Back to the Basics on PIA

In a core session for the Academy of Excellence in Local Governence Certificate Program, MACo conference attendees received a training on basic principles, legislative changes, and recurring issues with the public information act.

Do you know what information must be provided if requested about a public employee? Synder and the audience work through some examples.

Through a combination of lecturing, interactive hypotheticals and Q&A, Synder walked the audience through the acts general provisions, guiding principals, exemptions, fees and appeals.

The presentation was provided by Mr. Adam Synder, Chief Counsel, Opinions and Advice, for the Maryland Office of the Attorney General and was moderated by Harford County Executive Barry Glassman. The session was held Wednesday, August 17, 2016.

The 2016 MACo summer conference was held August 17-20 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland. This year the conference’s theme was “Cyber Solutions: Counties in the Digital Age.”


#MACoCon Keynote Welcomes Attendees To The Future

This morning’s Welcoming Session and Keynote, “The Future Is Now: The Transformationimg_2585 of Local Government” kicked off Thursday of MACo’s Summer Conference with excitement, enthusiasm and tales of innovations to come.

MACo President and Washington County Commissioner John Barr welcomed attendees and set the tone for the conference’s theme, “Cyber Solutions: Counties in the Digital Age.” The Ocean City Police Department Honor Guard presented the colors as MACo First Vice President and Cecil County Executive Tari Moore led attendees through the Pledge of Allegiance. Worchester County Commission President Jim Bunting and Ocean City Mayor Richard Meehan greeted guests to their jurisdictions, and Debra Davis, Charles County Commissioner and Chair of the Board of Trustees for Gold Corporate Partner and Summer Conference Sponsor  Local Government Insurance Trust introduced Keynote Speaker Futurist Simon Anderson.

Anderson discussed fascinating trends and technologies changing the world around us, and led attendees in discovering how to think about change and the future differently. In this thought-provoking and engaging presentation, Anderson covered topics including generational trends, attracting and retaining Millennial talent, workplace and workforce trends, emerging technologies to be aware of, and next steps and actions that you can take right away to be better prepared for the future. He illustrated current technological trends such as automated transportation systems and artificial intelligence.

The Welcoming Session and Keynote took place on Thursday, August 18, 2016 from 9 am-10 am in the Ocean City Convention Center’s Bayfront Ballroom.



Attendees Collaborate at #MACoCon Session, Consensus & Team Building

Nick White, Ph.D. educates conference attendees on “getting to yes”

MACo’s Summer Conference is well underway with Consensus and Team Building, a session where local government elected officials, appointees and staff members actively engaged in effective negoiating to achieve successful results.

Tom Reynolds, Director of Education Services for the Maryland Municipal League, kicked off the session by engaging attendees, mostly elected officials, in appreciating the multiple areas where consensus building is required. Nick White, Ph.D., Research and Evaluation Director for Maryland Judiciary’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office opened his interactive session with recommending Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In  by Roger Fisher and William Ury as the seminole textbook on consensus building. He encouraged participants to invent multiple options for mutual gain in negotiations, and to give negotiating partners a “win” to get to their own “win.” Heather Fogg, Quality Assistance Director for the Maryland Judiciary’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office led attendees in actively talking through their differences and articulating opposing viewpoints. Reynolds continued with emphasizing the importance of separating the people from the problems. Fogg highlighted purposeful listening. White concluded by discussing mediation and alternative dispute resolution. 

Consensus and Team Building took place on Wednesday, August 17 at 1:15pm at MACo’s Summer Conference at the Ocean City Convention Center. One of the Core Sessions required for the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance Certificate Program, the session was moderated by Commissioner President Randy Guy of St. Mary’s County. 

WGL Energy Greens #MACoCon

MACo’s 2016 Summer Conference is underway at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland.

WGL Energy Services (WGL Energy) is greening this year’s conference, which means that they have donated carbon offsets to counterbalance the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from this event – such as energy use, hotel stays, food and other waste.

Carbon Offsets from WGL Energy are Green-e® Climate certified and derived from third-party verified carbon reduction projects in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Their supply of carbon offsets comes from  carbon-reduction projects in the waste management sector, such as the capture and destruction of methane from regional landfills.

WGL Energy is also investing a portion of the proceeds from carbon offset purchases into the Carbon Reduction Fund, which is managed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The funds are used to develop new greenhouse gas-reducing projects, and improve air and water quality in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Their partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has supported numerous projects including the reduction of fertilizer use through improved farming techniques, community restoration projects and the planting of tens of thousands of trees across the watershed.

WGL Energy is your source for clean, sustainable solutions.

For more on how you can reduce your organization’s carbon footprint, visit the carbon offsets page for government, commercial and industrial customers on their website or stop by Booth 700 in the exhibit hall at this Thursday or Friday, August 18 and 19.

Thank you, WGL Energy, for greening MACo’s Summer Conference and for sponsoring our Power Zone Lounge!

