President’s Budget No Boon For Local Infrastructure

Despite much-touted plans for investment in infrastructure, President Trump’s proposed budget only depletes opportunities for Maryland counties to benefit from important transportation funding opportunities.

Transportation for America, an organization advocating for investment in “in smart, homegrown, locally-driven transportation solutions,” reports that the President’s proposal cuts funding for new transit lines, including the Purple Line. It also eliminates the popular Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, one of only a few programs which makes Federal transportation funds available directly to counties for specific infrastructure projects. It also terminates funding for long-distance passenger rail lines.

The President’s budget eliminates funding for building new transit lines – presumably including the Purple Line. Transportation for America reports:

This budget eliminates future funding for building new public transportation lines and service, threatening the ability of local communities of all sizes to satisfy the booming demand for well-connected locations served by transit. While the handful of projects with full federal funding grant agreements (FFGAs) already in hand would (theoretically) be allowed to proceed, all other future transit projects would be out of luck. The budget proposes to phase out future funding for what’s called the transit capital investment grants program — more informally referred to as New Starts, Small Starts and Core Capacity grants.

The Purple Line does not yet have its FFGA, placing the project’s projected $900 million in federal funds at grave risk. The FFGA was scheduled to be signed on August 4, 2016, but litigation delayed its execution.  According to the Administration’s budget proposal:

Future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.

The budget also eliminates the TIGER program. The fiercely competitive TIGER program funds innovative projects, including multi-modal projects, which leverage partnerships between multiple jurisdictions and the private sector. The program has brought at least $40 million in federal infrastructure investment to Maryland, including $10 million each for:

  • bus rapid transit along 14 miles of US 29 in Montgomery,
  • multimodal road improvements through the MD 175 Fort Meade Multimodal Accessibility Project in Anne Arundel,
  • Port of Baltimore enhancements including capacity expansion and construction of a rail intermodal facility, and
  • most recently, the North Avenue Rising project, which improves five miles along North Avenue in Baltimore City with dedicated bus lanes, roadway repaving, transit signal priority installation, enhanced bus stops, sidewalk improvements, bike share stations, bike lanes, and a subway station and intersection improvements.

 

The Administration’s budget proposal also cuts funding to Amtrak, and “terminates Federal support for Amtrak’s long distance train services.”

About Transportation for America:

Transportation for America is an alliance of elected, business and civic leaders from communities across the country, united to ensure that states and the federal government step up to invest in smart, homegrown, locally-driven transportation solutions — because these are the investments that hold the key to our future economic prosperity.

2017 End of Session Wrap-Up: Emergency Management

MACo works closely with its new Emergency Managers Affiliate and local public safety answering point directors to track policy related to 9-1-1 call centers and was heavily involved in SB 466, described below.

Follow links for more coverage on Conduit Street and MACo’s Legislative Database

Push Icons-MORE WORKMACo supported a bill to improve public safety communications in Maryland. MACo worked with bill sponsor, Senator Kagan over the interim on ideas for the legislation and was pleased to have her support on several amendments to the bill. As amended, the legislation expands the uses of a state funding mechanism for 9-1-1 upgrades and creates an advisory board that includes local 9-1-1 Center representation to help implement the next generation technologies throughout the State. Senate Bill 466, “Carl Henn’s Law,” passed the Senate but did not move in the House.  Bill InformationMACo Coverage

Click here for a round up of the wrap-ups for all policy areas

Grants Conference Opens Early Bird Registration

Early-bird registration is open for the annual Maryland Governor’s Grants Training Conference.

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Details:

Location: Marriott Conference Center at College Park

Date: Monday, November 13, 2017

From the Governor’s Grants Office:

We had another incredible turnout and exceptionally high survey rating last year. This year we want to exceed your expectations by offering you more opportunities to hear from expert speakers talking about relevant subjects that positively impact your organization and the communities you serve.

For more information, contact the Governor’s Grants Office.

