This was MACo’s third record-breaking year in a row with final attendee registration totaling 1,266, exhibit booths coming in at 236, booth staff numbering well over 980, and 61 Tech Expo booths. Thanks to all who participated!
On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Michael Sanderson and Kevin Kinnally are joined by MACo’s Legal and Policy Counsel, Les Knapp, to discuss the future of Smart Growth in Maryland, the health of the Chesapeake Bay, and recap #MACoCon. Listen in to hear an update on “A Better Maryland,” the ongoing implementation of the Chesapeake Bay’s “pollution diet,” and the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirements established by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and overseen by the Maryland Department of the Environment.
MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching ConduitStreet Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan provided the closing remarks to the 2018 MACo Summer Conference on August 18, 2018. Hogan highlighted several issues important to county governments during his speech, including economic development, education, the environment, health, and transportation.
Hogan thanked county leaders for their dedication to Maryland and their local communities. “Real leadership isn’t about making empty promises, it is about making tough choices,” Hogan stated. He praised the MACo Summer Conference for both its education and networking opportunities.
Hogan noted that one of his primary goals was to “make Maryland more affordable for all Marylanders.” He stated that his Administration has cut taxes and fees by $1.4 million and repealed an estimated 850 regulations to spur job and small business growth. The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development has created opportunity zones throughout the state to encourage economic growth. The Governor said that during his term, Maryland has gained 100,000 jobs, the best growth rate in over 15 years.
Hogan stated that his Administration has spent a record $25 billion in K-12 education over the last four years. The Governor also highlighted bringing increased accountability to public schools and strengthening school safety by adding more school resource and mental health officers.
Citing the importance of bipartisanship, Hogan stated that he worked with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch to protect health insurance coverage for Marylanders and limit rate increases.
On the environment, Hogan focused on the Chesapeake Bay, noting that his Administration has spent $4 billion on Bay initiatives, including fully funding the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund and Program Open Space. As Chair of the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council, Hogan promised to continue to push upstream states to do their fair share of restoration work.
Transportation and Highway User Revenues
Hogan stated that his Administration has spent $8 billion on transportation projects in every county throughout the state and repaved half of all state roads during his 4-year term. The Governor noted his support for the restoration of highway user revenues and cited the doubling of county highway funds during the 2018 Session as an important success. “We now have a path forward to fully restore highway funding,” Hogan said.
Hogan concluded his remarks by stating, “Working together we have changed Maryland for the better.”
MACo President and Anne Arundel County Council Vice Chair Jerry Walker opened the session and introduced the Governor. Walker thanked Hogan for specifically addressing county issues while in office, such as local autonomy, land use decisions, unfunded mandates, and highway user revenues.
The MACo Winter Conference will be from January 2-4, 2019, at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, Maryland.
The previous Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permitting process was controversial and spawned litigation from both county governments and environmental groups. The current MS4 permit round also poses challenges and 2018 MACo Summer Conference attendees received the state and county government perspectives on the issue. The panel “Surviving the Stormwater Surge: MS4 Permit Update” took place on August 17, 2018. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is delegated authority to issue and enforce the MS4 permit from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
MDE Sediment, Storwmater and Dam Safety Program Manager Jennifer Smith provided an overview of where counties are at in complying with their existing MS4 permit impervious surface treatment goals and the issues MDE is trying to address in the pending round of permits. Smith stated that the 10 counties subject to a Phase I MS4 permit have spent about $1.3 billion for impervious surface treatment projects. However, despite that investment, the vast majority of counties will need more time to meet the current permit’s requirements. Part of this is due to high project costs, limited opportunities for constructing stormwater retrofits, and delays in getting necessary permits. Smith explained that MDE will try to increase flexibility in the next round of permits by allowing water quality trading, clarifying how to count restoration credits, and authorizing pilot alternative practices. The pending permit will contain an additional impervious surface restoration requirement but MDE is still working on the details. The EPA is also requiring milestones be built into the next permit. The draft Phase I MS4 permit will be released at the end of 2018 and issued in June, 2019.
