriated only about 60 percent of that.

The General Services Administration said in 2014 the project would be built at one of three locations: Greenbelt or Landover in Maryland, or Springfield, Va. Delays in relocation have added to construction costs and have forced the FBI to spend millions on rent.

The headquarters relocation would have had an enormous economic impact on Maryland and in Prince George’s County, where two sites were being considered. The FBI has about 11,000 employees and it would have been one of the state’s largest employers.

The FBI’s current headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building in downtown Washington, cannot accommodate all the agency’s employees. The headquarters workforce is scattered among about two dozen annex buildings in the Washington region.

The Hoover building, which opened in 1975, needs an estimated $80.5 million in repairs and upgrades. Parts of it have been covered in netting to prevent falling chunks of concrete from hitting the sidewalk.

Officials repeatedly have said that in addition to those problems, the building is badly out of date technologically and that updating it would be prohibitively expensive.

State and Prince George’s County officials had spent years wooing the FBI to relocate. The University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore planned to launch a joint national security academy. Gov. Larry Hogan pledged $317 million in infrastructure and traffic improvements to accommodate a new headquarters in Greenbelt, and $255 million for the Landover site.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Prince George’s County May Be In Running For New FBI Headquarters

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: New FBI Headquarters Decision Delayed

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Budget for FBI Headquarters May Not Be Enough to Move Forward

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: House Panel Approves Yanking Money for New FBI Headquarters

Water Companies Are Billions Short to Fix Country’s Aging Water Systems

You wouldn’t think a Civil War relic would bring you fresh, clean drinking water. But that’s how bad things have gotten with our nation’s aging water system.

According to WUSA,

Some pipes are so old, they are literally cracking at the seams.

The impact can be massive like the water main break on December 23, 2008, when a broken water main turned Bethesda’s River Road into a literal river. Five motorists were pulled from the torrent including a mother and child.

Three years later, there was another massive water main break. This one was in Capitol Heights. Luckily, there were no rescues, but the problem caused more destruction.

Then last May, it happened again. A broken water main on MacArthur Blvd. flooded homes. According to DC Water, the water main was almost 160 years old, installed in the 1860’s.

The damage and subsequent repair tied up traffic for days. “Yeah, traffic was pretty bad,” said neighbor Jeff McInturff, who fought the tie-ups for more than a week.

Meanwhile, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), the largest water provider in the DC area and one of the largest in the nation, said it’s spending $1.9 billion over the next six years to update its system.

“Our pipes, as you know, are out of sight, out of mind,” said WSSC General Manager and CEO Carla Reid. “It’s an uphill battle to try and replace them all.”

So why do water utilities feel like they’re swimming up stream? Because all that money they’re spending is still not enough!

At current rates, DC Water and WSSC are replacing just one percent of our aging water lines per year — and believe it or not, that’s still a lot faster than many parts of the country.

The American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the nation’s infrastructure a D-plus in its recent report card. ASCE estimated the country was $105 billion short of the funding it needs to fix the nation’s crumbling water and wastewater systems.

“The federal government has not done enough,” said Congressman John Delaney, D-Md.

Delaney introduced H.R. 1670, a bill to boost infrastructure spending by $1 trillion over the next 10 years, including major increases for water infrastructure. Delaney said he would close international tax loopholes to pay for the plan.

Despite sitting in the minority party, Delaney is hopeful that his infrastructure plan will get bipartisan approval. “We are kicking the can down the street by not doing this, because that has an impact on our economy and the lives of our citizens,” Delaney told WUSA9. “But we’re also increasing the cost over time.”

The question is how long can you outsmart, age?

So who’s paying for the repairs that are being made if the federal government isn’t? The answer: Citizens are responsible for the fees on the bill.

MACo has prioritized investment in local infrastructure as one of its core initiatives. Learn more about the initiative here and on Conduit Street at Local Infrastructure Fast Track (LIFT4MD).

