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Announcing the Second Great MoCo Bike Summit

Montgomery County is home to some of the region’s best trails and most avid bikers. We have a robust bicycle culture that is growing stronger each year. Yet, there is much more to do.

To continue our progress, we will be celebrating a Second Great MoCo Bike Summit on June 6, 2015, following up on the inaugural Summit last year. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), Montgomery County Planning (MNCPPC), Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), and I will be teaming up again to host an interactive discussion on bicycling in the County. This will be a great opportunity for you to interact directly with County elected and transportation planning leaders to help shape the future of biking in the County.

Will you be able to make it?

Bike Summit Logo

Saturday June 6, 2015
10 am – Noon

Silver Spring Civic Center
1 Veterans Pl
Silver Spring, MD 20910
RSVP Here »

The major focuses of the Summit will be how to incorporate next-generation bicycle facilities into our transportation network and the forthcoming Bicycle Master Plan. To that end, we have put together an exciting and interactive agenda. Coffee, refreshments, and ample opportunity for feedback will be provided!

Agenda

9:15am – 10am
Bike Ride (family friendly) from Bethesda (Elm St. Park) to Silver Spring (Civic Center) along the Capital Crescent Trail

10:00am – 10:10am
Introductory Remarks from Councilmember Hans Riemer

10:10am – 10:35am
Presentation from Bill Schultheiss (Toole Design Group) on the past, present, and future of bicycling. Q&A.

10:35am – 11am
Presentation from MCDOT on their vision and current projects. Q&A.

11am – 11:15am
Break/planning exercises

11:15am – Noon
Presentation from MNCPPC on the Bicycle Master Plan. Q&A.

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Putting progressive values in action with new county budget

I am pleased to share highlights from the county’s new budget for Fiscal Year 2016 (video), which will begin July 1st.

This year was a “same services” budget, with lower revenues due to a regional economic slowdown. The Council’s total budget of $5.07 billion increases spending by a modest 1.7% over last year’s budget.

There were, however, many bright spots. Some of the best news:

Education: The Council was able to supplement the Executive’s recommended education funding by adding $2 million for technology investments in MCPS and $7.9 million to reduce tuition increases at Montgomery College. Overall, MCPS received $31.9 million over last year’s budget, to support higher enrollment. Unfortunately, Governor Hogan has withheld $17 million in budgeted state education funding for MCPS, so MCPS still faces difficult choices this year.

Clean elections: The Council added $1 million as a down payment on the small donor matching system we established in law last year. Candidates for Council and Executive who refuse large contributions will be eligible for small donor matches for the first time in the 2018 election; we are projected to need $8 million in public matching funds for that election.

I am especially pleased and humbled that the final budget included funds for a number of my initiatives:

Child Care: The Council added funds to implement the recently passed Bill 13-15, including provisions I authoredcreate a new Child Care and Early Education Officer and to develop a Child Care Strategic Plan. We also added over $500,000 for additional child care subsidies for low income families.

Transportation: The Council added funding I championed to improve pedestrian and bike infrastructure (BiPPA’s), add five new RideOn buses to expand service, and improve sidewalk snow removal.

Fighting poverty: The budget increases our Earned Income Tax Credit, as required by Bill 8-13, which I introduced to restore the EITC after it was cut during the Great Recession. Montgomery County is the only County in the nation to offer an EITC match, which has been widely recognized as one of the most effective anti-poverty tools.

Other initiatives I championed, within a responsible budget framework:

I hope these initiatives give you a clearer sense of my work to meet our ever changing community needs.

On the question of taxes, county taxes as a share of personal income are virtually unchanged from last year. In order to keep property tax collections under the charter limit, property tax rates will be slightly reduced. As a result, for the two-thirds of property owners who do not have a revision in their assessed value this year, property tax bills will decline slightly. The average tax burden in real terms will be lower this year than in 6 of the last 9 years, and it is considerably lower than it was in 2007, 2008 or 2009.