Broadband Network Expansion Possible on Eastern Shore

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With Kent County, Maryland providing their citizens and businesses with high speed broadband, now Queen Anne’s County Commissioners will be holding a public hearing on bringing broadband to their county as reported by Queen Anne’s County.

From Queen Anne’s County:

At their March 28 meeting, the commissioners passed a motion to hold a public hearing and move forward with contract negotiations with FTS for design, engineering, construction, operations and maintenance of a fiber optic broadband network in Queen Anne’s County. A date has not yet been set for the public hearing.

FTS Fiber is a dark fiber provider offering carrier-class network infrastructure in both rural areas and major markets of the United States. FTS has two office locations in Maryland.

Kent County’s fiber program, a public/private partnership with FTS, won a MACo Best Practices Award in 2016.

For more information about Queen Anne’s County and broadband, see the Queen Anne’s County website.

AT&T Gets $6.5B to Build Nationwide Public Safety Network

AT&T has been hired by the U.S. Department of Commerce to build and manage a nationwide broadband network for public safety communication between first responders.

The $46.5 billion high-speed network aims to equip police, firefighters and emergency medical services with the tools they need for real-time communication during crises, such as natural disasters or shootings. It will cover all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and five U.S. territories.

According to Ars Technica,

The First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, was authorized by the federal government in 2012 and operates as an independent authority within the US Department of Commerce. AT&T has just been selected by FirstNet to build the wireless network and said that construction will begin later this year.

“FirstNet will provide 20MHz of high-value, telecommunications spectrum and success-based payments of $6.5 billion over the next five years to support the network buildout,” AT&T said in its announcement. FirstNet’s spectrum is located in the 700MHz band often used for consumer LTE networks.

The Federal Communications Commission raised $7 billion to fund the network in a spectrum auction that concluded in January 2015. Some of that money came from AT&T itself, as the company led all bidders with $18.2 billion of winning bids.

AT&T’s contract with FirstNet is 25 years long. “AT&T will spend about $40 billion over the life of the contract to build, deploy, operate and maintain the network, with a focus on ensuring robust coverage for public safety users,” the company said. AT&T will also connect FirstNet users to the company’s existing network.

FirstNet will solve a few problems, AT&T said. First responders currently use the same commercial networks used by consumers and businesses for mobile Internet service. “That can be an issue when a significant public safety crisis happens and commercial networks quickly become congested. It makes it difficult for first responders to communicate, coordinate and do their jobs,” AT&T said.

Overall, “first responders use more than 10,000 networks for voice communications,” and “these networks often do not interoperate, which severely limits their ability to communicate with each other when responding to a situation,” AT&T said.

FirstNet will cover all 50 states, five US territories, and the District of Columbia, including coverage for rural and tribal lands, AT&T said. Besides basic voice and Internet service, AT&T expects the network to be used for applications “providing near real-time information on traffic conditions to determine the fastest route to an emergency.” The network will also help enable technology such as wearable sensors and cameras for police and firefighters, “and camera-equipped drones and robots that can deliver near real-time images of events, such as fires, floods or crimes.”

Read the full article for more information.

DNR, U.S. Navy Partner with St. Mary’s County to Develop New Waterfront Park

The Board of Public Works (BPW) recently unanimously approved a program open space acquisition on 163 acres in St. Mary’s County to provide for the development of both active and passive recreational opportunities, and important water access to the Patuxent River.

According to DNR’s press release,

The property, known as the Snow Hill Farm, will be owned and managed by St. Mary’s County.

“This partnership among local, state and national entities translates to an extraordinary opportunity to help develop a new waterfront park in Southern Maryland,” Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “The property will provide expansive and extensive shoreline and beach areas, a protected cove, a motorized boat launch and plenty of open space for more passive recreational pursuits. It will be ideal for canoeing, fishing, hiking, kayaking, picnicking and more.”

