Friday, October 30, 2009

Rail And Rivalries

The more we read these days, the more we wonder about Howard's place in the region. Used to be the county was part of both Washington and Baltimore metropolitan areas.

But is that changing?

Check out this site and its discussion of Prince George's vision for bringing Metro's Green line out to Fort Meade.

And then check out the plan for rail espoused by the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance.

One plan brings a station into Columbia town center, and one does not.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Civility (And Lexuses) In Howard

Apparently the vice chairman of the Prince George's County Council thinks his neighbors to the north have it pret-ty easy. Listen to why Tom Dernoga thinks the proposed tolls on the Intercounty Connector are so unfair.

Here's what he said during a public hearing on the subject, according to an account in WaPo.

The Maryland Transportation Authority's board has proposed rush-hour tolls of 25 to 35 cents a mile for two-axle vehicles from 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Off-peak rates for two-axle vehicles would range from 20 to 30 cents a mile. The largest trucks would pay as much as $2.63 a mile during peak hours, according to the proposal.

"This is an anti-working-family proposal," Thomas E. Dernoga, vice chairman of the Prince George's County Council, said at the hearing at High Point High School in Beltsville. "It is an anti-working-family road."

Dernoga said lower-income motorists from Prince George's "will be stuck on the Beltway while people coming down from Howard County and Anne Arundel County in their Lexuses are on the Intercounty Connector."

We Can Hear The Seniors Cheering Now

Some lucky high school graduates may get out even earlier than planned, possibly before Memorial Day!

At least according to this e-mail to Atholton parents:

School officials and the management of Merriweather Post Pavilion have identified the window of Monday, May 24 through Thursday, June 3 as the time during which the 2010 graduations will be held. It is possible that some graduations may fall before the last day for seniors, identified in the HCPSS calendar as Friday, May 28. Therefore, the last day for seniors may vary for the schools that end up with earlier graduations. While this is not ideal, every attempt will be made to schedule as many ceremonies as possible after Memorial Day.

The actual date and time of each school’s graduation ceremony will be available by April 15 at the latest. Merriweather Post staff is aware of our need to announce dates as early as possible and will confirm dates for us as soon as they possibly can.

Driver's Ed Like It Oughta Be

This sounds like fun. We know a post-teenager or two who might be interested in taking the sedan out for a little evasive maneuvering....

HoCo PD sent this our way:

Howard County police are offering a new program for teen drivers who could benefit from more specialized experience on the road. Collision Avoidance Training, taught by law enforcement officers and adapted from police training, will prepare teens for various road hazards and driving conditions. The program consists of a four-hour classroom session and an eight-hour practical lesson for behind-the-wheel experience. The training features exercises in evasive maneuvers, emergency braking, cornering, backing, skid recovery, steering, acceleration and more. Participants must possess a driver’s license and bring a vehicle to drive for the practical portion. The inaugural class – the first to be offered in the state -- will be held Friday, Nov. 13, from 6-10 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 14, from 8 a.m.-4p.m. at the James N. Robey Public Safety Training Center, 2200 Scott Wheeler Drive, Marriottsville. The class costs $195. Space is limited. For more information or to sign up, call 410-313-3750.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Going Solo

More of us are living alone or in homes headed by a single parent, according to new Census estimates cited in this WaPo story.

The data helps inform some of the conversation of late about Columbia redevelopment, don't you think?

Demographers said several factors, some going back decades, are fueling the rise in one-person households.

In some counties, such as Prince William or Fairfax, aging baby boomers are staying in place after their spouses have died, or they are moving to developments catering to seniors. In addition, close-in suburbs have encouraged the growth of high-density residential neighborhoods, dominated by condominiums, apartments and townhouses that appeal to young people.

"Generation Y wants to be in urban-lite locations," said Rollin Stanley, director of planning for Montgomery County. "As Washington has become an increasingly popular place to live and prices have increased, a lot are moving into the first suburbs, like us, to find more affordable housing close to transit."

Others said the phenomenon owes more to changes in society, with diminished stigma attached to living alone, either temporarily or for a lifetime.

"The last couple of decades have seen the emergence of a new life stage sociologists call 'early adulthood,' " said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University who has studied families. "It's when young people are finishing their education, investing in careers, living on their own and postponing marriage. Washington is the nation's exemplar of that trend."

Here's a link to a chart showing the change, and Howard compares to other counties.

Smart Meters Heading Our Way

The Sun says BG&E received a $200 million grant from the Obama Administration to help buy smart meters to help people manage their electricity and natural gas use.

Here's how the utility described the effort over the summer when it applied for the grant:

The first phase of BGE's Smart Grid proposal would be the installation of 2 million advanced, or "smart," electric and gas meters, operating through a robust utility-to-customer, two-way communications network, which forms the foundation for an automated, digital intelligent grid. The utility is also planning to roll out a new Smart Energy Pricing (SEP) program as its standard rate schedule, which would pay customers rebates for reducing power consumption during peak periods. In the pilot of advanced metering technology and Smart Energy Pricing, participating residential customers reduced their consumption during peak periods by 26 percent to 37 percent, saved more than $100 on average and gave the program a 93 percent satisfaction rating.

BGE's ability to rapidly and most cost-effectively carry out the Smart Grid initiative depends upon PSC approval and cost recovery in a timeframe that would allow the utility to qualify for a competitive Department of Energy (DOE) grant of up to $200 million to partially fund the initiative. BGE anticipates filing its DOE grant application in early August 2009, and it is anticipated that DOE would begin announcing grant awards in October 2009. The utility estimates initial deployment and operating costs of nearly $500 million over five years, and expects that over the project's lifecycle customer savings will exceed costs by a ratio of more than 3 to 1.

Under the cost recovery mechanism proposed by BGE, the monthly customer surcharge would be 38 cents per month for electric-only customers and 44 cents per month for gas-only customers in the first year of implementation, and the customer cost would increase slightly over time as benefits also ramp up. Over the life of the program, the monthly surcharge would average approximately $1.24 and $1.52, respectively, for residential electric and gas customers, and would be reduced based on the award of a DOE grant. Customer savings from reduced energy and operating costs will be several times greater than the amount of the surcharge.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How Bad Is The Flu In Schools?

