Many of the leading members of Maryland’s political class — including Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) — converged Monday morning in a nearly empty warehouse in Howard County to celebrate some federal stimulus funding that is continuing to flow to the state.
A $115 million federal grant is being used to expand broadband access throughout Maryland. Monday’s event marked the opening of a “logistics center” in Elkridge that will serve as the beachhead for a 10-jurisdiction consortium, including Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, that is slated to receive the bulk of the federal money.
The promise of more and better computer connections drew leaders from both parties, including the Democratic executives of Prince George’s and Howard counties and the Republican executives of Anne Arundel and Harford counties — all of whom sat in white folding chairs with huge rolls of orange cable in the camera view behind them.
Yet at times, the program felt a little partisan. Mikulski noted that Democrats in Congress “had our heads kicked in,” politically speaking, during the battle over stimulus funding. And she said, “thank God” for President Obama’s leadership on the issue.
“If you want to reach out to the world, you need broadband,” Mikulski said. “This is what voters want us to do.”
O’Malley referenced Obama as well during his turn at the lectern.
“I want to thank President Obama for understanding a modern economy requires modern investments,” the governor said.
Officials from Howard County, who are playing a lead role in the effort, said funding to the 10-jurisdiction consortium would help connect 715 institutions, including schools, libraries and law-enforcement agencies, to broadband.
Perhaps as a testament of things to come, several participants — including O’Malley, Mikulski and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) (or perhaps staff members pretending to be them) — all shared impressions of the event via Twitter.
“Expanding #mdbroadband access is vital for making a strong #Maryland,” Baker said in a tweet that also managed to squeeze in some of the other big names that joined him at the event.