Finally, as you may have heard, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against the county on an issue relating to our income tax collections. The issue, which affects those who earn income outside of Maryland, will reduce county revenue by more than $50 million next year. Significant budget challenges are ahead of us.

As always, I welcome hearing from you.

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Launching Tree Montgomery – Request A Tree!

Growing up in Oakland, California — and without a TV in the house as a kid — I spent a lot of time climbing trees, often the beautiful Coast Live Oaks that are native to that region and that populated my family’s backyard. Beyond my neighborhood, my parents often took me out to appreciate the Redwood forests that blanket the coast and mountains, and I have so many memories of hiking adventures in the Sierra Nevada range, including wandering in the groves of the Giant Sequoias.

I still love trees just as much as I ever did, and I am always disheartened when I see impressive, older trees come down from natural causes, poor maintenance, or, sometimes, a lack of appreciation for the value of trees or unfounded fears about the risk of trees.

Because I have always wanted to increase our county’s focus on protecting trees, I wrote a letter to County Executive Ike Leggett in 2013, asking for his support for a campaign to plant 100,000 new trees in Montgomery County.

My discussion with the executive and his team lead to legislation I introduced that called for Department of Environmental Protection to develop a campaign to work with residents and civic organizations to plant more trees on private property and better manage our planting program on public property. This legislation passed the Council in 2014 as part of the Office of Environmental Sustainability.

When County Executive Leggett and I announced the 100,000 Trees initiative in the spring of 2014, the new campaign to grow Montgomery County’s tree canopy took an important first step. Our goal is to continually plant new trees in Montgomery County, ensuring that the tree canopy will not only be preserved, but strengthened in the coming years. DEP is off to a great start, using funds from the Tree Canopy Law, which includes a planting provision that I requested that requires property owners who are redeveloping property and impact existing trees to plant new trees or pay into a tree canopy planting fund.

This year, the campaign moved into a whole new phase: Tree Montgomery, which will be the enduring name for the initiative. I was pleased to join the County Executive to launch Tree Montgomery.

The local benefits of trees like these are enormous. Besides the obvious aesthetic appeal and the increased privacy, shade trees purify our water, keep communities cooler in the summer, and help to mitigate the effects of storms by cutting wind and soaking up rain water.

Here is where residents come in: If you are interested in requesting a tree in your area, head over to treemontgomery.org and fill out the posted form, and ask your friends and neighbors to do the same. Shade trees require lots of space, so we are especially focused on open spaces near parking lots, single-family homes, and multi-family communities. Don’t miss out.

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Victories for Child Care

Hans Riemer speaks at a rally for child care

Councilmember Hans Riemer speaks at a rally in support of his bill to expand the County’s child care services

Having two young children at home, I talk with a lot of parents about the challenge of securing good child care. I also see how early childhood programs can affect educational outcomes years later in our schools.  These are issues that challenge all of our families, whether working poor or upwardly mobile.

Recognizing the importance of child care and early education, the County Council voted yesterday to unanimously approve legislation that I hope will push us in a new direction for how our county government approaches this issue.

The legislation, which represents a combination of ideas proposed by myself and Councilmember Nancy Navarro, creates a new policy officer for Child Care, Early Care and Education in our HHS department and tasks the officer with developing a “Strategic Plan” for getting to universal early care as well as a “Quality Enhancement Initiative” to strengthen home-based child care services, a vital part of our child care market.

I hope that the successful passage of this legislation will be a turning point in our drive to get to universal early care. At times over the years, Montgomery County has been a national leader in developing innovative ideas to support child care service delivery. With focused leadership and a process for bringing together stakeholders I hope that we can once again break new ground.

There are no easy answers, and fundamental change for this public need will only come when all levels of government are working towards the goal. As President Barack Obama said in his 2015 State of the Union, “It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Thanks to strong advocacy in the community and support from my colleagues on the County Council, including HHS Committee Chair and Council President George Leventhal whose support really helped move this bill, we are now moving forward with new initiatives here in Montgomery County.