One day, nearly a quarter of the kids were missing from Folly Quarter Middle.

How do we know? The school system is now posting absentee rates online.

From HoCo public schools:

Last week the HCPSS began posting the schools that reach a 10 percent or higher rate of absenteeism [here]. The information is updated daily. If your child's school is not listed, that means the absentee rate for the school has not reached 10% or higher during the current school year.

Biking With The Mayor of Columbia

The mayor of Columbia, Missouri, that is...

UPDATE: The visit is really skedded for Nov. 4 and the ride starts at 9:30am at CA headquarters and will end at 11:30am.

From CA:

The mayor of Columbia, MO will visit Columbia, MD on November 5 as a guest of the Columbia Association (CA), Columbia Tomorrow and Howard Community College (HCC). Mayor Darwin Hindman’s itinerary will include a bicycle tour of downtown Columbia, a Bike Power Summit with community leaders and an appearance at Howard Community College’s multi-media event, The Bike Project. Hindman was recently featured in a Parade magazine article, “Reinventing America: A Free-Wheeling City.” The 76-year-old mayor rides 60 miles a week in his hometown of Columbia, MO, which has a population of 100,000 people–almost exactly the same size as Columbia, MD.

The bike tour of Columbia will be led by CA Vice President of Open Space Management Chick Rhodehamel. Other community leaders and bicycle advocates will participate in the ride from the Columbia Sheraton through downtown to some of the villages. The tour of Columbia will end at Howard Community College, where Hindman will visit The Bike Project’s exhibition in The Rouse Company Foundation Gallery of the Horowitz Center for Visual and Performing Arts. He will make brief remarks about his experience riding a bicycle in the two cities named “Columbia” at a lunch hosted by HCC President Kate Hetherington.

Columbia Tomorrow founder Jud Malone will lead the Bike Power Summit, a discussion which will include Hindman’s advice about creating a pedestrian and bicycle friendly community. Columbia Tomorrow is a nonprofit group Malone founded to address issues facing Columbia in the future.

That evening, Hindman will return to HCC for a dessert reception and a reading that explores biking through the words of cyclists from 25-75 years old, who wrote on the theme, “I bike because…” The reception starts at 7 p.m., followed by the reading in Monteabaro Hall in the Horowitz Center for Visual and Performing Arts. The background for the reading will be projected photographs taken by bicyclists. The event is free and open to the public.

Columbia Tomorrow was established in 2008 to help create a more sustainable, inclusive and attractive community that strives for excellence, according to founder Jud Malone. For information, please contact Malone at 443-852-2805 or

Mayor Hindman is a strong advocate of parks and trails; an interconnected, non-motorized transportation system; and encouraging active healthy lifestyles. Mayor Hindman was first elected mayor of Columbia, Missouri in 1995 and is serving his fifth term. He has lived in Columbia, MO nearly all of his life. He is not seeking re-election; his term expires in April 2010.

Monday, October 26, 2009

HoCo Pitches Free Microsoft Training

From HoCo PR:

Howard County’s Office of Workforce Development is holding orientation sessions today, Monday, October 26, for individuals who want to increase their technology skills. The no-cost opportunity is available through a partnership between the State of Maryland and Microsoft and will provide 13,500 training vouchers for free Microsoft courses and Microsoft certification exams. The program is open to all Maryland residents whether they are currently employed or unemployed. (State of Maryland employees are not eligible to take advantage of this free program.)

The first two orientation sessions, which required advance sign-up, will take place at 10:30 am and 3 pm today at the Columbia Workforce Center, 7161 Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia, MD 21046. The program will be explained and vouchers will be issued for the free training opportunity. Individuals have up to one year to complete their training.

While today’s orientations are both full, the Office of Workforce Development is now scheduling individuals for the next orientation session which will take place on Monday, November 16th at 2:30 pm. Microsoft training vouchers are also available throughout the State at local Workforce Investment Areas, One-Stop Centers, their training partners, the Maryland community college system, Maryland Department of Disabilities and Maryland Division of Rehabilitative Services.

The Howard County Office of Workforce Development is a partner at the Columbia Workforce Center. For more information about the Microsoft training voucher program, contact Cheryl A. Queen at 410-290-2624.

Jobless Despite A Healthy Resume

The NYTimes ventured to our parts to report on some of the casualties of the economic decline.

Here's the opening:

NANCY FINK is a career coach for Maryland’s department of labor, running seminars for the most skilled unemployed workers.

For 17 years, she has counseled professionals, business managers, engineers, accountants, scientists — people who are mature, middle-aged, highly motivated, well-educated, well-spoken. But in all that time, she’s never seen so many of the jobless with such impressive skills as this last year. “Last week I had seven lawyers in this room,” she said. “I’ve had lots of folks from TV and The Baltimore Sun. This week I’ve got five human resources directors — I’ve never had that.”

The number of professionals and managers in unemployment programs at this suburban work-force center halfway between Baltimore and Washington is the highest it has been since the state first made this group a target for outplacement support in 1992.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Power Of A Map - And A Plan

How did we miss this? Thanks to the Columbia Compass blog for pointing out this essay by author Michael Chabon called "Maps and Legends."

In it, Chabon recalls stopping by the old Exhibit Center and being handed a large, fold-out map that offered a vision of the original Working Group's dream for Columbia. He writes about the power it had over him then, and still did in 2001 when he wrote the piece.

The judgments of Columbia's critics may or may not be accurate, but it seems to me, looking back at the city of my and James Rouse's dreams from 30 years on, that just because you have stopped believing in something you once were promised does not mean that the promise itself was a lie. Childhood, at its best, is a perpetual adventure, in the truest sense of that overtaxed word: a setting forth into trackless lands that might have come to existence the instant before you first laid eyes on them. How fortunate I was to be handed, at such an early age, a map to steer by, however provisional, a map furthermore ornamented with a complex nomenclature of allusions drawn from the poems, novels and stories of mysterious men named Faulkner, Hemingway, Frost, Hawthorne, and Fitzgerald! Those names, that adventure, are with me still, every time I sit down at the keyboard to sail off, clutching some dubious map or other, into terra incognita.

Police Warn About Break-ins

We received e-mails from several villages passing on a warning from police about a recent spate of residential break-ins.

