Volume 14, Issue 2 ~ January 12 - 18, 2006

On Technology, Anne Arundel Pins Its Hopes

Eventually it will trickle down

State Sen. John Astle sees technology keeping Anne Arundel County “inflation-proof” in the midst of national military base closings, while Police Chief Thomas Shanahan sees technology as a means “to solve a lot more crime.”

“A powerhouse in terms of the world,” executive Janet Owens called Anne Arundel County as the term-limited, two-time executive gave reconvening legislators her wish list for the seventh and last time. She referred to Fort George G. Meade, Anne Arundel’s chief of the Maryland spots where military might and intelligence are convening as, around the country, bases are closed and consolidated.

From marriages of might and intelligence, technology is born. Where else do you think such innovations as canned food, Jeeps and nuclear power come from?

Technology is the economic sector on which Anne Arundel pins its 21st century hopes. School construction, highway improvement, law enforcement: In the coming economy, all are viewed with an eye to keeping the county attractive to the technology workforce relocating here. With 31,000 jobs, the county has led the state in job creation in the last four years. More are coming.

But in this convocation of county dignitaries — one county executive, one congressman, three state senators, 13 delegates, seven council men and women, a base commander and assorted department heads — technology has a long way to trickle down.

No Power Point guided Owens through her $83.3 million dollar priority budget. Not even an overhead projector. She simply spoke, her words reinforced only by a thin sheaf of paper handouts.

Her biggest wants, she told the lawmakers in whose hands are the purse strings, are $36 million to fund improvements to Maryland Rt. 175, a gateway from Rt. 301 to Fort Meade; and $32 million for school construction; plus $2 million more to make Ft. Meade a science and technology magnet high school.

“BRAC” — the acronym for Base Realignment and Closing, the consequences of a congressional commission — “will make the county inflation-proof,” said Sen. John Astle, continuing the theme.

Astle, leader of the county senatorial delegation, kept his hands busy as he spoke, fingering his gift from the county executive, a black leather-looking case about the size of a pack of cards. “We’re going to have to load palms in them and add them to our tool belts along with the cell phones and pagers,” he deadpanned. Still, he promised Owens he would “cherish” his Palm Pilot caddy.

“I can tell his techie gift was not a big hit this year,” Owens ruefully allowed. “Last year’s cookbook was better.”

Her gift from the county’s lawmakers, proffered by Del. Mary Love, chair of Anne Arundel’s House delegation, was a vase of flowers. “My favorite thing,” Owens said.

Technology got personal reverence only from Chief of Police Thomas Shanahan. His department has overcome the spots of radio silence that plagued officers in past years. Now he was inspired by the display of power he’d just seen while riding the streets with young, and apparently technologically savvy, officers.

In their cars, the officers had shown their chief how laptop computers could snatch images out of thin air. The chief had asked them to find the picture of a current suspect, a man with a fairly common name. Adding Pasadena, where the man lived, refined the search to just the right person. Up popped his photo.

“Can you get on the Internet, too?” asked the astonished chief.

It can even provide redundancy when phones go out, he learned.

Now he’s a technology believer.

“By the end of her [Owens’] term,” the chief said, “each car will have a laptop. I hope it’s going to solve a lot more crime for us.”

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