May 07, 2006

Assessment protection proposal is praised

As a young public school teacher living in Howard County, I was excited to read about the Retention of Existing Capped Assessment Protection plan (RECAP) being proposed by five Howard County Republicans running for County Council ("Five Republican candidates pushing idea for tax relief," April 30).

When I first began to teach, I purchased a townhouse, and it has been a great starter home. However, now that I am married, my wife and I are looking to upgrade to a single-family home. Currently, if we were to move, we would forfeit our cap protection and be hit with a high property tax increase on our new home. That is making the prospects of upgrading much more daunting. The RECAP plan will help give us that ability since from my understanding it allows us to transfer the assessment cap to our new home.

Other than the benefits to my family, RECAP has countywide benefits, as it will release work force housing into the market as families like mine sell our homes and move up. RECAP is a great plan for seniors on a budget and young families looking to upgrade from their starter homes.

This is the kind of creative leadership Howard County needs.

John Bailey Laurel

Board of Health urges smoking ban

As our county government again takes up the essential topic of the health of the people by way of a smoking ban in council bill 38-2006, it is vital that these elected officials regard the guidance of those whose responsibility it is to protect the well-being of our people.

First among those agencies are the Howard County Health Department, the health officer and the Board of Health. The Board of Health, which is assigned the duty of oversight and advising the health officer, is a nine-member citizen/professional board, appointed by the county executive and approved by the County Council. The board receives its authority through County Code Section 12.101.

In November, following much thoughtful consideration and discussion, the Howard County Board of Health unanimously supported council bill 71-2005, prohibiting smoking in all public restaurants in Howard County.

As the council again considers this issue, the Board of Health is restating its original position of support for a full ban on smoking in public restaurants. We do this knowing that health statistics and accumulated health data have conclusively proven the ill-effects of first and secondhand smoke on the health of individuals with whom it comes in contact.

Conversely, we have reviewed data that clearly demonstrates the continued success and viability of restaurants that have instituted such bans. In Maryland, we point to Montgomery County, as presented in the October 2005 report, "The Impact of the Montgomery County Smoke-Free Ordinance on Restaurant Sales and Employment." Across the country, such cities as New York and El Paso, [Texas], have shown continually robust restaurant and bar business revenues in a smoke-free environment.

The Board of Health calls on the county executive, County Council and the citizens of Howard County to support the passage of a version of council bill 38-2006 with the earliest possible implementation date designed to protect and enhance the health of Howard countians. In so doing, our board is fulfilling the mission of the County Health Department which is "to promote, preserve and protect the health of all Howard County residents."

Marilyn A. Maitland

The writer is chairwoman of the Howard County Board of Health.

TV's bird-flu film, remember, is fiction

On Tuesday ABC television stations will broadcast a made-for-TV movie, "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America." The film is a fictional account of an outbreak of bird flu in China that becomes an influenza pandemic and quickly spreads to the United States. It is important to note that this is a fictional story that is meant as entertainment. While there may be elements of truth and fact woven through the story, much is still unknown about when an influenza pandemic may strike or what that pandemic would look like at a local level.

Keeping this in mind, the Howard County Health Department would like to remind residents of the following:

There are currently no cases of bird flu (also known as H5N1) among people or birds in North America.

If and when bird flu does appear in North American birds or wildlife, this will not signal the start of a human pandemic.

For a pandemic to occur, the current bird flu virus must be able to quickly and efficiently spread from person to person.

Efficient person-to person spread has not been documented in the current bird flu outbreak.

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