Baltimore County News
Short Documentary Spotlights the County’s Storm Drain Monitoring Efforts
County Executive Johnny Olszewski teamed up with County natural resource specialists and a utilities crew to locate the source of waterway contaminants flowing through the County’s storm drain system into a local stream. Using field testing and remote-controlled pipeline cameras, Olszewski and his fellow pollution detectives take viewers inside a crucial but rarely credited part of our local water cycle—the storm drain system.
His field trip is captured in a short documentary entitled “Watershed Moments—Pollution Detectives.” The five-minute video shows footage from inside the underground storm drain pipelines, and spotlights the County’s proactive storm drain monitoring program and pollution prevention efforts. It presents the importance of keeping storm drains clean, as they feed directly into local streams, and suggests ways that residents can be involved in this objective
“Most people have no idea that storm drains flow directly into nearby streams with limited or no filtering or treatment,” Olszewski said. “Our motto is ‘only rain down the drain,’ and if you see or smell possible pollution in a stream, please report it to the County so we can investigate.”
The video is the second episode in the “Watershed Moments” series and was produced by the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability in collaboration with the Baltimore County Department of Public Works Bureau of Utilities and Comcast Cablevision. It is posted on the County’s website, and can be viewed and shared on Youtube.Fri, 11 Oct 2019 14:38:00 GMThttps://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/News/BaltimoreCountyNow/olszewski-goes-underground-to-find-and-fix-pollution-in-storm-drains
James R. Benjamin, Jr., Joins Leadership Team
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski today announced that James R. Benjamin, Jr., will join his leadership team as County Attorney.
Current County Attorney Michael Field has been named Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the County Executive.
"James brings a wealth of experience in litigation, deep knowledge in a variety of areas relevant to local government, and has been a trusted advisor to small, minority and women-owned businesses. I'm honored that an attorney and community leader of his caliber is joining our team," Olszewski said.
"Mike Field has a remarkable grasp of the law and public policy, and a tireless commitment to social justice. I'm pleased that he will continue as a part of our team as he shifts into a different role, advising on legislation and policy," Olszewski said.
Benjamin is currently a member of the Business, Litigation and EMERGE Teams at Gordon Feinblatt LLC. He handles environmental and administrative matters for his clients and regularly counsels clients on state and local regulatory issues. He has substantial bench and jury trial experience and has represented clients in complex toxic tort litigation at both the trial and appellate levels. In addition, he has significant experience representing and advising small, minority-owned and women-owned businesses on certification and procurement matters, as well as in structuring and creating joint ventures and teaming arrangements.
Benjamin was a former law clerk for the Honorable Ellen M. Heller in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. He also served as an Assistant City Solicitor with the Baltimore City Law Department's Land Use and Litigation divisions where he handled complex legal matters involving constitutional law and exhaustion of administrative remedies. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.
Benjamin dedicates significant time to community and civic engagement, serving as a member of the Board of Visitors of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and the University of Maryland College Park's College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. He serves on the Judge Alexander Williams Center for Education, Justice and Ethics Board of Directors, and on the board of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland. He previously co-chaired Baltimore City's Working Group on the Use and Implementation of Body-Worn Cameras in 2014 and 2015, and was a member of the Baltimore County Charter Review Commission in 2016 and 2017. He has also served on the Maryland State Ethics Commission.
Mike Field has served as County Attorney since 2010. He first joined the Baltimore County Office of Law in 1997 to conduct the decennial Code Revision, and subsequently redesigned and rewrote the County Code. He has served as counsel to the Ethics Commission, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Animal Hearing Board.
Field has drafted every major piece of legislation introduced by any county executive since 2005, and has been involved in the drafting of many county regulations. As Senior Policy Advisor, Field will continue to advise on and draft legislation, as well as oversee efforts to put the complete Code of Baltimore County Regulations online for the first time.
Field is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.
Benjamin's appointment as County Attorney must be approved by the County Council.Tue, 08 Oct 2019 17:05:00 GMThttps://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/News/BaltimoreCountyNow/olszewski-names-new-county-attorney
Public Health Initiative Expands Law to Dangerous Vaping Products
In a critical public health victory, the Baltimore County Council today voted to approve County Executive Johnny Olszewski’s proposal to increase the legal age for tobacco product sales in Baltimore County from eighteen to twenty-one years of age and to expand the law to include all electronic smoking devices (ESD), component parts and accessories, otherwise known as vaping products.
While Maryland recently raised age of sale for tobacco products, including vaping products, to twenty-one, legislation was necessary to empower the Baltimore County Department of Health (DOH) to enforce the new requirements. Baltimore County is the first major jurisdiction to pass this proposal.
