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Friday, April 29, 2016

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust


    In honor of Arbor Day today I wanted to take a different look at the value of trees. We all should recognize the value of living trees but I wanted to point out their value in death.  With the coming of Spring nature is regenerating in ways that is often unexpected.  The picture above that I took this past week shows a piece of a decaying tree that is providing nourishment to a host of insects and ferns.  It also makes an interesting photo of different colors and shapes.


   Often the decaying trees along our paths provide a wonderful home to birds like the Blue Jay pictured above. 


  Although I haven't seen the raccoon family that has inhabited a dead hollow in our Beech tree this year I have watched the tree be a home in past years to a Mother and 6 babies.  Kinda like nature's circle of life.
  
    
   Decaying wood also provided a nutrient rich soil for mushrooms like the Morel mushroom pictured above.  Look for these around Lake Elkhorn right now.  You have to have a sharp eye but spotting them will provide you with a great tasting mushroom.  I just I spot them before you do!  We Morel hunters are very secretive about our exact spots.  A little flour and frying these is a wonderful treat. 



Thursday, April 28, 2016

New rules for tipping--again!

    I once again return to the topic of tipping.  Recently I have noticed that my check receipt has started to have my tip already figured out.  My receipt now shows how much a 15%, 18% and 20% tip would be.  No figuring out those tip amounts.  It is also a not too subtle way to suggest the new tipping amounts are now above the old traditional 10% tip.  It has always been my feeling that tipping is an outdated way of supplementing the low hourly wage of wait staff.   Interestingly the minimum wage that was recently raised for employees in Maryland wasn't raised for service workers.  With the newer automated ways that restaurants are using maybe a new method of revisiting the tip will start.

 

    Chili's, like some other restaurants, are installing these tablets at their booths to have customers order from their table.  According to sources,



   "The tablets let your order your meal—and pay for it—through a screen, as you would with online ordering. (They also, as a bonus, offer games for kids and news offerings from USA Today.) Chili's just completed what it's calling "the largest rollout of tabletop tablets in the U.S."—which includes the installation of more than 45,000 tablets across 823 Chili's restaurants."

   So using one of these new tablets who are you really tipping?  The person bringing you your food? The person cleaning the table?  Do you tip at the above mentioned rates for this reduced impersonal service? Or maybe it is time to just pay higher wages to wait staff and add the extra cost to the menu price as some restaurants are doing in Seattle which raised it's minimum wage to $15.  Of course opponents of paying a higher minimum wage would argue that the extra costs would have to substantially increase the cost of a restaurant meal.  A look at the extra cost for McDonalds would be 10% with a $10 minimum and a 27% increase in price with a $15 minimum wage.  Interestingly the cost of beef has increased 38% since the last increase in the minimum wage and McD's still seems profitable.  Furthermore it is not always accurate to just assume that the extra cost would all be passed onto the customer. The most relevant argument in this wage debate for wait staff is that eating out is still a discretionary expense for most of us.  If you can't afford to eat out and tip decently then maybe a little more home cooking is your best option.

P.S.
     I once blogged on tipping pizza delivery persons fairly so I won't rehash this issue but only to say that anything less than a $5 tip for delivery is not going to cover the expenses of the driver to bring you your pizza.  And that isn't good on a business order of $100.  Ask any pizza delivery person who has received a $2 tip on that type of order.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Noodles and Company opens at Columbia Mall


    We not have seen it coming but the new hot trend in the restaurant business is noodles.  This Asian oriented food trend saw a new entry this week with the opening of Noodles and Company in the Columbia Mall food court.


   This past weekend Howard County bloggers were given a free preview of the restaurant with choices from their extensive menu.  

 
    Following the trend to build your own dish the choices went from American favorite mac and cheese to more Asian bowls.  With each dish you can chose your protein, i.e. meat.


   I chose the spicy Thai peanut bowl that provided a real kick of spices that I would highly recommend if you like spice.


     For those with a preference for more traditional taste the grilled chicken salad is a safe choice.
Check out their website.


#hocofood

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

As we go to vote today




     We have all heard a lot of silliness this election cycle.  The above is a chart that should be addressed by anyone running for President.  If they don't have an answer on addressing this issue in a significant way then maybe they don't deserve our vote.

