Maryland Municipal League
The Maryland Municipal League celebrated its
75th Anniversary in 2011.
The City of Cumberland was one of the few original members of the League and remains an active participant in the exchange of information, ideas and training for municipal officials.
Cumberland is supporting the 2013 legislative priorities of MML. Stand with MML and tell Maryland legislators that it's time to stop pushing their state financial problems onto municipalities; restore highway user revenues to municipalities! And we need legislation allowing electronic posting of legal notices, rather than requirements to utilize expensive print media methods that are no longer the primary method of information disemination to citizens. We need to act!
Our Western Maryland transportation needs are just as important to us as mass transit needs are to the metropolitan communities. Users of mass transit should be paying a larger share of the mass transit expansions and needs. And Western Marylanders should be getting more of our user revenues back, to invest in our infrastructure needs!
The 2011 MML Summer Conference proved to once again be a productive exchange of ideas, offering educational classes and updates on ongoing national, state and local issues.
On the opening day of the conference this year, I was greeted by the news that the City of Cumberland would be awarded the “Banner City” designation. The Convention marks the MML’s 75th Year Anniversary. Also recognized was former Cumberland Councilman and former MML President, Floyd “Pete” Elliott.
The first session focused on consensus and team building. The session demonstrated tactics for consensus building on an elected Council, as well as with the public, when taking into account different perspectives and citizen recommendations. The team building portion of the session made use of interactive, hypothetical, and role playing exercises to illustrate methods of handling and articulating responses to problems in municipal settings, as well as ways of interpreting common problems.
The opening of the convention’s general session included recognition of participants in the annual parade of municipal flags and original members of MML were also recognized, of which Cumberland was one of the original few, dating back to 1936.
Neil Pasricha, author of “The Book of Awesome” and “The Book of Even More Awesome,” spoke of improved methods of handling difficult situations and challenging decisions, within the municipal government realm.
A one-on-one meeting with Comptroller Franchot and his Chief of Staff, included a discussion about challenges currently facing the City of Cumberland, and ways that the State of Maryland can play a role in assisting with these challenges. The role and history of coal, the impact of volunteerism, and the essential nature of a quality educational system and functioning educational facilities, reinforced the Comptroller’s dedication to Western Maryland. A discussion about the ongoing “Mayor’s Challenge,” and how such an effort can be expanded into schools, laid the groundwork for a similar, statewide program to be initiated by the Comptroller. The Comptroller also supported requests for support in better assisting the veteran population through the creation of a Veterans facility within the Memorial Hospital Campus building, as well as the potential for a center for financial literacy within the building. The Comptroller recognized the vacant hospital campuses’ to be an asset to the community.
A brief meeting with Attorney General Gansler also reinforced his commitment and positive impression of Cumberland, as well as his desire to see some industrial opportunities return to the Queen City.
The exhibit hall offered opportunities to meet with vendors and state agency representatives. Vendors, including one that provides services including documenting construction projects to protect municipalities from potential future lawsuits, offered to meet in Cumberland. Others included waste management and recycling vendors, at least two of whom showed an interest in bidding on waste collection within the City of Cumberland. Street light vendors provided options for replacing antiquated lights in the city, with new, energy efficient lights that are of period design. A vendor that recognizes the legal dangers of uneven curbing and sidewalk seams offered a solution of shaving such areas to make them even and prevent lawsuits and tripping injuries.
The Maryland Mayors Association hosted a forum for Maryland Mayors. More than 50 Maryland Mayors participated in a free exchange of ideas, challenges, and solutions facing municipalities. The Mayor of Frederick initiated a discussion about annexation opportunities provided by the State of Maryland, for a limited time, allowing for any parcels of land partially within the municipal boundaries, to be annexed in whole, into the municipality, in an effort to clarify municipal boundaries. Other mayors recognized this issue and suggestions ranged from bringing all qualified parcels into the municipal via annexation, to providing tax rate freezes or reductions over set amounts of time, while the property is being phased in through annexation efforts.
An extensive report on the results of the 2010 Census demonstrated potential gains and losses to communities, based upon increased or lost populations. State funding is based largely upon census results, as are legislative apportionments.
The City of Cumberland was recognized as a “Banner City,” along with 44 other municipalities throughout Maryland. A specific set of criteria are used in selecting municipalities, including community outreach to educate young people about the functions of government.
A session on the importance of the use of technology in municipal government, both for municipal government functionality and improving access to government by citizens, focused on the role of social networking in municipalities. Topics including implementing policies for employees’ use of social networking while on the job, coupled with the importance of use of such media as a way of keeping citizens informed, involved, and engaged, recognized Facebook as a growing force for communicating with citizens. Social networking opportunities allow for the free exchange and offering of documents and information that might otherwise require Freedom of Information Act Requests or other detailed processes. Making use of technology in this way requires a dedicated staff member to maintain information, update information, and respond to electronic requests.
A meeting with other municipal officials, offered the opportunity to further discuss annexation opportunities presented by the State of Maryland, the role of administrators in the daily operations of municipalities, and methods of combating and preventing crime in a difficult economic climate.
A session that discussed risk management in municipal governments, stressed the making and carrying out of decisions that minimize the adverse effect of accidental losses upon municipalities. The primary focus was on limiting risk and making better use of limited public funds. Recognized during the session was not only reduced exposure to work related accidents, but the need to eliminate a community’s inventory of blight as a way of reducing the community’s exposure to health and safety risks.
The final session of the Convention was about Code Enforcement and the Importance of Rental Inspections. The majority of the session focused on code enforcement efforts, but applied to communities with greater resources and more significant sized enforcement staff. The two programs that were reviewed were in Salisbury and College Park, one with a largely stable population and aging, blighted structures, the other with a large college population and significant challenges related to the presence of a student population and many student housing opportunities. The conclusion of the session recognized the importance of rental inspections conducted by city staff. Critical to such a program is an established criteria for such inspections.