Ellicott City Flooding Prompts Discussion on Land Use & Stormwater Changes

Baltimore Sun article (2016-08-13) reported that Howard County is grappling with the flooding and runoff issues facing Ellicott City – brought into stark relief by the recent devastating flooding of the City’s historic main street. The County is considering proposals that would limit or prohibit further development above the City and require stronger stormwater management requirements. The article detailed that the County has acknowledged the flooding problem:

As development has increased on the hilly terrain overlooking the 244-year-old river town, the amount of rain rushing off rooftops and parking lots has also grown — making Ellicott City’s low-lying Main Street more vulnerable to intense rains that meteorologists say are hitting the region more frequently. …

Howard County officials insist that development by itself cannot be blamed for a dramatic act of nature, but they and residents believe the devastating floods in July and another in 2011 send a clear message: Heavy rains will come again, and something must change. …

County officials say older developments built decades ago have more significant problems with runoff. In fact, some newer redevelopments improve antiquated stormwater management systems because any project built after 1985 is subject to runoff restrictions.

“The difficulty this community has is it’s at the bottom of a funnel,” said Jim Caldwell, who is in charge of community sustainability in Howard County. “The watershed is very steep. It’s all heading down to the Patapsco River.”

While virtually everyone agrees that new policies are needed to minimize future flooding occurrences, the article noted that there is debate about which policies need to be changed:

“When you think you’re going higher and higher up the hill and insisting on being allowed to develop on steep slopes, to squeeze in just a couple more units, you really have to question the wisdom of what we’re doing,” said Susan Garber, a Savage resident who writes about county issues in a blog called “How Come?” …

Fred Tutman, the Patuxent Riverkeeper, said it’s “myopic” to believe development hasn’t played a role in flooding.

“What they suggest is this is an act of God or a fluke and therefore nobody can be blamed. … The stormwater problems in Ellicott City are the result of storms, that’s true, but the problem is there is no recovery area to absorb intensive flows,” Tutman said. “That’s something the county really needs to step up for and plan for.” …

Katie Maloney, chief lobbyist for the Fulton-based Maryland Building Industry Association, said limiting development in Ellicott City isn’t necessary. She argues that redeveloping older properties is one of the solutions to the runoff problem.

“Much of the problem we have is because of all the properties built before the stormwater regulations,” she said. “All that water just runs off. There are no storm drains, no ponds; there is nothing to stop that water from flowing into the street. In Ellicott City, it’s a very old area.”

The article also detailed the short-term and long-term response of County Executive Allan Kittleman, including funding and the creation of a workgroup to recommend policy changes:

“There’s nothing we can do to stop six inches of rain,” Kittleman said. “But we can have an impact on other storms.”

His first budget — for the 2016 fiscal year — included $2.5 million to start knocking off $18 million worth of flood control projects in the Main Street area. He followed up with $2.8 million for fiscal 2017, the current budget year that began July 1.

Kittleman also created the Historic Ellicott City Flood Workgroup to recommend next steps for flood prevention and mitigation. …

The work group’s recommendations for next steps include improving existing stormwater controls, such as increasing the size of underground pipes and stormwater holding ponds; clearing debris that builds up in the Tiber and Hudson tributaries, and adding alarms that would sound when flows increase in those streams.

The group also called for reducing the amount of impervious surfaces, by turning developed places into natural areas, and for stronger efforts to ensure that new developments don’t harm the environment. …

Caldwell said some county officials are considering radical steps, including requiring developments to build for extreme flooding and restricting cars from Main Street.

The article also stated that the workgroup is debating whether to recommend development limitations.

“It is a touchy subject,” said Lori Lilly, a watershed management and planning consultant who serves on the work group. “Nobody wants to hear that we don’t want any new development in the watershed.”

Instead of restricting development, Lilly and others support incentives to encourage landowners to preserve forested hillsides. “You can’t replace woods with a stormwater management practice and it be the same thing,” she said.

Planning Commission & Board of Appeals Training at #MACoCon

The Maryland Department of Planning kicked off the 2016 MACo Summer Conference on 2016-08-07 by offering its free planning and land use course. The several hour course outlines the history of land use in Maryland, basics of planning and Smart Growth, and key land use issues currently facing the state. While designed for planning commissioners and board of appeals members, any interested county official can attend. The course is required under state law and is offered at the MACo Summer Conference, MML Annual Convention, and online. You do not have to be registered for the MACo conference to attend this session.

2016 Summer Conference Planning Commission Training

Maryland Department of Planning staff, including Lower Eastern Shore Regional Planners Keith Lackie and Tracey Gordy, Director of Planning Coordination Chuck Boyd, and Principal Counsel Paul Cucuzzella walked attendees through the course materials.


Useful Links

Planning Commission/Board of Appeals Training Course Webpage

MDOT Will Not Implement “Scoring” System This Year

Following a rapid series of back-and-forth letters among multiple parties, the Maryland Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that it would not tie this year’s capital funding plan to the “scoring system” required by a recently passed state law.