#hocopolitics

Monday, April 25, 2016

Kittamaqundi Community Church's response to homelessness in Howard County

      We have all known that one of the biggest challenges we face as a growing community is the lack of affordable housing.  Our community has been successfully attracting businesses that provide jobs that pay employees well.  We have high paying jobs from employers like the federal government, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and the National Security Agency. We have a school system that is the envy of other communities.  Our community is frequently listed on "the best of " lists put together by national magazines.  Howard County ranks 2nd in median income in the entire the United  States.  All of these attributes give us a healthy growing community that enhances the quality of life in our community.  Unfortunately the downside to these attributes is that we have a very high cost of housing.  This is particularly hard for young families and especially single parent families who want to live in Howard County.
      So this leads me back to this question-- whose responsibility is it to try and develop affordable housing in our expensive community?  Certainly the County Government has a responsibility to provide affordable housing.  County Government has a housing voucher program for low income families that subsidizes rent costs.  This program usually has a long waiting list for vouchers.  County Government also has developed some moderate income housing for County residents that meet certain income requirement.  The County has some limited number of properties for sale to applicants through a lottery system.  Finally, some affordable housing can be created by developers with the County permitting greater density of housing and developers giving funds to a non profit organization to help subsidize housing costs.
      So will these sources of affordable housing meet the needs of low income families wanting to live  and work in Howard County?  For many workers in low to moderate wage jobs in Howard County the answer is no.  Many workers with families live outside of the County or live precariously paying 50-60% or more of their income for housing.  This can lead to families becoming homeless when one life event makes them unable to pay their rent. This reality led one local congregation to look at how they could begin to address this need.



     The Kittamaqundi Community Church had participated in the Cold Weather Shelter program run by Grassroots during the winter months.  This experience put a human face on the problem of homelessness in Howard County.  Members of the congregation could see families and children no different than their own families struggling with just having a warm place to spend the night.  While they felt it was important to be there for these families one week each Winter it didn't seem like it was a long term solution to the problem that these families were facing.  Because the concern they decided to raise the funds to purchase a unit of housing for one family.  This article in the Baltimore Sun talks about how they did it.  They raised enough money to pay cash for the condo so any rent collected could pay for up keep and maintenance and hopefully provide some funds for purchase of additional housing.  Most other faith based efforts provide housing homeless families on an emergency or transitional basis.  The Kittamaqundi Community Church program recognizes that the need maybe more long term and ongoing.  Many times there is no place for these families to transition to in Howard County.
     So how will Howard County ever provide enough affordable housing so that families don't face the prospect of being homeless?  While government and private developers share a major responsibility to address this need the example provided by the Kittamaquandi Community Church shows how all of us can join in this effort with some commitment to the goal of ending homelessness in Howard County.

#hocoblogs

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Coffee or tea or both?

     I have a love/hate relationship with coffee.  I love a cup or two in the morning and the caffeine jolt you get to start your day.  I hate that it has a diuretic effect.   A couple of months ago I had some masala chai at Royal Taj and loved its smooth taste.  When I found some instant version in the H Mart in Ellicott City I decided to buy it and alternate with coffee each day.


      One day I would have my Starbucks Via Instant ( a really great instant coffee) and the next day I would have the masala chai.  It didn't take me too long to wonder how mixing a little of each would work.


      I loved the combination!  Kinda like drinking half caffeine.
      So I was surprised to read in the Baltimore Sun this week that a company that makes a mixture of coffee and tea won a competition sponsored by Under Amour for entrepreneurs.  That company, Javazen, was started by a couple of former University of Maryland students who also wondered what it would be like to combine coffee and tea.  Who knew that I missed a business opportunity.

#hocofood



Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day 2016


     Be kind to our Mother Earth today.  Earth Day started 46 years ago in 1970. Columbia was 3 years old. I am not sure whether the Earth or Columbia is in better shape or worse shape than it was 46 years ago.
     Best way to celebrate the day?  Make it a meatless day.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Howard County's link with Underground Railroad

   


     With yesterday's announcement that Maryland native Harriet Tubman will appear on the $20 bill in the future I saw many references to her involvement with the Underground Railroad.  A few years ago I was curious to learn if the Railroad passed through Howard County.  What I learned was that there were numerous routes used in the Railroad and that some routes may have passed through Howard County.


