In my recent meetings with county officials from across the state, it seems like we face serious challenges from almost every direction.
The economy is driving another tough budget year for the state. A stagnant real estate market is exacerbating county-level shortfalls. Environmental policy debates are calling local zoning authority in question. And federal pollution mandates pose long-term planning and funding obligations beyond any we have seen.
It's easy to grapple with issues like these and become disheartened, but that's not our style.
Instead, we county officials need to face these challenges head on. What my conversations with county colleagues have reinforced to me is that we're far better off sticking together, and working together. That means staying plugged in through MACo about the issues we care about, and using MACo as a vehicle to keep in touch with one another.
Counties facing tough times can always learn from one another about a new "best practice," and so often the tough issue of the day in one county already has been addressed in another. By staying in touch, we make sure that we can learn from one another, as well as speak effectively with one voice on statewide policies.
Make plans to come to the MACo conference in January. It's always a great setting to formally talk through policy issues facing counties, as well as hear a forecast of the legislative session ahead. But also make a point to seek out your county colleagues over lunches and coffee breaks, and you'll find what I have - there's an awful lot of value just being together to talk things through. Stay in touch on Annapolis issues through the MACo newsletters and your county's representatives on its Legislative Committee - or better yet, come down to Annapolis on Wednesday mornings during session and plug in for yourself.
The issues on our plates are complex and interconnected. We owe it to ourselves to pull together every resource we have to tackle them, and one of those resources we all have is each other. I'm always happy to get into a conversation where I can learn about another county's successes, or share one of my own.
Wire into the network, and you'll help all of us keep our options open during these tough times.
Howard County Executive