Gov. Hogan Taps New Members of State Education Board

Governor Larry Hogan announced Thursday he has tapped four new members of the Maryland State Board of Education.

The Washington Post reports,

Hogan’s picks included David Steiner, executive director for the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and a professor of education at Hopkins, and Michael Phillips, senior pastor of the Kingdom Life Church in Baltimore and founder of the Better Life Community Development Corp.

The governor also appointed Justin Hartings, president of Biaera Technologies of Hagerstown and a former member of the Washington County Board of Education in western Maryland, and Kyle Smith, a student at North Point High School in Charles County. Smith, who becomes the state board’s student member, was recommended by the Maryland Association of Student Councils.

“These talented individuals represent our administration’s continued commitment to ensuring that our already strong education system continues to improve while providing a world-class education for all Maryland students,” Hogan (R) said in a statement.

The new members, who must be confirmed by the state Senate, join a board predominantly appointed by Hogan. Two of the board’s 12 members were appointed by former governor Martin O’Malley (D)–Guffrie Smith and Madhu Sidhu.

 A spokeswoman for Hogan said Hartings and Phillips were appointed May 22. Steiner, previously dean of the School of Education at Hunter College and New York state’s commissioner of education, was named April 20.
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Calvert Commissioners OK Funds for License Plate Readers

The Calvert County Commissioners Tuesday approved a Sheriff’s Office request for over $215,000 for the purchase of two license plate readers (LPRs). The money is coming from the county government’s Safety Camera Revenue Account.

The Bay Net reports,

The Safety Camera Revenue Account, a component of the Safety for Students Act, is funded by money realized from fines levied against drivers who exceed the speed limit in school zones where the cameras are set up. Another portion of the account is being used to purchase body cameras for several deputies. That allocation is within the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget, which takes effect July 1.

The request for the purchase of two LPRs was made last month by Sheriff Mike Evans [R]. “The LPRs will effectively capture license plate information of all vehicles entering and exiting via routes 260 and 4, which is important because a majority of bank robberies and armed robberies of businesses have historically occurred in Northern Calvert County,” Assistant Sheriff Lt. Colonel Dave McDowell stated in a memo to the commissioners. “This is part of the sheriff’s plan to use the Safety for Students program revenue source to purchase one-time, high priority expenditures for equipment and other operational needs.”

No member of the public spoke at the public hearing, however, a few of the commissioners had plenty to say prior to a final vote. Despite assurances from McDowell and Evans that data recorded by the LPRs was not to be used for nefarious purposes, Commissioner Pat Nutter [R – District 2] indicated he was opposed to the plan. “I don’t want to end up in ‘big brother’ syndrome—that’s where America is headed,” said Nutter, a retire sheriff’s deputy.

Evans stated that the county already has LPRs and “they have been a great tool.” The sheriff declared have the LPRs in place at the county’s north border would help address a serious public safety issue. “We are only looking for people who are breaking the law,” said Evans.

Commissioners’ Vice President Evan K. Slaughenhoupt Jr. [R – District 3] stated that the LPRs were “the electronic version” of human eyewitnesses.

“Most people move here for the quality of life,” said Commissioner Mike Hart [R – District 1], adding that public safety contributed to the quality. “I would like to expand it [LPR program]. This is going to give police so many more pairs of eyes.

Still, Nutter argued that have motor vehicle license plates observed and recorded was compromising an individual’s privacy. “There’s no privacy, Pat. It’s just a part of life,” said Commissioners’ President Tom Hejl [R – At large], who is also a law enforcement veteran.

Sensing there might not be an end to the discussion, Hejl called for a vote. The board voted 4-to-1, with Nutter opposed, to closing the public record and approving the budget resolution.

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Howard Schools, University of Maryland Partner to Find Most Efficient Bus Routes

Transportation officials with Howard County public schools revealed plans Thursday to maximize school bus efficiency, using a mathematical modeling program developed by University of Maryland students to determine the best bus routes should schools start and dismissal times change in the coming year.

The Baltimore Sun reports,

Last week, the Board of Education motioned to delay any changes to start and dismissal times until at least the 2018-19 school year to give administrators, staff and parents time to prepare for schedule adjustments.

