Friday, January 30, 2015

Enhancing Security for Board of Education Meetings

The following letter was sent to the WCPS Board of Education and Superintendent on January 30, 2015, in response to recent concerns expressed by Board of Education member Mike Guessford. The letter is republished in its entirety.

To the Board of Education and Superintendent,
I am writing in response to recent concerns by Board of Education member Mike Guessford with regard to Board of Education meeting security, which was currently published in the Herald Mail.
I was wondering if Mr. Guessford could perhaps clarify what his concerns are? Have there been actual threats against Board of Education members?
Education is very important, and some members of the community can be quite passionate about education issues. I would like to encourage the board to make sure that any enhanced security controls do not interfere with residents right to express their views and participate in the meeting.
As a cyber security consultant, I am also required to learn physical security measures, in order to properly secure data centers, office spaces, etc. I believe that there are two deterrent controls which can be implemented at minimal cost to satisfy Mr. Guessford's concerns, as I understand them currently.
For those not familiar, deterrent controls are security controls designed to deter, but not prevent, a security incident or violation. A common deterrent control we're all very aware of is speed cameras, which deter, but not prevent, people from speeding.
The first deterrent control I would recommend is a simple pole and tape barrier between board of education members and those seated in the room. You've probably seen these barriers at movie theaters.  These barriers do nothing to actually stop someone from going past them, but provide a reminder that people should not pass the barrier unless authorized.  An example of such a barrier is here:
The second deterrent control I would recommend is the presence of an unarmed security guard or off-duty police officer next to the barrier I mentioned above. The mere presence of a security guard or off-duty officer will have an excellent deterrence effect. However, once again, it is important that this guard or off-duty officer not prevent residents from expressing their views or participating in the meeting, as long as they remain on the correct side of the barrier tape. Should they cross the barrier tape uninvited, then that would of course be grounds for removal from the building.
Also, I noted that in the Herald Mail article, active shooter training is not mentioned. I have to strongly encourage active shooter training. I would recommend you watch this video of a New Hope council meeting to see how dangerous an active shooter situation can be to untrained individuals. In the video, the council members are told multiple times to stay down, because they had no idea how to react. Fortunately no-one was injured.
I'd be happy to discuss this issue further with you all. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
Ken Buckler
Note: After further review the Herald Mail article does mention Active Shooter training is not being considered. This letter was originally intended to state that active shooter training should be considered, contrary to what was mentioned in the original Herald Mail article. This was an editorial error. However, the letter above will remain as-is, as this was what was sent to WCPS and the Board of Education.

Ken Buckler is the editor of the WashCo Chronicle

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hogan's Instructions for Senate Vacancy May Have Been Contrary to Maryland Contitution

HAGERSTOWN, MD - It was recently reported by the Herald-Mail that Governor Hogan's office was in the process of sending instructions for the Washington County Republican Central Committee to nominate multiple candidates for the open Maryland Senate seat, previously held by Christopher Shank.

Further research shows that Governor Hogan most likely cannot instruct a committee to nominate more than one candidate, as he would be in essence instructing them to ignore the state constitution. A book on Maryland Constitution, page 140-141, cites an Attorney General opinion from 1977: "The central committees are supposed to nominate only one candidate, "but if a central committee 'ignore[s] the clear intent of the Constitution and submit[s] the name of two or more qualified persons to the Governor, the Governor cannot ignore the names . . . [but] must appoint one of these persons to the vacancy.' 62 Op. Att'y Gen. 241 (October 19, 1977)"

