Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Winter Weather Information

Preparing for the Storm

Emergency preparations should include having enough food, water, medication (if needed) and batteries to last two to three days. Make sure portable radios, smoke detectors and flashlights are working properly. 

Keep a fresh supply of extra batteries on hand, along with a basic first aid kit and a non-electric can opener.

Check with neighbors who may require special assistance to see if they need help in stocking up on supplies or medications, and call them during the storm.

Park vehicles in driveways or off the street, if possible. When parking on-street, pull close to the curb on the even numbered side of the street to clear the way for snowplows.

Be sure your vehicle is ready to drive after the storm by filling the gas tank; checking tires to make sure they have an adequate tread and are fully inflated; checking oil, antifreeze and windshield washer fluid levels; and ensuring windshield wipers, lights, flashing hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes and defroster are all working properly. Keep a windshield scraper and small broom in the car for ice and snow removal, and a small sack of sand or kitty litter to improve wheel traction.

If driving during the storm is unavoidable, put together a separate disaster supply kit for the trunk of the car that includes:
  • Flashlight with extra batteries.
  • Flares.
  • Blankets or sleeping bags.
  • Dry clothing, mittens, socks, and a wool cap.
  • Newspapers for insulation.
  • Plastic bags.
  • Canned fruit, nuts, or high energy “munchies.”
  • Bottles of water.
  • A small shovel, a pocket knife, and small tools --pliers, a wrench and screwdriver.
  • Jumper cables.
  • First aid kit and necessary medications.
  • Brightly colored cloth to tie to the antenna.
During the Storm

During the storm, residents are urged to travel only if absolutely necessary, and to stay indoors.

Residents concerned about the safety and well-being of children, elderly individuals or adults with disabilities should call the County’s Crisis Center at 240-777-4000.

If traveling is hazardous, residents should be prepared to shelter in place.

In the event of a power outage, avoid using candles or outdoor grills indoors, to prevent the risk of a fire.

For downed trees on public property, residents should call 3-1-1 (or 240-777-0311 from a cell phone).  To report trees that have fallen on utility lines, contact local utility companies. Contact information is available on the County’s website at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov. “Hot” wires or sparking wires, especially those across roadways, may be reported by calling 9-1-1. 

After the Storm

In the event of power outages, treat intersections with non-working traffic signals as four-way stops.  If your home is without power, contact your utility company:  PEPCO, 877-737-2662; BG&E, 877-778-2222; or FirstEnergy/Potomac Edison, 1-800-255-3443.

Exercise caution when shoveling snow. Try to shovel snow into the yard rather than into the street. Cold weather puts an extra strain on the body. Individuals with heart disease or high blood pressure should follow their doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. Avoid overexertion. Heart attacks from shoveling heavy snow are a leading cause of deaths during winter.

When going outdoors, dress warmly and stay dry. Adults and children should wear a hat, scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth; sleeves that are snug at the wrists, mittens (they are warmer than gloves), a water-resistant coat and boots, and several layers of loose-fitting clothes.

Serious health problems such as hypothermia and frostbite can be caused by prolonged exposure to the cold. Watch for loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes and the tip of the nose. Signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. In both cases, residents should get medical attention immediately if symptoms are present.

Do not attempt to drive if you are not comfortable driving on icy or snowy roads. When preparing to drive, be sure to thoroughly clear the snow from the entire car – including roofs, windshields trunks and hoods – to ensure visibility and prevent snow from blowing onto surrounding cars. When driving, do not speed and be sure to leave plenty of space between your car and the one in front of you. Avoid pulling out in front of other vehicles and do not slow down before going up a hill.

For timely severe weather and emergency notifications, go to https://alert.montgomerycountymd.gov and sign up for Alert Montgomery. Warnings and emergency updates will be sent directly to your cell phone and/or email address. The service is free, but text charges may apply, so check with your cell phone carrier before selecting text alerts. Information is also available on the County’s website at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/snow.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Council Passes Bill to Regulate Electronic Cigarettes

The Council today unanimously approved my bill to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in public places where traditional tobacco smoking is prohibited. The bill also will restrict the sale of certain liquid nicotine or liquid nicotine containers in retail outlets unless the nicotine is in a container considered child resistant packaging.

