Mr. Gullo goes to Washington to talk about business of small-town mayor New Windsor official tells House subcommittees about coping with regulations

March 20, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. stepped into the halls of Congress this week, airing successes and setbacks his town has encountered with government regulations.

At the invitation of Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a Western Maryland Republican, Gullo spoke before two House of Representatives subcommittees that are addressing small-business issues.

Accompanied by Bartlett, Gullo also boarded the "members only" elevator to the tunnels connecting the Rayburn House Office Building to the Capitol.

"I even had my foot on the floor of the House," Gullo, 29, said.

The two-term mayor, who runs a law practice in his hometown, found the experience "so cool."

As president of the Maryland Mayors Association and an officer in the Municipal League, Gullo has often testified in Annapolis, but never in Washington. "It is one of the highlights of my experiences in government," he said. "This is not like Annapolis, where anybody can testify. In Washington, you have to be invited."

His remarks may influence pending legislation. The hearing Wednesday reviewed "the burden needless regulations and lack common sense in enforcement of regulations place upon small business," Bartlett and Rep. Sue W. Kelly, a New York Republican, said in a letter March 6 inviting the mayor to Washington.

They asked participants in the hearing, who included several business owners, to "express views on whether present federal regulatory programs are stimulating or deterring job growth and economic development."

With Bartlett presiding, Gullo and three other witnesses addressed about a dozen members of the two subcommittees. The mayor took about five minutes to deliver his prepared remarks.

"We were grateful that the mayor took the time to come to Washington," said Lisa Wright, Bartlett's spokeswoman. "He demonstrated through personal example how federal regulations should work and how in many cases they do not."

Gullo gave examples of problems and solutions, from the town and from his experience renovating a carriage house -- once his grandfather's barbershop -- into disabled-accessible law offices.

"I did not profess to be an expert on government regulations, but I did have a few stories to share," Gullo said. "The common theme focused on the rigid enforcement of regulations without a thought to practical solutions with minimal costs."

His examples included a concrete access ramp that had to be rebuilt because of a quarter-inch error in length and a historic restaurant in Union Bridge that received a waiver allowing it not to have an access ramp but that had to construct two disabled-accessible bathrooms.

Bartlett was particularly interested in the mayor's discussion of "de minimus" -- a legal term for a detail so minor it makes no difference to the overall issue.

"The congressman was really struck by the ramp story," Wright said. "A slight difference, within the margin of error of any good tradesman, did not make a difference to the slope. Yet it cost $1,000 and weeks of delay."

Gullo also discussed the town's solution to make its meetings accessible to the disabled. New Windsor's town hall on the second floor of an aging building is reached by a narrow staircase to council chambers and is inaccessible to disabled residents.

Inspectors suggested installing an elevator by constructing a shaft on the exterior wall of the brick building at a cost of about $100,000 -- nearly a third of the town's annual budget.

"We understand there is no more important thing in a small town than to have people at its meetings, but the renovation costs were high," said Gullo.

The council struck a deal with the local fire department and now meets in the fire hall -- the first floor of the same building.

"The congressman is looking for that flexibility and attitude in the regulatory process," Wright said. "The fire hall is an example of how we want the process to work."

Pub Date: 3/20/98

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