Whether Tubman came through Howard County is unclear.



      What I did learn was that many of the routes followed rivers and streams like the one above that were used to lead escaping slaves to know locations alone the route of the Railroad and to throw off the scents of dogs used to track the escaping slaves.  Additionally the presence of free African Americans in Howard County would have also been important to providing safe passage through our County.
    To read that blog posting click here.  

#hocoblogs

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Houston we have a problem----and it involves storm runoff



    The Washington Post image above of flooding in Houston Texas recently shows the result of poor storm water runoff.  Houston's building boom over the past few decades has worsened the flooding problem by the amount of land that was paved over.  With little accomplished in developing alternative means to control storm runoff Houston's future is one of frequent flooding.
     While we here in Howard County don't have the same risk of catastrophic flooding as Houston we are all aware of how vulnerable Ellicott City is to flooding.



 For us the impact is soil erosion that fills up our lakes and rivers.



      This runoff can be expensive and time consuming to correct as we have seen the need to regularly dredge all of our lakes as shown below in Lake Elkhorn.





    Our stormwater problem might be worse if the planners of Columbia hadn't kept in place a great deal of green space and wetland areas that prevent the flooding from being catastrophic.



     Maybe Houston's situation should all make us aware of how storm water can impact our quality of life and get us to look at how we manage the issue on our properties.

P.S.
     I have arranged a storm water talk and tour for Tuesday May 10th at 1 pm to 3 pm starting at the East Columbia Library in their meeting room.  Columbia Association (CA) will provide a van for a tour of several local rain gardens to demonstrate how CA’s Rain Garden Cost Share Program is helping residents manage runoff from their own properties.

    The tour will also stop at a vegetated swale, a bio-retention facility and a stream restoration/storm water outfall stabilization project to look at examples of the capital projects CA is building in open space to treat storm water runoff.

   John McCoy from the Columbia Association (CA) will talk about Best Management Practices being installed by CA to catch runoff and soak it into the ground in order to decrease the speed and volume of runoff reaching Columbia's streams, ponds and lakes.

   If you would like to attend email me at duanestclair@gmail.com   Space is limited by the van size for the tour.

#hocoblogs

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Monday, April 18, 2016

Ned Tillman's 2016 neighborhood walks

   


     If you haven't been on one of Ned Tillman's nature walks you have missed a great time learning a little more about our community. Each of Columbia's Villages have unique aspects.


 These walks are of moderate distances and easy to do. Check then out.

2016 Walks
Thursday, April 21, 10 a.m., Hickory Ridge – meet at Clary’s Forest Pool
Thursday, May 5, 10 a.m., Lake Elkhorn – meet at Hopewell Pool
Saturday, May 21, 10 a.m., meet at Dorsey Search Pool
Thursday, June 2, 10 a.m., Gateway Business Park – park in lot on left of AIDAs
Thursday, June 16, 10 a.m., Columbia Downtown – meet at People Tree
Thursday, August 25, 10 a.m., Long Reach – meet at Kendall Ridge Pool
Saturday, September 10, 10 a.m. Kings Contrivance – meet at Amherst House
Thursday, September 22, 10 a.m. Harper’s Choice – meet at Kahler Hall
Thursday, October 6, 10 a.m. River Hill North – meet at Claret Hall
Thursday, October 20, 10 a.m. Wilde Lake – meet at Slayton House

#hocoblogs

Saturday, April 16, 2016

HoCo Library Battle of the Books


    Once again I enjoyed being a part of the 5th grade Battle of the Books as a judge at the Wilde Lake High School.

   
    This competition in reading is one of the most enjoyable events of the year as over 40% of our County's 5th graders compete in this event.  Every elementary school participates.


   The goal of the event is to have every 5th grader leave elementary school as a reader.

#hocomd
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Friday, April 15, 2016

Greenfest tomorrow



From the Green Fest website:

    "Join us for a FREE family event celebrating Earth Month on Saturday, April 16 from 10:00am – 4:00pm at Howard Community College in the Burrill Galleria. Over 80 displays will provide easy steps we can take to promote environmental responsibility. Lunch will be available for purchase.