Useful Links

Maryland’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: U.S. Infrastructure Gets “D+”; 24% of MD Roads In Poor Condition

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: MACo Advocates for Local Infrastructure Funding

Round Up the (Un) Usual Suspects – There’s a Broader Pool of People for Your Tech Hiring Needs at #MACoCon

MACo’s Summer Conference will be August 16-19, 2017. The theme is “You’re Hired!” and sessions will focus on economic development and ways counties can contribute to job growth in Maryland. Part of that discussion will focus on TechHire, the federal initiative that aims to to equip Marylanders with the skills they need to land jobs in the tech industry. In a session exploring this issue, participants will learn more about the TechHire initiative, including how local governments in Maryland can benefit from the program.

Round Up the (Un) Usual Suspects – There’s a Broader Pool of People for Your Tech Hiring

TechHire, an initiative powered by Opportunity@Work in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, is a nationwide, community-based movement that helps underrepresented and overlooked job seekers start technology careers. TechHire works with community partners and education providers that teach in-demand skills to people who want to take part in the modern economy—from overlooked youth, to veterans, to the long-term unemployed. Then, TechHire helps them find jobs by connecting them to a network of employers looking for tech talent. In this session, attendees will learn how to implement TechHire in their communities.

Speakers:

  • Keyon Smith, Community Engagement Manager, Opportunity@Work
  • Kati Townsley, Executive Director, Carroll Technology Council
  • Tracey Turner, Executive Director, Howard Tech Council
  • Denise L. Beaver, Deputy Director, Carroll County Economic Development

Date/Time: Thursday, August 17, 2017; 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

MACo’s Summer Conference is August 16-19, 2017 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland. Read more about this session and others in our registration brochure.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

How State Apprenticeships Could Ease Staffing Woes

It’s not unusual for firefighters and police officers to start their careers as apprentices. Some state agencies are also embracing the training strategy.

As state agencies face a wave of retirements, training programs such as apprenticeships can help fill open positions, give workers the skills they need, and reduce turnover. In Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe set aside funds in 2015 to expand federally registered apprenticeships at state agencies.

According to Route Fifty,

“It makes perfect sense for state agencies or county governments to utilize registered apprenticeships,” says Patricia Morrison, the division director at the Virginia Department of Labor who leads the state’s efforts to expand apprenticeships. The programs create a pipeline of younger, entry-level workers who will eventually replace retirees, she said.

Nationally, more than half a million apprentices are registered with the federal government, and many more — potentially up to a million — are employed in unregistered programs. Registered programs have to meet certain standards, and apprentices who complete such programs receive a journey worker credential that’s recognized by industry and the U.S. Department of Labor.

There’s no way to know the precise number of apprentices — registered or unregistered — working for state and local governments because of differences in how states track and report apprenticeship enrollment. But many police and fire departments use apprenticeships to train new recruits. Some local governments use apprentices to train technicians, such as the men and women who maintain water treatment plants.

All About the Credentials

Anthony Larry, 32, was one of the more talkative students in the road construction and drainage class that met recently at John Tyler Community College. He raised his hand repeatedly, and at one point he swung a foot swaddled in bandages — he’d injured it playing rugby — up onto the desk in front of him to elevate it.

He learned about the state’s apprenticeship for highway construction inspectors while working in maintenance at the Virginia Department of Transportation. Although becoming an apprentice meant taking a pay cut, he jumped at the chance to get on track to a higher-paying profession and take college courses for free. “Down the road, it opens so many doors,” he said of the program.

Apprentice pay varies throughout the state. In the Richmond area, pay for apprentice inspectors starts at $37,500 a year, and pay for inspectors starts at $42,000 a year, according to the department.

Transportation department inspectors monitor road building and repair projects, ensuring the work is structurally sound and the government is being billed properly. They need to know everything about road construction, from how to work with different types of soil to relevant environmental law.

Over the two-year program, Larry and his fellow apprentices, who are currently in their first year, will spend most of their time working under a senior inspector. They’re paid for their time spent in class, earning college credits they can put toward a degree or certifications they can show to future employers. They receive a journey worker credential when they complete the program, which they can use to find work in other states.

Creating an apprenticeship program was easy because the agency had a long-standing training program that already met the classroom and work-hour requirements for a federally registered apprenticeship. The agency had just never formally worked with the state Department of Labor to register the program.

“We were looking for an opportunity to take a training program that we had and align it with the governor’s intention to increase the number of workforce credentials in the state of Virginia,” said Bill Danzeisen, the transportation department’s technical training manager.