Montgomery County Deputy Director of Environmental Protection Patty Bubar discussed the County’s experience as a “permit pioneer” by being the first county to get the 20% impervious surface restoration requirement in its 2010 permit. Since that time, Bubar stated that the County has restored 2,927 acres and has 851 acres to go to meet the 20% requirement. Bubar described the retrofit and tracking challenges the County initially faced as well as the types of projects and programs the County has used. The County has changed to using Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund loans for capital projects as the loan has a lower interest rate than bond issuances. As the County failed to meet the 20% restoration within the 5-year life of the permit, the County has had to enter into a consent decree with MDE in April of 2018. In exchange for an extension to meet the restoration requirement, the County has to pay $300,000 fine or contribute an equivalent amount towards an approved supplemental environmental project. Bubar stated that the County is well on the way to meeting the consent decree’s deadline.
Anne Arundel County Watershed Protection and Restoration Program Administrator Erik Michelsen described Anne Arundel’s MS4 approach. The County spent almost $2 million updating records and submitting them for permit credit. Michelsen stated that the County has completed 475+ culvert and storm drain projects that have not been credited to MS4 permit efforts. Ninety-nine plus permit approved water quality improvement projects complement another 174 projects that remain underway. The County will have to spend approximately $250 million to meet the 20% restoration goal and collects about $22 million annually from its stormwater remediation fee. Michelsen also discussed how the County used “pay for performance” and “turnkey” type projects. Michelsen stressed that the Bay Restoration Fund was an invaluable funding source and “something that Marylanders should be proud of.”
Maryland Delegate Marvin Holmes moderated the panel.
At the 2018 MACo Summer Conference session “Active Shooter Response Training“ Deputy First Class Thomas Wehrle, Sniper Section Coordinator, Special Operations Division for the Harford County Sheriff’s Office gave attendees a crash course in how to prepare both mentally and physically to survive an active shooter situation before law enforcement arrives.
Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Deputy Wehrle shared up-to-date data and facts on active shooter situations and walked through how to handle your survival options: (1) run, (2) hide, or (3) fight if you must.
The session was moderated by Harford County Council Member Jim McMahan and held on Saturday, August 18, 2018 at the Roland Powell Convention Center.
Attendees to the 2018 MACo Summer Conference heard about the latest in Smart Growth and land use issues, including the new state development plan “A Better Maryland,” at the “Smart Growth Next: How Do We Grow From Here?” panel on August 17, 2018.
Maryland Special Secretary of Smart Growth Wendi Peters provided an update on “A Better Maryland.” Representatives from the Department of Planning held listening sessions in every county in the state and the Department is continuing to filter through the numerous public comments it has received. Peters said the new state plan will be focused on “a respect and support for local government.” Public feedback centered on two core principles: (1) economic development; and (2) the environment. Peters said the plan will be based around these two core principles and four key themes that also emerged from the comments: (1) housing (specifically the need for housing that is affordable for various income levels); (2) collaboration (both within Maryland and with other states); (3) regionalism (“one size does not fit all”); and (4) infrastructure (development, maintenance, and ability to address new technologies like autonomous vehicles.) Peters also stressed the importance of the state in providing technical assistance, training, and data to local governments.
National Center for Smart Growth Executive Director Gerrit Knaap offered thoughts on Smart Growth turning 20 years old and how the policy could be updated. Knaap noted that while Maryland remains at the forefront of Smart Growth, the state’s policies have fallen short of the stated goals set out in the 2011 Smart Growth Indicators Project. Knaap suggested revisiting the planning visions to address issues that he felt were missing, including: (1) resiliency/climate change; (2) renewable energy; (3) public health; (4) economic opportunity and equity; (5) human capital education and workforce development; and (6) “smart city” technologies (autonomous vehicles, high speed Internet, etc.). Turning to a “A Better Maryland,” Knaap criticized the previous and now defunct plan “PlanMaryland” as being too top down in its approach and creating another layer of planning designations. Knaap recommended the formation of a state-local advisory committee to help with the drafting of “A Better Maryland,” built from local comprehensive plans and coordinated with other state plans for transportation, climate, housing, and economic development. Knaap urged to make the plan a strategic development plan and not a land use plan.