While any potential changes to the start and dismissal times will not be implemented next year, school system director of transportation David Ramsay said transportation is a major factor in the decision-making process. Alternative start and dismissal times could not only increase the number of general and specialized bus fleets needed, but also increase overall costs.

“Transportation has, historically, been the area in which there are cost implications with adjusting bell times,” Ramsay said. “The tools that we had weren’t sufficient to the degree that we were happy with to really analyze this problem.”

Haghani, a Fulton resident, said the tool uses a mathematical optimization model that can minimize or maximize a particular function. In this case, he said, the goal was to minimize the total number of buses as well as the deadhead time, the time when buses are running without any students onboard.

“A solution that is 1 percent worse can lead to three or four more buses,” Haghani said.

Using data provided by the school system, Haghani said students used the bus start and end times, location and order of stops and the deadhead distance in the program.

“The optimization model tries to match up these routes together in a way that as many routes as possible are served by one bus,” he said. “We had a working model in about a month, but when we ran it, it took a long time.”

Five months later, Haghani said, results for each given scenario were available in under a minute.

While Haghani said the model was free-of-charge to the school system, Ramsay added that the school system paid $5,000 toward the QUEST program’s involvement and an additional $24,800 for consultation with Haghani. Other vendor price quotes for developing a model had exceeded $50,000, Ramsay said.

Once the school board makes a decision on school start and dismissal times, Ramsay said they will give Haghani a spreadsheet outlining the proposal to calculate the most efficient bus routes for the county’s elementary, middle and high schools.

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Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker Announces 2018 Gubernatorial Bid

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III announced Wednesday that he is running for governor, sending a video message to news outlets and supporters that explains why he believes he can emerge from a crowded field of Democrats to challenge Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s bid for a second term.

Baker, 58, is midway through his seventh year as leader of the state’s second-largest jurisdiction. He has focused on improving schools, streamlining county services, and stimulating economic growth.

The Washington Post reports,

A former state lawmaker with a law degree from Howard University, Baker would become Maryland’s first African American governor and the first county executive to serve in the role since Parris N. Glendening (D), also of Prince George’s, did from 1995 to 2003.

“Being county executive gives me a good vantage point to look at Maryland as a whole, because we are urban, suburban and rural,” Baker said in an interview before his campaign announcement.

“When I look at what we had to do in Prince George’s, given the circumstances we were in, and I look at the state, it’s not dissimilar,” he added.

The son of a U.S. Army Special Forces officer and a nurse’s aide, Baker was born in Georgia. His family moved frequently, including stints in Okinawa, Japan, before settling in Massachusetts, when he attended high school.

After law school, Baker worked on Capitol Hill, in the D.C. government and as legal counsel for a nonprofit community development and social services organization.

He married his college sweetheart, civil rights lawyer Christa Beverly, and settled in Prince George’s, where he forged ties with fellow black politicos, including Wayne K. Curry, the late county executive. In 1994, with Curry’s guidance, Baker won a seat in the House of Delegates representing Cheverly and parts of Bladensburg.

But Baker badly wanted to be county executive. He lost two primary races, the first while serving in the House of Delegates. In 2010, he tried again and defeated four other Democrats in the primary, later easily winning the general election. Days later, federal agents arrested outgoing county executive Jack B. Johnson (D) on corruption charges.

Baker has traveled the state for months, sharing his story of an economic and civic resurgence in Prince George’s County, the only majority-black jurisdiction in Maryland besides Baltimore City and one of the most affluent majority-black jurisdictions in the nation.

In addition to pushing through ethics reform and seizing partial control of the struggling school system, Baker has boosted development around Metro stations and shepherded major projects, including a regional medical center slated to break ground in the fall. He abandoned his initial opposition to gambling in the county and became a major supporter of the glittering MGM National Harbor casino, which opened to rave reviews in December.

Before launching his campaign, Baker said he had to decide whether he thought he could do a better job than Hogan. That was the standard that Baker’s wife, whom he calls the driving force in his political career, had set in his previous races.