Here's the alert sent out by Oakland Mills:

Howard County Police have informed us of residential break-ins throughout the county, two of which were recently in Oakland Mills.

The latest incidents have been during the day/early evening when homes have been unoccupied. It appears that someone knocks on a door to see if there is anyone is at home. Homes broken into have then been forced entry through front door or back/side window/door and the robberies are quick and very quiet. It is important that we REPORT any suspicious activity and any concerns immediately to the Howard County Police. Suspicious activity or signs of warning to alert police about include, but are not limited, to the following:

1) If someone knocks on your door IT IS ALWAYS SMART not to answer unless it is someone that you know, if however, someone appears at your door and says they have the wrong house…..alert police

2) If there is an unusual car driving around/parked by your house…..alert police

3) If something makes your “hair stand up” ….. alert police

It is always better to err on the side of caution. Police are asking for any and all information to help apprehend those committing the crimes.

If you are away make sure your house/apartment/townhome looks as if you were home. Don’t let newspapers or door hangers gather. Know your neighbors and look out for one another. Keep your doors/windows/garage doors locked. Survey your home in the evening and see if there is adequate lighting on all sides. Be aware and report suspicious activity.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Choose Insanity In Howard

We were alerted to this site while taking a spin through Jessie X's blog (And be sure to look at the picture the insanity bug she posted).

We will let the site speak for itself:

Are you tired of playing by the rules? Are you tired of always having to explain your actions? Are you tired of doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results? Are you tired of doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results? Are you tired of doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results? If you've made it this far, you've chosen insanity my friend!

Do You Have A Coat To Spare?

The county PTA is teaming up with the HoCo school system's Pupil Personnel Workers on a coat drive to provide clothing for needy children and the folks at the Grassroots shelter. Many schools are participating.

Jeffers Hill Elementary, for instance, sent out this notice:

JHES PTA is collecting coats for the annual PTA Council of Howard County (PTACHC) Coat Drive.

Please donate any of the following items for children & adults:

• NEW Coats, Hats or Gloves
• Gently USED Coats (Clean, No tears or damage, Ready to wear)

A collection bin is located in the school’s lobby.
Items will be collected through Monday, November 2.

Thank you in advance for sharing the warmth with Howard County families in need.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sharpshooters Take Aim At HoCo Deer

From HoCo gov:

The Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks has announced its fall/winter schedule for managing deer through sharpshooting. This program will be held in an effort to help maintain a stable, balanced white-tailed deer population on county lands where deer browsing has been shown to reduce biodiversity.

The sharpshooting program is different from the managed hunts, which were announced in August. Specially trained and qualified personnel using highly accurate, noise-suppressed rifles, remove deer under a special permit issued by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. All the meat from this operation is donated to charitable organizations in the area. All properties will be closed to the public during the hours of operation, 3:30 p.m. to midnight, unless otherwise noted. The sites and schedule for 2009-2010 are as follows:

Alpha Ridge Landfill:
November 4 and December 9 (Dawn to 11:00 a.m.); February 9; March 15

Belmont Conference Center:
January 4, 7, 25; February 1, 17

Blandair Park:
January 18; February 11; March 11

Centennial Park:
January 11; February 4

Daniels Mill Overlook Open Space Lot:
December 21; February 22; March 8

Gray Rock Open Space Lot:
November 3 (8:30 a.m. to Noon); January 14; March 1

Hollifield Farm Open Space Lot:
December 21; February 22; March 8

Mt. Hebron Open Space Lot:
December 21; February 22; March 8

Rockburn Branch Park:
January 4, 25; February 17

Timbers at Troy Golf Course and Troy Mansion Historic Site:
January 7; February 1

Worthington Park:
January 21; February 15; March 4

Since deer population reduction programs such as the managed hunts and sharpshooting are not possible in many areas of the county, the Department of Recreation & Parks has developed a Deer Management Reference Manual to help homeowners and gardeners live in harmony with white-tailed deer. The manual, which is available in all county library branches, contains information on the use of deer repellents, fencing to protect crops and property, how to avoid deer-auto collisions, and Lyme Disease prevention. There is also information about the county’s deer management program available on the Department’s website...

The Department of Recreation & Parks and the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service can also arrange to have experts on the topic speak to homeowner associations, schools or other groups. Other Recreation & Parks’ deer management programs include an effort to reduce ticks on deer through the use of “Four-Poster” devices which deliver an approved pesticide to deer attracted to a feeder baited with corn. Developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the devices have been shown to reduce tick populations by 90% or more.

For more information on the deer management program, call the Department of Recreation & Parks at 410-313-1675.

Process. Process. Process.

We don't know about you, but reading this story in the Sun reminds us of just how sloooow the development process can be. Despite broad sentiment for revitalizing village centers, don't expect quick action on a plan for Wilde Lake:

Geoffrey Glazer, vice president for development of Kimco Realty, the firm that owns the Wilde Lake center and five others, gave village board members a letter Monday night officially starting the clock on what could be a months-long process of determining what to do with the half-empty center.

"We spend two years putting legislation together to start the process. This official letter puts the village board on notice to set up a time period to start a concept plan workshop," Glazer told four board members and about a dozen spectators. He suggested a meeting perhaps in early December, though the board later discussed scheduling the session in late November.

...The new law calls for a preliminary meeting to discuss concepts during the minimum 60-day period between the start of the process and the first public unveiling of the developer's proposal — all before any plan is submitted to the county. That interim also gives village residents time to create their own plan or list of priorities, which Wilde Lake officials are actively working on. The county council members, sitting as the county zoning board, have final say over what changes would eventually be allowed.

Glazer said he would bring planners, architects and engineers to the concept meeting, but said his team would propose nothing. His experts could explain, however, what is good or bad about various ideas, he said.

Symphony Woods And Security

The Columbia Association briefed the County Council last week on plans to turn Symphony Woods into a proper downtown park, complete with "interactive water feature," wide paths, concession stand (the C.A.fe?) and public restrooms. Woodland gardens would be planted, and the pond back behind Merriweather might be turned into an elegant setting for outdoor weddings. (Here's links to CA's summary of the plan and a Sun story).

CA said it hoped to go forward with the $5.5 million project regardless of what happens with General Growth's broader development plans, possibly starting next summer.

