First and foremost, I’d like to thank both of the readers who responded to the quiz I hid in last week’s column. I said I’d give a shout-out to the first to respond, but, frankly, I’m so amazed that there was more than one person reading, so I decided to include both.

The question was to guess how old the soon-to-be-rebuilt basketball court at Stonegate Park is, with the hint being it was first constructed around the same time Larry Bird won his third NBA Most Valuable Player Award. The first to reply was Monica Riscigno, of Frederick, while Gary Delbrook, also of Frederick, was close on her heels. Both sunk their shots by listing the correct year, which was of course 1986. That’s right, the original court at Stonegate Park is 33 years old.

This week, between following up on the shooting last week, a tragic fatal crash and line-of-duty death of a firefighter in Unionville and Thursday’s fatal shooting on Columbine Drive, I was mostly preoccupied writing crime and public safety stories on my old beat. With all of that breaking, thankfully, the city beat was pretty quiet with many city officials attending the annual Maryland Municipal League conference in Ocean City, Maryland. The conference began June 23 and ended Wednesday.

Even though it didn’t happen here in Frederick, the conference was packed with interesting discussions, many of which will no doubt lead to new ideas and proposals here in Frederick. As an appetizer, I asked Mayor Michael O’Connor a few questions about his experience and his biggest takeaways this year.

Sand, sun and MML fun

Q: You mentioned that there would be a discussion about how municipalities handle crises such as active shooters. I’m interested in what you learned or took away from that. Will there be a unified plan moving forward to better handle such emergencies?

A: The issue of active shooters was an especially timely topic for municipal governments with the incident in Virginia Beach several weeks ago. And the room was packed. The session was among the best attended in the 10 years I’ve participated with MML. It was reassuring in the sense that we have ongoing internal discussions about crisis planning, and are undertaking efforts to look at procedures and physical security in all our facilities and update them accordingly. But it also illuminated how much more we can do in terms of training.

Q: What discussion or conference topic did you find the most interesting and why? Can residents expect any of the ideas you picked up to be implemented here in the future, either short or long-term?

A: The active shooter, data security, and community/police relations sessions were among the most interesting, in addition to two very good keynote speakers, Dr. Bertice Berry and Charles Marohn, founder and president of Strong Towns. A session I always derive a lot from is the “large cities” discussion. It is composed of elected officials mostly from cities with more than 10,000 residents. That conversation occurred after the active shooter and data security sessions, so it was good to hear about what other municipalities are doing in those areas. And yes, there are short and long term opportunities from all these discussions.

Q: A lot of your time was spent indoors working, but did you find any time to enjoy yourself in Ocean City?

A: My wife and I took a day before the conference started to spend a little time outside, including spending some time on the boardwalk. Additionally, I’m honored to once again serve on the board of directors of MML as a district vice president representing the cities and towns in Frederick County. I look forward to working with new MML President Ryan Spiegel [a Gaithersburg city councilman]. We had some senior city staff in attendance also, so we will be getting together to compare notes.

Have a happy (and safe) Fourth of July

Before I close this column, I’d like to wish all of my readers a happy and safe Fourth of July, so, Monica? Gary? Have a happy and safe Fourth of July! Seriously, I think you two might be it ...

The end of June has always meant two things for me, first and foremost, every year on June 30 I celebrate another birthday with my friends and family, and then, four days later, I gather with my larger family of Americans to celebrate the independence of this vast, great nation.

For me, Independence Day is a great day to remember one of our core liberties written into the constitution in the form of the First Amendment, protecting, among other basic rights, the right to a free press. So while the most of the country is turning it’s eyes skyward to gaze at one of more than a dozen planned fireworks displays, why not take a moment to find something you value in your life that wouldn’t be possible without our having won our independence and establishing our fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Or just eat a cheeseburger and watch the stupid fireworks, whatever.

Follow Jeremy Arias on Twitter: @Jarias_Prime.

Jeremy Arias is the Frederick city and government reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

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