Paper Shredding

BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND...paper shredding will be offered at GreenFest in Parking Lot F from 10am-2pm or until the trucks are full. Visit our shredding website to learn about what you should and shouldn't shred.

Grand Prize Raffle!

Attend the 2016 GreenFest and enter to win $100 gift certificates to local farms. No purchase necessary - just come and enjoy this fun, free, family event!

2016 Features
Grand prize raffle to win $100 gift certificates to local farms
Local green businesses and information on sustainable products
Native plant sale
Children’s nature play space
Rain Barrel workshop including 50 free barrels to give away
Free compost bin giveaway
Workshops and speakers
Local farmers selling food, plants and CSA memberships
New this year – Intro to Geocaching

2016 Workshop Schedule



Click the image for a printable version.

2016 Recycling Collections
Goodwill (household items and clothes)
Bikes for the World
Sneakers (Nike Re-Use a Shoe)
New this year - CD/DVDs with or without cases

2016 Sponsors
British American Auto Care. Inc
Clark's Farm
Columbia Association
Energy Services Group
Green-Living Homes
Happy House n' Gardens LLC
HoCo Climate Change
Howard Commuter Solutions
Howard Soil Conservation District
Iota Lambda Omega, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc
Lauren's Garden Service
LeafFilter North of Maryland, Inc.
Real Food Real Close
Relay Foods
Solar Energy World
Standard Energy Solutions
The Howard County Conservancy
Transition Howard County
University of MD Extension Howard County- Master Gardener Program
University of MD Extension Howard County- Watershed Stewards Academy
Waste Management Recycle America



Highlights from our 2015 GreenFest:
600+ raffle entries to win a compost tumbler and compost starter kit!
Native plant sale all day on the Quad
900 lbs of electronics collected for recycling
12 bikes for Bikes for the World
Numerous items collected for Goodwill
Children's nature play space
Rain barrel workshops including 50 free barrels given away
Compost and gardening/landscaping workshops and speakers
Free compost bin giveaway
Local green businesses and information on sustainable products
Lots of FREE STUFF!

For more information, please contact Alan Wilcom at awilcom@howardcountymd.gov or 410-313-6433. "


#hocoblogs

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Rudy's Mediterranean Grill to host a little jazz on April 16th




   If you haven't ventured over to the Gateway Park to try Rudy's Mediterranean Grill you might be missing one of the best ethnic restaurants in our area.  Specializing in Greek, Turkish and other Mediterranean dishes it is affordable and close.


 
 This Saturday, April 16th, from 8 pm to midnight you can enjoy some jazz from The Unified Jazz Ensemble.   Here is a short example of the type of music you will here that evening.

#hocoblogs

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Columbia Association considering altering membership plans

      Our changing community demographics is having an impact on many of our community organizations.  Nowhere is this more dramatic than with the Columbia Association.  Our community of mostly young families is changing to a much more mature community.  How the Columbia Association will be impacted on the financial bottom line is something they will have to address.  Membership revenue could potentially decline unless they adapt to the new realities.  One way that CA is looking to adapt is with a new arrangement of membership plans.  Some parts of our mature community has concerns that the new plans may force them to pay more than the current membership options. The Board of CA will be hearing about the new Plan options at their Board meeting on Thursday April 14th at 7 p.m. at the CA Headquarters Boardroom, 6310 Hillside Court, Suite 100, Columbia, MD 21046.  Here is information from the Columbia Flyer:

  "New condensed membership options may be the way of the future for the Columbia Association’s recreation and fitness facilities, according to Communications and Marketing Director Norma Heim. However, some senior residents are questioning whether the costs of such packages might be too high. As Columbia’s 50th birthday approaches, CA officials are considering new avenues for its membership packages to help the community make decisions on which facilities best fits its needs, while offering more amenities within each membership, Heim said.

Current options range from fitness facilities, such as the Columbia Athletic Club and Columbia Gym, to recreational experiences at the ice rink, tennis and racquet courts, golf clubs and swimming centers.

According to CA’s initial concept, the new packages would include six different memberships, divided into areas of interest, including fitness, recreation, swimming and golfing.

