March 27, 2015

Public Health Experts, Police Take On Liquor Privatization

Public health experts have sent a clear message to councilmembers considering privatization of Montgomery's Local Liquor Control system: the system is superior in protecting the public health, combatting underage drinking and striking the balance between the sale of a legal, controlled substance and meeting community concerns and the public interest.

Montgomery’s system, in fact, has blocked the introduction of numerous liquor industry products aimed at underage drinkers, resisting pressure from the liquor lobby.

Montgomery’s Local Liquor Control contributes $30 million annually to the County – keeping dollars spent in Montgomery County and funding education, transportation and social services while keeping taxes down.

Systems such as Montgomery’s, which cover 30 percent of the American population, have been judged by the National Institutes of Health as superior to protecting the public health, a finding supported broadly by scientific research.

“Montgomery County has among the lowest rates for alcohol treatment, alcohol-related crashes and binge drinking in the state,” said David Jernigan, director of the Baltimore-based Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth. “Montgomery County is doing much better than the rest of the State.”

In a detailed presentation, Jernigan cited 17 studies examined by the National Institutes of Health that concluded that alcohol consumption increases 44 percent with privatization. With privatization comes more outlets, more days and sales and longer hours, more alcohol signage and advertising, and more need for increased enforcement.

“In Iowa, Idaho, Maine and Montana, wine consumption jumped between 42 and 150 percent following privatization,” he explained. “Increased consumption means more adverse social impacts – more underage drinking, alcohol-related crashes, vandalism and violence.”

With alcohol in the hands of the market, he said, there are so many pressures to sell. As the price goes down, the adverse effects go up. He explained that alcohol abuse costs America $4 billion annually and is the 3rd leading cause of death and the leading drug for youth.

“There are so many pressures in the other direction,” he said. “If we don’t take intelligent steps to control the liquor trade, we will pay the price.”

Dr. Ulder Tillman, Montgomery County’s health officer, echoed the message. “If Montgomery County has the lowest alcohol treatment rate in the state, among the lowest alcohol-related crashes and the best overall health, I want to keep that.

“When Washington State privatized their liquor system, the number of liquor stores and bars jumped from 328 to 1,415 – a 337 percent increase. There was an increase in consumption, in the average number of drinks consumed at a sitting, in emergency room visits related to alcohol and in nighttime single-vehicle crashes.

“Our Local Liquor Control is a good thing,” said Dr. Tillman. “We can discuss how to make the system more consumer-friendly, but let’s keep what is working to protect the public health.”

Testifying on behalf of County police, Captain Tom Didone hailed the close cooperation between Local Liquor Control and his department in combatting underage drinking and drunk driving. Didone strongly opposed privatization, telling Councilmember Hans Riemer: “Please don’t change the way we do business now. It will make our job harder.”

The Montgomery County Police Department has the only full-time alcohol initiatives section in the State of Maryland, assisted by approximately 200 other police officers who have received specialized training in alcohol enforcement.

Watch the March 27 Ad Hoc Committee session with public health experts and police.

March 26, 2015

Montgomery Ranked Healthiest County in Maryland

Montgomery County ranks as the healthiest jurisdiction in Maryland according to the sixth annual County Health Rankings released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI).

Overall, the five healthiest counties, after Montgomery, are Howard, Frederick, Carroll and St. Mary's. The five jurisdictions with the poorest health ratings -- starting with the least healthy -- are Baltimore City and Caroline, Cecil, Allegany and Somerset counties.

“This ranking didn't happen by accident," said County Executive Ike Leggett. “The County, working with our many community partners, is focused on making sure that all County residents get access to adequate health care. Through our extensive park system and our recreational activities for young, old and in-between we encourage physical activity and wellness.

“We were a pioneer in assuring smoke-free restaurants and have encouraged businesses to make more information available to customers so they can make healthy choices,” Leggett noted. “Our Local Liquor Control helps us to better protect the public health and discourage underage drinking while also facilitating the sale of a legal product – and making sure dollars stay here in the County to support County services.”

“I am pleased with our ranking as the healthiest county in Maryland,” said Dr. Ulder J. Tillman, County health officer. “Through our community health improvement process, Healthy Montgomery, we have partnerships with our six hospitals, school system and other community-based organizations, and we continue to work diligently to address issues that remain challenging for some residents in our community.

“Our County Executive has made it a priority to make Montgomery County a healthy and sustainable community for all our residents," Dr. Tillman said. “We have reason to be proud, but the work of improving and maintaining the health of a community is a continuing focus for us.”

