January 6, 2018
by Peter Rouleau
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GAITHERSBURG — Senator Cheryl C. Kagan (D-17) came to Gaithersburg City Hall Tuesday night to brief Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council on the issues she would prioritize in the upcoming session of the Maryland General Assembly.
“I have had two constituents die when 911 failed,” Kagan said. She said she would pursue legislation to improve and modernize 911 service. “In a lot of the country, you can text 911. In Gaithersburg, you can’t. If there’s a bad guy in your house, you should be able to text 911. Currently, Frederick County is the only jurisdiction in Maryland where you can text 911. Montgomery County is moving in that direction, but I don’t think they’re moving fast enough.”
Kagan said she would seek a statewide ban on polystyrene, a polymer used in Styrofoam containers,
“Gaithersburg had the wisdom to ban it some years ago and Rockville finally did recently as well,” Kagan said. “It’s time for Maryland to follow suit. Never heat up your Chinese food containers in the microwave; that releases toxic chemicals into the air. Polystyrene does not biodegrade. When it’s in the water, fish it, then we eat the fish.”
Kagan said she would seek to reform the Maryland Public Information Act.
“We need transparency as well as privacy,” Kagan said. “If someone signs up for Montgomery Alert, they don’t want their name, address, email, or God forbid, Social Security number to be made public.”
Kagan said, in light of recent backlash throughout the country against Confederate monuments. She would revisit efforts from previous years to change the Maryland state song. The current song, “Maryland, My Maryland,” was composed by James Ryder Randall following the 1861 riot in Baltimore between Confederate sympathizers and northern militia regiments en route to service in Washington, D.C., an event often referred to as the first bloodshed of the Civil War.
Ryder Randall’s sympathy for the Confederacy is reflected in the lyrics of the song, whose final stanza reads, “She is not dead nor deaf nor dumb/Huzzah, she spurns the Northern scum.”
“We have a state song that calls Abraham Lincoln a tyrant and disparages values that we hold dear,” Kagan said.
Gaithersburg Sustainability Coordinator Dyan Backe joined Lindsey Shaw, Commercial Energy Program Manager for Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Affairs, to brief Ashman on the Council on the Environmental Affairs Committee’s recommendation that the city opts into the County’s energy benchmarking initiative. This initiative aims to improve air quality, reduce energy costs and reduce carbon footprints by requiring facilities and public properties with an area of 50,000 square feet or more to monitor their annual energy usage and compare it against past performance and their peers nationwide. This standard would apply to 119 buildings in Gaithersburg. The most significant city facility to fall under the standard would be the Bohrer Activity Center.
Council member Neil Harris, who served on the Economic Advisory Committee before he was first appointed to the Council in 2014, said that at meetings of the committee, city business owners were “unanimously” in favor of opting in.
“It provides a model for being as being as energy-efficient and cost-efficient as possible,” Harris said. “I had concerns going in that it would be yet another onerous requirement on businesses, but we got exactly the opposite reaction.”
The record will be open on the opt-in until Jan. 26, with a vote expected to be taken on Feb. 20.
During the customary moment of silence at the beginning of the meeting, Ashman asked for thoughts for the family of Montgomery Community Media CEO Merlyn Reineke, who took his own life on Dec. 22. Ashman described Reineke as a “great partner for the city.”