#MACoCon Sheds Light on “Dark” Data

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. – Sherlock Holmes

“Big data” receives a lot of attention among policy wonks and elected officials for its power to make government operations more efficient. While big data and analytics play an increasingly important role in developing strategies and informing decision making in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, local governments face barriers in acquiring and using such data.

That’s where “dark data” comes in.

On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, from 3:15 pm to 4:15 pm, data experts presented on exactly how counties can best access dark data: big data that is collected but not fully utilized.  During the MACo Summer Conference special session, “Still Waters Run Deep: Dive Into Your Dark Data Potential,” attendees learned about data resources available from various state and federal agencies – and how to make use of that data to inform economic development and government operations decisions.

Cory Stottlemyer, Senior Policy Analyst, Maryland Department of Transportation Office of Planning & Capital Programming, provided an overview of growth trends in population, labor force, and employment, and applied them to current commuting patterns within Maryland. Nearly 80 percent of residents in Charles County commute out of the county for work every day, for example – and some go as far as Frederick County every day! It is important for economic development experts and the private sector, as well as transportation planners, to understand where people live and work, and how that is changing, before incentivizing and developing where people live and work.

Benjamin Birge, CountyStat Manager, Office of the County Executive, Prince George’s County showed how counties use data to make their decisions currently. While data sets may be less plentiful to some local government jurisdictions than, say, the federal government, local leaders can still use data in daily decision-making if exercising an ounce of creativity. Birge demonstrated how his team used Census data to try to understand drivers behind grocery store chain site selection. Want a Trader Joe’s? Don’t bother asking them what they are looking for – instead, ask Ben Birge.

Gary V. Hodge, President, Regional Policy Advisors, and former Executive Director, Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, and Charles County Commissioner led a discussion on how data can drive policy decisions – and, policy decisions can drive data-mining. At the end of the day, data can entirely, 100 percent, prove the viability and necessity of a transportation project – like the proposed Charles County Light Rail. However, without political will, data does nothing.

The session was moderated by the Honorable Jeff Ghrist of the Maryland House of Delegates.

The 2018 MACo Summer Conference was held August 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year’s theme was “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Troubled Waters? Talented Attorneys Talk Water Law at #MACoCon

Maryland counties are rich with water, both in terms of waterfront access and in sustainable water and wastewater infrastructure. Counties benefit from this — but along with these assets come great responsibilities and risks.

At the MACo Summer Conference session, Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water: Know Your Water Law, attendees learned about how conflicts that arise over responsibilities for water-related assets cannot often be shrugged off as “water under the bridge,” but require proactive planning and protection.

Attorney General Brian Frosh kicked off the session by discussing the myriad of moves he has taken, both as an attorney general and as a legislator, to protect Maryland’s environment, and specifically, the Chesapeake Bay. One of his proudest achievements on the Senate, he stressed, was championing legislation to prohibit offshore drilling.

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Attorney General Brian Frosh moderates MACo’s session on water law

Lisa Ochsenhirt, Esquire, Attorney, AquaLaw PLC provided a deeply informative overview on the legal challenges facing Maryland’s 100 or so water and sewer systems – and how meeting those challenges is only getting harder.

Dana Cooper, Esquire, Attorney, Cooper Moores LLC discussed what happens when counties get flushed down into issues concerning those systems, and how she worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to revise the Baltimore City sewer system’s consent decree.

Finally, John Mattingly, Esquire, County Attorney’s Office for Calvert County brought us back from the bowels of troubled waters by teaching county officials about how they can use riparian rights as a tool to protect their waterfronts’ aesthetic.

The presentation took place on Thursday, August 16, 2018 at 3:30 pm. The Honorable Brian Frosh, Maryland Attorney General moderated the session.

The 2018 MACo Summer Conference, “Water, Water Everywhere,” was held August 15-18 at the Rowland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland.

#MACoCon Shows When Water + Power Works Out

Maryland’s rich water wealth helps drive our renewable energy advancements – both by providing resources necessary for offshore wind, and also by providing an opportunity to use energy generation to keep that water clean.