Tobacco Use Is a Public Health Crisis
“Youth tobacco use is a public health crisis and we must do everything we can to help protect the health and safety of Baltimore County’s young people,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. “This new law will empower Baltimore County to take action now to help prevent young people from the harmful effects of smoking.”
Since 2015, the Baltimore County Department of Health has overseen the Tobacco Enforcement Program, which ensures that retailers do not sell tobacco products to underage persons by conducting compliance checks of the county’s tobacco licensees and by issuing citations to outlets that sell to underage youth.
In Fiscal Year 2019, more than 3,000 checks were conducted at County retail outlets.
The Tobacco Enforcement Program has been successful in reducing the rate of tobacco sales to youth under eighteen in Baltimore County. In just four years of operation, the retailer violation rate decreased from 54.7 percent in Fiscal Year 2015 to 0 percent in Fiscal Year 2019.
Continued enforcement, paired with the new increased legal age and inclusion of vaping products during compliance checks, will make it more difficult for youth and young adults to purchase these products.
“Smoking and vaping equals death,” said Gregory Wm. Branch, M.D., MBA, CPE, FACP, Health Officer and Director, Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services. “I am so glad that the Council approved the increase from age eighteen to twenty-one. Many lives will be saved.”
National data show that approximately ninety-five percent of adult smokers begin smoking before the age of twenty-one. The Surgeon General has stated that vaping among underage youth is an epidemic. Vaping is now the most popular form of tobacco use among youth.
The percentage of Baltimore County high school students who use any tobacco or vaping product is about twenty-four percent. The percentage of high school students who have ever used a vaping product is nearly forty percent. Over fifty-two percent of Baltimore County high school students eighteen or older have used a vaping product.
These rates, as well as the rates throughout the country, are staggering and deserve immediate attention, especially now that hundreds of vaping-associated lung illnesses have been reported throughout the country.Tue, 08 Oct 2019 12:11:00 GMThttps://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/News/BaltimoreCountyNow/baltimore-county-increases-smoking-age-to-twenty-one-to-align-with-state-law
HOME Act Would End Discrimination Based on the Source of a Renter’s Income
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski today announced his plans to introduce the Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act, which would prohibit housing discrimination based on the source of a potential renter’s income, including housing vouchers.
The bill will be introduced in the County Council session scheduled for Monday, October 7.
“We have both a legal and moral obligation to expand access to affordable housing in Baltimore County, and the HOME Act is a critical piece of the puzzle,” Olszewski said. “Discrimination of any kind is wrong, and we have to do everything in our power to expand economic opportunity, improve equity, and eliminate pockets of poverty in our communities.”
Details of the HOME Act
The HOME Act would make it illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent to a potential tenant based on the person’s source of income, just as renters can’t be discriminated against based on their race, sex, religion, and other legally protected groups. Source of income can refer to income from a job, public assistance programs, benefits and considerations (such as an inheritance, a pension, an annuity, etc.) or the sale of a property. Source of income includes participation in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program.
A housing voucher is a source of supplemental income that helps low income residents pay for housing. Recipients are required to pay 30 percent of their income on rent, and the voucher provides a bridge to cover the remaining cost of rent. Across Maryland, nearly 70 percent of HCV recipients are seniors, people with disabilities, or children.
The HCV program is a federal program, and the federal government determines the number of overall vouchers available to each local jurisdiction. Baltimore County distributes approximately 5,000 vouchers. The HOME Act would give them greater flexibility in choosing where to live.
Giving People a Fair Chance
“It’s long past time for Baltimore County to act to protect county residents from housing discrimination,” Councilman Julian Jones said. “This bill gives people with disabilities, veterans and others a fair chance to do what’s best for their families. I applaud the county executive’s leadership on this issue and I’m optimistic that my colleagues will support this important bill.”
“I believe it is important for Baltimore County to address the housing needs of our older adults, veterans, people with disabilities and all families. It is a matter of fairness and dignity,” Councilman Izzy Patoka said.
Montgomery, Howard and Frederick Counties have had laws prohibiting discrimination based on source of income for several years. Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City passed similar legislation earlier this year.
Under the Conciliation and Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA) signed in 2016, this legislation must be introduced this calendar year and every calendar year until its passage.
This is one of several actions the county is legally mandated to take under the terms of the VCA, which was conceived as a resolution to federal housing discrimination complaints brought against the county in 2011. These complaints alleged that the discriminatory nature of Baltimore County’s housing and zoning policies over the last several decades had led to significant racial and socioeconomic segregation.
For more information about the HOME Act, please download the HOME Act Fact Sheet (PDF).Fri, 04 Oct 2019 14:35:00 GMThttps://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/News/BaltimoreCountyNow/olszewski-announces-legislation-to-prohibit-housing-discrimination