We also learned a thing or two about security.

For instance, one reason some people apparently don't find the current park all that inviting is that the canopy of trees is so dense that it makes the park seem dark and forbidding. So the proposal calls for thinning out some of the weaker trees to bring in more sunlight.

But shining a little light on the park is apparently the extent of safety improvements. Chick Rhodehamel, CA's vice president for open space management, said there are no plans to hire "park rangers" to patrol the woods.

It's not like safety is not an issue downtown. HoCo police currently have officers on bikes patrolling the town's pathways, and the mall has its security forces in their SUVs with lights perpetually flashing. Their presence, while reassuring, also reminds us of the reason why they are there -- as a deterrent to crime.

Would a park ranger send a different, more inviting, message to visitors of this new "walkable" downtown?

After all, in his presentation on downtown redevelopment, General Growth's Gregory Hamm said Baby Boomers place a high value on activity and safety in the suburbs. We're guessing boomers aren't the only ones.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Arundel Rolls The Dice On Slots

From WaPo:

Anne Arundel County Council Chairman Cathleen M. Vitale said Monday that she hopes to break a stalemate by the end of the year over zoning legislation needed to build Maryland's largest proposed slots casino at Arundel Mills mall.

Council member Ronald C. Dillon Jr. (R-Pasadena) and Vitale (R-Severna Park) planned to introduce competing legislation Monday night: one bill that would allow slots at the mall, and one that would allow slots at several other locations in the county south of Route 32, including at Laurel Park racetrack.

Only one qualified plan, an effort by Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. to put 4,750 slot machines at the mall, is pending before the state commission charged with picking the locations of Maryland's five slots operators.

Vitale said that she has come to think that "slots at Arundel Mills is a more difficult site than people initially thought."

David S. Cordish said he is confident that his company will secure the needed zoning, saying it "is far and away the best location for the county and state."

A bill that would have allowed zoning at the mall languished for months before the County Council earlier this year. Neither Dillon nor Vitale said they could guarantee the outcome of a December vote by the seven-member council. An unfavorable result for Cordish could prompt the state commission to reopen bidding.

-- John Wagner

Erickson Retirement Files For Bankruptcy

Bad news for the owner of retirement communities bearing the name of Maryland philanthropist John Erickson. (He started Retirement Living TV here in town).

WaPo reports that Erickson Retirement Communities has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and has agreed to be purchased by Redwood Capital Investments, an investment company controlled by Baltimore businessman Jim Davis.

Erickson is apparently another casualty of the real estate meltdown.

Erickson spokesman Mel Tansill said the bankruptcy filing in Dallas and the agreement with Redwood took place on Monday. He said Erickson, which is based in Baltimore County, must restructure its debt to complete the sale. Tansill said Erickson will also reorganize by separating its management and real estate arms. The actions require court approval. Erickson expects approval in the first quarter of 2010.

Erickson operates 19 communities with 23,000 residents in 11 states.

As the Sun's Jay Hancock reports, it's important to understand what's not being sold. Erickson-developed communities such as Oak Crest and [Catonsville's] Charlestown are non-profits that are separate from the for-profit company that is being dealt to Davis. Thus they should be relatively insulated from whatever trauma is affecting Erickson Retirement.

The WSJ said John C. Erickson, who founded the company in 1983, has held town-hall-style meetings at Erickson campuses and sent a letter last month to reassure residents that the company's financial distress won't affect their lifestyle or the safety of their deposits, which are supposed to be refundable when a resident dies or moves out of a community. In a written statement Monday, Mr. Erickson called Mr. Davis "a strong advocate for community residents" who will safeguard their financial security. The company filed for court protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Dallas, Texas.

Keeping Up With The Joneses

In his recent presentation on plans for Columbia's downtown, General Growth's Gregory F. Hamm tried to tap our economic insecurities, our worries about our carbon footprint, our anxieties that our neighbors may just be passing us by.

He urged the HoCo Council to think about the town's place in the regional competition for jobs and commerce.

A huge opportunity is coming our way as the federal government consolidates cyber security operations and other functions around Fort Meade, he said. And a host of communities are jockeying to capitalize, many laying the groundwork for Columbia-like planned communities.

Places such as Catonsville, Savage, Laurel, Odenton, Annapolis, and New Carrollton are all talking smart growth, he said.

Hamm himself is keeping a close eye on a potential rival taking shape just south, right off I-95 where the state is fast at work building a new I-95 interchange to serve the Intercounty Connector.

Konterra -- the giant Prince George's planned community that's been on the drawing boards for seemingly forever.

You get the feeling from listening to Hamm that the new interchange might be just the spark Konterra needs to get rolling once the economy picks up.

Is Columbia up to the challenge?

Downtown Columbia might have a regional shopping mall that draws 15 million visitors a year, but the office buildings surrounding the retail center are hardly market leaders and the neighborhood village centers are suffering, he said.

More importantly, the town is "lacking a place that is attractive to young people who wish to make their careers and build their careers in and around Columbia."

They are exactly the sort of "best and brightest," he said, who may soon be looking around Fort Meade for a place to settle down. And it's not just the young. Baby Boomers who once sought out the suburbs for peace and quiet now hunger for a place that is safe and active.

General Growth thinks it has a plan to change that. Others have their own ideas. No one can really say how the regional competition for development will play out because right now the economy has left everyone's plans in disarray.

But judging from the reception so far from council members, the next few months will be about exploring the possibilities.

Monday, October 19, 2009

H1N1 Vaccine Arrives in HoCo

From HoCo schools:

Dear Parent,

The Howard County Health Department (HCHD) has begun to receive doses of H1N1 vaccine – in the form of FluMist® and injectible vaccine. The HCHD receives all the vaccine for the county. As the vaccine comes in, it will be administered as soon as possible to those most vulnerable to the H1N1 flu, including children ages 6 months through 24 years old. The Health Department is working closely with the school system to administer the vaccine, free of charge, to any HCPSS student with parent permission. The vaccine is expected to be more readily available by November.

HCHD and the school system have devised a tentative schedule of H1N1 flu vaccine clinics, beginning with schools that have the highest enrollment. This schedule is posted on the school system’s website... The schedule simply lists the order in which schools will receive the vaccine and not specific dates, because we do not know how much vaccine will be available at any given time.

