MACO Conference Taking Place During Peak Season in Ocean City
Updated: Monday, August 18 2014, 10:10 AM EDT
Ocean City is packed this weekend, not only with beachgoers, but with politicians and county employees attending a large convention. Taxpayers are footing the bill for the trips which adds up, in some cases, to more than $1,000 per person.
The Maryland Association of Counties (MACO) summer conference is attended by state and local officials, with seminars focusing on issues including financial literacy, pension liabilities and human trafficking. Two exhibit halls feature booths sponsored by state and local governments.
Donald Norris, a political science professor at UMBC, is manning his own booth, promoting UMBC's Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research.
"We do research for local government so we want to be here to show them what we do," Norris said, noting that the conference is all about learning --- and networking.
"It's where local government officials and state government officials get together, share information, share knowledge discuss solutions to problems," Norris said.
But the convention is held during peak season in Ocean City, and while some hotels offer special rates, many convention-goers still pay between $250-$500 a night. State and local governments pick up the tab for many of those attending.
Blaine Young, president of the Frederick County Commissioners takes issue with that. That's why he says he pays his own way to attend the MACO conference.
"My conscience could not make the taxpayers pay to be in Ocean City during peak season when I know I'll be on the beach, I'll be at Seacrets during a reception, I'll be at Fager's during a reception," Young said.
One MACO participant says he thinks that the state of Maryland and the counties could save a lot of money by either moving the conference to September when hotel rates are lower or simply move the conference elsewhere. The convention could also be shortened from four days to just two days.
State legislators are not allowed to be reimbursed for attending the convention. But Baltimore City, and many counties, pay for their elected officials to attend.