Episode 6 of the “Free State Politics” podcast presented by MarylandReporter.com is now available to download.
It features award-winning journalist John Rydell and producer Douglas Christian, an independent White House multimedia journalist. If you have not subscribed to the podcast, please do so.
The 20-minute episode features interviews with Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) Executive Director Michael Sanderson and Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, who sits on MACo’s board. They discussed the agenda and the key issues for MACo’s upcoming annual conference in Ocean City which will take place from Aug. 18-21 at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center.
The conference was held virtually last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and there is much excitement about the return to in-person attendance for this year’s conference, both Sanderson and Pittman said.
Sanderson says there is no substitute for in-person attendance
“It is encouraging that we will be able to get back and have a really productive event,” he said. “There is a lot that you can get face-to-face that just is not the same as when you are in a Zoom room.”
Sanderson says lessons of the pandemic will be front and center at the conference
“We are going to have a lot of content that is going to be about lessons learned: How are we are coming through and hopefully out of this pandemic? How can we be smarter for having had this experience? Part of that is the recovery in the private sector. And county governments have a pretty substantial ongoing role in helping the business community.”
Sanderson defends cost of the conference, which in some cases is picked up by taxpayers
“What you would miss with a small-scale event is just the breadth of those interactions. We will occasionally get someone who challenges whether this is a good use of public funds. And I always ask those people: ‘Just take a minute and look through the program.’ You are going to see page after page of best practices and opportunities for the counties to learn from one another, or learn from academic leaders, or private sectors leaders.”
Pittman says economic recovery will be a key focus at the conference
“The economic development folks all get together at MACo,” he said. “But at the top level, all of the county executives and county commissioners talk about what industries have been hurt, which ones have new owners coming in, which ones really need to grow, and which ones are going to have to adapt. We want to target our assistance. And we all have federal money as well.”
Pittman says county implementation of police reform legislation, body cameras, could be on the conference agenda
“It is a big investment in personnel. But when you think about interactions between police officers and community members who are trying to build trust-transparency adds to the trust. This is true of all government.”
Pittman says the MACo conference is a very important event
“I have found that it makes people better public servants. And they come back and they do better work. So I support an event like this.”
The podcast concludes with Rydell’s signature two-minute societal self-reflection: “A Moment of Clarity.”
This week the host discusses how the MACo conference symbolizes a return to normalcy after a year of pandemic-related restrictions and how consumer demand is driving up the cost of some Ocean City hotels to much as $700 per night. Rydell also notes that Ocean City is not just a vacation destination for Marylanders, but that it attracts visitors from as far away as states like New York and Ohio.
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