Maryland’s convention business is still struggling to recover after literally being shut down by COVID-19 last year. But in mid-August, thousands of people are expected to descend on Ocean City for one of the largest conventions of the year. After a scaled back virtual event last year, the Maryland Association of Counties Conference (MACo) will return for four days. In “Free State Politics” Episode #6, MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson says he is looking forward to the huge in-person gathering of county and state employees. “We’re focused on making sure that this (conference) is both safe and productive,” he says. Sanderson notes that there could be several COVID protocols for attendees, such as a mask mandate for those inside the convention center and health screenings at the door. Participants also may be required to sign a waiver which would hold MACo officials harmless in case an attendee contracts the coronavirus. Sanderson says decisions on health protocols will ultimately be made by local health officials, but he adds, “I’m hopeful that by the time the conference begins, we won’t need to do those things.”
Host John Rydell also talks with Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman about the upcoming conference. Pittman, who is on the MACo board, says there are several serious issues expected to be examined, including how local governments can deter ransomware attacks. Pittman says county leaders will also discuss how they plan to implement a series of police reform measures enacted by the General Assembly earlier this year. Pittman says that by September, all Anne Arundel County police officers will be equipped with body-worn cameras. But he says the cost of implementing the body camera program is proving to be a major financial challenge for other local police departments.
“It’s a big investment in personnel and resources, but when you think about interactions between police officers and community members…transparency adds to the trust. Our officers can’t wait to get those body cams on, and knowing the world is watching, that makes everyone behave better.”
Rydell also examines the extraordinary cost for the average family to vacation in Ocean City this summer, where many of the tourists are coming from and why hotels can charge such high rates between now and Labor Day.