A few members of the public supported Frederick County Councilman Kai Hagen’s bill to ban intentional balloon releases, but some — including council leadership — have questioned its overall effectiveness.

Josh Cramer and Mark Long were the only two county residents to speak at Tuesday’s public hearing for the bill. Cramer said balloon releases are a form of littering, something that has been legislated nationwide.

“I don’t see that this littering makes much of a difference, in that it goes into the air first ... litter is litter,” Cramer said.

Long shared Cramer’s view.

“There are some that say balloon launches are a tradition that many have enjoyed over the years,” he said. “Just because it has been done by many over the years as practice doesn’t mean it should be done. It’s littering.”

The proposed ban on intentional balloon releases was introduced by Hagen in part because of a similar law that passed in Queen Anne’s County in a 5-0 vote in late August.

Hagen’s initial proposal excluded balloons that were either photodegradable or biodegradable, but he has since removed that language. It would fine people or organizations up to $250 if they intentionally release balloons.

Hagen said after Tuesday’s hearing he didn’t know of any mass balloon releases statewide, but noted they are common at weddings, groundbreakings and other events.

“I think there’s been a lot of research and a proven body of knowledge on the impacts this has on wildlife,” he said of mass balloon releases, adding: “It’s not a huge issue, but it’s part of solving a problem by doing the right thing.”

Still, County Council leadership said before Tuesday’s meeting they had concerns about Hagen’s bill. Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) said that the intent behind Hagen’s bill was well-meaning, but doubted its overall need countywide.

She added it would be tricky to enforce if you don’t catch people in the act of releasing balloons, and there could be spillover pollution from neighboring counties that don’t have a law enacted.

“While I certainly think it’s a noble cause, I hesitate to put an ordinance in place that would put staff in a tough position. ... I’m not sure a balloon release [ban] in Frederick [County] is going to have the impact he wants it to have,” Keegan-Ayer said.

Both she and Council Vice President Michael Blue (R) said it might be better to educate people on the issue of balloon releases, versus trying to pass a law. Blue said several people have emailed him and council members in support of Hagen’s proposal, but added that education is one of the driving forces behind it.

“I think it would be a lot more effective than a law. ... The purpose alone is to educate, so why not just do that,” Blue said.

“I don’t think it’s enforceable,” he added. “It’s too much of an intrusion in our lives when it comes to providing environmental protections.”

Hagen’s bill would not apply to hot air balloons, those released by state or federal agencies for “scientific or meteorological purposes,” nor would it apply to the unintentional release or balloons or hot air balloon pilots releasing ones to study meteorology.

Blue said he would prefer to see the issue handled at the state level. Sen. Clarence Lam (D) of Howard and Baltimore counties plans to introduce a similar bill next year, which has been co-sponsored by Sen. Ron Young (D), who represents the city of Frederick and surrounding areas.

Hagen said in a previous interview that new laws in Frederick County and other local jurisdictions might influence the state to pass its own law, but Blue said the issue isn’t a local priority to him.

A final reading and vote on Hagen’s proposal is scheduled in the coming weeks.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(31) comments

ewokieee

There is a wedding venue right down the street , From Mr Hagen , place that does release balloons in bulk . Perhaps walk the dog get the 1 picture be a hero . Educate and create a Flyer , door to door .

KellyAlzan

Kai has a bad rep before. I was willing to give him a chance. He blew it.

Balloons?? Really??

For multiple years now, trucks have been getting stuck under the railroad bridge that crosses on route 75 in downtown Monrovia. This has been allowed to occur because coming northbound on 75 from route 355 there is no signage alerting truckers of the low bridge......until they drive 80% of the way and reach the church of the brethren. At this point there is “safe” turn around. Please do not mistake the signage addressing over length and over height trucks. Whole different aspect for a trucker.

Trucks are getting stuck on a weekly basis. Consuming COUNTY resources, and inconveniencing county residents and businesses.

And Kai is losing sleep over fricken balloons?? What a clown.

stevemckay

Kelly - send me an email at smckay@frederickcountymd.gov, and I'll forward the request I made to MDOT, as well as whatever reply I receive. Regards, Steve

Obadiah Plainsmen

KA,

All the signage on RT 75 are written in English. As you well know to a lot of Truck drivers English is their 2nd language( not proficient) . Are you advocating that Frederick county should make English the official language? or should the signage be written in multiple language?

hayduke2

Kelly - you do know htis is not the side of the railroad bridge that most trucks get stuck on, right. In addition, there is an area, while not ideal, where they can turn around right before the bridge.

KR999

"Downtown" Monrovia, Kelly? Seriously? [lol][lol][lol][lol][lol][lol][lol][lol]

Burgessdr

Like jloo I lie awake at night worrying about balloons released in the air. If it is not stopped it will cause an environmental catastrophe

timberman

How is releasing balloons to land on someone else’s property as trash any different than throwing trash out your car window Both are very disrespectful yet one would be condemned for such act and the other not Certainly not the proper way to treat our environment or teach our children right from wrong Just food for thought.

mrnatural1

Granted, in the overall scheme of things, balloon releases are minor.

However, we can say that about any number of things. In fact, many of our laws address relatively minor offenses. Should we abolish those laws?

Yes, law enforcement has more pressing concerns. No one is suggesting that the sheriff's dept create a "Balloon Task Force".

The law probably would not be enforced very often, but then neither are laws against dumping trash along public roads (ask me how I know). At the same time, even if a law is not routinely enforced, it still serves a purpose -- it puts people on notice that the people of the jurisdiction (FredCo in this case) consider the action/behavior to be wrong.

Educating people about an issue is fine, but we all know how that often goes:

* I'll do whatever I want!

* No tree-hugging snowflake is gonna tell me my kids can't release balloons!

