October 20 // FDA commissioner touts effort to reduce nicotine in cigarettes to Baltimore audience

The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a bold proposal to get people to quit smoking — reduce nicotine in cigarettes to nonaddictive levels. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who promoted his plan Thursday at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, first announced his intention over the summer. He now faces an arduous regulatory process to try and make it happen. Nicotine isn’t the substance that causes cancer and other diseases that can kill people; tar and other pollutants found in tobacco products are responsible for that. But nicotine, a highly addictive drug, makes people become addicted to cigarettes and other products that contain it. (Balt. Sun)

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Maryland water utility sues chemical companies over alleged price-fixing

Maryland’s largest water utility filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday against eight chemical firms and five company executives, alleging that they conspired to inflate the price of a water treatment chemical over more than 14 years. The price-fixing and bid-rigging scheme caused Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) to overpay by “many millions” for aluminum sulfate, the complaint alleges. WSSC supplies drinking water and treats sewage for nearly 2 million people in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. (Wash. Post)

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Baltimore City Council committee unanimously backs $2,500 tax credit for law enforcement

A Baltimore City Council committee unanimously backed legislation Thursday that would provide $2,500 in tax credits to law enforcement officers who choose to live in Baltimore. The legislation — designed to lure more police, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies to the city — now advances to the full City Council for a vote. The committee amended the bill to automatically expire after 10 years. “This is a great tool to get more police officers in the city,” said Councilman Eric T. Costello, lead sponsor of the legislation. “It’s about making sure they’re invested in the city. It’s a great tool for recruitment and retention.” (Balt Sun)

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Howard County moves forward with Columbia project financing

Howard County officials are set to take the next step in the historic public financing deal for downtown Columbia today, when they sign on the closing of more than $48 million in bond sales. The sale is the latest step in the process to enact a $90 million public financing deal and affordable housing plan, meant to revamp Columbia’s core. The subsidy, called tax increment financing, or TIF, funds public infrastructure, including public roadways, stormwater management and other infrastructure in the Crescent, an undeveloped parcel between concert venue Merriweather Post Pavilion and Broken Land Parkway. (Columbia Flier)

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$27.3 million North Avenue corridor revitalization moves forward

A $27.3 million project to revitalize the North Avenue corridor is moving forward, as state and local officials begin the design process and reach out to the public. The “North Avenue Rising” project, announced last July, is a joint venture by the city and state intended to improve access to jobs, medical care and schools through enhancements to public transportation. Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Catherine Pugh, along with other state officials, held a ceremony Thursday outside the Centre Theatre on North Avenue to mark the start of the project’s design and public engagement phase. (Balt. Sun)

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Blueprint for housing the homeless includes support and a sense of community

When residents move into this gleaming 12-unit building in West Baltimore next month, they will find beds made up with fresh linens, cleaning supplies stacked like a pyramid on the table and welcome mats that say, “Home Sweet Home.” A less tangible, but perhaps more important, feature of Sojourner Place at Argyle will be a lot of support – and not a lot of judgment – for recently homeless people. That’s the concept behind this type of shelter, known as permanent supportive housing and operated according to “housing first” principles – the idea that people should be given shelter first, then helped as they work through financial, drug, alcohol or mental health problems. (Brew)

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HopeWorks rolls out advanced human trafficking survivor services

HopeWorks of Howard County has hired Charlee Borg as the county’s domestic violence center’s first full-time anti-human trafficking coordinator, part of a growing set of actions across the county aimed at tackling the problem. Borg, 28, came to the county from Denver, where she worked in trauma therapy and crisis services. She received a master's degree from the University of Denver in International Disasters Psychology. She was hired by Hopeworks to create and implement new strategies to meet the unique needs of human trafficking survivors. (Balt. Sun)

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Deer self-eradicate ticks with new feeders in county parks

New deer feeders will begin treating white-tailed deer for ticks in four Howard County parks as part of a five-year study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and University of Maryland to combat the state’s tick population and Lyme disease cases. This week, the county’s Department of Recreation and Parks placed treatment devices, called 4-poster feeders, at Blandair Regional and Cedar Lane parks in Columbia, Rockburn Branch Park in Elkridge and David Force Natural Resource Area in Ellicott City. (Balt. Sun)

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