Since the weekend, Las Vegas has served as a sort of glitzy Maryland West -- with government and business leaders from the state attending the Global Retail Real Estate Convention in droves.
With galas and events at casinos, the annual four-day conference of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), which ended Wednesday, serves as the ultimate business-government networking event with more than 20,000 in attendance.
Mayors and various county executives have been attending for years (former Mayor O'Malley's delegation spent $80,000 on the trip in 2002, for instance), but how each jurisdiction chooses to represent themselves at the event shines some light on the administration's priorities. About 40 members from seven local governments attended, according to a published list of attendees.
This year, Baltimore City and Prince George's County sent the largest number of representatives to the conference: nine each. That's more than Gov. O'Malley's administration, which sent four representatives, and all other jurisdictions in the state. It was unclear how much the visits would cost taxpayers; the City's Board of Estimates has already approved close to $10,000 for some of Baltimore's portion of the trip, but the final tally should be significantly higher once receipts are submitted.
Under the Maryland Public Information Act, The Sun has requested receipts and expenditures for each of the Maryland delegations attending.
"Given the current fiscal constraints County Executive Kamenetz decided to reduce costs significantly by not having any staff members accompany him," Kobler wrote in an email to The Sun. "It is very important for the county to have a presence at the annual ICSC convention for the shopping center industry. It's an exceptional opportunity to promote important economic development projects that bring jobs to the County."
Kobler added that any County Council members who attended had to pay their own way. Council Chairwoman Vicki Almond told colleague Alison Knezevich that Almond,
Almond described the event as a"who's who of Baltimore County and Maryland politics." She said it was important for networking and business development, but since she spent time on personal activities there, she believed it inappropriate to bill the county.
"Putting it on the bill for the county would just be wrong," she said.
* Baltimore City and Prince George's County each sent nine staff members, including Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Baltimore City Council President Bernard "Jack" Young and Councilman
* Howard and Harford counties sent five representatives, including County Executives
* The State of Maryland sent four representatives, including Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and
* The government of
The event -- which was also attended by business leaders from the Cordish Co., H&S Bakery and
, among others -- featured comedian Dennis Milller and guest speaker
(author of "Outliers," "The Tipping Point," etc.) ABC's Joan Lunden hosted a discussion between Former U.S.
Rawlings-Blake herself participated in a panel discussion entitled "America's Cities: Rebuilding, Revitalizing, Redeveloping."
In 2002, then-mayor O'Malley's delegation spent $80,000 in taxpayer funds when it set up a glossy Baltimore booth complete with Phillips crab balls and Berger Cookies in an attempt to lure developers here. In 2007, developer