Perhaps swayed by the belief that electronic cigarettes are safe, or emboldened by the fact that e-cigs 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 by waiting for federal regulations. The Council did the right thing by putting these protections in place.

At a July 21 worksession on e-cigarettes, the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee received briefings from the National Institutes of Health and the Legal Resource Center for Public Health Policy. The briefings included a discussion of the current medical understanding of the health risks and public policy concerns with electronic cigarette usage. After the briefings, committee members discussed the use of electronic cigarettes by minors and directed staff to provide options to restricting youth access to electronic smoking devices.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not currently regulate e-cigarettes. However, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gives the FDA the authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products. The FDA has proposed a “deeming regulation” that would subject electronic cigarettes to FDA’s regulatory authority. It is unclear when (or whether) the FDA will issue a final rule and what the substance of that final rule will look like.

While at least 30 states have comprehensive clean indoor air laws restricting the use of lighted tobacco products in indoor public places such as bars, restaurants and office buildings, only a few have extended these provisions to include the use of electronic cigarettes. Among those states, New Jersey, North Dakota and Utah have specifically amended their clean indoor air laws to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in public places and workplaces.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Nominate Your Neighbor for a Golden Shovel Award

Did someone you know make your neighborhood safer? Nominate them for a Golden Shovel.

I started the Golden Shovel awards in 2003 to honor residents who lace up their boots to help neighbors shovel out after a snowfall. The awards recognize individuals who go above and beyond in helping clear ice and snow from County sidewalks.

Our seniors, school children, people with disabilities and those who walk to work or use mass transit depend on snow-free sidewalks. This goes beyond convenience--it is a matter of public safety. I certainly hope that residents will nominate for a Golden Shovel those individuals who put the Golden Rule to work. The deadline for nominations is March 31, and awards will be presented in a Council session in April. Get the nomination form.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Local Civil Rights Leaders in Black History Month Tribute

Six long-time residents of Montgomery County, each of whom played a key role in civil rights changes that impacted the County, told their personal stories as they were honored by the Council as part of Tuesday's Black History Month commemoration event. See the terrific video of these residents talking about Montgomery County history as they lived it. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

No Boundaries with Chris Van Hollen

Congressman Chris Van Hollen and I sat down at Black's Market Bistro in Garrett Park to tape the most recent episode of No Boundaries, an innovative program by County Cable Montgomery that's designed to cross jurisdictions and seek common ground. No Boundaries features local leaders in an open exchange of perspectives, concerns and ideas. The congressman and I talked about our families, our early careers and the people who influenced us along the way. See the program.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Town Hall Meeting for Faith Community Postponed

The Montgomery County Council’s planned special Town Hall Meeting for leaders of the County’s faith community scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 26, has been postponed. A date to reschedule the meeting has not yet been determined.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Letter to The Gazette about Regulating Electronic Cigarettes

Check out my letter in today's Gazette explaining why we must regulate the use of electronic cigarettes in Montgomery County. For your convenience, I have reprinted it below:

It is hard to keep up with the mounting evidence that electronic cigarettes pose more risks than their marketers would like us to believe, especially for children and teens.

Although electronic cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, they do contain nicotine and other dangerous chemicals. That’s why I introduced a bill in the Montgomery County Council to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in public spaces where traditional cigarette smoking is banned, including in public buildings and restaurants. The bill also would prohibit use of electronic cigarettes by minors and would require child-resistant packaging for them.

The use of electronic cigarettes, commonly called “vaping,” has grown dramatically since the product’s introduction in 2007. The practice has become so commonplace that the Oxford Dictionary selected the word “vape” as its 2014 “Word of the Year.”

Perhaps swayed by the belief that electronic cigarettes are safe, or emboldened by the fact that e-cigs have little odor that parents could detect, teens who have never tried traditional cigarettes are using e-cigs. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that e-cig use has tripled among teens in just two years. These young people are unwittingly putting themselves at risk for nicotine addiction and nicotine poisoning, as well as potentially graduating to harmful tobacco products.

