Council approves environmental post

The Baltimore Sun

In one of its shortest sessions ever, the Howard County Council on Monday night unanimously approved bills creating a new, one-person Office of Environmental Sustainability and allowing temporary advertising banners at sports fields.

Also approved at the 20-minute meeting was a bill providing for an online posting of all county purchases, starting July 1, 2010.

Council members Mary Kay Sigaty, a west Columbia Democrat, and Greg Fox, a Fulton Republican, voted for the Ulman administration's environmental bill without proposing changes. Both had criticized the level of qualifications in the bill for the commission's director, pushing for more stringent educational and experience requirements. The job is expected to go to Joshua Feldmark, an ally of County Executive Ken Ulman. Feldmark has held the job on an interim basis for a year and is considered a generalist with more than five years of environmental experience.

Sigaty said she did not have the required three-vote majority to amend the bill.

"I am very supportive of this office. I'm certain the county executive will choose someone who is well-versed in all areas," she said as she voted. Fox said he was "glad" the executive had limited the number of employees to one person. A citizens committee had recommended up to seven workers for the new office. The council had approved creating a permanent citizens advisory board on environmental issues.

The temporary advertising sign bill, sponsored by council Chairwoman Courtney Watson, an Ellicott City Democrat, allows private sports entities to continue an old practice found recently to be in violation of county sign laws. The sports leagues raise money by displaying advertising banners at their fields. The bill would create a legal exemption for them, but it was amended to ban any lighted signs and to limit the height of signs to no more than 8 feet off the ground.

The purchasing-disclosure bill, sponsored by Fox and Watson, is an attempt to "make things more accessible and more transparent," Fox said.

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