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Summary of National Association of Counties Legislative Conference

In March 2007, I attended the National Association of Counties (NACo) Legislative Conference.

There are two conferences each year.  The legislative conference is always held in March and is held in Washington, D.C.  The annually conference is always in July and is held in different cities.

There are eleven policy steering committees covering all policy ideas of importance to counties.  Since 1996, I have served on the NACo Energy, Environment and Land Use Steering Committee.  Through my participation, I have learned about grant programs, legislative ideas and have made contacts with federal agencies that have provided both monetary benefit and new ideas to help New Castle County.  The Energy, Environment and Land Use Steering Committee (EELU) has five subcommittees; each of which meet separately in advance of the final steering committee meting.  Since 2000, I have been the chair of the EELU Land Use and growth Management subcommittee.  Since 2002, I have been reappointed each year as chairman of the Sustainability Leadership Team (SLT).  SLT is not a policy making committee but, rather a  NACo “think tank” that directly interacts with the National Association of Home Builders, the International Conference of Shopping Centers (ICSC) , the National Association of Realtors, Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, FEMA, the US Corps of Engineers and other private and public organizations and agencies.

On the afternoon of Friday, March 2, 2007, I participated in a four hour meeting of the “Green Government Advisory Board Meeting.”  Only ten counties across the county serve on this public/private partnership advisory board.  New Castle County was honored to be one of the ten participants.  Initially, I had been appointed as the New Castle County Advisory Board representative but I have suggested to NACo President, Colleen Landkamer that Councilwoman Stephanie McClellan would be a better appointee and as a consequence, Councilwoman McClellan, whose leadership skills in this area are well known to us, is now our official representative.  However, due to my leadership role as chairman of the Sustainability Leadership Team, the Advisory Board felt that it was valuable to have both of us participate in board meetings.

The board intends to explore and compile strategies for “going green” that are being developed in both the public and private sector.  The three year program intends to provide local governments and schools with practices, products and policies that will result in both financial and environmental savings.  Both Stephanie and I have brought back an array of tools which are available for any member of County Council to review.  If Council is interested, Councilwoman McClellan will be able to provide speakers from an array of contacts that we have made in both the public and private sector.Saturday, March 3, 2007 was the day set aside fro subcommittee meetings.   The schedule was as follows:
  • 730am – 830am – Working group on coastal wetlands issues.
  • 845am – 945am – Air quality subcommittee meeting
  • 1000am – 1100am – Solid and hazardous waste  subcommittee meeting
  • 1115am – 12-15pm – Energy subcommittee meeting
  • 200pm – 300pm – Combined water quality subcommittee and watershed management advisory  committee meeting
  • 315pm – 415pm – Land Use and Growth Management subcommittee meeting
  • 415 – 500pm – Sustainability Leadership team meeting

During the various committee meetings, we discussed policies on a national level that have a direct impact on us at the County level.  NACo is a powerful national lobbying group and our collective strength representing all of the counties in the country makes fro an effective, single voice to make sure that our interest as counties are protected.

I would be pleased to provide you with a list of the various resolutions and subjects that we discussed, but in the interest of keeping this report brief, I have not included this information in the report.  I also would be pleased to provide speakers on any of the subjects that have been covered in all of the subcommittees.

On Sunday, March 4, 2007, from 900am to 1230pm the full Environment, Energy and Land Use steering committee met.  After lunch, from 230pm to 330pm, the EELU conducted a mid-year review of EELU proposed platform changes for the annual conference this July in Richmond, Virginia.  From 400pm to 500pm, I attended the Large Urban County Caucus (LUCC) steering committee meeting.  Since New Castle County has more than 500 thousand people, we are members of LUCC.  Issues of importance to New Castle County dealt with national security risk facing a shipping port such as in the City of Wilmington, Federal Guidelines for improving safety to our ports and requiring all boats and ships to become “double hulled” in order to avoid environmental disasters, such as the breach of a single hulled ship off of the coast of Marcus Hook.

On Monday, March 5, 2007, from 715am – 900am, I attended the Land Revitalization and Reuse Information Exchange forum.  From 900am to 1015am, I attended the Future of Wetlands Rules and Regulations symposium; What County Officials Need to Know.

Congressman Oberstar has proposed legislation which would broaden the definition of “waters of the United Sates” so that the federal government would require permits for every water body in every county in the country, including drainage ditches and water runoff from our homes and commercial sites.  NACo has taken a strong position to this opposition to this legislation and we are gearing up for a full fledged fight against this legislation currently going through the House of Representatives. 

From 1045am to 12noon, I attended “Effective Solutions for Meeting the New Ambient Air Quality Standards.”  From 130pm to 330pm was the open general session with speakers of national interest.  From 400pm to 530pm, I chaired the conference planning committee meeting which is dealing with the logistics of the upcoming conference in Richmond, Virginia.

I was scheduled to stay at the conference through Tuesday, March 26, 2007, but because of the fact that the Brown rezoning in Council district #2 was on the Land Use Committee agenda for the afternoon of Tuesday, March 6th, I instead took a train home in the morning, therefore, I have no report for Tuesday, March 6th.   

The conference continued through Wednesday March 7, 2007.  The final date of the conference from 900am to Noon is always set aside for each County delegation to meet with its Congressional delegation. 

I have contacted Cynthia Stewart, Director Local Government Relations, International Council of Shopping Centers and asked that she provide us with a speaker at an upcoming Economic Development Subcommittee meeting to address how other counties are working with their developers to create better incentives fro economic redevelopment of Abandoned and underperforming shopping centers and abandoned gas station sites.  I hope to have a speaker from the ICSC at an upcoming meeting.  The speaker will be from either the development community or from the academic community. 

I appreciate County Council allowing me to continue my legal education and feel confident that what I have learned at this conference and others helps me to better serve you.  I will continue to endeavor to bring information and speakers back in order to share the information with my fellow members of County Council.

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