What exactly is in an electronic cigarette? It is hard to say. In addition to the most common ingredients — propylene glycol, nicotine and flavorings — studies have revealed a lot of unsavory things, like carcinogens, heavy metals and even silicon fibers in some e-cigs. But with 90 percent of electronic cigarettes being manufactured in China, where production lacks even the most basic of regulations, they could contain just about anything.

Many states, including Maryland, prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. Municipalities including New York City, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago, also have enacted restrictions on their use.

While the Food and Drug Administration is currently considering regulations to address electronic cigarettes, it is not clear when those regulations would be finalized or take effect. In the meantime, I’m not willing to gamble with the health of our current generation of young people. We must put some protections in place, and we must do it now.

Nancy Floreen, Garrett Park
The writer is vice president of the Montgomery County Council.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Holiday Schedule for Presidents Day

Here is our holiday schedule for Presidents Day on Monday, February 16:

  • County Offices – closed
  • Libraries – closed
  • County liquor stores – closed
  • Recreation – aquatic facilities and community centers open; aquatics programs will meet as scheduled; all other classes and programs cancelled; administrative offices and senior centers closed; Senior Active Adult Programs that meet in community centers are cancelled.
  • Montgomery Parks -- all Parks facilities are open. For operating schedules, including Brookside Gardens, ice rinks, tennis centers, trains and carousels, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org.
  • Ride On – Modified holiday schedule
  • Metrobus – Saturday supplemental service
  • Metrorail – Saturday holiday schedule
  • TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) -- closed
  • Refuse/recycling pickup – no collection*
  • Transfer Station – open
  • Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
  • MCPS Administrative Offices – closed
  • State offices and courts – closed
*Collection provided one day later for remainder of week (last collection day is Saturday).

Friday, February 6, 2015

E-cigarette Bill on Channel 9 News

Why did I introduce a bill to regulate electronic cigarettes? Find out in my interview today with Andrea Roane on the WUSA channel 9 news.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Town Hall Meeting for Faith Community

Following our tradition of regular town hall meetings, we will will hold a special meeting for leaders of the County’s faith community on Thursday, February 26, at the Council Office Building in Rockville. The meeting, in the Council’s Third Floor Hearing Room, will start at 8 p.m. A pre-meeting reception will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the building’s second-floor cafeteria.

The Council is working with the interfaith community and the Interfaith Community Liaison associated with the County’s Office of Community Partnerships in organizing the meeting, which is open to the public. It is estimated that there are more than 3,000 faith community leaders representing many different religions throughout the County.

Faith leaders who wish to attend the meeting are asked to RSVP by calling 240-777-7931. The meeting will be broadcast live on County Cable Montgomery and rebroadcast at various times in the weeks following the meeting. Susan Kenedy, a producer for the County station, will moderate the meeting.

The meeting will provide the participants with an opportunity to let Councilmembers know how they feel about specific issues and also will provide the opportunity to ask questions of the Councilmembers in an organized, but informal, setting.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Tonight's Hearing on Independent Transit Authority to be Broadcast Live

The county's delegation to the state legislature is holding a public hearing tonight on state bill HB 104 (similar to county delegation bill MC 24-15), which would allow the County to set up an independent transit authority (ITA). If the bill gets passed, the County Council then would have to enact its own legislation it it wanted to create the ITA. The Council has not taken a position on the state bill. The hearing will begin at 6 p.m. in the County Council Third Floor Hearing Room, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville. You can watch the hearing live on County Cable Montgomery.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Local Non-profit Leader Named Washingtonian of the Year

Less than a year after being named a CNN Hero, A Wider Circle founder Mark Bergel has been named a Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian magazine—one of nine leaders selected for their good works and generous contributions to the Washington area. Founded in 2001, A Wider Circle aims to end poverty one individual and one family at a time through the provision of furniture and household items, job preparedness training, life skills workshops, and long-term support. The Silver Spring-based non-profit provides beds and other furniture for the homes of more than 4,000 families a year with the average income of those families being $12,000 per year, including all forms of assistance. You may remember Mark and A Wider Circle from the award-winning documentary The Unseen Montgomery, which highlighted the hidden poverty in Montgomery County.