Beverly was diagnosed with early onset dementia in 2012. Her condition has deteriorated considerably, but the county executive still includes her — along with their three adult children — in campaign meetings and conversations.

Her illness, Baker said, has increased his awareness of “the issues facing working men and women” who juggle work and caretaking. It’s also made him impatient about implementing public policy.

“Time is a precious commodity,” Baker said. “People want to know what you can do now.

“And I understand it, because I don’t know what tomorrow is.”

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Queen Anne’s Approves Kent Island Traffic Study

Queen Anne’s County Commissioners met Tuesday to finalize the details of a traffic study on Kent Island. The goal of the study is to gather enormous amounts of data to paint a better picture for the state of how the county is affected by the streams of vehicles passing through the county trying to reach the beach.

The Kent Island Bay Times reports,

Long an issue for Kent Island residents during the summer months, a lack of mobility for citizens and emergency responders has been at the forefront of the commission’s attempts to find relief from the constant congestion.

Commissioner Jim Moran introduced the idea of a study during the last budget work session of the year, and the commissioners allocated $100,000 in the fiscal 2018 budget to hire a company to do a comprehensive traffic study to rival the numbers the Maryland Transportation Authority has. The county has repeatedly said long-term traffic projections are short and do not take into account multiple road projects in the region that, when finished, will filter more vehicles through the area.

“Queen Anne’s County is basically in the middle between two raging wars — the western shore and Ocean City — and we are just the recipients of all this traffic that we do not generate,” Moran said.

Moran said gathering accurate traffic numbers now is essential so a baseline can be established before projects, such as the widening of U.S. 404 and the 301 Bypass in Delaware, are completed. Because some of the projections the state has given the county, which the county has questioned, Moran said the help the county needs from the state is becoming urgent.

Through monthly reports, the company can send hard data on traffic counts, including lane-specific traffic, car speeds and vehicle sizes, the county argues it will better be able to convince the state to take further action on creating a third span or a separate Chesapeake Bay crossing.

Since about 1971, All Traffic Solutions has worked throughout Maryland with jurisdictions collecting traffic data, David Nelson, president, told commissioners. The company has completed work for Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard, Baltimore and a few Eastern Shore counties, he said, as well as worked with the State Highway Administration.

Nelson said the company has a lot of credibility with SHA.

“I think that gives us the ability when we collect the data we give it to you, it’s something that really shouldn’t be questioned by anyone,” he said.

Nelson said the device that collects the data runs on solar power and transmits the information to a cloud where engineers can compile and create reports. Though not finalized, Nelson suggested putting two devices, about three feet in length that would attach to something, on both sides of U.S. 50 near the Bay Bridge to collect traffic volumes going in both directions.

“It’s a really solid solution for what the county is looking for,” Nelson said.

By putting up multiple devices, Nelson said backups can be detected as vehicle speeds is one data-set that can be captured. Commission President Steve Wilson mentioned how once drivers get to Castle Marina Road many get off U.S. 50 and begin to clog up the backroads.

Though the state has taken steps in finding a long-term traffic solution to traffic volume going over the bridge by studying the feasibility, location and environmental factors associated with creating another Bay-crossing, any outcome would be years down the road.

Moran said the state is going to conduct another study that checks traffic one week in the summer and winter. Moran listed points that could alter the state’s numbers during a one-week stretch of collection, such as weather and regional events, and said creating projections on a week’s worth of data can be inaccurate.

“The only way we’re going to be able to protect the citizens of Queen Anne’s County is if we invest some money, do the counting and have hard numbers,” Moran said.

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Delegate Aumann Bows out of Md. Senate race, Re-Election Bid

Delegate Susan Aumann, Courtesy of Maryland Manual Online

Baltimore County state Del. Susan Aumann is leaving elected office after four terms, the Republican confirmed in a statement Tuesday.

“Serving in the General Assembly is an incredible honor. To help our communities and to have had many successes over the last fifteen years has been an experience of a lifetime,” Aumann said.