* What do environmentalists know anyway?

* God wants us to have balloons!

* You'll get my balloons when you pry them from my cold dead hands!

People do not always do the right thing, even when they've been told what it is.

Sometimes education needs to be backed up with the threat of a fine and/or jail time.

matts853

Excellent points. And from the article and other comments it seems like at least a couple counties close to the bay and ocean are taking a hard look at this because it is a problem, especially for aquatic wildlife. No one can argue that letting 99 red balloons go free is smart or good for public and environmental health, so why not codify it? I mean, has anyone ever heard of a person getting busted for smoking in non designated areas, especially outside? I’ve seen people violate those restrictions before without getting in trouble. Same with cell phone use. So should we just do away with those laws because they’re too difficult to enforce and people are going to do it anyway? I think not. And I’ll say this, if I saw people releasing the balloons and knowing it was illegal, I’d report it. So it’s not just that the police have to be riding around waiting for it to happen.

rbtdt5

I agree, every single person should go zero waste to clean up and stop less then 10% of the bad emiisions. I also think that it's great the people preaching this stuff of the best abusers of it. But I'm very happy of this balloon ban, as I see these balloons flying around all the time and think it's stupid. Not to mention the number of balloons I have found on the ground, not just in the woods but around town. Are condoms balloons? I saw 4 of those the other morning walking my dog but that's different

matts853

Did you try to blow them up?

ken_k0

Delegate Wayne Hartman from Ocean City, hardly a bleeding heart liberal, has a prefiled bill that does the same thing. “Solid Waste Management: Prohibition on Releasing a Balloon into the Atmosphere.”

matts853

The real problem isn’t what happens to the balloons, it’s their existence in the first place. The planet is dying from climate change and heaps of plastic trash that consume massive amounts of energy to produce, ship, stock, and then be disposed of as trash. And for what? So people can be amused? And it’s not only balloons but all the silly junk we find at every retail establishment. Little Jonnie and little Jane will not be emotionally stunted because they didn’t have balloons at their birthday party. But their future and those of their kids will be unless we stop polluting the planet. And therein lies the ultimate priority - preserving what’s left of this miracle of a planet.

mrnatural1

[thumbup][thumbup] matts.

Thewheelone

matts,[thumbup][thumbup]

mr_twist27

If Hagen doesn't have anything better to do he can resign his position and let someone else step in and actually accomplish something. The fact that county staff and counsel members are wasting their time on this is ridiculous.

sej58

Mark Long also serves on Kai's Envision board so not a true public comment. Educating why balloon releases are bad is good thing however a law that is just not enforceable is just plain silly.

gabrielshorn2013

Agreed sej58. [thumbup] Will we have "The Balloon Patrol" raiding parties, weddings, and funerals looking for violators? I absolutely understand the necessity for educating people of why releasing helium-filled balloons is a horrible idea. First, it is just another form of littering. Someone else has to clean up the mess after your party. The balloons and ribbons are not biodegradable. Second, as the balloons come down and land in the bay and oceans, marine mammals, turtles, and fish mistake them for jellyfish and eat them, which causes intestinal blockages, and they die.

Time for Kai Hagen to be useful and address documented needs in the county, or resign.

LibertyLost

A film premiered this week in New York, "The Church Forests of Ethiopia" directed by Jermey Seifert. This is relevant to this proposed law encompassing balloons, as we are, as all of us have been for decades, confronted by what we hold sacred - as a society. Seifert writes of the film: "“It’s not a simple feel-good story about church forests and how wonderful they are. But it’s also not hopeless—another story of how bad things are and the corruption and greed of humanity desecrating what should be held sacred. These little blips of green rising out of vast swaths of deforested brown offer hope and a vision of life abundant.” Frederick county has identified eighteen enterprise zones. How those zones are engaged to create a sense of reverence that influences behavior is what is at the heart of all climate action now. How robust do our litter laws have to be? Do these balloons and other products have chips for accurate enforcement via the Internet of Things? How does this law protect the wildlife dead along our road sides? E.O. Wilson writes: "Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction." - from his book, Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life. What we no longer can tolerate are more petty laws - with well meaning intentions to be waste our time, and money. You see, I think that brick corridor should be connected to Baker Park, along the design lines of Central Park. Its first big - well meaning step, missed in defining Frederick County as a sprawling church forest. Watch the film. At last I understand - "the meek shall inherit the earth" -

jloo

balloons, thought I would head the spell checkers off at the pass.

jloo

I lay awake many nights worried about ballons being released into the air. In the four years I have resided in Frederick idling in traffic on Rt. 15 north and south, Interstate 70 East and West and I270 everywhere, I have yet to see any ballons released floating through the air. And yet, worry I do that some day sitting in traffic I will witness that horrid pollution floating by.

User1

As long as they aren’t carried in plastic grocery bags and inflated using plastic straws. Glad to see our elected officials have their priorities straight. “Balloon pollution”? Gimme a break!

KMRD1

More bleeding heart liberals that out Hagen in office and all he can come up with is ballon littering? More important things to worry about Kai. If you can’t do your job go

Back north and walk the dog and hug a tree

charlie1balls

Of all the polluters out there, we need a ban on balloon releases? Isn't the US government one of the biggest polluters in the world?

DickD

It doesn't make much difference because it will never be enforced and anyone thinking that the police are going to focus on enforcement is hallucinating.

KellyAlzan

Meanwhile northbound rt 75 trucks are still getting stuck under the bridge in Monrovia

DickD

Release some balloons and lift those nasty trucks over the bridge. Problem solved. [lol]

Jthomas515

Too funny.

gabrielshorn2013

Did you use the link I sent you previously to file a complaint with SHA Kelly?

KellyAlzan

Did you read my response?

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