“The membership program and options currently in place have been static for many years, and the community’s demographic makeup and its needs have changed,” Heim said."


P.S.
    Just a suggestion but maybe readjusting the programs offered by CA to reflect the aging population maybe the needed change to remain financially solvent more than a new plan of membership options.

#hocoblogs

Monday, April 11, 2016

NPR's Story Corps highlights a local legend


Clarence "Fancy Clancy" Haskett, in his element at the ballpark.

    Listening to a NPR Story Corps story on Friday is a highlight of my week.  They often tell us about who we are. Last week they featured a beer vendor at Camden Yards.  I have been entertained many times by these hard working folks at Camden Yards.  Listen to  Clarence Haskett story here.

P.S.
      Ned Tillman posted an interesting blog on mosses.  Check it out.
#hocoblogs




Saturday, April 9, 2016

BricknFire Pizza




    I finally got around to using a Groupon for a pizza at BricknFire Pizza yesterday.  They were at the Breadery on Oella Ave in Catonsville.


   This brick oven is on wheels and travels to many different locations.  Best way to see where they will be is to like them on their Facebook page.
      For me nothing compares to pizza made in a wood fired oven.  The pizza I bought was wonderful. Highly recommend checking them out.


P.S.

P.S. 1
    Remember those nerds in high school who loved math and science?  See what they are up to these days. 

P.S. 2




#hocofood

Friday, April 8, 2016

Spring morning around Lake Elkhorn


   Even though we have had some cold weather this week Lake Elkhorn is showing how nice a Spring day around the Lake can be.


   It is always a treat to spot a Blue Bird.


   Our local Herons are almost always present. 


 CA is beginning to repave the path around the Lake with the new 10 foot wide path. 


#hocoblogs

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Columbia Archives Dorsey Search Ride About

  

   Enjoy some Spring weather, get a little exercise and learn a little more about our hometown.  Here is the info on the Columbia Archive's Dorsey Search Ride About:

   "Mark your calendars for a short, family-friendly bicycle ride on Saturday, May 21 at 9:30am. The Dorsey’s Search RideAbout is approximately three miles; riders will start at Dorsey Hall Pool and roll along a beautiful trail that hugs the Little Patuxent River. This bike ride will offer the chance to learn more about the history of the land and the Dorsey Hall manor house built in the early 1700s.
    Pre-registration is encouraged at DorseysSearchRideAbout.EventBrite.com.
"

P.S.
   Lake Kittamaqundi before the buildings had been built. 

#hocoblogs

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Howard County Housing Fair this Saturday

Information from the Howard County Housing Department:

"Come Home to Howard County, Maryland’s largest housing fair, will celebrate its 10th anniversary when it opens its doors for the Howard County Housing Fair on Saturday, April 9 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Howard High School, 8700 Old Annapolis Rd, Ellicott City, MD 21043. Admission is free to the community.

More than 50 real estate agents, apartment community representatives, mortgage lenders, housing specialists and county personnel will be on hand to offer buying, renting and Howard County living guidance to individuals and families in one-on-one meetings and group education sessions. Guided bus tours will showcase various new and existing home communities for rent and purchase in the county.

“Over the past 10 years, Come Home to Howard County has grown to be the premier housing event in Maryland,” said Tom Carbo, Howard County Housing Director. “Howard County remains one of the top places to live in the state, no matter what’s happening in the housing market, and the Fair is a one-stop shop for learning about living here. With children’s activities, prize drawings throughout the event and aHousing Lottery, there’s something for everyone.”

The fair will feature Howard County’s popular Housing Lottery, in which one lucky pre-qualified applicant will win the chance to purchase a town home in the Village Towns subdivision in Elkridge, at a significantly reduced price. This recently renovated 1,240-square-foot home was built by Ryan Homes in 2006 and features 3 bedrooms and 2 ½ baths.

Another popular feature of the fair is the more than 25 educational seminars taught by industry experts. Seminar topics include information sessions for first-time homebuyers, workshops on improving your credit and securing a mortgage, and other essentials for those seeking affordable housing opportunities in the county.

For more information about the Housing Fair and the Lottery, visithowardcountyhousing.com or contact the Homeownership staff at 410-313-6318, option 4.