Garrett County Planning and Land Management Director Deborah Carpenter offered a county perspective on the issues. Carpenter opened by challenging a perception that people in rural areas are anti-Smart Growth because they are ignorant and obstinate. Carpenter stated that most rural residents agree on a lot of Smart Growth principles (mixed used development, walkable neighborhoods, transportation options) but have pushed back against the Smart Growth “brand” because the policy failed to recognize the diversity of the state. Carpenter offered five suggestions as Smart Growth moves forward in Maryland: (1) find a confluence between aspirational goals and actual policy implementation; (2) every aspirational goal and implementation strategy should be reviewed to make sure it works in different regions (Western Maryland, Central Maryland, Eastern Shore, etc.) and in different growth (urban, suburban, rural) environments; (3) review Smart Growth terminology like “transit” and “density” to avoid “one size fits all” definitions; (4) provide incentives to make areas where we want growth more attractive rather than trying to regulate against people living in certain areas; and (5) Smart Growth policies should acknowledge that while some areas of the state need to control sprawl, some areas have no growth or are losing population.
Maryland Delegate Stephen Lafferty moderated the panel.
County officials packed the Performing Arts Center at the Ocean City Convention Center at 9:00 am to receive an update on the health and restoration progress of the Chesapeake Bay during the 2018 MACo Summer Conference. The “Clear Water: The State of the Bay” panel was held on August 17, 2018, and included perspectives State, federal, and environmental perspectives.
Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles discussed the improving water quality of the Bay watershed while taking a “glass half full” approach. Water quality has improved and the overall size of the annual oxygen “dead zone” has decreased. Maryland remains a leader in Bay restoration efforts and the State has spent over a year developing its Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP). Looking forward, Grumbles stressed the need for a multi-pronged strategy that includes: (1) holding our partner Bay states responsible for their water pollution, especially Pennsylvania which is 37 million tons behind on nitrogen reductions; (2) focusing resources on the agricultural sector and reducing sewer overflows; (3) addressing the pollution coming through the Susquehanna River and Conowingo Dam by creating a separate Conowingo WIP; (4) incorporating climate change into the WIP; and (5) getting the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address air pollution generated by out-of-state coal power plants.
Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources Mark Belton addressed ecological and recreational improvements made to the Bay. Belton noted that he sees waterways cleaned of debris, improving fishery health, conversation law enforcement taking place, navigation channels open, and better water recreation access. Belton highlighted five initiatives/programs supported by the Administration of Governor Larry Hogan, including: (1) the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund; (2) Program Open Space; (3) the Rural Legacy Program; (4) the Waterway Improvement Fund; and (5) the Climate Leadership Academy.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost concurred with Grumbles, noting that Bay restoration efforts can be viewed as a “glass half full.” Prost stated that in 1982, scientists said that the Bay was dying. Now people view the Bay Restoration effort as a model program. Prost stressed that success is happening because of collective action, including by local governments, and that the 2-year Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) milestones have been critical in focusing efforts. Prost noted that Maryland has been meeting its milestone goals overall but falls short on addressing urban/suburban stormwater runoff. Prost several needed actions going forward, including: (1) supporting the Maryland Department of the Environment’s water quality certification requirements for the Conowingo Dam; (2) engaging with Pennsylvania and the EPA to get Pennsylvania to meet its TMDL goals; (3) stable funding levels at the state and federal level; (4) better financial strategies for stormwater projects; (5) more technical assistance; (6) more oysters through both aquaculture and the use of sanctuaries; and (7) more trees through stream buffers and a strengthened Forest Conservation Act.
