As thousands of tourists flock to the city to celebrate the bicentennial of the national anthem, the International Municipal Lawyers Association also welcomed its members to town, setting up shop just a few blocks from the Inner Harbor at the Hilton Baltimore hotel.
The IMLA organized dozens of workshops and panels geared toward the issues facing local government lawyers for its 79th annual conference, and intentionally scheduled this year’s event to coincide with the Star-Spangled Spectacular, said IMLA executive director Chuck Thompson.
Baltimore City Solicitor George Nilson highlighted some of the local events members would have the chance to attend during a keynote ceremony at the conference Thursday morning, including a 9/11 commemoration and Run to Remember, which will benefit the Baltimore City Police and Fire Foundations.
Those events, which will wrap up the five-day conference on Sunday, are in addition to the 200th anniversary celebration that is bringing tall ships, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and plenty of entertainment to the city this week, said Thompson, a Baltimore native.
“The people of Baltimore have a lot to be proud of, and it’s great to be able to show that off to people from around the country,” he said.
The IMLA identified Baltimore as a potential conference site about seven years ago, he said. Past host cities have included San Francisco, Chicago and Austin, Texas.
Although this year’s schedule allowed members a bit more free time to socialize or explore the city during the afternoons, it also packs in more opportunities for CLE training than in past years, Thompson said.
“We know budgets are tight at local governments across the country,” said IMLA president Sheryl King Benford, before thanking members for pursuing continuing legal education at the conference.
Thompson estimated about 700 municipal lawyers will attend the conference this year. Panel and workshop topics ranged from environmental issues facing local governments to the Fair Labor Standards Act to the “benefits and burdens” of marijuana legislation. A panel discussion, “It’s Their Constitution, Too,” tackled local responses to panhandling and homelessness.
Because municipal lawyers in many cities are responsible for responding to a diverse range of issues, choosing between concurrent sessions was a struggle for some of them, Thompson said.
“What they’re telling me is that they wish they could be two people, so they could attend some of these competing programs,” he said.
In addition to the sessions, the conference schedule also set aside time for land-use tours on Thursday afternoon, giving members the chance to get out of the hotel and into the city.
“We’ll show our members some of the very successful projects Baltimore is working on in terms of redevelopment, and let people see what a city can do when it puts its mind to redeveloping areas that were once in decay,” Thompson said.