In a letter to county leaders, MDOT Deputy Secretary James Ports referenced the legislation from 2016, but also the more recent debate regarding the timing and implementation of the new system.

From the letter:

Based on this new opinion and multiple statements made by legislators, apparently MDOT now has the discretion when to implement this new law, and the department has decided to delay the requirement until the draft FY 2018 – FY 2023 CTP to be released on September 1, 2017.

The letter continues in describing the information and evaluation process to begin next year under the legislation, notably the Department’s decision to require county governments to provide extensive information and analysis with each project identified as a local priority. Also from the letter:

Projects are still required to be scored, and low scoring projects could be defunded under the requirements of the law. In order to inform the scoring process, our previous request for information will remain in place in 2017 since several of the legislatively mandated measures can only be supplied by local jurisdictions.

In a letter to the Department from the day before, MACo President John Barr had urged that a state/county collaboration on developing the regulations and implementation for this process would serve all parties best.

Read the full MDOT letter sent to Frederick County (and presumably each jurisdiction).

Read Conduit Street‘s several recent articles regarding the scoring process and its implementation, all under our site’s “Transportation and Public Works” category search.

You Make the Call at this Public Safety Radio Demo

The Maryland Joint Operations Center is the control center for local, state, and national interoperability channels.

This Wednesday in Ocean City Maryland, the Maryland Association of Counties Tech Expo will offer attendees the ability to test the state’s most advance public safety radio technology and make calls using portable, interoperable radios. You may register on-site to join this demonstration.

radio laptopThe demonstration will include test calls using the interoperability features of radios with a mobile set-up.

Gary Zamerski, Manager of the Maryland Joint Operations Center and Jack Markey, Emergency Manager for Frederick County will lead this demonstration. As described by Zamerski,

One of the MJOC’s vital operations is to be the control center for several local, state and national interoperability radio channels and their ability to monitor these channels is crucial for radio communications in Maryland. The ability to have their main resources packaged up to operate remotely is a major success for public safety communications in Maryland.

In addition to the interoperable radio demo, Wednesday’s participants will be able to test body-worn radios that provide audio and video feeds, and tour the Anne Arundel County Mobile Communications & Command Unit.

Jerry Napolitano of Motorola will be demonstrating body-worn radios that provide audio and video feeds, smart phone to radio communications, intelligence-led public safety solutions and advanced messaging all to keep citizens and first responders safer.

img_0668Dick Briggs, Team Leader Anne Arundel County Mobile Communication & Command Unit, will be giving tours of the mobile command unit and demonstrating its radio and other communication features.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

IRS Releases Draft Healthcare Reporting Forms

As reported by ADP, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published its draft of 2016 Instructions for healthcare reporting Forms 1094-C and 1095-C. ADP is a global provider of cloud-based Human Capital Management solutions.

These draft IRS forms represent another step in implementation of the Affordable Care Act. These rules apply to all Maryland county government employers. As described by ADP,

The Internal Revenue Code requires employers of 50 full-time employees or more to report to the IRS whether they offer their full-time employees and their employees’ qualified dependents the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage under an eligible employer-sponsored plan.

For additional information on the draft forms, see IRS Releases Draft 2016 Affordable Care Act Reporting Forms.


MACo Letter: Best Path Ahead on MDOT Process is Working Together

In a letter sent today to Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Deputy Secretary James Ports, MACo President John Barr offered MACo’s aid to MDOT in collaborating to implement a project-based scoring system to prioritize major transportation projects. The letter responds to Ports’ July 28 letter requiring counties to provide MDOT with substantial analyses of their requested priorities, in response to scoring system legislation passed last session. From MACo’s letter:

Following the receipt of your July 28 letter to county leaders, I write to offer the Maryland Association of Counties’ aid to the Maryland Department of Transportation in developing a productive process to evaluate major transportation projects. We believe the best way forward on this important process is by working together.

We write here to focus on the months ahead – where the Department is charged by the legislation to create its implementing regulations. We believe that a dialogue involving public works and transportation officials and other leaders at the county level could be a great asset to the Department’s deliberations. We would welcome the opportunity to coordinate such an effort.

We look forward to seeing you, the Secretary, and other Department leaders at the upcoming MACo conference. We expect that some face-to-face discussion of these issues may be mutually beneficial in charting both the short term, and longer term, processes ahead.

Read MACo’s full letter here.

After MDOT sent its initial July 28 letter,  the Chairs of the General Assembly Committees which passed the scoring system legislation responded with their own letter expressing concern. MDOT followed up with counties by sending a second letter informing them of what projects would be funded based on preliminary Department project scoring. In its own letter dated last Wednesday, the Attorney General’s office advised House Appropriations Chair McIntosh that the new law does not require MDOT to implement a scoring system at this time, nor does it authorize MDOT to shift analytical responsibilities to county governments.

MDOT officials have indicated that Secretary Pete Rahn will attend the MACo Summer Conference, and will be available to discuss these issues with county leaders.

Previous Conduit Street coverage on this issue: