ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman today presented to the County Council plans to reorganize two important government Offices. The roles and responsibilities of the Office of Human Rights/Human Rights Commission and the Office of Environmental Sustainability would be updated and their authority enhanced under the new plan.
The reorganization is a result of research and interviews conducted by the Kittleman Administration’s Transition Team.
“My proposal is an innovative and strategic approach to ensure the long-term viability of Howard County,” said Executive Kittleman. “Under this plan, we will ensure the County’s quality of life remains strong for all those who choose to live, work and play here.”
Executive Kittleman proposes to revise and reassign selected roles of the Office of Human Rights and the Human Rights Commission to improve the hearing process. The changes will speed up the hearing of formal complaints while providing a trained and experienced hearing examiner to conduct those proceedings, and to expand the capacity of the Commission to promote advocacy, education and awareness.
The change in the hearing process will also align Howard County’s process with that of neighboring jurisdictions and free up the Human Rights Commission to expand its role in the community.
“The diversity of our community is one of our greatest strengths and has helped us become a successful County,” said Executive Kittleman. “I value the contributions of the Human Rights Commissioners for what they do every day and am excited to help strengthen the commission’s role in our community to increase advocacy, education and awareness of human rights issues in the County.”
The chair of the Human Rights Commission applauded the proposed changes. “I am enthusiastic about County Executive Kittleman’s strategic plans for the Human Rights Commission,” said Genevievette E. Walker-Lightfoot. “I support his efforts to increase the advocacy and community outreach of the Commission. I believe his plans to institute a hearing examiner office would allow the Commission to better concentrate on advocacy, outreach and policy-making and render more legally sustainable quasi-judicial decisions.”
The reorganized Office of Sustainability (currently the Office of Environmental Sustainability) will take on increased responsibilities by expanding its role under the direction of the Department of County Administration. It will assess the economic, agricultural and environmental impacts of all initiatives and program across the County. The Office will advise the County Executive on major sustainability challenges facing the County and will work with Boards and Commissions and County Departments to provide solutions to these challenges.
“Sustainability is balance,” explained Executive Kittleman. “Blending the economic, agricultural and environmental implications of measures effecting business growth and environmental management, among others, will enhance the County’s long-term viability.”
Ned Tillman, an environmental author and the Chair of the county’s Environmental Sustainability Board, reacted positively to the proposal. “I believe that strengthening the Office of Sustainability so its staff can better evaluate a wider range of issues following the principles of environmental sustainability will prove to be an important step by the Kittleman administration,” Tillman said.
“I am excited to see this continuing evolution of the Office’s role in ensuring the best quality of life for our residents, our businesses and our environment,” echoed Jim Caldwell, Acting Director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability. “Expanding the Office’s mission to incorporate all County initiatives is a logical next step to encompass all the major sectors of our community. I am confident that the same level of innovation and success realized with our existing programs can be extended to these new efforts.”
“This reorganization will strengthen two already successful programs,” said Executive Kittleman. “We owe it to our citizens to be proactive about the challenges that lie ahead and to maintaining our excellent quality of life. The new Office of Sustainability will help us make the right decisions to strengthen our infrastructure and grow our innovation economy.”
There will be little or no fiscal impact from these changes when they are enacted. The revised roles and duties of each office will be handled by the existing staff and volunteer board members already in place.
The County Charter requires that the County Executive notify the County Council of any proposed government reorganization at least 120 days before submitting the Executive Budget for consideration. The changes being proposed will be submitted as a bill before the County Council for approval and enactment in February.