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Jeff Grybowski, Deepwater Wind CEO

MACo Summer Conference attendees plugged into the latest in offshore wind and animal waste-to-energy at the session, Earth, Wind, Fire, WATER: Powering Your County’s Future, on Thursday, August 16, 2018, from 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm.

Over the past three years, the State of Maryland has funded nearly $5 million to encourage technology that provides alternative strategies for managing animal manure on Maryland farms. Maryland Energy Administration, Division Director of Programs Chris Rice presented on how Animal Waste-to-Energy specific technologies generate energy from animal manure – and keep that, um…stuff…out of the Chesapeake Bay.

Then big fans of renewable energy went offshore with Jeffrey Grybowski, Chief Executive Officer of Deepwater Wind, to learn about the latest going on in offshore wind energy generation technology. Grybowski answered numerous questions from a very engaged audience about the financing, aesthetics, and generation capabilities of offshore wind.

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Wind turbines provide underwater homes for oysters.

The Honorable Shane Robinson of the Maryland House of Delegates moderated the session.

The 2018 MACo Summer Conference, “Water, Water Everywhere,” was held August 15-18 at the Rowland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland.

Climate Change Recommendations Provoke Robust Discussion by Mitigation Working Group

The Mitigation Working Group had a robust but respectful discussion on proposed climate change recommendations at its August 2, 2018, meeting, including proposals that would directly affect county governments. A cap and trade program for carbon emitted from transportation, the full electrification of the state’s school bus feet, mandatory energy efficiency retrofits to existing buildings, upgrading the Forest Conservation Act, and ending the permitting of landfills and moving to zero waste are a few of the recommendations under consideration.

The Working Group is part of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change and is tasked with producing recommendations to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in the state in order to achieve a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from their 2005 levels by 2030. Maryland is general on track to meet a prior emission reduction goal of 25% by 2025. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp is the county representative on the Working Group. Prince George’s County Council Member Deni Taveras is MACo’s representative on the Commission.

The proposed recommendations included a draft “straw-man” version prepared by the Maryland Department of the Environment and a series of additional recommendations submitted by various stakeholder groups. The Working Group is seeking consensus on as many recommendations as it can and will then focus on recommendations where there is majority support. The list of Mitigation Working Group recommendations contains numerous proposals that remain under discussion. The following recommendations would directly effect counties:

  • The Commission should urge MDE to include in the 40 by 30 plan a section that is specifically focused on identifying and assessing longer-term greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies. This section should explicitly address steps that can be taken to insure that proposed 40 by 30 programs and strategies are compatible with achieving zero net emissions in the 2050 to 2060 timeframe.

  • The Commission should urge MDE to include in the 40 by 30 plan strategies and programs that will insure that the state meets and accommodates its current EV goals and projections (60,000 EVs by 2020; 300,000 by 2025) with continued vigorous increase after 2025 that is compatible with longterm net zero emissions two to three decades after 2030. As part of this process, we further recommend that the Commission urge MDE to specifically assess the following strategies: setting a goal to fully electrify bus transport in Maryland by 2035, including aggressive targets for the rapid deployment of EV school buses, as well as provisions for low-interest financing.

  • The Commission should urge the General Assembly to implement stricter building code and other energy efficiency upgrades, including the establishment of annual residential and commercial building retrofit targets (e.g. 100% commercial building compliance by 2040), the requirement that all new residential and commercial buildings be carbon neutral by 2030, and an expansion of government and utility supported efficient electric heating and cooling system policies and programs.

  • The Commission should urge the General Assembly to enact, by 2020, a sustainable agricultural land preservation law which permits/facilitates the deployment of joint renewable energy and regenerative agriculture development, in order to simultaneously maximize the reduction and sequestration of carbon emissions while improving soil health.

  • The Commission should urge the General Assembly and the Governor to require net forest and tree canopy gains in Maryland by 2025 through the enactment of various forest management and tree planting programs and initiatives; including a strengthened Forest Conservation Law.

  • The Commission should urge the General Assembly and the Governor to enact, by 2022, more aggressive and explicit compact development and sustainable growth incentive and management programs and regulations.