FluMist® will be administered to elementary students; injectible vaccine will be administered to middle and high school students. HCHD officials expect to receive more injectible vaccine than FluMist®. If or when FluMist® is no longer available, injectible vaccine will be offered to elementary students at after-school clinics, so that parents can accompany their child. Elementary school students with asthma or other chronic health problems may not be eligible to receive the FluMist®, so parents may wish to consult with their child’s physician about injectible vaccines.

It is the HCHD’s priority to vaccinate as many students as soon as possible. This may result in changes to the posted schedule. If only a small shipment of vaccine is available at a particular time, a school with a smaller enrollment may receive vaccine earlier. Conversely, students at schools that have received the seasonal FluMist® will be delayed if the 30-day waiting period between vaccines has not occurred.

Parents will receive notification and a consent form when their child’s school is next in line to receive the vaccine. A child will not receive the vaccine without a signed parental consent form.

Please note: Health officials recommend that children under 10 years old receive a second dose of the H1N1 flu vaccine, which may not be administered in schools. The HCHD hopes to provide after-school clinics for second dose administration, but this is tentative. Although a second dose is not required, it is recommended to increase immunity in younger children. Parents of children under age 10 may wish to consult with their child’s physician about getting the second dose of the H1N1 vaccine.

Look for vaccine updates from your school, through HCPSS News, and on the school system’s website. The school system will continue to provide information as soon as it becomes available. Your flexibility and cooperation are appreciated as we work to provide the vaccine to our school-aged population as quickly and efficiently as possible. Questions may be directed to the Howard County Health Department at 410-313-6503 (UPDATED).


Donna Heller, RN, MHSA, CSN

HCPSS Health Services Coordinator

A Columbia Association Bonanza

We spent part of our rainy weekend going over the recent downtown Columbia presentations before the County Council and learned a couple things.

One is that more development downtown means more revenue for the Columbia Association.

A lot more.

According to the Economic Development Authority's economic impact study, the Columbia Association would net $10,733,786 annually under the General Growth plan, compared to $1,030,044 if current development plans remained in place.

That assuming the current lien rate stays the same and CA doesn't use all that new dough to cut the so-called "Columbia tax."

So what would CA do with an extra $9 million? A sum like that could keep open a passel of underutilized swimming pools.

Hospital to Kids: No Vaccination, No Visit

HoCo General has changed its visitation rules to guard against the H1N1 swine flu.

# Children under age 16, unless they are a patient, are temporarily restricted from all patient care areas including patient rooms, therapy areas, and outpatient service areas. Once H1N1 vaccinations begin, children with proof of H1N1 vaccination two weeks or more prior to the visit will be allowed to visit.
# Patient visitors are restricted to immediate family members only.
# In the Intensive Care Unit, only two visitors will be allowed with the patient at one time.
# If you have influenza-like symptoms, do not visit patients. Symptoms include fever and one or more of the following:

* Cough
* Sore throat
* Body Aches
* Headache
* Chills and fatigue
* Sometimes vomiting and diarrhea

Friday, October 16, 2009

Downtown Development = Huge Boom

At least that is what we were left to conclude from the Economic Development Authority's newly released economic impact study.

If we continue the same-old, same-old suburban, car-oriented development patterns that currently exist in downtown Columbia, we can expect 2,860 fewer jobs and $4.4 billion less economic activity related to construction compared to General Growth's super-charged plans, the authority's consultant concluded.

Under the status quo, we would be left with 27,360 fewer jobs and $5.2 billion less economic activity, on an annual basis, related to ongoing operations, the study estimated.

Put another way: We would have 1,000 percent-plus more jobs and 1,000 percent-plus more economic activity if we approve redevelopment plans.

Once open and fully leased, development under the Plan will supply commercial space for approximately 15,460 employees and residences for 5,500 new households. In addition, renovation of the Merriweather Post Pavilion would lead to an estimated 46,000 additional visitors per year and support approximately $1.35 million annually in increased revenues and County visitor expenditures.

Thems some big numbers. That's some big change for this town, and this county.

Your actual mileage may vary, however. That's because the report assumes there's enough demand to support any new construction, that the developer can get the financing it needs to build, and any development would actually be successful. In other words, people would want to live, shop and work in this reimagined boomtown.

The consultant cautioned that its study "does not constitute a full fiscal impact analysis, as it does not calculate revenues net of the costs of additional government service costs likely to result from new development."

Hmmm. (UPDATE: We understand the department of planning and zoning is working up those estimates)

The study also did not attempt to assess the broader consequences of approving a plan or not. "The successful redevelopment of Downtown may meet much of the County’s demand for new commercial buildings and residential units, minimizing development pressure on other areas of the County – or its success may make Howard County an even more desirable location, positioning the County to capture more of the region’s projected demand for housing and commercial space."

The EDA's report can be found here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Halloween Falling Out of Favor?

Looking over various school newsletters we see that some still hold Halloween parades and others do not, opting for fall festivals and the like.

Here's one sample; a Cradlerock School e-mail to parents:

This school year we are moving toward a more inclusive fall celebration for our students. In the past, we’ve had a Halloween Parade and party. Students who did not celebrate Halloween participated in an alternative party. Each year, the number of students that do not participate has increased. This school year, we are having a “Costume Parade” for students that want to participate and a “Harvest Party” for all students. We ask that costumes not be of a Halloween nature (ghosts, blood & guts,masks,skeletons, make-up,etc.)

Below are suggested costume options:

* Appropriate book characters
* Household items
* Animals
* School supplies
* Careers
* Sports figures
* Nature/Food
* Appropriate cartoon characters/action figures
* Positive role models

Some HoCo Lawmakers Give Back Pay...

...Some don't.

From WaPo:

Six weeks after leaders of Maryland's Senate and House of Delegates asked lawmakers to return a fraction of their pay and join in solidarity with 70,000 state workers who have been furloughed for up to 10 days to help close the state's budget gap, just over half have done so.

See the list of lawmakers here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ulman: "There's Nothing Easy Left"

HoCoMoJo has posted a video on the effect of state budget reductions on county organizations and services. In it, HoCo exec Ken Ulman is quoted as saying there are no easy cuts left to make, but, hey, we're Howard County we'll deal with it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

CA's 'Hand-crafted' Computing

We received an e-mail from the Columbia Association this week updating us on the progress of the organization's new Computer Service System, set to launch in mid-2010.