See the Rankings at

According to the news release from the RWJF, “…this year's Rankings show that the healthiest counties in each state have higher college attendance, fewer preventable hospital stays, and better access to parks and gyms. The least healthy counties in each state have more smokers, more teen births, and more alcohol related car crash deaths. This report also looks at distribution in income and the links between income levels and health.”

The release also notes that “Rankings are an easy-to-use snapshot comparing the health of nearly every county in the nation. The local-level data allows each state to see how its counties compare on 30 factors that influence health including education, housing, violent crime, jobs, diet, and exercise.”

County Leads State in Number of New Residents

More people moved to Montgomery than any other county in Maryland between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014. According to the latest figures just released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Montgomery County added 10,680 people to its population during the year-long period. Montgomery was followed by Prince George’s County, which grew by 10,231 people, Howard County (4,350), Anne Arundel County (3,785) and Baltimore County (3,042).

Montgomery is the most populous county in Maryland, with 1,030,447 residents, followed by Prince George’s and Baltimore counties.

The information is based on annual population estimates for each of the nation’s counties, county equivalents, metropolitan areas and micropolitan areas since the 2010 Census and up to July 1, 2014.

Special Enrollment Period for Affordable Care Act Health Coverage if 2014 Tax Penalty is Owed

A special enrollment period is open now through April 30 for Maryland residents who owe a tax penalty for not having health coverage in 2014 or were not aware that coverage was required in 2014 and want to obtain health insurance coverage for calendar year 2015.

Residents who enroll from now to April 19 may still owe a tax penalty for the months in 2015 when they did not have health insurance coverage. However, the current special enrollment period is an opportunity to get coverage for the remainder of the year and avoid additional penalty costs.

Residents applying for the special enrollment period must attest that they owe the penalty for lacking health insurance in 2014 or that they became aware of the penalty during the 2014 income tax filing season.

Residents who enroll from now to April 18 will have coverage that begins May 1. They may have to pay a modified annual penalty. Those who enroll from April 19 to April 30 will have coverage that begins June 1. All plans provide coverage through December 31, 2015.

Anyone who is eligible for Medicaid is not affected and can apply for Medicaid at any time.

Additional details in the news release.

Find out where to get in-person sign up help at or call 240-773-8250.

Council Committee to Hold Second Work Session on Pesticides Bill

Council Bill 52-14 that would ban certain pesticides from being applied to lawns and certain County-owned properties has drawn a lot of attention from the community since it was introduced last October. Two public hearings on the bill held earlier this year each had more than 300 attendees.

On March 30, the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee, which is chaired by Roger Berliner and includes Councilmembers Nancy Floreen and Tom Hucker, will meet in the Third Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville to continue the discussion begun by the committee in its previous session held on March 16.

The session will allow the committee to talk with pollinator and Chesapeake Bay watershed health experts, turf management experts, and public- and private-sector landscaping professionals.

Chief sponsor of the bill is Council President George Leventhal. Councilmembers Marc EIrich, Nancy Floreen, Nancy Navarro and Hans Riemer are co-sponsors.

Collectively, the two worksessions should give the committee the information it needs to answer the questions of whether there is a need to further regulate pesticides, why a need exists (if it exists) and how best to meet that need.

See more about the bill, including the committee’s information packet.

Read the County Executive’s testimony.

Celebrate April as Earth Month -- Be a Green Volunteer

In observance of April as Earth Month in Montgomery County, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reminds residents that volunteers are needed to help with stream cleanups that are taking place throughout the County. Volunteers will help remove trash and larger debris while learning about local waterways and enjoying the natural environment.

The following cleanups are hosted and/or supported by DEP during the month:
  • Saturday, April 11 – 9 a.m. to noon at Glenfield Park, 12800 Layhill Rd., Silver Spring
  • Saturday, April 18 – 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at East County Community Center, 3310 Gateshead Manor Way, Silver Spring
  • Saturday, April 18 – 10 a.m. to noon – stormwater pond cleanup, Bethesda 
  • Sunday, April 19 – 10 a.m. to noon – stormwater pond cleanup, Dennis Ave., Silver Spring. 
To register to volunteer for the cleanups, contact Ana Arriaza at or 240-777-7778.

Homelessness Charter Signed by Leggett, Bowser and Baker

As part of the recent Regional Summit on Homelessness held in Silver Spring, County Executive Ike Leggett, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker each signed charters confirming their commitment to work together to eliminate homelessness in the Metropolitan area.

See the charter that establishes a high-level regional coordinating council on homelessness.

Read more about the Summit in the news release.