County scales back trips to MACo conference in Ocean City
Nineteen local officials attending this week's event
Montgomery County leaders and others are cutting back on the number of people attending the annual Maryland Association of Counties summer conference this week in Ocean City.
The county is sending 19 officials to the event, which runs primarily from today through Friday. That's about 60 percent of the number the county usually sends, said county spokesman Patrick Lacefield, who was among those who will not be attending the event.
Public information officers for various counties usually meet to discuss ideas, but so few were attending MACo this year that the annual meeting was dropped, he said.
With state and county officials seeking to curtail expenses in the midst of tight budget times, Gov. Martin O'Malley's office confirmed Monday that it has canceled the annual Friday evening get-together hosted by the governor. The decision, which was made over the weekend, will save the state more than $12,000, said Shaun Adamec, a spokesman for O'Malley (D).
"While it's certainly not millions of dollars we're talking about, it's a significant enough expense to warrant re-evaluation as we consider some pretty severe budget cuts," he said.
The state's fiscal crunch will be the centerpiece of O'Malley's keynote address on Saturday. Adamec said O'Malley will maintain the rest of his public schedule at MACo, which includes a presentation to local officials of StateStat, BayStat and RecoveryStat and a roundtable discussion with small business owners on Thursday.
A number of other receptions, which are hosted by elected officials or corporate groups and are part of MACo's allure, still are scheduled, including those sponsored by Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon (D) and Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. (D).
Plenty of politicians still plan to make the pilgrimage down the Shore, but most jurisdictions are pledging to take a more businesslike approach than usual, as if to show skeptical constituents that the conference, to be held today through Friday, is more about sitting in seminars and sharing fiscal strategies than feasting on crabs and fraternizing with local counterparts after dark.
That doesn't surprise MACo's executive director, Michael Sanderson, who is expecting a smaller crowd than in previous years, both among local officials and businesses.
"We've seen both corporate and government participants in some cases scale back the number of people who are attending, and in other cases, they're trying to economize the cost of being there," he said.
Despite the reduced number attending from Montgomery County, several County Council members plan to be there.
Council President Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg said it was important for counties to continue to meet even in the tight economic times to figure out ways to address shared problems and to lobby the state about county needs.
Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring said MACo officials should consider relocating the event from Ocean City in the future. She said she will be staying with friends to save money.
"It's very expensive," she said. "We should do MACo at another time of year when all the tourists in Maryland are not trying to go to the beach."
After making her suggestion, Ervin said she's likely to get "a lot of hate mail."
"I'm sure a lot of the people like to go to go to the beach," she said.