  • The Commission should urge the General Assembly and the Governor to enact the following zero waste policies: ending the permitting of solid waste landfill capacity by 2019; requiring large producers (more than 2 tons per month) of organic waste to compost or anaerobically digest all of their waste by 2020; and increase state government and local jurisdiction recycling rates to 60% by 2020 and 80% by 2035.

Only the first two recommendations listed above were discussed at the August 2 meeting. Knapp joined with several other Working Group members in objecting to the inclusion of a regional transportation sector carbon emissions cap, noting that the proposal received little discussion or study during the Working Group’s 2018 meetings. Knapp suggested that the proposal be further studied as part of the Working Group’s 2019 agenda. Knapp also expressed concern about the school bus electrification recommendation, noting that the assessment should not be tied to an explicit date and that counties and local boards of education be part of the discussion.

The Working Group’s next meeting will take place on August 30. At that time, the Working Group hopes to finalize its recommendations.

Useful Links

Maryland Commission on Climate Change

Kent Could Have Sole Veto Authority If New Bay Bridge Span Were Located in Tolchester

Cecil Whig article (2018-08-03) reported that if the proposed new Chesapeake Bay crossing was located in Tolchester, Kent County could have sole veto power over the proposal. The revelation is the result of an interpretation by the Maryland Office of the Attorney General and is based on a 2013 law – § 4-407 of the Transportation Article. This section of the State code reads:

 (a)    This section applies to:
(1)    Caroline County;
(2)    Cecil County;
(3)    Dorchester County;
(4)    Kent County;
(5)    Queen Anne’s County;
(6)    Somerset County;
(7)    Talbot County;
(8)    Wicomico County; and
(9)    Worcester County.

(b)    A State agency, including the Maryland Transportation Authority, may not construct any toll road, toll highway, or toll bridge in the counties enumerated in this section without the express consent of a majority of the governments of the affected counties.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, if the new bridge span were located in Tolchester and was viewed as a toll bridge, then as the only affected county, Kent could theoretically veto the project. Legislation was proposed during the 2018 Session to repeal this section of the Code but the bill failed. The article included a portion of the written response by Assistant Attorney General David Stamper:

“(N)othing I have found in the legislative history suggests the General Assembly specifically contemplated the application of this provision to a toll bridge across the Bay. But the lack of any evidence in the legislative history on this specific point, or the suggestion that the General Assembly likely was focused primarily on infrastructure with a more significant presence on the Eastern Shore, cannot overcome the plain meaning of the statutory language, which expressly limits a State agency’s authority to construct a toll facility, including a toll bridge, in any of the nine Eastern Shore counties,” Stamper wrote. …

“In the final analysis, it is difficult to give conclusive guidance about the application of the statute in the abstract, without applying the statute to a specific proposed toll project,” Stamper wrote. “While I hope this letter is responsive to your questions, it is not an official opinion of the Attorney General.”

While not an official opinion of the Attorney General’s office, Stamper’s interpretation tracks the plain language of § 4-407 and seems likely to be upheld if the statutory language was actually put to the test. The article noted that both the Commissioners and county residents have expressed opposition to a new Bay Bridge span being located in Tolchester.

The article also discussed the ongoing wildlife specialist vacancy at the 2,000-acre Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, which could prompt the closure of the facility to the public. Maryland Delegate Steve Arentz has submitted a letter to the regional chief of the National Wildlife Service calling the refuge “a national treasure” and urging that the position be filled.

Maryland’s Military Takes “All Hands” Approach to Cybersecurity

Several branches of the Maryland Military Department are working together on cybersecurity simulators and demonstrations to improve the security of critical infrastructure.

The Maryland Military Department’s work on cyber issues is a partnership between representatives of the MD Air National Guard and the Maryland Defense Force. Together, these divisions have developed simulations of SCADA systems under cyber attack. SCADA systems may be used in critical infrastructure, such as water systems and 9-1-1 Call Centers.