As a brief overview, CSS is a top-of-the-line, hand-crafted computer system set to replace CA’s current software, which team members have used for over 20 years to manage day-to-day customer service...

...The following list details the benefits you can look forward to with the implementation of CSS in the coming year.

* The new CSS web portal is easy to use, convenient and allows for efficient communications between CA team members and customers
* Photos can be taken at CA fitness facilities and the Membership Service Center
* Increased customer satisfaction through the practicality and functionality of the e commerce web portal:
o You can load money onto your membership cards online or at MSC to buy concessions, tickets and make other purchases at CA facilities
o You can book tennis and racquetball reservations online
o You can signup online for Package Plan Plus and Group Fitness classes
o You can schedule tee times online
o You will have a more efficient and faster check-in when arriving for classes, tee times, etc.
* Members’ photographs will be stored in the new system, so if you forget your membership card, a front desk associate can access it via the check-in screen at CA facilities. This will also lessen the possibility of someone using your membership card fraudulently.

This all sounds very cool. There was just one problem with the e-mail. It thanked us for having "actively taken steps to upgrade" our membership cards so they work with the new system. Apparently, this has something to do with getting our photo taken -- which, umm, we haven't done for many, many years (when one particular member of the Talk team still had all his hair!).

Unless there's someone out there impersonating Team Talk, we're guessing this is what CA means when it says the CSS is still in its testing phase.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Plan For The Downtown Plan

Talks about what to do about downtown Columbia are about to heat up again.

We are reposting this from a Town Center e-mail:

Good Afternoon Everyone,

I wanted to let you know that the Planning Board signed their recommendation on ZRA 113, which the Council received yesterday. Our staff has posted it on the website and it can be found on the ZRA page under ZRA 113(Part 2--ZRA Recommendation)...

In addition, I want to remind you about the upcoming County Council Briefings to be held at the Board of Education at 7 PM, which I hope you will be able to attend.

· October 13, 2009,—GGP will brief the Council on the Downtown Columbia Plan as it will be submitted to the Council

· October 14, 2009,--The Economic Development Authority will share its Downtown Economic Impact Study and the Columbia Association will share its plans for Symphony Woods

The October 13 and October 14 briefings will be televised live on GTv as well as being webcast through the County Council’s website using Granicus video streaming technology. The webcast can be viewed live or “on-demand”...

Because I know that this legislation is important to you and others in the community, please share this information with your friends and neighbors. I hope that the information contained in the briefings will be valuable to you as you contemplate the future of our Downtown and prepare to share with the Council your thoughts and suggestions.

In preparation for Tuesday’s briefing, it is my understanding that the finalized Downtown Columbia Plan(GPA) and Zoning Regulation Amendment(ZRA) will be available for posting to the Council’s ZRA web page on Tuesday morning(the Council office is closed on Monday for Columbus Day).

Because Howard County law requires that the Council introduce legislation that contains the ZRA request, I anticipate that the legislation will be filed on October 22nd for introduction on November 2, 2009. I know that there will be many people who will want to share their thoughts with the Council and although the briefings next week will not have time for public input, the Council will be establishing a public hearing schedule that will accommodate anyone who wishes to participate.

Thanks for your continued interest in Downtown Columbia. I look forward to seeing you this week…..MK

Mary Kay Sigaty

Howard County Council

District 4


HoCo Schools Heart Cars

WaPo has a story today on how some students in Loudoun are up in arms about a decision to hike the cost of a campus parking permit from $25 to $200. An accompanying chart shows Howard and Anne Arundel charge some of the lowest fees, just $15.

Loudoun's decision apparently has little to do with carbon emissions or lifestyle choices.

School board members say they are trying to catch up to prices charged in nearby districts and need to make up for a $70 million budget shortfall largely created by cuts in county funding. Fairfax County also charges $200 for parking, but most schools in the Washington region charge less than $100.

As public policy, the higher fees do not seem to be accomplishing much, except to raise funds.

Despite months of protests on Facebook, no Loudoun high schools has reported significantly fewer parkers, although several carpool groups share passes. There also hasn't been a surge in upperclassmen riding the bus, schools spokesman Wayde B. Byard said. The district hopes to raise more than a half-million dollars through the permit sales and is on course to do so, he said.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Gov't On TV: The Good And The Fuzzy

We tuned in this week to HoCo's new streaming coverage of council and school board meetings and found the implementation very cool. It's like TiVo for Gov TV: You can skip ahead to an agenda item that looks interesting and skip all the boring stuff.

The council site even posts relevant documents beside the video, so you can read up on what people are talking about as they testify.

Still, it is not always clear what is going on. Take, for instance, this item:

Resolution No. 81 –2009

Introduced by: The Chairperson at the request of the County Executive

A RESOLUTION endorsing the provision of financing by the State Department of Business and Economic Development for an economic development project in Howard County; designating the Howard County Economic Development Authority as the agency to administer the project; and certifying that the project is consistent with the County’s plan for economic development.

We can report from watching the video that the council voted unanimously for the resolution with no discussion. Can anyone tell what we just endorsed financing for?

But then we watched video from an earlier public hearing where we learned that the county was kicking in $500,000 to be matched by $500,000 from the state to create a $1 million revolving loan fund to help start-up businesses. The tax-exempt financing generally would carry a five-year term, according to Dick Story, the chief executive of the county's Economic Development Authority.

So far, Story told the council, the county has "talked to companies but has not made a loan" and wanted to build up the kitty to $1 million so the program could be self-replenishing.

From this, we learned an important lesson: You can never watch enough TV.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Flu Worries

This is certainly no surprise. ExploreHoward reports that HoCo General is being overrun by families worried that their little ones may have swine flu. The clamor has become so bad that Dr. Walter Atha, the director of the hospital’s emergency department, had to hold a news conference pleading with people to show more restraint.

The hospital’s emergency department has seen days recently with close to 100 children coming in to get checked for the H1N1 virus, Atha said. On an average day, the hospital sees about 40 children in its emergency department, he said.

“They’re walking down the halls with masks on,” he said.