The Program Open Space acquisition was leveraged with funding from the Department of Natural Resources, St. Mary’s County and the U.S. Navy. The $1.5 million acquisition is being shared among the partners with the Navy contributing $383,553 through the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program in exchange for a conservation easement on the property.

Program Open Space is a nationally-recognized program that symbolizes Maryland’s long term commitment to conserving the state’s natural resources while providing exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities for citizens and visitors alike. Since 1969, the program has provided funding for acquisition of 378,731 acres for open space.

U.S. House Transportation Chair on Infrastructure Funding: Get Shovels to the Ground, Fast

The U.S. House Transportation Committee Chair recently suggested that states that can move projects ahead quickly will have an advantage when it comes to benefiting from any federal infrastructure funds in the coming months.

According the the Route Fifty article,

If a major infrastructure package takes shape, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said a message for states would be: “you’ve got to get those dollars to shovels in the ground, fast.”

President Trump has called for a $1 trillion plan to direct public and private investment toward upgrading infrastructure assets around the U.S., such as roads, railways and airports.

Responding to a question about how to get money for new infrastructure investment distributed swiftly to help spur job growth—a priority for Trump—he replied: “Part of that mechanism we have to put in place is to reward states that are going to move very quickly.”

“We’ve got to get something done before next spring,” Shuster added, “whether it’s taxes, Obamacare, or health care reform, or infrastructure spending. Because the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate, they’re going to be on the line.”

Shuster said his hope is to have an infrastructure bill by this fall.

Hogan Criticizes Baltimore City Schools, Hints at Financial Control Board

Governor Larry Hogan criticized the Baltimore school system for its money management Thursday and suggested that additional financial oversight might be part of any deal to send more state aid to the city.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

Speaking with a hoarse voice at a wide-ranging news conference in Annapolis, Hogan said he recently had a “good meeting” with Mayor Catherine Pugh and expected to sit down with her again to discuss the school system’s $130 million budget shortfall.

However, the governor expressed dissatisfaction with the Baltimore school board — which he helps appoint — saying it kept “spending as if they thought they were going to get more money.”

In response to a question, Hogan said creating a financial control board could be on the table.

“It will be part of the conversation,” Hogan said. “So far we have had very preliminary discussions.”

While the governor did not elaborate, a financial control board is generally understood to be a panel that oversees a government authority, such as a school board, and has veto power over its financial decisions.

Congress imposed such a board on the troubled District of Columbia government in 1995 as part of the price for a financial bailout. The board kept watch over the District’s finances for six years. Two decades earlier, a similar board was created as part of a rescue plan for New York City.

Baltimore officials have pressed the Republican governor and members of the General Assembly to help close the schools’ budget gap, which officials say could lead to more than 1,000 layoffs and larger class sizes.

Hogan expressed a willingness to work with the city but gave no indication that a resolution was near. “It’s certainly not going to be a blank checkbook,” he said.

The governor’s comments came as Pugh and Baltimore schools CEO Sonja Santelises prepared to meet with city legislators in Annapolis on Friday morning. Del. Curt Anderson, a Democrat who chairs the city House delegation, said the officials are expected to lay out their plan to solve the school system’s shortfall and explain what they hope the state will do to help.

Pugh wouldn’t reveal details of what she plans to discuss, but said it would concern funding for city schools.

“We will provide assistance to the school system,” the Democratic mayor said.

She said the governor’s comments likely stem from their shared belief that there needs to be strict “fiduciary responsibility” of school system spending. The mayor said she believes the system needs to re-examine its structural costs, including funding for a large network of public charter schools.

During a school board meeting last week, Santelises — who has headed the school system since July 1 —dismissed any suggestion the district has mismanaged its money.

“Regardless of whatever narratives the community hears, this is not an issue of mismanagement. This is not an issue of lost money,” she said.

Anderson said the system’s financial woes were the result of events beyond its control. He rejected the notion of a control board.