Howard County Housing staff is available for interviews. Images of the annual Come Home to Howard County Housing Fair and the housing lottery home are available. To request an interview or images, contact Marie Gandon atmarie@simplyevolve.com or 443-204-7521."

#hocoblogs





















Celebrating 10 Years of Helping Homebuyers and Renters
Call Howard County Home
Housing professionals offer expertise at Maryland’s largest free housing fair


Columbia, MD (February 9, 2016) – Come Home to Howard County, Maryland’s largest housing fair, will celebrate its 10th anniversary when it opens its doors for the Howard County Housing Fair on Saturday, April 9 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Howard High School, 8700 Old Annapolis Rd, Ellicott City, MD 21043. Admission is free to the community.

More than 50 real estate agents, apartment community representatives, mortgage lenders, housing specialists and county personnel will be on hand to offer buying, renting and Howard County living guidance to individuals and families in one-on-one meetings and group education sessions. Guided bus tours will showcase various new and existing home communities for rent and purchase in the county.

“Over the past 10 years, Come Home to Howard County has grown to be the premier housing event in Maryland,” said Tom Carbo, Howard County Housing Director. “Howard County remains one of the top places to live in the state, no matter what’s happening in the housing market, and the Fair is a one-stop shop for learning about living here. With children’s activities, prize drawings throughout the event and a Housing Lottery, there’s something for everyone.”

The fair will feature Howard County’s popular Housing Lottery, in which one lucky pre-qualified applicant will win the chance to purchase a townhome in the Village Towns subdivision in Elkridge, at a significantly reduced price. This recently renovated 1,240-square-foot home was built by Ryan Homes in 2006 and features 3 bedrooms and 2 ½ baths.

Interested candidates must pre-qualify for the Lottery and submit all required paperwork by 5 p.m. on April 4, 2016. Lottery applications are available online at http://www.howardcountyhousing.com/housing-fair/housing-lottery/, the Howard County government’s website, or at the Howard County Housing office at 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive, 3rd floor in Columbia. A complete list of pre-qualification requirements, lottery rules and details about the home is included with the application package.

Another popular feature of the fair is the more than 25 educational seminars taught by industry experts. Seminar topics include information sessions for first-time homebuyers, workshops on improving your credit and securing a mortgage, and other essentials for those seeking affordable housing opportunities in the county.

For more information about the Housing Fair and the Lottery, visit howardcountyhousing.com or contact the Homeownership staff at 410-313-6318, option 4.

Howard County Housing staff is available for interviews. Images of the annual Come Home to Howard County Housing Fair and the housing lottery home are available. To request an interview or images, contact Marie Gandon atmariel@simplyevolve.com or 443-204-7521.


Marie Gandon
443-204-7521
marie@simplyevolve.com

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Could Maryland have a public option next year under the Affordable Health Care Program?

    For those of us who are frustrated with the fact that the United States is the only western developed country without universal health care we recognize that moving in that direction will not happen with one piece of legislation. We recognize that it will only happen incrementally. One incremental move might be made by some states next year. Here is that opportunity explained and how Maryland might be one of those states.
     States often have the ability to request waivers to federal regulations if they seek to develop ways to improve on federal programs. The federal agency that administers the program has the authority to grant a waiver if they determine that the waiver doesn't undermine the intent of the law. Often the waivers are used as state experiments to test new methods to administer a federal program. The most interesting waiver requests might come from progressive states, like Maryland, to set up a "public option" that was left out of the Affordable Care Act in a compromise to win some needed votes for passage.  The difference between a public option and a single payer option is that with a public option a state administered option still competes with other private insurance options.  Single payer option is like what Canada has and only the public option is available.  Progressives see the public option as eventually becoming so popular because it might offer better coverage at a lower cost that it might reach the level of being a "single payer" where it exists.  That is why it was such a tough compromise when the public option was dropped in the Affordable Care Act.  Next year states will be able to request waivers to the Affordable Care Act.  Next year a waiver request to a Democratic administration from a state to set up a public option would probably be approved. Here is how that might play out according to an article in the website Modern Health Care:

   " A little-noticed clause in the Affordable Care Act will provide the next president with an option for allowing states to restructure their healthcare systems. The law signed by President Barack Obama includes a waiver that, starting in 2017, would let states take federal dollars now invested in the overhaul and use them to redesign their own healthcare systems.
    Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) permits a state to apply for a State Innovation Waiver to pursue innovative strategies for providing their residents with access to high quality, affordable health insurance while retaining the basic protections of the ACA.  State Innovation Waivers allow states to implement innovative ways to provide access to quality health care that is at least as comprehensive and affordable as would be provided absent the waiver, provides coverage to a comparable number of residents of the state as would be provided coverage absent a waiver, and does not increase the federal deficit.
     The "state innovation" provision, Section 1332 of the nearly 1,000-page law, has gotten little public attention.   But "you would be hard pressed to find a state that doesn't know what Section 1332 is," said Trish Riley, executive director the National Academy for State Health Policy, a nonpartisan forum for state policymakers. "It provides some opportunity for taking the rough edges" off the Affordable Care Act, as the law is known.

     Riley said so far there is interest in the waivers among state officials in Hawaii, New Mexico, Minnesota and Vermont. But the Obama administration has yet to issue regulations that would set the ground rules for granting them.   Next year's legislative battles might be around adding a public option to the program in Maryland. With a Republican Governor this maybe the biggest legislative battle next year.  "This could be a way for states with very different political perspectives to use the resources provided by the ACA and help the country come to a resolution of this whole question," said Stan Dorn, a health policy expert at the nonpartisan Urban Institute. "Whoever is in the White House in 2017 and beyond is going to have a lot of flexibility without having to change the statute."

   So here is how it might play out in Maryland.  A Democrat is elected President in 2016.  In the 2017  Maryland legislature passes a bill to request a waiver to set up a public option in Maryland.  The Governor could sign it or veto it.  If it was vetoed then the Legislature could override the veto and have the request sent to the feds.  One battle that might make for an interesting battle in the 2017 Maryland Legislature.

#hocopolitics

Monday, April 4, 2016

Time for the Columbia Association to step foward

    

    No one is a bigger supporter of how wonderful CA is with the management of our open spaces and bike paths.  It is one of the biggest reasons why many of us never see us leaving this community. However with the recent attention given to a biking accident involving a 4 year old girl it is overdue for some community discussion with CA about improving the safety of our paths that are shared with bikers, joggers and walkers.  I have blogged in the past about one of the dangers I have experienced on one of our paths and how we might make our community more bike friendly. The recent move to widening the paths to 10 feet on some of our heavily used paths is a good move but it is an incomplete solution to the dangers posed by bikers on our paths.   There is only so much that can be done by trying to educate bikers on the need to be courteous on their use of the paths.

#hocoblogs

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Loss of the HowChow blog

     Recently I have had to do something reluctantly.  I took the link off my blog page to How Chow.  It seems as if How Chow, the most popular Howard County blog, has taken a really long sabbatical or has retired from posting for the time being.  I know life moves on and blogging can get difficult as times change.  While other bloggers cover food no one covered the local restaurant scene like How Chow.   With each week seeming to bring new restaurants to our community the loss of this blog is especially missed.  My hope is that someone will step up and fill in this gap in our blogging community.

#hocoblogs

Friday, April 1, 2016

Manatees to be used to control Hydrilla growth in Columbia lakes

    Keeping our lakes healthy can sometimes take on some interesting approaches. 




     All that geese dropping flowed into the lake and fouled the health of the water.  Now another use of animals will try and control the growth of hydrilla in our lakes.


   Many of us have seen the hydrilla mowers used on our lakes to control the growth of hydrilla that makes our shallow lakes less sustainable for fish and other animals that live in our lakes.  While these mowers are somewhat effective in controlling the growth of hydrilla this year a new approach will be tried that is even more environmentally friendly.


     Many Southern states have turned to the use of manatees for control of the hydrilla.  According to the April Ewell, spokesperson for Manatees 911 the company that leases the manatees, the average manatee can consume 80 pounds of hydrilla a day.  For a lake the size of Lake Elkhorn a group of 10 manatees would easily control the growth of hydrilla in the lake.


   With the cooler water of our lakes the manatees will have to be brought out of the water each night and held in warming tanks like the one shown above.  

     Let the "ungreening" of Columbia's lakes begin.

#hocoblogs