I'm honored to be receiving the 2015 Policy Advocacy Award from Communities Engaged in Advocating for Smoke-free Environments (CEASE) for my work to ban electronic cigarette use in places where traditional tobacco smoking is prohibited.
I'll accept the award at the CEASE annual conference this Saturday at Morgan State University in Baltimore. Council President George Leventhal, who chairs the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee, is also named in the award.
I was the lead sponsor of Bill 54-14 that was unanimously approved by the Council in March. The bill prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes in public places where traditional tobacco smoking is prohibited. The bill also requires child-resistant packaging for nicotine containers.
Perhaps swayed by the belief that electronic cigarettes are safe, or emboldened by the fact that e-cigarettes have little odor that parents could detect, teens who have never tried traditional cigarettes are using e-cigs, putting themselves at risk for nicotine addiction, nicotine poisoning or exposure to harmful chemicals. I am not willing to gamble with the health of our current generation of young people. The Council did the right thing by putting these protections in place.
The CEASE Policy Advocacy Award recognizes individuals who have played a major role in developing and/or facilitating the passage of important tobacco-related legislation, regulations or private policies. Recipients of the award may have achieved success by serving in public office, in appointed positions or as advocates for the public’s health.
Electronic cigarettes have a cartridge that holds a liquid solution containing varying amounts of nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals; a heating device; and a re-chargable battery. Generally, puffing action activates the heating device and vaporizes the liquid in the cartridge. Although they do not produce tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals. There is a concern that e-cigarette use may serve as a gateway or introductory product for youth to try other tobacco products.
CEASE is a collaborative organization that aims to reduce tobacco use and to promote healthy living in Southwest Baltimore. CEASE provides smoking cessation treatment and prevention activities, disseminates data and information and engages in public advocacy. It partners with businesses, faith-based organizations, public schools and recovery organizations to educate, encourage and excite residents to choose healthier ways of living.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
I'm honored to be receiving the 2015 Policy Advocacy Award from Communities Engaged in Advocating for Smoke-free Environments (CEASE) for my work to ban electronic cigarette use in places where traditional tobacco smoking is prohibited.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Having battled breast cancer myself, I am particularly sensitive to the need to limit our exposure to toxic chemicals. I am proud that Montgomery County is taking the lead in protecting public health and welfare in this way. All residents, and particularly our children, stand to benefit from reduced exposure to pesticides. Here is the full press release on today's action:
ROCKVILLE, Md., October 6, 2015—The Montgomery County Council today approved amended Bill 52-14 that bans the use of pesticides on County-owned and private lawns, becoming one of the few jurisdictions in the nation to have such restrictions. One of the amendments to the original bill will allow the County’s Department of Parks to continue to use pesticides on playing fields as part of an integrated pest management program and requires the department to develop a plan that would lead to maintaining fields without pesticide use by 2020. The department will conduct a pilot program in the interim period to study the impact of maintaining fields without using pesticides.
Amendments that were approved today were proposed in a memo on Oct. 2 by Council President George Leventhal (the lead sponsor of the original bill) and Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Tom Hucker, Nancy Navarro and Hans Riemer. The amended bill was enacted by a vote of 6-3, with those five and Council Vice President Nancy Floreen in favor. Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Sidney Katz and Craig Rice were opposed.
Public hearings on the bill were held on Jan. 15 and Feb. 12, with more than 300 attendees at each. More than 300 people attended today’s session.
The enacted bill provides for a phasing of effective dates, with provisions related to County-owned property and County parks taking effect July 1, 2016. Today, on a motion by Council Vice President Floreen, the bill was amended to have provisions related to private property taking effect on Jan. 1, 2018 (rather than the originally proposed Jan. 1, 2017).
In addition to lawns, the bill also restricts the use of certain pesticides on public and private playgrounds, mulched recreation areas and children’s facilities such as child care centers. The bill’s restrictions do not apply to gardens. They do not restrict pesticide use for the control of noxious weeds or invasive species, for human health or agricultural purposes or to prevent significant economic damage.
The memo of Oct. 2 from Council President Leventhal and Councilmembers Elrich, Hucker, Navarro and Riemer offered amendments to recommended changes to the original bill that had been made by a majority of the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T and E) Committee on Sept. 17.
The recommended changes approved by the committee would have eliminated the ban on the use of pesticides on County-owned and private property lawns. T and E Committee members Berliner and Floreen supported the amendments. Councilmember Hucker was opposed.
In addition to restoring the restriction on the use of certain pesticides on both County-owned and private property, the approved bill substantially clarifies the method of determining which pesticides are subject to the restriction.
“Today’s action is another step in the ongoing effort to make Montgomery County the healthiest, safest county in the country,” said Council President Leventhal. “Countless studies have linked pesticides to a wide range of health conditions in children and adults and, since the bill was introduced one year ago, I have received hundreds of reports from constituents of children and pets experiencing adverse effects from the application of pesticides.
“Local government can—and should—step in a preventative way to protect the public’s health, even when there is not complete scientific certainty. The science may never be conclusive since it involves complex chemical interactions, but the absence of incontrovertible evidence does not justify inaction.
“I am extremely optimistic about what the passage of this bill will mean for Montgomery County’s economy. Now that this bill has become law and that harmful chemical treatments will be banned, I think it will foster an extraordinarily competitive industry for alternative lawn care options in the County.
“Property owners have a right to maintain their own property, but they do not have a right to inflict harm upon their neighbors. Residents will still be free to hire any lawn care professional to treat their lawn or to manage their own lawn care, but they can do so now with the confidence that their family will be better protected.”
Council Vice President Floreen said: “Having battled breast cancer myself, I am particularly sensitive to the need to limit our exposure to toxic chemicals. I am proud that Montgomery County is taking the lead in protecting public health and welfare in this way. All residents, and particularly our children, stand to benefit from reduced exposure to pesticides.”
Councilmember Elrich said: “This legislation is an important step toward protecting our public health and environment. We have an obligation to let the public know that our regulatory agencies’ actions do not keep pace with the multiple recent scientific findings. In 2015 alone, we have seen important news: glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp, is classified as a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer; a study links pesticides to antibiotic resistance, and, perhaps most important, a study of daughters whose mothers were exposed to DDT 54 years ago shows an almost four-fold increase in breast cancer risk in their daughters.
“DDT was banned in 1972 because it was endangering our national bird, the bald eagle and not because of health impacts on people. If we had waited for the proof that DDT caused cancer, it would have been used for 40 more years, and many more women would have been at increased risk for breast cancer. We lack certainty about the safety of many EPA registered chemicals, and many earlier studies do not begin to assess risk pathways to human health that are widely recognized today.
“I did not want to look back in 20 years and say that we could have acted. This bill acts on the precautionary principle, restricting and reducing the use of pesticides and exposure wherever possible. It does so based on the scientific evidence. I think as the public understands the science, they will appreciate our action.”
Councilmember Hucker said: "Our first concern cannot be protecting homeowners' right to the cosmetic benefits lawn pesticides promise, especially when there are alternatives. Our first concern has to be protecting public health and the environment."
Councilmember Katz said: “The health and safety of our residents remains my utmost priority, and the Council should rightly do all it can to limit exposure to hazardous chemicals on the properties we maintain. However, I still have many concerns about how we encourage the reduction of chemicals on privately-maintained properties in a responsible, thoughtful, and cost-effective manner. Today’s discussion made it abundantly clear that we don’t have all the answers. We must continue to educate and inform not only the public, but ourselves regarding the implementation of this legislation.”
Councilmember Navarro said: “I'm proud of the work that Montgomery County has done today in passing this groundbreaking pesticide legislation to restrict the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes. I have stood behind this bill from the beginning because I believe that it is the Council's responsibility to work to protect Montgomery County's public health.
“As this bill is implemented, the education campaign will be key. Educating the public on the intent to reduce major health risks and the effects of these chemicals will be a critical piece of enforcement. This bill will set the national standard for reducing pesticide use and creating a safer and cleaner environment for our communities.”
Councilmember Riemer said: "People need and trust the government to protect them from health risks associated with toxic chemicals. Having reviewed the scientific evidence, I find that there is enough concern to justify restrictions on the application of lawn chemicals. As a parent of two young children, my priority in this legislation is to protect the health of all children in our community. I believe we have done that today."
More details about Bill 52-14 and related amendments are available at: http://tinyurl.com/q56xdsr .
Friday, October 2, 2015
We've just learned that retired Air Force Brigadier General Wilma Vaught, who retired after 28 years in the U.S. Air Force as one of the most decorated women in U.S. military history and who was one of the few military women to serve in Vietnam who was not a nurse, will be among the featured speakers on Saturday, Oct. 24, as Montgomery County honors the men and women who served the nation during the Vietnam War. The Honor and Gratitude program will take place at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, starting at 10:30 a.m. Note that although the event is free, registration is required.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
What a treat it was to present a County Council Proclamation to Jim Clifford, who became the world's oldest person to complete the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming when he swam across the English Channel in ten hours, three minutes. The Open Water Triple Crown consists of three swims--21 miles across the English Channel, 20 miles across the Catalina Channel and 28 miles around Manhattan Island. At age 63, Jim broke the record for the fastest swim across the English Channel in the over 50 age category. He completed the Catalina Channel swim in nine hours, 49 minutes and the Manhattan Island swim in nine hours, 30 minutes. What an amazing accomplishment.
Monday, September 28, 2015
Here's the full press release:
Bob Schieffer, who recently retired as host of the CBS show Face the Nation, has agreed to be the host and guest speaker on Saturday, Oct. 24, as Montgomery County will honor the men and women who served the nation during the Vietnam War. The event will take place at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, starting at 10:30 a.m.
The Vietnam War—which changed the lives of those who served and altered the political scene back home—ended for the United States in 1975. Honor and Gratitude: Montgomery Salutes Vietnam Veterans will be the first significant event in those 40 years to honor the County’s Vietnam veterans. It is estimated that between 130 and 140 Montgomery County residents lost their lives in the Vietnam War. There are more than 13,000 Vietnam veterans currently living in the County.
County Executive Ike Leggett (who is a Vietnam vet), Council President George Leventhal and the County Council will lead the special ceremonies at the Universities at Shady Grove at 9630 Gudelsky Drive in Rockville. The event will be recorded and broadcast on many of the public cable television channels that compose the County’s PEG (Public, Education, Government) organization, which is hosting the event. In addition, the PEG organization will be recording the stories of many of the veterans for a documentary.
The program will include a look back at some of the significant events of the U.S. involvement of the conflict that dates to July 8, 1959, when two U.S. military advisers were killed in a raid at Bien Hoa. More than 800 people are expected for the Oct. 24 event, including those who were present in major actions of the 11-year U.S. involvement. Those events included attacks on the USS Maddox in August 1964 that led to Congress on Aug. 7, 1964, passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that gave President Lyndon Johnson the power to take whatever actions he saw necessary to defend South Vietnam against Viet Cong forces.
Honor and Gratitude: Montgomery Salutes Vietnam Veterans event organizers are currently seeking to contact more of the veterans who will be honored on Oct 24. Those veterans, or family and friends of the veterans, seeking more information about the event should call 301-424-1730 / ext. 350. Additional details, including how to register to attend the free event, can be found at:http://tinyurl.com/pdo4h4q
“It has been almost four decades since our Vietnam veterans returned home,” said County Executive Leggett. “We want to take this opportunity to acknowledge their courage and patriotism and say thank you for making the world a better place. As a veteran of the Vietnam War, I know the sacrifices that were made by members of our military during times of war. This event is a perfect way for all of us to pay tribute to these brave and honorable men and women.”
Mr. Schieffer was a reporter for more than half a century and 2015 marked his 46th year at CBS News and his 24th anchoring "Face the Nation." Prior to joining CBS in 1969, he was a reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram where he was the first reporter from a Texas newspaper to report from Vietnam.
Mr. Schieffer has won virtually every award in broadcast journalism including eight Emmys, the overseas Press Club Award, the Paul White Award presented by the TV News Directors Association and the Edward R. Murrow Award given by Murrow's alma mater Washington State University. In 2008, he was named a living legend by the Library of Congress. In 2013, Mr. Schieffer was inducted into the National Academy of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.
Speakers at the event will include veterans who served in various aspects of the Vietnam conflict. The event will honor their service and also will look at how those experiences influenced their lives since.
“So many in our community heroically served our nation, and the world, 40 years ago,” said Council President Leventhal. “Oct. 24 will be a day where our County recognizes those whose actions helped that had such a great impact on our nation. There have been many books written, and many movies made, about the people we will honor, but on this day, we will personally thank—and hear directly from—some of the men and women who did so much to shape the life and freedom we know today.”
An important part of event will be the opportunity to record the stories of the Montgomery residents who served in Vietnam.
“Whether they were troops in the jungles, on helicopters and bombers, serving on the ships, the river patrol boats, in the medical corps or the troops supplying them all, there are stories that have yet to be told about Vietnam,” said Merlyn Reineke, chair of the PEG Governing Board. “This event will introduce a new generation to the sacrifices made by the brave men and women in Vietnam, and as the County’s cable providers, we will be there to preserve these stories so future generations will know about their heroism. It is hard to believe there has never been a major event to honor Montgomery County’s Vietnam vets, but we think this is the right time to salute them.”
Friday, September 25, 2015
On Tuesday the Council will hold special ceremonies to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month. The special event on “The Current State of the Latino Community in Montgomery County” will include a panel discussion with Hispanic and Latino leaders in the County whose work on social justice issues have helped shape the community. There also will be a video presentation featuring Hispanic and Latino residents who will share their life experiences and express their views on issues that will shape the future. Tune in to County Cable Montgomery at 11:00 a.m. to see it.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
We received a report today from the Office of Legislative Oversight describing school funding and allocation patterns within Montgomery County Public Schools. The report, titled Resources and Staffing among MCPS Schools, compares differences in class size, staff tenure, per pupil expenditures and teacher salary costs between MCPS’ schools with the highest rates of free and reduced priced meals and those with the lowest FARMS rates. The report also examines the additional state and federal revenue that MCPS receives and budgets for ESOL and compensatory education programs that serve these two student subgroups.
The achievement gap between poor and middle class or wealthy students remains one of the most important and most intractable problems within our otherwise excellent education system in Montgomery County. I’m grateful to the Office of Legislative Oversight for its in-depth look at the resources allocated to resolving this long-standing issue. The findings raise some complex questions that I encourage the Board of Education to consider seriously.
Each year, the Board of Education asks the County Council for additional funding over Maintenance of Effort to meet the needs of its increasingly diverse and low-income student enrollment. According to the OLO report, though, MCPS only allocated two-thirds of the $151 million it received in additional federal and state aid for low-income students to compensatory education programs designed to meet their learning needs. That leaves $47 million in funds designed to close the gap unaccounted for. Why should the County Council ask taxpayers to chip in more resources for closing the achievement gap when MCPS hasn’t used all the money it already has precisely for that purpose?
MCPS notes in its response to the report that using $47 million in compensatory education funding for non-compensatory education programs is legal under state law. I don’t question whether it is legal, but I question whether it is morally right given the persistence of the achievement gap between poor and non-poor students in MCPS. What could MCPS have done for under-achieving students if the $47 million had been spent exclusively on compensatory programs? MCPS claims that it must use the $47 million in compensatory funding for other programs in order to maintain the high quality of instruction across the County. Does MCPS really need to tap this relatively small resource when the total MCPS budget is $2.3 billion? Where is the nearly two and a half billion dollars going if not to instruction across the County?
These are serious questions, and I look forward to working with MCPS on serious solutions. I thank the Office of Legislative Oversight for its hard work on the report.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Tomorrow at 9:30, the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee will hold its fourth worksession on Bill 52-14 which would restrict the use of cosmetic pesticides.
The bill, as introduced, would ban the use of “non-essential” pesticides on lawns, certain athletic playing fields, and County-owned public grass areas. It also would require property owners to post a notice when they apply pesticides and would require the County to adopt an integrated pest management program for certain County-owned property. The bill contains exemptions for agriculture, control of noxious weeds and invasive species, maintenance of golf courses, the protection of human health and the prevention of significant economic damage. At tomorrow's meeting, the committee will consider several proposed amendments to the bill. If you would like to follow along, you can watch the meeting live on County Cable Montgomery. It will also be available on demand 24 hours later. You can get background information on the Council’s Web site.
Friday, September 11, 2015
Here's the flier and the full press release:
The public is invited to attend a presentation by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) regarding recent scope changes to the Purple Line project. The meeting will be held on Thursday, September 17 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Silver Spring Civic Building, 1 Veterans Place, Silver Spring. The Purple Line is a proposed light rail line that will run from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County. The presentation by MTA will begin promptly at 7 p.m. and will be followed by an open house, during which attendees will have an opportunity to discuss project changes with staff.
Adjustments to the Purple Line scope were made after a thorough review to identify ways to reduce project costs. As a result, some requirements have been reduced to provide more flexibility, encourage greater innovation and achieve cost savings. A detailed list of the scope changes can be found at www.purplelinemd.com. The revised approach will help deliver a more cost-efficient light rail system while still providing quality service and honoring commitments made to the Purple Line communities.
Sign language interpreter services will be provided, upon request, by emailing Karen.Falcon@montgomerycountymd.gov no later than September 14.
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Starting this fall, you can sign up for public hearings online. The Sign Up to Testify feature appears in two places--within the header and under the Council Activities tab. Of course, you can still sign up by calling 240-777-7803. Also new, you can get the speakers list online about three hours before the public hearing begins.
Thursday, August 27, 2015
We're accepting applications from qualified voters of the County for
appointment to a three-year term on the Merit System Protection Board.
Generally, the Board is expected to oversee the Merit System and to protect
employee and applicant rights guaranteed under the County Merit System. Here's the full press release:
ROCKVILLE, Md., August 27, 2015—The Montgomery County Council is accepting applications from qualified voters of the County for appointment to a three-year term on the Merit System Protection Board. Generally, the Board is expected to oversee the Merit System and to protect employee and applicant rights guaranteed under the County Merit System.
Applications must be received in the Council office by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 14.
Current members of the Board are Raul Chavera (unaffiliated), Michael Kator (Democrat) and Charlotte Crutchfield (Democrat). Mr. Chavera’s term will expire Dec. 31, 2015.
By law, no more than two of the three members of the Merit System Protection Board may be of the same political party. The appointee for this position may be a Republican, a voter who declines to affiliate with a party or a voter who is a member of another party officially recognized by the Board of Elections.
There are two methods in which the board processes appeals:
• A written decision issued after a review and discussion of a written record.
• A written decision issued after a pre-hearing conference and a formal hearing in cases involving a suspension, demotion or dismissal.
The board, on a periodic basis, conducts special studies, audits or inquiries of the administration of the merit and retirement pay systems and, in this effort, may compel the attendance of witnesses. Written reports of its findings and recommendations are filed with the County Executive and the County Council. The board also provides comments on any proposed changes in Merit System law or regulations.
The board holds hearings during the day, which can take the full day, with any additional proceedings scheduled for subsequent evening(s). Also, the board normally meets once per month for approximately three hours during the day. Additional time is also required for preparatory work.
Members of the board receive $7,812 per year, which is adjusted annually to reflect 50 percent of the percentage change in the Washington Area Consumer Price Index.
Board members are restricted in political activity while serving. Section 403 of the County Charter states in part “No member shall hold political office or participate in any campaign for any political or public office during the member's term of office." Members of County boards, committees and commissions may not serve on more than one such group at a time.
Applicants should submit letters of interest with a resume to: George Leventhal, President, Montgomery County Council, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850 by 5 p.m. on Oct. 14. Applications also can be submitted via email to email@example.com .
Resumes should include professional and civic experience, political party affiliation, home and office telephone numbers and an email address. Letters and resumes submitted are made public as part of the appointment process. A financial statement of assets, debts, income and family property interests will be required of all applicants. Only the appointed candidates will be required to make the financial statement available to the public.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Here's the full press release:
In an effort to familiarize the construction industry with the new building codes adopted to implement the 2015 code cycle, the Department of Permitting Services (DPS) is holding a series of open house sessions hosted by DPS’ divisions of Commercial Building Construction and Residential Construction & Intake. The sessions, in late August and September, will focus on new executive regulations adopting the 2015 International Building Code changes from previous editions, affected policies and procedures, and related code interpretations.
A morning and afternoon session will take place on three consecutive Fridays – August 28, September 4 and 11 -- in the Executive Office Building, Lobby Level Auditorium, 101 Monroe St., Rockville. Morning sessions will run from 9 a.m. to noon and will cover the following topics: International Building Codes (IBC), International Mechanical Code (IMC), International Fuel-Gas Code (IFGC) and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Afternoon sessions will run from 1 to 4 p.m. and topics include: International Residential Code (IRC), International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISP & SC) and IECC. Registration is required for each session: August 28; September 4; and September 11.
Sign language interpreter services will be provided upon request with as much advance notice as possible, preferably at least three (3) business days before the scheduled meeting. If these, or other services or aids are needed to participate in this activity, call 240-777-6272 or 240-777-6256 (TTY), or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, August 21, 2015
Here is our holiday schedule for Labor Day on Monday, September 7:
- County Offices – closed
- Libraries – closed
- County liquor stores – all retail stores are open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Recreation – Bethesda, Germantown, Western County, Wheaton/Glenmont and MLK outdoor aquatic facilities will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Olney Indoor Swim Center will be open normal hours; all other indoor aquatic facilities, as well as the Long Branch and Upper County outdoor pools, will be closed. Administrative offices, senior centers and community centers are closed.
- Montgomery Parks -- most Parks facilities are open during holiday weekend. For operating schedules, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org.
- Ride On – Sunday schedule
- Metrobus – Sunday schedule
- Metrorail – Sunday schedule
- TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) -- closed
- Refuse/recycling pickup – no collection*
- Transfer Station – closed
- Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
- MCPS Administrative Offices – closed
- State offices and courts – closed
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Here's the full press release from Metro:
Metro plans to accept Silver Spring Transit Center from Montgomery County
Targets opening date of Sunday, Sept. 20
This morning, Metro received a formal request from Montgomery County to transfer the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center into the regional transit system. While Metro has 10 days to formally accept the facility, no issues are expected, and Metro officials have set a target opening date of Sunday, September 20.
Located adjacent to the Silver Spring Metrorail Station, the three-level multi-modal transit center was built by Montgomery County, and will provide expanded bus facilities and improved connectivity between Metrorail, Metrobus, MARC Rail, Ride On Bus, intercity buses and taxis. With multiple points of entry for pedestrians from three directions, and access from two bike trails, the center is also expected to improve pedestrian and vehicle flow in Downtown Silver Spring.
The transit center is located at 8400 Colesville Road on about half of the area formerly occupied by bus loops and short-term Metrorail parking. The Transit Center’s features include:
- 32 bus bays for WMATA Metrobus, Montgomery County Ride On, Van-Go shuttle, Inter-city Buses, and University of Maryland Shuttle
- Direct access to Metrorail and MARC trains
- 22 Kiss & Ride spaces
- Electronic real-time bus arrival and information displays
- Multi-modal transit store (TRiPS)