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Date: Jan 2019

Reforms include public campaign financing and the creation of the Office of Ethics and accountability

County Executive Johnny Olszewski today proposed a package of reforms intended to improve accountability in county government and strengthen ethical standards. The proposed reforms, which must be approved by the County Council, include:

  • Public financing of campaigns: Charter amendment for the ballot in 2020
  • Creating an Office of Ethics and Accountability to audit, inspect, evaluate and investigate government operations in order to promote economy and efficiency and to prevent fraud, waste and abuse
  • Prohibiting certain county officials from lobbying county government for a period of one year following termination of employment
  • Posting all lobbyist registrations online and streamlining the definition of a lobbyist so the same standards apply to those who lobby the executive and legislative branches

“Baltimore County residents put their trust and confidence in their local government to be good stewards of their tax dollars and deliver high quality services. They deserve a government that is held to the highest standards of ethics and accountability,” Olszewski said.

The public financing Charter Amendment, which will require voter approval in 2020, would create a system for public financing for candidates running for county council and county executive. The program would be voluntary, with candidates having the ability to opt in.

“All public officials should be held to the highest ethical standards, and our county’s residents deserve a government that they can hold accountable. These proposals will go a long way toward achieving that end,” Council Chair Tom Quirk said.

“Good government should concern people of all political parties, and I commend County Executive Olszewski for this comprehensive approach. I am particularly interested in the concept of public financing for campaigns,” Councilman David Marks said. “The voters deserve the opportunity to decide this charter change in the 2020 election.”

The Office of Ethics and Accountability would provide increased accountability and oversight of county government by working to identify any fraud, abuse or illegal acts. The independent office would have autonomy from the county executive and county council, with an executive director appointed by the county executive and confirmed by the council by a vote of majority plus one. The proposal gives clear authority for the office to gain unrestricted access to records and information needed to conduct investigations. The Ethics Commission, now housed under the Office of Law, would be moved to the new Office of Ethics and Accountability.

Under current law, the definition of a lobbyist is different for those who lobby the executive branch than those who lobby the legislative branch. The proposal will create one uniform standard. In addition, the proposal strengthens the “revolving door” restrictions. Current law prohibits former county employees from lobbying on matters in which they “participated significantly.” The proposal will add a restriction on any county lobbying for a former County Administrative Officer or department head for a period of one year after their employment ends.

The proposals will be introduced to the County Council on February 19. The public financing charter amendment will require at least five votes – a majority plus one – in order to be added to the 2020 ballot.

Fact Sheet: Better Government for a Better Baltimore County

Citizens’ Election Fund System

County Executive Olszewski is proposing a Charter Amendment to establish a public financing program for the offices of County Council and County Executive.

  • Similar to systems adopted by Montgomery County, Howard County, and Prince George’s County, this system aims to reduce the role of large private contributions and encourage individual small donor donations.
  • The program would allow candidates the ability to participate in an optional program that would provide matching County funds based on eligible contributions.
  • The bill does not establish complete details of the program, instead empowering voters to provide input in determining the final program. The Amendment would be included on the 2020 ballot.

Office of Ethics and Accountability

County Executive Olszewski is introducing a bill to establish the Office of Ethics and Accountability to provide increased accountability, accountability, and oversight in the operations of County government.

  • The Office would exist independently from the offices of the County Executive and County Council and would have unrestricted access to records and information, ensuring the Office can fully investigate claims of fraud, abuse, and illegal acts within any part of County government.
  • The Executive Director position of this new office would serve in a capacity similar to an Inspector General and would be appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council.
  • The Office would publish a yearly report documenting investigations and efforts throughout the year.
  • This office would be included in the County Executive’s FY20 budget with plans to have Office in place by July 1, 2019.

Lobbying Reform

County Executive Olszewski is proposing policies to strengthen the County’s lobbying statutes, including:

  • Broadening the definition of lobbying to include both monetary and legislative lobbying.
  • Requiring lobbying registrations to be posted online for public review.
  • Introducing a “cooling-off period,” barring former County Administrative Officers or County Department Heads from lobbying Baltimore County for a period of one year following the employee’s termination.
  • Empowering the County Administrative Officer to expand staff required to receive County ethics training.
  • Requiring public officials required to receive ethics training to also file financial disclosure statements.

By Melanie Dance
Naturalist/Director, Benjamin Banneker Historical Park & Museum

I remember my first day working at Benjamin Banneker Historical Park & Museum and how much I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the heart of Benjamin Banneker, the man, the scientist and historical icon. I continue to discover more and more about his inspirational life and the amazing character of this man. I love how his story continues to affect so many people in our community.

Photo of Banneker Cabin

The park is in the heart of Oella, between Catonsville and Ellicott City, at the exact location of Banneker’s homestead.  The museum and historical park are rich in historical significance for the African American community, as Banneker is widely regarded as America’s first black man of science.  He was born a free man in Maryland on November 9, 1731, and lived on his homestead from 1737 until his death in 1806.  

Banneker was a mostly self-taught astronomer, almanac writer, mathematician, surveyor and naturalist. Some of his countless achievements included building a working clock after examining a friend’s pocket watch, assisting in the survey of a segment of our new capital, Washington D.C., and publishing an almanac for six years.  A landowner and farmer, his perseverance and use of reverse engineering principles enabled him to design and build one of the first American-made all-wooden clocks, and it is said to have kept perfect time.