...Atha said the only time someone should go to the emergency room with the flu is if he or she is experiencing “severe” symptoms like severe shortness of breath or severe chest pain.

HoCo Exec Offers Help To Businesses

From HoCo gov:

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Ken Ulman announced today a series of legislative initiatives to help local businesses endure the current economic difficulties and take advantage of opportunities presented amidst the recovery.

“Although the national economy seems to be on the right track, local businesses still need help as this recovery takes hold,” said County Executive Ulman. “I believe this legislation offers both immediate and long-term help to Howard County’s business sector.”

These bills were introduced to the County Council Monday:

· A revision to the County’s commercial tax credit that expands eligibility beyond office and industrial operations to include retail, restaurants, hotels and motels, and recreational facilities. The tax credit acts as an incentive for businesses wishing to make substantial investments in their local operations.

· A provision allowing the Office of Workforce Development to use $153,000 in Maryland Business Works funds for grants to local businesses that invest in their employees by providing training and continuing education opportunities.

· Designating the Route 1 Corridor as a Recovery Zone under the guidelines of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This bill allows the County to offer $18,406,000 in Recovery Zone Facility Bonds as below-market financing for private businesses in the recovery zone. This designation also allows the County to use $12,270,000 in Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds which will provide a cost-effective source of funds for supporting and expanding economic activity in the recovery zone.

Ulman’s initiatives also include the following bills passed Monday by the County Council:

· A revised Settlement Downpayment Loan Assistance program meant to enhance and extend the federal first-time homebuyer tax credit. The new program regulations will expand homeownership opportunities for first-time buyers and workers employed with County businesses. The program also includes a provision for assistance to buyers of properties in foreclosure.

· A Catalyst Loan Fund managed by the Economic Development Authority and funded in part by State money to provide emerging local businesses with low-interest loans in an effort to expand employment opportunities.

Main St., In Climate Controlled Comfort

We were just perusing the Mall's events calendar and were struck at how the sprawling shopping emporium continues to serve as Columbia's town square, or at least a commercialized version of one.

First there is an Oct. 20 career event:

These challenging economic times have forced many people to re-think their career paths. The Mall in Columbia and have partnered to host a Career Entrepreneur Expo, which will offer job seekers a relaxed environment to interact with more than 35 employers and the opportunity to become their own boss!

In a relaxed, but professional environment, will bring together Baltimore’s best employers with qualified job applicants. Positions offered will include administrative, sales, customer service, healthcare, engineering, retail and more. Workforce Development Specialists from Baltimore County, Howard County, and the Mayor of Baltimore’s office will be in attendance – ready to assist job seekers with their employment search. In addition, participants can apply for open positions available with retailers located in The Mall in Columbia.

The Expo will introduce an array of products and specialized services to help entrepreneur’s control their own destiny by becoming owners of businesses that operate in shopping malls. Learn about dozens of small business opportunities – and become your own boss – with merchandise startup costs as low as $2,000. The Business Development team at General Growth Properties will be available to help entrepreneurs identify locations for their specialty retail businesses. In addition, there will be a representative from S.C.O.R.E. (a resource through the Small Business Administration Office) on site for free counseling.

Then there's Halloween (while supplies last!):

The Mall in Columbia will host a mall-wide* Trick-or-Treat event on Saturday, October 31st from 6pm-8pm while supplies last.

For Kids 12 and under

*Select retailers

TIME: 6pm-8pm (while supplies last)

There's a benefit to support nonprofits:

Lord & Taylor at the Mall in Columbia invites you to participate in their Fall 2009 Benefit Bash, which will take place on Tuesday, November 10, 2009.

Benefit Bash is a private day of shopping in support of not-for-profit organizations in the Columbia area. Each organization is asked to sell tickets at $5 each, and your organization will retain all proceeds from ticket sales. Participation is free.

Lord & Taylor will award two bonus donation checks of $1,000 each. In addition, two special shopping incentives are attached to each ticket: a 20% coupon that can be used on one item, and a 15% savings pass that can be used throughout the store on almost anything including Cosmetics and Fragrances only on the day of Benefit Bash. Buy four tickets, and receive the fifth ticket for FREE!

To receive an application, please visit Lord & Taylor’s website at to download. You may also stop by the Executive Office at Lord & Taylor at the Mall in Columbia.

And finally, Santa's coming! An experience the mall likes to refer to as "Santastic." We love the over-the-top marketing.

The holiday experience unlike anything you’ve ever dreamed returns to The Mall in Columbia beginning November 13th!

Prepare To Be Astonished With:

* The Magical Mailbox – be sure to have your letter to Santa ready
* The Naughty or Nice Meter – you still have time to be good
* North Pole weather effects – the forecast calls for daily snow showers
* … and many more magical surprises!

Join us as we create a holiday experience that you and your family deserve!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Now All We Need Is A "Tour De OM"

Oakland Mills has finalized planning for a new "streetscape" in the village center, which we previously likened to our own little Champs de Elysees. Construction on Robert Oliver Place is supposed to begin around Oct. 13.

We tried to think of all the events this tiny main street might host. The start of the high school homecoming parade, perhaps? The finish for a Striders race? A promenade for the annual Crop Hunger Walk?

We wouldn't turn our nose at some chi-chi shopping, either!

See the design here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

HoCo Schools Stop Seasonal Flu Shots

From HoCo schools:

Dear Parents of Elementary School Children,

In early August you received a letter with the details of the Howard County Health Department's plans to hold multiple seasonal flu vaccination clinics for elementary school-aged children. Unfortunately local health officers have recently been informed by Maryland State Secretary of Health John Colmers that the state is suspending the School FluMist® Program due to distribution challenges with the seasonal flu vaccine.

Cancellations of school and health department clinics for seasonal influenza vaccinations are occurring statewide. As a result, Howard County’s after-school flu clinic scheduled for October 8 for elementary school-aged children is cancelled as well. To date, the FluMist® administration was held in 16 of our 39 elementary schools.

At this time, it is unclear if or when the vaccine will be available. County health officials encourage parents to contact their primary care providers and local pharmacies regarding vaccine availability. Although these services may come at a cost, they feel that this vaccination is the best way to prevent the seasonal flu.