The Maryland Constitution states:
SEC. 13. (a) (1) In case of death, disqualification, resignation, refusal to act, expulsion, or removal from the county or city for which he shall have been elected, of any person who shall have been chosen as a Delegate or Senator, or in case of a tie between two or more such qualified persons, the Governor shall appoint a person to fill such vacancy from a person whose name shall be submitted to him in writing, within thirty days after the occurrence of the vacancy, by the Central Committee of the political party, if any, with which the Delegate or Senator, so vacating, had been affiliated, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Senator or Delegate, in the County or District from which he or she was appointed or elected, provided that the appointee shall be of the same political party, if any, as was that of the Delegate or Senator, whose office is to be filled, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Delegate or Senator, and it shall be the duty of the Governor to make said appointment within fifteen days after the submission thereof to him.
... currently non-relevant section omitted ...
(b) In addition, and in submitting a name to the Governor to fill a vacancy in a legislative or delegate district, as the case may be, in any of the twenty-three counties of Maryland, the Central Committee or committees shall follow these provisions:
(1) If the vacancy occurs in a district having the same boundaries as a county, the Central Committee of the county shall submit the name of a resident of the district.
(2) If the vacancy occurs in a district which has boundaries comprising a portion of one county, the Central Committee of that county shall submit the name of a resident of the district.
(3) If the vacancy occurs in a district which has boundaries comprising a portion or all of two or more counties, the Central Committee of each county involved shall have one vote for submitting the name of a resident of the district; and if there is a tie vote between or among the Central Committees, the list of names there proposed shall be submitted to the Governor, and he shall make the appointment from the list (amended by Chapter 584, Acts of 1935, ratified Nov. 3, 1936; Chapter 162, Acts of 1966, ratified Nov. 8, 1966; Chapter 681, Acts of 1977, ratified Nov. 7, 1978; Chapter 649, Acts of 1986, ratified Nov. 4, 1986).
Any instructions by Governor Hogan to the Central Committee to submit multiple names for the vacancy would be a violation of the Maryland constitution. The only time a list of names should be submitted under the Maryland Constitution is if a district comprises of multiple counties.

Simply put, the Washington County Republican Central Committee followed the Maryland Constitution appropriately.

Ken Buckler is the editor of the WashCo Chronicle

WashCo Chronicle encourages discussion of current political issues and candidates, regardless of viewpoints. Please keep comments polite, and on topic.

Ryan Miner outlines Delegate 2A Replacement Process

HAGERSTOWN, MD - Local resident Ryan Miner, host of "A Miner Detail", has recently released a podcast outlining the process which will be used to replace Delegate Serafini, who has been submitted to Governor Hogan for the vacant Senate position.

Listen to Mr. Miner's podcast here.

WashCo Chronicle encourages discussion of current political issues and candidates, regardless of viewpoints. Please keep comments polite, and on topic.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Maryland Senate Seat to be Filled from Existing Delegation

Washington County, MD - Maryland Delegate Serafini, or Maryland Delegate Parrott, will most likely be the replacement for Maryland Senator Shank, who has been appointed as the next Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

Per the Washington County Republican Central Committee:

JANUARY 16, 2015
On Tuesday, January 13, 2015, Governor-elect Hogan announced his selection of current sitting State Senator for Washington County District 2, Christopher Shank, to be the next Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention. It is the decision of the committee that the vacancy will be filled from within the current membership of the Washington County Delegation representing District 2. No public applications will be accepted for this seat. 
The committee will be working to expedite this appointment as soon as possible so that Washington County remains well represented in Annapolis during the 2015 Session of the Maryland General Assembly. The 2015 Session began on Wednesday, January 14, 2015. An announcement will be made immediately once the nominee is selected. The name will then be sent to then Governor Hogan for confirmation and appointment.
This will create an opening for another Maryland Delegate, once Governor Hogan confirms the committee's recommendation.

According to local resident and former candidate for Washington County Board of Education Ryan Miner, Serafini is the best choice to replace Shank:
Washington County voters deserve someone who always places public service above partisanship, and we expect that whomever is nominated, this person will not sacrifice principles, but will be open to working across the political divide to resolve Maryland’s fiscal crisis.
For these reasons, I believe that Delegate Andrew Serafini is the best individual to fill Senator Shank’s District 2 Seat.
 You can read more on Mr. Miner's opinion at "A Miner Detail".

Ken Buckler is the editor of the WashCo Chronicle. Many thanks to Ryan Miner for providing political commentary on this issue.

WashCo Chronicle encourages discussion of current political issues and candidates, regardless of viewpoints. Please keep comments polite, and on topic.

Discovery Station to host "Superhero 5k"

Get ready Hagerstown for the most extraordinary day of your life! Superheroes of all shapes, sizes and strengths will be descending upon our wonderful city! You’ll have more capes and masks than your power levels can handle! This is a battle to support Discovery Station and the race to the finish line will be of epic proportions!

Date: May 2, 2015

Where: Downtown Hagerstown, MD

Registration Opens at 7:30 am Sharp!