Banneker had a zeal for learning and was often found caring for his orchard and honeybees, playing his violin and flute, or observing the night sky.  Banneker corresponded with Thomas Jefferson in 1791, and denounced the injustices of slavery. He also sent to Jefferson, then Secretary of State, a copy of his almanac to prove the equality of the races.

Immerse yourself in his story

I hope you will come enjoy yourself at Baltimore County’s historical gem of a park this February as we celebrate Banneker’s legacy throughout Black History Month!  We’ll kick off our celebration by honoring Oney Judge on Saturday, February 2nd.

February 2nd from 1:30-2:30 pm Black History Month Celebrates Oney Judge

Nastassia Parker-Gross, a historical re-enactor, will portray Oney Judge who was born in 1773 on George Washington’s plantation, Mount Vernon.  Upon hearing that she would be sold to Mrs. Washington’s granddaughter as a wedding gift, Judge ran away.  Come to Banneker Museum and listen to her story, documented by several 19th century newspapers.  Learn about the trials and tribulations she encountered while traveling on the path to freedom and independence.  Sponsored by the Benjamin Banneker Foundation.Free – Donations appreciated. Registration Recommended (Adults and Children Welcome) – Light Refreshments Served. Silent Auction Available

February 9th from 1-3 p.m.; African American Firsts in Baltimore County

February 16th drop in from 1-3 p.m; Meet Mary Banneker at the Banneker Homestead Cabin. All ages welcome!

February 20th and 27th 4-5:30 p.m; After-school Special:  Simple Machines and More. Participants explore the use of simple machines and solve challenges experienced during Banneker’s lifetime in colonial Maryland. Ages 6-10; $3/person

February 22nd 6:30-8 p.m.; “Cold Moon” Hike & Campfire. Come observe the night sky in the spirit of Banneker with your family or friends.  Dress for the weather and bring a mug to enjoy our warm beverages and s’mores. Ages 5 and up; $3 person/ $10 family

February 23rd 12-3 p.m; Maple Sugaring at the Banneker Homestead. Maryland is at the southern edge of the eastern U.S. for tapping maple trees.  Mr. Banneker likely tapped maple trees to harvest one of nature’s delightful and nutritious sweeteners.  Learn about the history of maple sugaring, help tap a tree, and taste the sticky treat for yourself! All ages; $3 person/ $10 family

Help us advance our mission

I have been deeply inspired, both by Banneker’s life, and by the many people that have invested so much energy to share his homestead and legacy. More recently, it was such a privilege to gather at the museum with the dedicated community of staff and volunteers as we formulated our mission and vision for the future of Benjamin Banneker Historical Park & Museum - to engage and inspire our visitors and community by connecting them to Benjamin Banneker’s life, contributions, and his land. Join us in our mission of spreading the word about this amazing man of sciences. By 2025, we plan to:

  • Become a widely recognized resource for Banneker’s living history and its significance to our community.
  • Enhance and unify the enriching and educational experience for park and museum visitors to enjoy.
  • Serve as a hub for developing future scientists, historians, and stewards of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
  • Expand out partnerships to attract more resources to fulfill our mission.

Please visit our website and come join us in spotlighting this exceptional man and his legacy.

By Della Leister, R.N.
Deputy Health Officer

Maryland has been hit by some pretty frigid temperatures this winter. They’ve often been followed by warming trends that leave many of us longing for an early spring. But we must be mindful that there is still quite a bit of winter left to go. These reminders will help you be prepared for whatever comes our way while we anxiously await a spring thaw.

Avoid prolonged exposure to the weather. Dress warmly and in layers; stay dry; and don’t forget about Fido! Make sure all of your pets are protected from the extreme weather.

Don’t overdo the shoveling

Anyone diagnosed with heart disease or chronic lung disease should not shovel snow. Shoveling is manual labor and it’s hard on the heart muscles and can cause a cardiac event. Ask a friend, neighbor or relative, or hire someone to clear your sidewalk and driveway.

Be careful of downed power lines. The added weight from snow and ice often result in downed power lines. Remember that downed lines can still be live lines and are extremely dangerous. Call your local utility company immediately to report downed lines.

Stay safe if the power goes out. Winter ice and winds can cause power outages. When this happens some of us turn to generators to keep warm. Generators produce the deadly gas, carbon monoxide (CO). Be sure to keep your generator at least 15 feet from the house or building and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations carefully. For those who have gas stoves and ovens, never use an oven to heat your home.

Make sure your car is winter travel ready. This includes the vehicles exterior (tires, wipers, mirrors) and interior (heat, radio, defrost). Also, keep a winter kit in the car for unforeseen emergencies.

Weatherproof your home against the cold. While caulking and weather-stripping windows and doors is best done before winter winds begin to blow, it is never too late to add them. Cold air seeps in through even the tiniest of cracks. Caulking and weather-stripping are like adding warm blankets to windows and doors.

Click on the link below for a handy graphic with more information to help you be winter-weather ready!

Revised September 11, 2017