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Volume 16, Issue 9 - February 28 - March 5, 2008

Way Downstream

In Annapolis, plastic bags will soon be scarce in city chain stores. The City Council voted eight to one to order major grocery and drugstore chains to cut the number of plastic bags distributed at checkout by 40 percent. The amendment joined a larger bill to form an Environmental Review Committee to oversee Annapolis’ environmental policies. The amendment gives sponsoring Alderman Sam Shropshire a comeback victory in his campaign to encourage reusable bags. To get shoppers started on their reusable bag collection, Mayor Ellen Moyer is distributing thousands of cloth bags. City chains have until May 31, 2009, to cut back. Next, we’ll see if the Maryland General Assembly favors a total ban on plastic checkout bags statewide…

In Anne Arundel County, picking up litter is a full-time job for prisoners at the Ordnance Road Correctional Center in Glen Burnie. That’s full-time jail time: seven days a week. Over six months, weekends have added 10,763 30-gallon bags of picked-up litter.

Since October, part of that litter is signs planted illegally along the roadways. In two and half months, crews cleared and recycled 3,326 illegal signs. County Executive John Leopold says free inmate labor saves you money. It would have cost taxpayers $170,516 a year to pay county workers to do the pickup. See pickup crews in action: on search “Anne Arundel” and “inmate.”

Seems they haven’t yet made it down south to Fairhaven, where this week’s Bay Weekly commentator Mick Blackistone has volunteered for the job but not for jail…

In Calvert County, ousted U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers, of Huntingtown, is back in the news. On Valentine’s Day, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, deciding she should have been protected by the Whistleblower Act after disclosing in an interview that staff cuts posed safety problems on the National Mall. Her warnings were later supported by muggings on the mall and an Interior Dept. inspector general report.

The court sent the case back to the Federal Merit Protection Board for correction. Not hopeful for immediate action — her battle to regain her Park Police Chief title has already lasted four years — Chambers will continue to protect the citizens of Riverdale Park as their chief while awaiting the next decision.

Read the Bay Weekly profile of Chambers at

At the University of Maryland, students are pressing the state university system to get carbon neutral. They presented an 11,000-signature petition to the Board of Regents, asking for a university-wide global warming policy that would cut or offset the campus’ global-warming pollution. The University System of Maryland — 13th largest in the world — would have to buy 100 percent clean energy and carbon offsets, construct only LEED-certified buildings and bring on public transportation. The University of California System has already adopted a carbon neutrality policy; Maryland’s could become the second in the nation…

Among North American fairs, Maryland has made Carnival Warehouse’s top-50 list. Measuring attendance in all fairs from Canada to the United States, Carnival Warehouse ranked Maryland’s State Fair as number 45. Four offerings from our neighbors up north knocked Midwestern states Indiana and Iowa from their typical top 20 spots. Maryland celebrates its first appearance on the list. Read the full rankings at

This week’s Creature Feature comes to us from Southern Maryland, where cats could be very, very happy if catnip becomes the latest cash crop. Catnip’s value per acre makes it a boon for farmers, says the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission. A perennial member of the mint family, catnip yields 1,000 to 2,000 pounds per acre; buyers pay over $1 per pound for non-organic and over $2.75 per pound for organic. In addition to catnip toys for cats, growers can make catnip oil, which sells for over $100 per pound, and catnip pellets — made from catnip dust and extruded like rabbit pellets — for 80 cents a pound.

The company Cosmic Pet Products is wooing southern Maryland farmers to supply their demand. Cosmic will buy 250,000 catnip toys from cottage industry producers and spend more than $600,000 on catnip products in 2008, according to the Commission, which expects the market to double in the next five years…

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