WBAL reports,

Aumann represents District 42B, which includes much of northern Baltimore County. She was floated as a contender for Democrat Jim Brochin’s 42nd district state Senate seat. Brochin is considering a run for county executive in 2018.

“This past year has been challenging on a personal level with health concerns and deaths in my family that have required more time and focus,” Aumann said. “I want you to know that I will not be seeking election to either the House or Senate in 2018 so I may dedicate more attention to my family.”

The Daily Record, which broke the story of Aumann’s exit, reports she’s leaving elected office to care for her 90-year-old mother. She will complete the rest of her term.

She highlighted achievements of her time in office, including improvements at Towson University, air conditioning at Ridgely Middle School and restrictions on off-track betting at Timonium Fairgrounds.

“I am truly grateful to work on your behalf through these projects and others, too many to list,” Aumann said. “Thank you for your trust in me.”

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PSC Nixes Wind Project in Allegany County

The Maryland Public Service Commission has sided with a public utility law judge’s order denying a wind-power developer’s request to construct a 17-turbine wind farm on Dan’s Mountain, effectively killing the project.

Cumberland Times-News reports,

In a 16-page document released Friday, the PSC affirmed an order issued by Chief Public Utility Law Judge Terry J. Romine in January. The PSC denied Dan’s Mountain Wind Force’s request for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity as well as any other outstanding requests or motions not granted, according to the document.

Dan’s Mountain Wind Force had appealed the judge’s decision in February.

“We find that the project will have an adverse impact on the esthetics of the local communities on and around Dan’s Mountain,” according to the PSC documents. “Further, we find that the adverse impact caused to the comfort of nearby residents by the noise produced and the shadow flicker perceived will not be fully mitigated by incorporating licensing conditions …”

Allegany County officials had also previously denied permits for the project.

Dan’s Mountain Wind Force has argued that the project will create much-needed jobs and tax revenue for the county.

Construction costs were estimated at between $90 million and $100 million by the developer.

Last year during a PSC hearing, Allegany County residents spoke out in opposition of the proposed project, many citing health concerns.

Opponents of the project formed an organization named ANCHOR (Allegany Neighbors & Citizens for Home Owners’ Rights) to challenge the wind farm, expressing concerns including noise and destruction of the views in the neighborhood.

“We find that benefits that may accrue to the public at large by construction of the project do not justify or offset subjecting the local community to the adverse impacts that will result from the project’s construction and operation,” according to the PSC documents.

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St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office Recognized for Role in Schools

Last week, St. Mary’s County Public Schools expressed their appreciation for the support of law enforcement at their schools and on their safety teams. During a ceremony, school officials recognized Safety and Security Assistants, Maryland State Police, and deputies from the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office for their public safety efforts in the public school system.

Southern Maryland News Net reports,

Principals who submitted nominations, commanders and members of the school board, along with Superintendent James Scott Smith and Safety & Security Director, Mike Wyant, bestowed the awards.

“For every day of this school year, there has been at least one unsung hero,” Wyant said. “Law enforcement officers have helped make a difference in a child’s life, and the partnerships we continue to forge provide confidence in our systems.”
Following an opening by Smith, Sheriff Cameron said, “Our partnerships create a great synergy, and we have a positive relationship that exists today.”

The following officer from the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office was nominated for Adopt-A-School Officer of the Year: Timothy Snyder, Lexington Park Elementary and George Washington Carver Elementary School.

“Deputy Snyder grew up in Lexington Park and finds his life experiences a benefit in supporting the children in the community regardless of their age,” Dr. Rebecaa Schou, Principal of Lexington Park Elementary said. “Deputy Snyder also finds time to support his community as a member of the Lexington Park Volunteer Rescue Squad, providing care and comfort to families who are experiencing a medical emergency.”

“The Carver team wishes to express our utmost gratitude for the hard work Deputy Timothy Snyder has displayed in safeguarding the school, staff, and students,” Principal Deanna Mingo of George Washington Carver Elementary School said. “He has shown to the Carver community the highest professionalism in every interaction. Deputy Snyder’s concerted effort exceeds expectations.”

The following officers from the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office were nominated for School Resource Officers of the Year: Corporal Andrew Holton, Chopticon High School; Corporal Kristi Nelson, Great Mills High School; and Corporal Gray Maloy, Leonardtown High School.

Selected for School Resource Officer of the Year was Corporal Andy Holton, Chopticon High School and Margaret Brent Middle School. “Holton is always on time, always on duty, and always interacts with students with nothing but respect and support,” Mark Priner of Chopticon High School said. “Every interaction I have with him is marked by professionalism, respect and a steady focus on the task of ensuring that Chopticon is run as safely as possible.”

“He is firm, consistent, and holds students to high expectations,” Principal Janet Fowler of Margaret Brent Middle School said. “However, he also provides a safe outlet for students to confide in him. He models appropriate behavior for our young men and women, and his positive impact reaches beyond the walls of our building into our community.”

Sheriff Cameron, along with the men and women of the sheriff’s office, extend congratulations to every individual who was nominated and received an award. The Sheriff’s Office also thanks the board of education, Superintendent Smith, St. Mary’s County Public School staff, and the principals of our local schools for honoring the nominees and winners.

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TopGolf Plan for South Baltimore Is Ready for Possible Tee-Off

A proposal to open TopGolf at the site of Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter site near M&T Bank Stadium in South Baltimore has been sent to city economic development officials by Towson developer Caves Valley Partners, City Councilman Ed Resiginer said this week. Reisinger represents the 10th District, which includes the area.

Baltimore Business Journal reports,

In the meantime, the city has signed a contract to acquire a 40,000-square-foot facility at 2800 Wegworth Lane near Westport and Cherry Hill for a new BARCS shelter, said Scott Douglas, a principal at Douglas Commercial LLC, which listed the building for sale. Douglas declined to reveal the sales price.

Caves Valley in early April submitted the lone bid for a 2.5-acre parcel of city-owned land at 301 Stockholm St. in response to a request for proposals issued earlier this year by the Baltimore Development Corp., Resiginer said. Another 7 acres located adjacent to the BARCS site would make the development property total 10 acres.

Arsh Mirmiran, a partner in Caves Valley, did not respond to a request for comment.

Adding TopGolf, a national chain with locations in cities that include Las Vegas and Charlotte, N.C., will boost the area’s vibe as am emerging entertainment zone. TopGolf’s feature a 240-yard high-tech driving range, a sports bar and restaurant and party rental hall. The area is currently highlighted by the home turf of the Baltimore Ravens and the Horseshoe Baltimore casino.

The Dallas-based company has been searching to move into Baltimore for about a year. TopGolf is planning its first Maryland location off Interstate 270 in Gaithersburg.

Reisinger said this week the bid to build a TopGolf location there by Caves Valley was moving through city development channels. The site was identified in a 2015 South Baltimore Gateway Master Plan by the city Department of Planning as part of a new “entertainment hub.”

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Grumbles Elected Chair of Interstate Air Pollution Board

Amid a petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for better air pollution control in five states, Maryland was selected to lead a regional air quality board.

Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles was unanimously elected chairman of the Ozone Transport Commission.

The Frederick News-Post reports,

The commission is a 13-state collaboration created under the federal Clean Air Act to control interstate smog. It advises the EPA on the long-distance movement of airborne pollution from power plants, vehicles and factories and develops regional solutions in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Maryland and other states are currently trying to figure out how to comply with new National Ambient Air Quality Standards that lower acceptable levels of ozone from 75 to 70 parts per billion. Seventy percent of Maryland’s ozone currently comes from out of state sources, Grumbles said during an in-person interview on Friday.

Ozone acts as natural protection from ultraviolet radiation as light passes through the higher parts of the atmosphere. At the ground-level, ozone – also known as smog – can irritate the respiratory system and aggravate asthma and other chronic lung diseases.

Maryland has one of the best air quality modeling and monitoring systems in the region, Grumbles said. He brings data and scientists to the meetings with him to help the commission.

Grumbles served as secretary during his first year on the commission in 2015 and then vice-chairman in 2016.

“It’s an opportunity for us to make sure the Ozone Transport Commission follows the science,” Grumbles said.

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