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Click for video coverage from WBALTV

As reported by WBAL TV, Maryland’s Air National Guard’s cyber capabilities are growing:

Two new Air National Guard units have been activated in Maryland. At full strength, the units will employ more than 300 full-time and traditional airmen, focusing on federal and state missions. The Maryland Air National Guard’s new 175th Cyber Operations Group is one of only two Cyber Operations Groups in the Air National Guard.

For more, see WBALTV, Md. Air National Guard cyber security units activated

Daniel Molina, Commander, 275th Operations Support Squadron, and Colin Patrick, Branch Chief, Information Systems are both members of the cyber project and also handle cyber-related duties for their respective divisions.

Lt Col Molina’s squadron is part of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, 175th Wing in Baltimore Maryland. He is responsible for synchronizing operations and preparing combat- ready cyberspace forces to conduct global operations in support of Air Force, Joint Task Forces, and Combatant Commands.

Colin Patrick, Branch Chief, Information Systems is part of the Maryland Defense Force. First Lieutenant Colin Patrick is responsible for network engineering, help desk management and voice-over-IP systems at Maryland Defense Force Headquarters. Currently, Lieutenant Patrick is a Senior Network Engineer for the Defense Information Systems Agency in the Mobility division, which provides smartphones capable of operating on government networks at multiple security levels.

For more information, join us for the MACo Summer Conference Session, All Hands On Deck: Cybersecurity for County Governments. In this session, speakers will share a demonstration of what happens during a cyber-attack and provide advice for counties on securing personal information and critical infrastructure including public water and wastewater systems, transportation, and energy systems.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

State Proposes Volkswagen Remediation Spending Plan, $12M for Counties

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has a plan to spend an additional $76 million on specific projects to reduce diesel emissions from the transportation sector – and it plans to make about $12 million of those funds available to counties.

In 2015, the federal government found Volkswagen AG liable for violations of the Clean cars and air pollutionAir Act, because from 2009 to 2016, the company sold diesel vehicles with devices installed that allowed for illegal amounts of nitrogen oxide emissions. The resulting settlement agreement with the automobile manufacturer created the Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund, which includes $2.7 billion earmarked for projects that remediate excess nitrogen oxide emissions from the air.

Maryland is eligible to receive about $75.7 million of that money – but first it must complete and have approved a plan for how it will allocate the funds. After consulting with the Maryland Departments of Energy and Transportation, MDE released its draft plan this week outlining how it plans to spend the money.

The draft includes spending 15.8 percent of the funds – about $12 million – on projects proposed by local governments and communities:

Local Governments and Communities and Environmental Justice (15.8%): Local governments and communities will be given a chance to submit project ideas for funding. Funding will be awarded on a competitive basis based on the primary goals of this spending plan. Proposals from highly affected communities (communities with heightened levels of ground-level ozone) will be weighted. A portion of the funds will be set aside specifically for transit bus and school bus replacements.

MDE will be accepting comments on the proposed Mitigation Plan until close of business on August 31, 2018. Comments can be emailed to mde.vw@maryland.gov.

MDE is also already accepting proposals from counties and others for eligible mitigation projects that can potentially be incorporated into future versions of Maryland’s Mitigation Plan. Those wishing to propose a project for inclusion in the plan may complete and submit this form by close of business on December 31, 2018.

Those sending comments or proposals by mail may use this address:

Mobile Sources Control Program
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Blvd. Ste. 705
Baltimore, MD 21230

Helpful Links

This Israeli Start-Up Could Help Your County Keep The Water Running

Cybersecurity solutions protect critical county infrastructure, including water systems.

County governments are responsible for numerous public services, many of them increasingly dependent on systems vulnerable to cyber attack.

Now an Israeli start-up focused on industrial cybersecurity could help your county safeguard water systems that your residents rely on.

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Cybersecurity Start-up VP TJ Roe will be speaking at MACo’s Tech Expo on August 15.

At this year’s MACo Summer Conference Tech Expo, hear from TJ Roe, VP Sales North America of Radiflow Ltd., a Tel Aviv-based industrial cybersecurity company that closed an $18 million investment round, as reported by CTech.