The H1N1 vaccine is now being distributed to state health departments. Information about the H1N1 vaccine administration in Howard County will be shared as soon as county health officials have the vaccine and have finalized a vaccination schedule.

Additional information is available by calling Kristine Holmes, R.N., School FluMist® Coordinator at 410-313-7528. Thank you for your understanding.

Donna Heller, RN, MHSA, CSN

HCPSS Health Services Coordinator

Suspect Found Dead In HoCo Jail

Several media outlets are reporting that the Columbia man charged with killing a woman found in a Baltimore manhole was found dead himself in his Howard jail cell.

From ExploreHoward

Victor Hernandez Cruz, 40, of the 9000 block of Lambskin Lane,had been charged with first- and second-degree murder and first- and second-degree assault in the killing of Elda Ardorno Vasquez, 28, of no known address, a Baltimore police spokesman said Monday.

Staff at the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center in Baltimore found Cruz unresponsive in his jail cell at about 8 p.m. Monday, said Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Cruz was found unconscious only a few minutes after guards had checked on him and found no problems, the spokesman said.

Cruz was transported to Johns Hopkins Hospital where he was pronounced dead, Vernarelli said. No foul play is suspected, the spokesman said, but the DPSCS is investigating the death and the state medical examiner is doing an autopsy.

Law Enforcement's Social Network

Talk about the power of networking.

WaPo has an interesting story today about two men accused of stealing jewelry in a string of heists during real estate open houses across suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia. Police said they finally caught up with the pair after one agent grew suspicious of the men and "alerted the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, which put out a bulletin giving a description of the suspects and warning thousands of agents about the activity."

Two weeks later, agent Jim Bryant was holding an open house in McLean when he saw two men who fit the description pull up and quickly exit their car, he said. The men split up when they walked in the door, and Bryant said he decided to write down their vehicle's license plate number.

When they saw what Bryant was doing, they left. Bryant then e-mailed Alexandria police Detective Daniel Plank, who checked the license plate number and came up with Palmer's name.

Plank then searched a regional pawnshop database and learned that Palmer had been pawning large amounts of jewelry. Plank visited one of the pawnshops in Howard County and the owner recognized photos of Palmer and Goldstein, Plank said.

So, when an agent in Baltimore called police Sunday after seeing suspicious activity and remembering the bulletin about the thefts, officers knew to check the suspects' pockets. Then, it was easy for authorities to piece together the case, Plank said.

Easy maybe, but an example of the growing power of our interconnectedness. A regional alert from the Realtors group. A run through a license plate database. An e-mail sent from an agent in McLean to a detective in Alexandria. A check of a pawnshop database. Archived photos of the suspects. And a regional police bulletin that led police in Baltimore to know to check a suspicious person's pockets.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Man Charged In Missing Woman's Death

From ABC 2 news:

Elda Vasquez has been missing for nearly two years. The 28-year-old lived in Columbia, where she worked at two restaurants. In January 2008, her colleagues reported her missing after she failed to show up to work.

Now, the mystery has apparently been solved. Charging documents filed in Baltimore City say her decomposed body was found in a Verizon manhole by a crew in Northeast Baltimore on Friday.

On Sunday, police charged her boyfriend, Victor Hernandez Cruz, of Columbia, with first and second degree murder and assault.

The charging document says Vasquez called police to report that she was assaulted by Cruz about a month before her disappearance. She said she was grabbed, struck in the head, and he attempted to drag her into the woods.

From WBAL 11:

Vasquez, whose family is from Mexico, is survived by two children ages 10 and 15.

The mother of two worked seven days a week at two jobs -- Eggspectation, where she met Cruz, and at a Red Robin restaurant in Columbia where she was a line cook.

Sneak Peak At HCPSSTV

The school system's streaming TV page is live on the Internet and can be found here.

Here's a link to one of the system's original productions, "Arts a la Carte," in an episode featuring the Wilde Lake wind ensemble.

The site promises coverage of board meetings and other educational programming such as SAT primers and "Math Man."

Friday, October 2, 2009

HoCo Schools Offer Streaming TV

At least we think they are, though for the life of us we could not find a link on the page mentioned in this release. (Nor did the link mentioned in an earlier HoCo Gov release help). We will update when we figure it out. UPDATE: Search no more. Site found here.

In the meantime, we are clearing some space on the TiVo.

From HoCo Public Schools:

The Howard County Public School System's television station, HCPSS TV, has expanded its reach with a new online presence that allows for web broadcast of school board meetings and on-demand viewing of board meetings and other HCPSS TV programming. The site, which can be accessed from the school system's homepage at, grew out of the work of a Task Force on Television Services convened two years ago.

The HCPSS TV web presence is hosted by Granicus Incorporated and is robust enough to archive HCPSS TV's five original cable television series, as well as instructional and educational videos, media for teachers and staff, and special seasonal presentations such as the Howard County Spelling Bee and high school graduations.

The first live broadcast of a Board of Education meeting via the Internet will take place on October 8 beginning at 4:00pm. In addition to real-time streaming of all Board of Education meetings on the Web, all future meetings will be available on demand to the public. The technology provided by Granicus allows the public to easily select and view a segment of any meeting at anytime by simply typing in a keyword or clicking on a particular agenda item.

Other information, such as the monthly HCPSS TV program guide, upcoming television events, and press releases are also available on the site.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The New Rules Of The Road

The Sun offers a rundown of new laws going into effect today, including a ban on texting while driving. The state also plans to begin using cameras to catch speeders in the Interstate 95 work zone near the future Intercounty Connector interchange.

State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen said speed cameras would be up and running at the site today, issuing warnings to violators who go more than 12 mph above the posted speed limit. The law grants a 30-day warning period before $40 fines can be imposed.

The ICC site is one of three large-project work zones where the state is initially deploying speed cameras. The others are at the Beltway and Charles Street, the site of a bridge replacement project, and the express toll lane project on Interstate 95 between I-895 and White Marsh Boulevard.

WaPo, meanwhile, offers its own take on new laws, including changes in requirements for teenagers seeking a license.

Teenagers must spend nine months driving with a learner's permit, instead of six, before becoming eligible for a provisional license.

The minimum age for receiving a full license becomes 18, and cellphone use while driving is banned until drivers reach that age. Parents also are able to have a teenager's learner's permit or provisional license revoked.