Ellen Perlman was a GOVERNING staff writer and technology columnist.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
All sorts of educational sessions were taking place at the National Association of Counties meeting in Chicago from August 4th to 8th.
But for a real slice of county life, the place to head was the exhibit hall.
Somewhere in the fray was a guy at a booth cooking a frozen dinner for the crowd. Why? Does he assume county officials don't particularly like to cook?
It turns out the meals were room-temperature meals called HeaterMeals that come with their own self-heating packets. They're used to feed emergency personnel stuck out in the field during floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and other disasters. Or manning desks around the clock in those situations. No kitchen is needed for these entrees of beef and mashed potatoes, vegetarian three-cheese lasagne or pancakes and bacon. Just one self-contained box and 10 minutes' warming time. Grab a box and go!
More NACo goodies -- and more pics -- after the jump.
The exhibit hall aisles were filled with such items the general public might not think about. The obvious exhibitors are the mower people, the prison people and the computer people. But the American Kennel Club also showed up, offering literature on dangerous dogs, nice dogs needing dog parks and building code regulations pertaining to dogs of all kinds. There were the coyote management strategies, the culvert opening equipment, the handy dandy folding tables for meetings and the microchips for domestic animal control.
Don't forget the tax lien people, the portable toilet people, the soy-based cleaner guy and the U.S. Northern Command, which helps out in disasters after local, state and federal emergency responders have been exhausted.
The drug testing folks sell a spiffy new cup for urine testing with benefits I won't go into in case you're reading this over breakfast. But how about this half a line from the information sheet pitch: ..."don't get any on ya!"
The luggage vendors, like the heater meal people, had me stumped. Turns out the lightweight, foldable luggage on four wheels, strong enough for a 150-pounder to sit on, can be used not only for controversial trips abroad but also for, say, election supply toting. Rather than haul 80 pounds worth of supplies in a back-breaking plastic tub, county elections officials can wheel it to and from precincts and then fold up the suitcase for easy storage. Right next to the folding tables, I presume.
The exhibit hall makes it pretty clear how varied the needs of counties are. And how enterprising are the business people out to meet those needs.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.