From the article:

Founded in 2010, Radiflow pivoted from developing industry communication solutions to industrial cybersecurity in 2013, CEO Ilan Barda told Calcalist. The company now offers cybersecurity services designed to support critical infrastructure and industrial networks such as electricity and water providers, and reports more than 50 customers, primarily in the U.S. and Europe. The company is headquartered in Tel Aviv and operates another office in the U.S. It employs 35 people.

For more information see, Industrial Cybersecurity Company Radiflow Raises $18 Million

At MACo’s Summer Conference, TJ Roe of Radiflow, will join panelists from the Center for Internet Security and Maryland’s Military Department to discuss solutions for county governments seeking to assess threats and protect against them.

All Hands On Deck: Cybersecurity for County Governments

  • Wednesday, August 15, 12:45 – 1:45 PM
  • Roland E Powell Convention Center
  • Ocean City, Maryland

County government networks possess a wealth of valuable personal information, including Social Security numbers, tax ID numbers, health information, and other sensitive data. Counties also manage critical infrastructure, including 9-1-1 Call Centers, water, and waste water systems. Learn from leading cybersecurity experts how counties can work together to keep fast all data, and protect against cyber-attacks on systems integral to the health and safety of all residents.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

 

 

Carroll Concerned Over School Bus Driver Shortage

Carroll County has a shortage of school bus drivers going into the new school year – and the blame is placed on the new sick leave law.

Mike Hardesty, director of transportation with Carroll County Public Schools, told the Carroll County Times that the next school year will probably suffer from a shortage of drivers, due to the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act.

The contractors who work with the school system have indicated that they need to hire additional substitute drivers to cover for any additional absenteeism.

Hardesty told the Times:

We know some of our major contractors with a large number of buses to man for the opening of school are working hard to make sure they have an adequate number of full-time and part-time drivers.

How Technology Is Helping to Reduce Traffic Congestion & Improve Mobility

The Cobb County Department of Transportation recently announced a data-sharing partnership with Waze, the free, real-time crowdsourced traffic and navigation app powered by the world’s largest community of drivers. Designed as a free, two-way data share of publicly-available traffic information, the Waze Connected Citizens Program promotes greater efficiency, deeper insights, and safer roads for Cobb residents, along with more than 100 other partners around the world.

Launched in October 2014 with 10 city partners, the program has expanded to more than 100 partners including city, state, and country government agencies, nonprofits and first responders. The goals of the program are to reduce congestion, increase the efficiency of incident response, and make data-driven infrastructure decisions.

Waze provides real-time, anonymous, proprietary incident and slow-down information directly from the source: drivers themselves. Partners provide real-time and advanced information about government-reported construction, crash and road closure data.

According to Route Fifty:

The county has spent the last two years integrating its urban traffic control system with geographic information systems, having previously used GIS in operations like water quality assessments.

The Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System, or SCATS, can already change traffic signals automatically using cameras that monitor how many cars are queued at lights.

By joining Waze’s Connected Citizens Program, the county is improving its three-year-old Cobb Commute app notifying drivers of traffic speeds with more actionable insights. The county sends its road construction data to Waze and is piloting a dashboard showing road conditions and reported crashes at its Traffic Management Center.

A GIS-enabled traffic platform can also provide previous crash data, as well as identify problem areas on roads. This means counties can get strategic with how they spend money to make improvements.

To learn more about new technology driving new policy, listen to the most recent episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast.

Useful Links

This Georgia County Integrated GIS With Its Transportation System to Improve Mobility

Waze Connected Citizens Program

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Conduit Street Podcast: New Tech Driving New Policy – Part One

One of the hot topics in the 2018 Maryland General Assembly Session was Next Generation 9-1-1 technology. MACo’s Summer Conference Session, “Calibrating the Compass: GIS in a Next Gen 9-1-1 World,” will discuss how GIS data comes into play and what counties and others need to know as we move forward. The session is scheduled for Saturday, August 18, from 10:15 am – 11:15 am.

The 2018 MACo Summer Conference will be held August 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: