A message from Councilwoman Bevins

(Updated 8/7/17)

- By Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6) -

The county is holding its 14th biannual Summer Baltimore County Restaurant week from Aug. 4 - 19. Organized by the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce and Office of Tourism and Promotion, many local restaurants around the county will be offering special brunch, lunch and dinner menus at fixed discounted prices ranging from between $15 to $35.

Restaurant week provides a great opportunity to try new restaurants and support local businesses. With 62 local restaurants participating, you have a variety of options to enjoy different settings around the county; whether you prefer the urban setting of Towson, or the views of rolling hills in northern Baltimore County or dining on the waterfront; there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of during the next two weeks. Many Sixth District restaurants both on and off the waterfront are participating in Restaurant Week. I encourage you to take advantage of their great specials and support these local businesses.

The Baltimore County restaurant industry is one of the biggest in the State of Maryland. It’s economic impact is invaluable as these local business provide tax revenue that is spent on our roads, schools and many other county services. Local restaurants are also vital to communities as they donate their resources to local neighborhood groups and programs.

National Night Out

I want to thank all the citizens, police officers and community groups who participated in National Night Out on Tuesday Aug. 1. Many citizens turned their front porch lights on and took to the streets with their fellow neighbors, police officers and fire fighters to show that our communities are a great place for people to live, play and work.

National Night Out is an annual celebration across the country on the first Tuesday of August. Local events attract hundreds of residents who turn on their lights, walk their neighborhood streets and interact with the police officers and fire fighters to promote community crime fighting initiatives.

I want to thank all of the Sixth District community organizations that came out and all of the police officers and fire fighters who joined with them to say no to crime.

Baltimore County needs an active public safety plan

(Updated 8/7/17)

- By Del. Pat McDonough (county executive candidate) -

The recent reckless murder of a 13-year-old girl in Baltimore County has residents worried that Baltimore City-type violence is spilling over into our neighborhoods. Although county crime is nowhere near the level of city crime, our public safety problems appear to be growing. The statistics that are available claim otherwise but as an elected representative, I have been receiving a growing number of calls about robberies, burglaries and nuisance crimes.

It is important that we attack this problem before it grows beyond our control. I have a number of actions that should be initiated that would bring a proactive law enforcement policy to protect the county. Young people are committing a large number of public nuisance crimes, which means it may be time to institute a county-wide youth curfew program. This curfew must be strongly enforced. Zero tolerance has been criticized by the press and the pro-criminal lobby. Baltimore County needs a lawfully enforced zero tolerance policy. The quality of life in our neighborhoods is essential to the success and stability of our future. Public nuisance crimes and residents who disturb their neighborhoods must not be tolerated. Residents in Section 8 voucher-supported homes must follow the rules and regulations of their contracts or be removed. As your Baltimore County Executive, I will strictly enforce these rules.

In order to send a message to anyone willing to commit gun violence in our county, I will implement “Project Exile.” This federal program will prosecute gun violence perpetrators by imposing mandatory sentencing and transfer them to out-of-state prisons at federal expense. I introduced a “Criminal Gun Control Act” in the state legislature. This proposal mandated a 10-year sentence prohibiting parole, plea bargaining and the right of a judge to dismiss the charge. The pro-criminal legislators in Annapolis defeated the bill. However, I will introduce the bill again in the 2018 session of the Maryland General Assembly.

Recently, judges in Baltimore City have been criticized for dismissing gun violence cases. In order to avoid a detachment of the community from the judicial system, I would implement a “Court Watch” program. Volunteers would be recruited to be observers in the courtrooms. A state-of-the-art website would be developed to disclose judicial decisions and records to the general public. The Baltimore County administration would render full support for this project.

Of course, the great danger facing all of us is the Mexican heroin epidemic. Gangs like MS-13 are conducting chemical warfare upon our people. We must use the combined power of the federal, state and local law enforcement assets to remove them from Baltimore County. Undercover agents, intelligence specialists and every partner necessary must be used to shut down criminal illegal immigrants and terminate all sanctuary policies.

Baltimore County’s future depends upon the strength of its neighborhoods. I would focus on a policy that promotes a civic association in every community. A “Citizens on Patrol” should be part of the association fully supported by the County Executive and law enforcement.

The “Put People First” slogan which is part of my campaign to become your next Baltimore County Executive promises that the peoples’ best interests will be the top priority in every policy including public safety. Although you may not agree with all of these ideas, it is important that elected representatives take public safety seriously and fight for the victims, not the perpetrators. Baltimore County will be a “rule of law” county.

Holding the Seagram's developers accountable

Holding the Seagram's developers accountable

(Updated 8/3/17)

- By Delegate Robin Grammer (R-6) -

As we all know, the developers of the former Seagram's property in Dundalk have been forced to move forward with the demolition of the structures on the site and have been told that no further delays are acceptable.

Since the release of this news, community members have been active and engaged on this issue, which is very positive. Residents have expressed that while the demolition of the property will finally be resolved, there is concern about the community, environmental and health impacts that the demolition may cause.

This is a healthy skepticism. However, accountability starts with a clear understanding of the regulatory framework and the application of the law to this demolition. My job as a state representative of our communities is to oversee the agencies that execute this framework, so I wanted to take a moment to provide a clear understanding of the activities of the site and the regulatory expectations as the work proceeds.

The regulatory framework under the Maryland Department of the Environment's Land & Materials Administration is known as the Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) and the plan submitted by the developer is referred to as the Response Action Plan (RAP).

Section 8.2 of the RAP evaluates the Air Monitoring Requirements of the project. Contaminants of potential concern are identified in the site soils and a list of associated risks that may be generated due to construction dust emissions is created. From this list of contaminants and potential risks, a site specific dust action level was calculated for the site using the permissible exposure limits dictated within regulation.

The action level is calculated using the highest concentration of each contaminant of potential concern in order to provide a conservative estimate of potential worker and community exposure. The concentration estimates used in this regulatory framework are greater than the OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) for total dust and the OSHA and ACGIH (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists) PEL and TLV (Threshold Limit Value) for respirable “nuisance” particulates not otherwise specified.

Air monitoring will be performed utilizing a real-time air monitoring device. If the action level is exceeded, operations will be shut down and dust suppression implemented. Operations may only be resumed once re-testing indicates that dust concentrations are below the action level.

Air monitoring is implemented at the start of the site activities, periodically at 15-minute intervals, when new contaminants are handled, when a new type of operation is initiated and if personnel are working in exposed areas. Concurrent with the air monitoring, perimeter air monitoring will also be performed to ensure contaminants are not migrating off-site. Perimeter monitoring will include monitoring along the entire perimeter of the site, including the downwind portions of the site.

Section 8.3 of the RAP evaluates Asbestos Monitoring. During excavations, visual inspections will be performed by a qualified asbestos inspector to ensure construction workers do not come in contact with potential asbestos-containing building materials.

If friable asbestos-containing building materials are suspected during excavation or disposal activities, all work must stop and the materials will be inspected. If friable asbestos is identified, then the debris would be considered contaminated asbestos debris and must be removed by a Maryland licensed asbestos contractor and disposed of in an appropriate asbestos landfill. In the event friable asbestos is determined to be present, all work will cease and the Maryland Department of the Environment Air and Radiation Management Administration will be contacted prior to removal and disposal activities.

To enforce this framework, the Maryland Department of the Environment project manager conducts periodic site inspections during the execution. The site inspection memorandum is incorporated into the administrative record for each site. Baltimore County also requires a statement from a certified pest control technician that the property is rat free before demolition.

This report may be a bit technical, but I provide it so that all residents can utilize it to ensure our communities are protected. I have personally discussed the remediation plans at the property with Barbara Brown, who oversees this program at the Maryland Department of the Environment. She has expressed confidence in the oversight of the agency on this project.

Accountability requires continued vigilance, and I hope that this submission offers clarity to the community about the framework of the demolition as it relates to the control of contaminants, asbestos and rats. If you see an item of potential concern which leads you to believe that proper safety precautions or other health related expectations are not being adhered to, please reach out to my office immediately.

Del. Grammer can be reached at 410-841-3298 or robin.grammer@house.state.md.us.

read more

Message from the Councilwoman

(Updated 7/7/17)

- By Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6) -

The month of July brings fireworks, cookouts and steamed crabs to celebrate our country’s independence. July is also an opportunity to take time to ensure that the Sixth District and eastern Baltimore County remain the treasure of the region. The Sixth Councilmanic District is a large and beautiful district, home to many streams and rivers, open fields, woods, farmland and waterfront.

These natural amenities allow the residents not only of Baltimore County but from all over the state to take advantage of the many natural resources that make eastern Baltimore County a wonderful place to live, work and play. Therefore, it is important for county government, private organizations and the public to make the efforts necessary to protect these natural amenities. There are a variety of programs offered that allow residents to participate in the restoration and preservation of natural resources. I ask you to take advantage of these opportunities so that we can work together towards keeping our communities clean and prosperous.

Baltimore County has partnered with Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) for the Team BCPS Clean Green 15 Litter Challenge. This joint initiative encourages BCPS students to conduct quick 15-minute litter clean ups in their communities. Students collect litter from streams, parks, vacant lots or any other place that needs it. After collecting the trash, students can then post the information to the county website and the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability will track how much trash has been collected. The schools who collect the most trash will receive significant monetary grants from the Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools. The grants will be used for environmental cleanup purposes such as installing rain gardens, planting trees and educational programs.

During this past school year, 13 county public schools were awarded money as part of the Team BCPS' Clean Green 15 Litter Challenge. This program attracted 4,900 volunteers who collected 4,679 bags of trash during 359 litter cleanups. The challenge is currently open for next year and groups are eligible to begin logging their cleanup efforts from May 1, 2017, through April 30, 2018. I look forward to all the schools that will participate in this program over the coming year and to continued positive results.

Baltimore County also offers an Adopt a Road program. This program authorizes volunteers to pick up litter and recyclables along county right of ways. Groups eligible to participate include civic organizations, schools, families, individuals and private businesses. All volunteers are recognized for their work. This is a great way for residents and community groups to clean up their neighborhoods.

The Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) recently launched an Adopt a Stop program. The Adopt a Stop program encourages volunteers to conduct bi-weekly checkups to remove trash from bus stops and report any concerns to the MTA. Every bus stop that is “adopted” will have a sign installed recognizing the volunteers for their efforts in keeping the county clean.

Eastern Baltimore County is home to several great environmental organizations committed to cleaning and protecting the county’s natural resources. The Bird River Restoration Campaign works to bring awareness of environmental issues to the residents within the Bird River watershed by conducting lectures, training exercises and selling rain barrels. I was happy to work alongside the Bird River Restoration Campaign to secure $4.5 million from the state and county to dredge the Bird River. The Bird River dredging project will help restore stream banks, shorelines and enhance the waterfront communities.

The Gunpowder Valley Conservancy (GVC) is another great organization that does amazing work throughout the county to protect the many tributaries that feed into the Chesapeake Bay. The GVC and their volunteers conduct stream cleanups, conservation garden workshops and community outreach events. As a regional partner for the GVC, I have seen firsthand the great work this organization does.

Finally, there is the Back River Restoration Committee that works tirelessly to restore the health of the Back River watershed. Conducting cleanups year-round, the committee and their hundreds of volunteers collect countless amounts of trash and debris from the river. By engaging the local community and businesses, this organization has been able to improve the water quality of the river.

All of these programs and organizations provide an opportunity for you to become engaged in the community and help restore and preserve the health of our natural resources. I encourage you to take time and look into these programs so that we can work together toward a cleaner and healthier Sixth District.

Anti-illegal immigrant agenda grows

(Updated 7/5/17)

- By Del. Pat McDonough -

According to the Washington Times, President Trump supported two important bills that would crack down on illegal immigrant criminals and sanctuary cities. Trump stated in the White House with a gathering of victims of violence by illegal immigrants, “You lost the people that you love because the government refused to enforce our nation’s immigration laws. For years the pundits, journalists and politicians refused to hear your voices, but on Election Day 2016, your voices were heard across the entire world.”

One of the bills, Kate’s Law - named after Kate Stenle who was fatally shot in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant criminal who had been deported on numerous occasions - was passed by the House of Representatives. The other bill would penalize jurisdictions like Baltimore County that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Since the election of President Donald Trump, the number of illegal immigrants trying to cross our borders has dropped dramatically by 75 percent. Trump issued an executive order on Jan. 25 clearly outlining that certain grants could be withheld from sanctuary cities. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has defined “sanctuary cities” as those who willfully refuse to comply with USC1373, which bans local governments from enacting policies that restrict or prohibit communications with the Dept. of Homeland Security or ICE.

The State of Texas recently passed Senate Bill 4 which prohibits Texan cities and police departments from limiting their cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Texas politicians and law enforcement officials could face criminal penalties and jail sentences for disobeying this Texas law. The Trump Justice Department has filed papers in support of the State of Texas against a challenge in federal court.

Acting ICE Director Thomas D. Homan made clear the administration’s attitude while testifying in Congress. Homan stated, “If you are in this country illegally, you committed a crime by being here; you should be uncomfortable and looking over your shoulder. The number of cities, counties and towns asking police and sheriffs' departments to train their personnel in enforcement against illegal immigration has doubled in the last year and is still growing. Illegal immigrants deserve the blame for separating families. When a U.S. citizen commits a crime, the police are not blamed for separating him from his family.”

The program that Mr. Homan was talking about is the 287G program which the Baltimore County Council abandoned. As Baltimore County Executive, I would institute the 287G program immediately and institute a close relationship with the U.S. Department of Justice related to all of the anti-illegal immigration policies. The growing heroin problem in our county is, in all honesty, a growing Mexican heroin problem. Gangs like MS-13 are conducting chemical warfare against the citizens and families of Baltimore County by importing and selling Mexican heroin. It is time to get serious about the problem of illegal immigration and heroin distribution. Although the radical Democrats and amnesty advocates in Congress have slowed down the construction of the wall, many other types of walls are materializing that are effectively winning the battle against illegal immigration. A new day has arrived and it is long overdue.

Bevins on results of Victory Villa boundary study

(Updated 6/15/17)

- By Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6) -

As part of the $1.3 billion Baltimore County Public School (BCPS) Schools for our Future initiative, a new 700 seat Victory Villa Elementary school is being constructed in Middle River and will be completed and open for the 2018-2019 school year. The goal of the Schools for our Future initiative is to address the issue of increasing enrollment at county schools and to improve existing facilitates.

Pursuant to the Board of Education of Baltimore County Policy 1280, BCPS conducts a boundary study whenever a new school is built. In January 2017, BCPS established a Boundary Study Committee to oversee the process of drawing boundaries for the new Victory Villa Elementary School. The 34 member committee was comprised of principals, teachers, and parents of the schools affected by the study. Those schools included; Victory Villa, Glenmar, Hawthorne, Martin Boulevard, Middlesex, Orems, Shady Spring and Vincent Farm Elementary Schools.

The Boundary Committee met several times over the past few months and my office and I monitored and attended those meetings. The Committee also made available an online comment section where parents could voice their thoughts and concerns.

After considering several boundary options the Committee voted to recommend Option D-1 to the School Board for approval. The Board voted to accept Option D-1 with two recommended amendments. The first amendment restores Planning Block 25 to the Orems Elementary School boundary. This amendment ensures that all current Orems Elementary School students remain at Orems. The second amendment restores Planning Block 38 to the Shady Spring Elementary School boundary.

I want to commend and express my gratitude to all of the stakeholders in this process for their dedication and commitment to the children of the Sixth District.

As a member of the Baltimore County Council, I have no authority over the policy decisions of the School Board or BCPS. The decision to draw and approve school boundary lines is left to the School Board. The County Council has the authority only to approve or reject the BCPS budget.

However, as your councilwoman, I advocate strongly on your behalf to the school board and other BCPS officials. In the last few years my vocal advocacy on behalf of Baltimore County’s Sixth District has resulted in air conditioning being installed at all schools and new schools are being built to meet the growing population of the county. During this process, I have listened to the concerns of parents, communities, and students and discussed those concerns with the school board and school officials.

Particularly, I have advocated that the boundary for the new Victory Villa School not disrupt community schools where a majority if not all the students walk to school. Breaking up these community schools is the wrong approach to take when drawing school boundaries. I am happy that after listening to the concerns of parents that the Board voted to keep the Orems community intact.

While I have limited authority over the school board, I do respect their transparency and the process. I will continue to advocate on behalf of the students of the Sixth District to ensure that they receive the best education possible.

Creating safer, better schools means safer, better students

(Updated 6/13/17)

- By Councilman Todd K. Crandell, State Senator Johnny Ray Salling and delegates Bob Long, Ric Metzgar and Robin Grammer -

This week marks the end of the Baltimore County Public Schools 2016-17 school year. We are so proud of our local high school graduates, the millions of dollars in scholarships they have earned, as well as their many academic, athletic and humanitarian achievements. We are equally proud of the students throughout the BCPS system who contribute positively to their school community.

As the elected leaders of Dundalk, Essex, Rosedale and Edgemere, we must, however, express our deep concerns regarding school safety, student behavior and discipline. Since we took office in 2014, there have been many incidents throughout our district - in elementary, middle and high schools - that include criminal violence, bullying and other forms of harassment that have no place in our schools. That trend continued to the end of this school year, with numerous reports and complaints from parents, leaving us troubled by the seeming lack of consistency, consequences and sound disciplinary policy.

No child should be fearful of attending school or have the behavior of others affect their learning environment and experience. When a child misbehaves, there should be quick, decisive and consistent discipline. In our many discussions with teachers and parents, we are learning that the opposite is the case. What exactly are we teaching our children when there are little to no consequences of their actions? Current policy is setting children up for major failure as they mature into adulthood believing that society will look the other way when they do wrong. We are strongly advocating to both the incoming interim superintendent, and the Board of Education for a change in policy and practices.

Most immediately, the Board should conduct a public hearing as soon as possible so parents can be heard. The Board needs to hear what we as elected representatives are hearing. This discussion should continue throughout the summer so schools can plan now in order to address students and parents when doors reopen in the fall. A letter requesting such a public hearing has also been sent to the Board.

Secondly, we encourage our schools’ leadership to find new ways to engage parents and guardians. The success of a school is directly proportional to parental involvement. Parents and guardians should understand the expectations of them and their children, and also know that bad behavior which disrupts or jeopardizes the safety of others will be met with serious consequences.

For all of the greatness and promise we see in our youth, we strongly believe our school system is in need of a disciplinary policy overhaul and a better enforcement model. What has been described to us as “sweeping it under the rug so the numbers look better” is not sound policy, especially when the safety of both students and faculty is clearly at risk.

As always, please contact us to weigh in on this or any other issue.

County announces Joppa Road water project

(Updated 6/13/17)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -

This month, the Baltimore County Department of Public Works will initiate a $3 million project to replace the water line on Joppa Road between Walther Boulevard and Belair Road. The current water line extends for 7,000 feet, and it has experienced numerous problems with age. This pipe will be replaced with a new, 12-inch diameter line.

The water main will be placed down the center of the road, limiting disturbance to traffic going in both directions. The county has prepared plans for this project that direct the contractor to set up traffic control in a safe manner that provides for ingress and egress in all directions. Resurfacing will restore the disturbed area
to preexisting, if not better, conditions.

The project will last nearly a year. I have raised concerns about the length and complexity of this project and have been told that work will largely be done between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to limit disruptions.

I know this is will be a headache for many commuters. I drive this route nearly every day. But there is no easy way to build these public works projects, and I hope that the disturbances will be limited to non-peak travel hours.

For more information, contact the Department of Public Works at enginrng@baltimorecountymd.gov.​ There were no community meetings before this project was announced by the county executive’s office through the county newsletter.