In 2015 the department registered its program and began using the community college system as a training partner, rather than the consultants it had used before. The agency took advantage of McAuliffe’s executive order, which set aside $120,000 to help state agencies create apprenticeships — parceled out as $1,000 per apprentice, up to $10,000 per program.

The money only covered part of the additional cost of the new program structure, Danzeisen said. Still, he said, the apprenticeship will pay off for both the department and its contractors. Some trainees will eventually leave for jobs in the private sector, but chances are they’ll return to the agency at another point in their career.

And the apprenticeship program is popular. Last year, 600 people applied for 40 open positions. Currently about a hundred people are enrolled.

Danzeisen says he’d like to add more apprenticeships. About eight months ago the department created a one-year apprenticeship for transportation operators, who do maintenance and drive heavy equipment. In the future, the agency may work with career and technical high schools to create an apprenticeship for vehicle mechanics.

Cost and Culture Challenges

For other state agencies, finding the money for an apprenticeship program is more complicated. In California, for instance, an apprenticeship program for nurses who work in the state prison system wouldn’t exist without help from a state grant.

The 34 licensed vocational nurses currently enrolled in the one-year apprenticeship are paid to work 20 hours a week and also are paid to study at a community college 20 hours a week. When they complete the program, they’ll be ready to become registered nurses and get a big salary bump. Ideally, they’ll continue to work for the state.

There are more than a hundred openings for registered nurses across the prison system that the state is desperate to fill. California Correctional Health Care Services and the Service Employees International Union Local 1000, which represents state workers, hope that the apprenticeship program will help develop a staff of prison nurses who are likely to stay in their jobs for longer.

“Working with prisoners is not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea,” said Joyce Hayhoe, director of legislation and communications for California’s inmate health care system. Turnover in some positions can be high, and it’s costly to recruit new nurses and train them to work in a prison environment.

The state grant will only cover the cost of training three groups of apprentices over three years, union officials say. And it doesn’t cover all the costs of the program. The prison health care system has to pay other licensed vocational nurses overtime or use contractors to fill in for the apprentices while they’re in class.

Hayhoe says the agency decided that the expense was worth it. But expanding the program will depend on whether the agency can secure more funding.

In Virginia, not all agencies have embraced apprenticeships. Only four took advantage of the governor’s incentive money: the transportation department, the University of Virginia, George Mason University, and Morrison’s own division at the Department of Labor. “One thousand dollars per apprentice is not that big of a selling point,” she said.

Morrison says the agency officials she talks to tend to be worried about the logistics of creating and managing an apprenticeship program. Human resources managers usually want to hire people who are ready to hit the ground running, and it can be hard to convince them to embrace training, she said.

Danzeisen says he hasn’t heard of any state transportation agency embracing apprenticeships the way Virginia’s has, although many officials he bumps into at regional and national conferences say they’d like to try. “A lot of the questions are, ‘How do you get started?’ ” he said.

He noted that an apprenticeship that works well for one agency in one state might not work as well elsewhere. In some states, highway maintenance and construction happens at the county and city level rather than the state level. Transportation agencies in such states might not need so many inspectors, he said.

Read the full article for more information.

Md. Cybersecurity Council Releases Biennial Report

The Maryland Cybersecurity Council, created by law in 2014, issued a biennial report highlighting legislation enacted to protect consumers and the development of a “Cybersecurity Breach Portal,” a one-stop portal housing resources and best practices to help prevent and address cybersecurity infrastructure attacks.

The report from the council is discussed on the Maryland Attorney General’s website:

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, Chair of the Maryland Cybersecurity Council, today announced the release of its Biennial Report, outlining the Council’s activities and updated recommendations based on its findings over the last 12 months. The report follows up on its Preliminary Report issued in July 2016, in which several of the Council’s recommendations have been implemented. The recommendations include enactment of several bills that expand protections for consumers, the creation of a portal to house best practices and additional resources to protect Maryland’s critical infrastructure. “The Council has made progress in its first year, but much remains to be done to protect against threats to Maryland’s citizens, critical infrastructure and state operations,” said Attorney General Frosh. “The recommendations developed by the Council provide a solid roadmap for addressing cyber security issues.”