9:00 am for the 5k run

9:30 am for the 1mi walk

Awards will be awarded for the:

Best Selfie, Best Costume, Best Group Theme, & the highly coveted ‘Most Heroic Award’!

Register now!

All proceeds from this race go directly to Discovery Station at Hagerstown, Inc. and the costs associated with operations, program development and exhibit expansion.

About the Discovery Station:
Discovery Station at Hagerstown creates exciting hands-on learning experiences that stimulate a curiosity for discovery, exploration and further investigation by children and adults to foster life-long learning. The programs and interactive exhibits on science, technology and history are unique educational resources available to all of its visitors.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Canal Fee Could Cost Local Economy $12 Million Per Year

HAGERSTOWN, MD - A local resident recently requested the WashCo Chronicle investigate the budget and proposed entrance fee of the C&O canal, in response to the recent announcement that the National Park Service may charge an entrance fee beginning in May. While a line-item budget for the C&O Canal is not currently available, the National Park Service "Green Book" budget is available online:

 Currently for local sections of the C&O Canal, there is no entrance fee, and no camping fee for hiker/biker camp sites on the canal.

The proposed entrance fee for 2015 is $3 per person or $5 per vehicle, which would then increase to $7 per person or $15 per vehicle in 2017. A hiker/biker camping fee would also be implemented at $20 per night.

According to the National Park Service, 5,062,079 people used the C&O Canal in 2013. C&O canal use contributes approximately $80,000,000 per year to the local economy near the canal.

In 2014, the C&O Canal requested $9,539,000. The enacted budget was $9,389,000, $150,000 less than what was requested.

For 2015, the C&O Canal has requested $9,467,000.

Assuming that on average a vehicle contains two people, if the full 5,062,079 people were to use the C&O canal, disregarding camping, this would provide the C&O canal an additional $12,655,197.5 in 2015.

5,062,079 / 2 people = 2,531,039.5 vehicles
2,531,039.5 vehicles X $5 = $12,655,197.5

It is unclear why the canal would need that large an increase in income, especially when upcoming improvements to the canal walls at lock 17 through 20, scheduled for 2017, are only estimated to cost an additional $3,967,000.

However, it's important to realize that if people do pay an access fee for the C&O canal, they may be less likely to keep spending money in the local economy. Assuming that most people are on a budget for recreational expenses, that $12,655,197.5 would be subtracted from local economy contributions. That's a 15% reduction in income for local businesses. What's worse, if some people refuse to go to the C&O Canal due to the fee increase, neither local businesses nor the C&O Canal receive the funds.

With many small businesses still struggling since 2008, one should question if they really could afford a 15% reduction in tourism income. This 15% could really make or break businesses which rely on C&O Canal tourism, such as local restaurants or stores.

Below are excerpts from the 2015 National Park Service budget as they relate to the C&O Canal. The full budget can be downloaded from

NOTE: This article was updated to correct a calculation error.

Ken Buckler is the editor of the WashCo Chronicle

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Metro Mishap Mayhem - A Commuter's Point of View

Dear Metro,

You have destroyed all confidence of your riders that your system is safe, and that your staff are properly trained for emergencies. Of course, I've always questioned if we'll even be able to hear staff instructions in an emergency, since you normally can't even understand the train operator when they tell you which station you're arriving at.

When it takes 40 minutes for help to arrive, when a train is only several hundred feet away from a station, you've got a serious problem.

Add to this the fact that a person died due to the train operator instructing people to remain in a smoke filled train, when they could have easily evacuated the train and walked back to the station, now you're simply negligent and incompetent.

Let me explain to you the repercussions of this serious problem.

Now that riders have lost all faith in Metro staff to properly handle an emergency, we are not going to pay any attention to what your staff tell us to do in an emergency. Instead, we are going to look out only for ourselves, and find the quickest way out of a train or Metro station.

This really becomes problematic, because the next time there's an emergency, it might actually be critical for passengers to shelter in place, instead of attempt to escape. However, you have now destroyed any chance of that happening.

As a regular rider of Metro, I am quite angry. Metro is supposed to be safe. Metro employees are supposed to be properly trained to deal with emergencies. The response to this incident is inexcusable.

I refuse to be the next statistic in Metro's long line of avoidable accidents.

Ken Buckler is the editor of WashCo Chronicle. He regularly commutes to DC through MARC and Metro rail lines.