“I don’t think we’re interested in reimposing any state controls over a local jurisdiction,” he said.

Useful Links

Previous Coverage on Conduit StreetBaltimore City Schools CEO Warns of Massive Layoffs

Article from The Baltimore Sun

Congressional Committee Chair Plans Broad Agenda Affecting Federal Workers

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, plans a broad and far-reaching committee agenda that includes measures to fire feds faster, pay some feds more and change the retirement system for new hires, of whom there would be fewer.

Maryland is home to some 300,000 federal workers and several agencies. That’s why it’s concerning to hear that Rep. Chaffetz wants agencies to consider locating more government operations outside the nation’s capital in an effort he dubbed “Divest DC,” a move that could be consequential for Maryland and its economy.

The Washington Post summarized some of Rep. Chaffetz’ plans in a recent article.

According to The Washington Post,

Federal employee retirement: Chaffetz wants retirement plans for new federal employees to move away from pensions, or “defined benefit” programs that rely on employer contributions, and lean more on employee funding through a system in which the government would make a “defined contribution.” Uncle Sam could even chip in more than he does to the 401 (k)-like personal investment program for federal staffers. Utah adopted this, he said, saving “billions and billions of dollars.” That may be good for Uncle Sam’s bottom line, but it probably means that individual workers would pay more out of pocket.

Hiring freeze: “We have good-quality federal workers,” [Chaffetz] said, “but we have too many of them.” Compared with the nation’s population, however, the size of the workforce has declined significantly since the 1960s. Chaffetz is considering legislation that would allow agencies to hire only one employee for every two or three who leave. But he said some agencies, such as the Secret Service, are understaffed.

Federal pay: This is one item of good news for a limited segment of federal employees. “There are some areas where we are probably going to have to pay people more money,” [Chaffetz] said, citing in-demand workers such as cyber experts in a very competitive market. Last year, Congress approved his legislation to provide back pay for previously uncompensated Secret Service overtime.

Divest D.C.: Chaffetz suggested that Congress could easily pass a measure pushing agencies to do a cost-benefit analysis comparing the costs of placing operations in the District with other locations. This, he added, could lead to a “more reflective government” and save money because the District is expensive, while helping local economies elsewhere.

“Everything in the federal government doesn’t need to reside in Washington, D.C.,” he said. Everything isn’t. About 85 percent of federal employees are outside the greater Washington area.

Read the full article for more information.

FEMA is Seeking Individuals for Reservist Program

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is looking for individuals to join its reservist program. The Reservist program is an opportunity for retired, professional, and early career job seekers.  Reservists work on an intermittent basis, supporting survivors of incidents.  They are the main FEMA workforce during an emergency or disaster that assists the agency in accomplishing its mission.  Each Reservist is hired to a personnel group (Cadre) based on his or her skills and experience.  The following FEMA cadres are currently seeking Reservists:

RESERVIST CADRES
Acquisitions Alternative Dispute Resolution
Disaster Emergency Communications Disaster Field Training Operations
Disaster Survivor Assistance Disability Integration
Environmental/Historic Preservation Equal Rights
External Affairs Financial Management
Hazard Mitigation Human Resources
Individual Assistance Information Technology
Logistics National Disaster Recovery Support
Office of Chief Council Operations
Planning Public Assistance
Safety Security

Join Their Team

Reservists help FEMA respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards by performing a variety of emergency management functions.  Reservists functions include, but are not limited to, disaster survivors assistance, conducting and verifying damage assessments, and providing administrative, and logistical support.  FEMA is currently seeking talented men and women who are eager to assist disaster survivors as Reservist employees. Industry experts are needed in the capacities of: human resources, public affairs, emergency management, customer service, security, logistics, communications, or public relations.  Candidates who seek a rewarding opportunity to assist disaster survivors when they are most in need should send their resume to fema-careers@fema.dhs.gov.

For more information on the Reservist Program visit http://careers.fema.gov/reservists-intermittent.