In Fiscal Year 2016, the Office of Attorney General reported that there were 564 data breaches affecting more than 600,000 Maryland residents. According to the report, these breaches were due to phishing, retail malware, lost or stolen laptops or other devices, unauthorized access, and inadvertent administrative error, such as mistakenly sending personal identifying information to third parties not authorized to have it. In response, in the 2017 legislative session, at the recommendation of the Council, the Maryland General Assembly enacted bills to expand the protections under the Maryland Personal Information Protection Act (SB 525/HB 974) and to waive data breach victims’ fees for a credit freeze (SB 270/HB 212), effective January 1, 2018 and October 1, 2017, respectively.

In an effort to assist small and medium-sized enterprises that do not have the deep financial  and professional cybersecurity resources of much larger organizations, the Council developed, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Information Technology (DoIT), a one-stop portal housing resources and best practices to help prevent and address cybersecurity infrastructure attacks. The portal will be available in the fall of 2017, and can be found on the Office of Attorney General and the Maryland Cybersecurity Council websites.

The Biennial report also outlined updates on the recommendations the Council provided in its Preliminary Report from July 2016 to advance Maryland’s cybersecurity. The progress and full summary of each of the recommendations are detailed in the full report.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: MD Cybersecurity Council Calls for “Cyber First Responders”

The full biennial report is available online from the Attorney General’s Office

In the Heat of the Moment, Drones Are Getting in the Way of Firefighters

Soon after the Lake Fire started last month, it threatened hundreds of homes. Fire officials in Southern California’s San Bernardino National Forest, where the wildfire raged, responded quickly by sending helicopters and more than a thousand firefighters to combat the blaze.

NPR reports,

Mike Eaton was one of the pilots called upon to help fight the fire. On the evening of June 24, he recalls, they noticed a drone. The aerial attack was immediately called off, out of fear of a midair collision; the three air tankers attacking the Lake Fire were parked the rest of the day. And the fire grew as a result.

What Eaton and his fellow firefighters confronted wasn’t uncommon. At least five times this summer — and once this week — aerial firefighting operations in the West have had to be shut down because officials deemed nearby drones a threat to the planes and helicopters that drop water and retardant on fires.

And pilots like Eaton deem it no idle threat. Flying over wildfires is considered the most dangerous type of flight there is, outside of aerial combat. Robert West, who’s been doing this for 44 years, says that trying to spot tiny unmanned aircraft makes the job even more difficult.

“We usually have visibility problems anyway, with the smoke and keeping track of our lead planes and helicopters on the fire, let alone look out for a drone,” West says. “And by the time we probably saw something, if it was very small, we couldn’t do anything about it. It’d just be there.”

Those fears have very real consequences. In 2014, there were four known instances of drones interfering with aerial firefighting operations. That’s when people like Aitor Bidaburu began to worry.

“If we are putting the firefighters in a place where they can’t fully engage the fire because they don’t have the tools that they need, and the fires are gonna get worse and threaten communities, I think that’s a big issue,” he says.

Bidaburu is a wildland fire program manager with the U.S. Fire Administration in Boise, Idaho. He, like many in his line of work, thinks most of the problems are caused by hobbyists who just don’t understand the rules.

The Federal Aviation Administration says that it, too, prefers to focus on outreach right now, though a spokesman points out that the maximum fine for flying drones too close to fires is $25,000. And now, two California lawmakers have introduced a bill that would allow firefighters to destroy nearby unmanned aircraft.

The bill has skeptics, however.

“Nobody knows what it would look like if you would take a drone out of the sky right away,” [New York Times reporter Jenny] Medina says, “the mechanics of how it would play out and how it would work.”

And, she says, there are others who defend the use of drones for getting people a view of these wildfires that they might not have otherwise.

The issue is one the drone industry is watching. Some companies provide FAA literature on safe flying in drone packaging. Others, though, say that using cloud-based technology to teach unmanned aircraft where they should and shouldn’t fly is a better solution.

Legislation enacted in 2015 made Maryland one of only three states to grant the state government exclusive power to regulate drone usage, preempting municipalities and counties from enacting their own ordinances. MACo opposed this legislation as a preemption of county authority and was able to secure an amendment to assess the need for new laws or local tools after three years of industry maturation.

MACo, along with the Maryland State Police, are among the stakeholders charged with evaluating any safety or security problems arising from drone use as the industry expands in the years ahead. The stakeholder group will report its findings to the governor in 2018.