National Association of Counties Environment, Energy and Land Use Associate Legislative Director Julie Ufner closed the panel by providing an overview of recent federal actions affecting Bay restoration. Ufner noted that while President Donald Trump had proposed a dramatic decrease for federal Bay restoration funding, Congress has disagreed and allotted $73 million for Bay cleanup efforts. While Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler continues to work on rewriting the “Waters of the United States” definition under the Clean Water Act, the federal District Court of South Carolina just issued an injunction against Trump’s hold. That means the controversial 2015 rule will go into effect in 26 states, including Maryland. (Countersuits are very likely.) Ufner noted that midterm elections may upend a lot of congressional priorities. Current legislation contains a provision prohibiting EPA from spending funds to enforce the Bay TMDL but that provision could be cut from the final bill. Finally, Ufner noted that currently the House version of the Farm Bill has a provision limiting local governments from regulating pesticides.
Maryland House of Delegates Environment and Transportation Committee Chair Kumar Barve moderated the panel.
Attendees of the 2018 MACo Summer Conference session “Handle with Care: Substance Exposed Newborns” received an update on recent changes in federal and state law concerning substance exposed newborns and learned about what some counties are doing to provide earlier intervention and better management of care for substance abusing mothers and their substance exposed newborns.
Brandi Stocksdale, the Acting Deputy Executive Director for Programs in the state’s Social Services Administration, set the stage by presenting on federal requirements for addressing substance exposed newborns and the recent change in state law to ensure compliance with federal standards. The bill, which was introduced by Delegate C.T. Wilson and signed into law by the Governor, ensured that Maryland was no longer at risk for losing vital funding. Stockdale also discussed how the state is partnering with local counterparts to implement changes and address areas of concern.
Switching gears to more local perspectives, Tiffany Rexrode, Washington County’s Assistant Director for Adult, Child, and Family Services, spoke about the range of services offered in the county. Additionally, Bethany Fisher, SEN Specialist for Harford County, and Jennifer Thomas, Staff Development Nurse Special Care Nursery and Pediatrics at Upper Chesapeake Health, jointly presented on the programs and partnerships in place in Harford County to address mothers, families, and substance exposed newborns. The speakers provided statistics on the impacts of substance exposed newborns in the counties and the Harford County presenters shared a jarring video of what it looks and sounds like to handle substance exposed newborns.
The session was moderated by Delegate Eric Bromwell and held on Thursday, August 15, 2018 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City.
At the 2018 MACo Summer Conference session “Good to the Last Drop: Keeping Your Water Clean“ attendees learned how state and local governments as well as private sector partners are working hard to protect the health and welfare of local communities by keeping harmful toxins and contaminants out of their water.
The panel began with a presentation by Clifford Mitchell the Director of the Environmental Health Bureau at the Maryland Department of Health. Mitchell set the stage by providing an overview of the shared responsibility among federal, state, and local governments to regulate and protect the integrity of groundwater and surface water, including your drinking water. He also discussed the range of possible contaminants — regulated, unregulated, naturally occurring, and emerging — that must be dealt with.
Leigh Broderick, Environmental Health Director for Carroll County, focused on the specific issue of chlorides in ground. Chlorides are are negatively charged ions that dissolve very readily in water and form very corrosive salts. Think salts used on roads during the winter or naturally occurring at the beach. Broderick discussed the impacts these salts have on the environment and our water systems, as well as the potential but often difficult and costly potential solutions to treat the problem.
John Holaday, CEO of Dispose Rx presented on pharmaceutical contaminants of water. He shared figures on the environmental impacts of drugs in water, and how it is essential to stop them from reaching water sources because it is impossible to filter them out once they are there. Holaday concluded his presentation with a look at how changing habits and certain products, like Dispose Rx can help with preventing drugs from entering the water stream.
Finally, Environmental Health Director for Anne Arundel County Don Curtian presented on an innovative change the county made to how they regulate home septic systems to ensure they are better protecting ground water. Instead of sizing them based on the number of specific rooms in the house, the county sizes them based on the square footage of the home. Systems are now better sized to reflect the larger overall scale of homes being built without having complicated standards for what counts as a “room.”
The session was moderated by Delegate Erek Barron and held on Friday, August 16, 2018 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City.