Apply Now to the Board of Investment Trustees

Here is the press release with all the information you need about the vacancy on the Board of Investment Trustees:
The Montgomery County Council is seeking applicants to serve as the Council representative on the Board of Investment Trustees for the Montgomery County Employee Retirement Plans and the Board of Trustees for the Consolidated Retiree Health Benefits Trust. The boards set investment policy, hire investment managers and monitor investment performance for the Trust Funds. The deadline for applications is 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 18.
Arjan Berkelaar will complete his first term on March 1, and has indicated that he will not be applying for reappointment due to other obligations.
The appointee may not furnish or be employed by a firm that furnishes to pension funds and other institutional investors the kind of investment services purchased by the board. Members of County boards, committees and commissions may not serve on more than one such group at a time. The Council policy is that an individual must not serve more than two consecutive full terms on any County board, committee or commission. 
The Board of Investment Trustees is responsible for overseeing the investment of approximately $4.5 billion in assets for nearly 11,000 active and retired members of the three retirement plans: defined benefit, defined contribution and deferred compensation. The Board of Trustees is responsible for overseeing the investment program for the Consolidated Retiree Health Benefit Trust, which has assets of approximately $450 million.
The Board of Investment Trustees for the Montgomery County Employee Retirement Plans consists of 13 trustees appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council. Trustees include the directors of the Office Human Resources, Office of Management and Budget, Department of Finance and the County Council Administrator; two representatives of the County Council; one active member of the retirement plans who is not a member of a collective bargaining unit; one retired member of a County plan; two members of the public; and individuals recommended by each of the three County employee collective bargaining units.
The Board of Trustees for the Consolidated Retiree Health Benefits Trust consists of 19 trustees, 13 of whom are members of the Board of Investment Trustees, along with the following additional members: one active employee recommended by the superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), one retired member of MCPS, one MCPS bargaining unit representative, one active employee recommended by the Montgomery College (MC) president, one retired member of MC, and one MC bargaining unit representative.  
Trustees serve three-year terms without compensation from any source for services rendered to the boards. The boards meet six times a year from 8:30 a.m. until approximately 1 p.m., usually on Fridays in January, March, May, July, September and November. 
This Council is seeking as its representative on each board a person who is knowledgeable in pensions, investments or financial matters. The Council will recommend one applicant to the County Executive for appointment to serve on both boards. After the Executive appoints the Council representative, the appointee's name will be submitted to the Council for final confirmation. Within 10 days after confirmation, each trustee must sign a certificate stating that the trustee accepts the fiduciary responsibility of the trust funds and will administer the affairs of the trust with care, skill, prudence and diligence. Appointees must complete a financial disclosure statement within 15 days of Council confirmation and annually thereafter. 
Letters expressing interest in the position, including a resume listing professional and civic experience, should be addressed to Council President George Leventhal, County Council Office, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850. Applications can also be submitted to the Council via email to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov. Letters of interest must be received no later than 5 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 18. 

It is the Council's policy not to consider applications received after the deadline. Letters of application and resumes are made public as part of the appointment process, and are available for public review. The interviews are conducted in public and are televised. After the closing date, Councilmembers will review the letters of application and select applicants for interviews to be held soon thereafter.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Council's Semi-annual Meeting with MBDC Today

Tune in at 2:15 p.m. today for the Council's semi-annual meeting with the Montgomery Business Development Corporation. The board advises the County Executive and the Council on economic development and related matters. Robert Brewer, chair of MBDC's Board of Directors, and Holly Sears Sullivan, MBDC's president, will present an update on MBDC's current efforts related to business retention; marketing and communications; data and research; and career pathways. Don't worry if you can't catch the meeting live; you'll be able to get it on demand starting 24 hours after the meeting.