Useful Links

Attack on the Drones: Legislation Could Allow California Firefighters to Take Them Down

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Drones Carrying Defibrillators Could Aid Heart Emergencies

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Appeals Court Strikes Down Drone Regulation Law

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Drones Must be Registered Under New Federal Rule

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: General Assembly Passes Drone Bill With Study Amendment

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: To Detect, Deter, & Stop Unsafe Drone Use

Maryland Official Resigns from Trump Voter Fraud Panel

Maryland’s deputy Secretary of State has resigned from a controversial Trump administration panel probing alleged voter fraud in last year’s presidential election.

The Baltimore Sun reports,

Deputy Secretary of State Luis E. Borunda, a former Baltimore County school board member, informed the Hogan administration Monday that he resigned from Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, according to Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer.

Mayer said Borunda joined Trump’s 15-member bipartisan panel “on his own,” and was not appointed by the governor.

“He informed our office he has resigned from the commission,” Mayer said. Borunda did not respond to a request for comment.

President Donald J. Trump created the commission with an executive order in May after alleging millions voted illegally for his opponent in the presidential election, Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump has not offered evidence to back up his assertion.

Borunda’s appointment prompted some head scratching in Maryland. Unlike in many other states, the Secretary of State’s office in Maryland has no role in voter registration or the administration of elections.

Borunda’s resignation coincides with Maryland’s refusal to comply with a request from President Trump’s voter integrity commission to supply data on the state’s registered voters.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Md. Election Board Denies White House Commission’s Request For Voter Data

Read the full article from The Baltimore Sun

Md. Election Board Denies White House Commission’s Request For Voter Data

Maryland will not comply with a request from President Trump’s voter integrity commission to supply data on the state’s registered voters.

According to The Washington Post,

Maryland’s primary election (photo credit: The Washington Post)

Linda H. Lamone, the administrator for the state Board of Elections, said in a letter on Monday to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity that the request violates state election law.

“Disclosure of some of the information encompassed by your request may be prohibited under State and/or federal law,” the letter reads. “Accordingly, I am denying your request.”

Maryland joins more than two dozen other states that have partially or entirely rejected the request by the commission, which is chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.. The Maryland board had sought advice from state Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) on how to respond to the unprecedented request, which was made last week.

Both Common Cause Maryland and the ACLU of Maryland had raised questions about whether turning over the data would violate state election law.

Damon Effingham, legal and policy director for Common Cause Maryland, said Maryland law only allows only Maryland registered voters to request to inspect voter roll information. The voter has to submit a statement that the information would not be used for commercial purposes or purposes unrelated to the electoral process.

“Secretary of State Kobach is a registered voter in Kansas,” Effingham said in a statement. “And the request . . . does not include any indication of how the data will be used, let alone the required statement of intent under Maryland law. In fact, the Commission has stated its intent to release this vast trove of data to the public, creating significant concerns with how that data will ultimately be used.”

Click here to read the full statement from the State Board of Elections.

A Cool App? A Public Service? Or…Both?

The worlds of technology and public services continue to overlap in more ways – evidenced by the city of Louisville, Kentucky harnessing a popular free online application to help improve citizen notice of air quality issues.

From coverage in Government Technology:

As municipal governments across the country look to make open data sets easier for the average citizen to read and understand, Louisville, Ky., has adopted a new approach that it hopes can bridge this gap.

The method is commonly known as IFTTT, which stands for If This Then That, and is a free Web-based service used to create chains of simple conditional statements called applets. An example of one use would look something like this: If it snows overnight, then send me a text that tells me how much.

Louisville deployed the tech in January, connecting it to the city’s open data about air quality, and in recent weeks the city has added functionality linked to emergency notifications, said Matt Gotth-Olsen, a developer in Louisville’s Office of Performance Improvement and Innovation.

The way it currently works is that people can use it to set up an applet along the lines of: If air quality becomes hazardous, then turn the lightbulbs in my house orange. Louisville currently has a pilot project underway that involves distributing smart light bulbs to the public along with instructions on how to use IFTTT this way in order to showcase what the service can do.

Read more on the Government Technology website.

Visit the If This Then That website to learn more about its potential for you, or perhaps for your government’s services.