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The Council Connection — pedestrian safety and salute to Ike Leggett

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

The Council is in regular session on Tuesday, and we have a full agenda. Let’s dive in.

A Salute to County Executive Ike Leggett
The Council would like to thank outgoing County Executive Ike Leggett for his exemplary public service and steady leadership. During his 12-year tenure as County Executive, Ike led the County through the depths of the financial recession and set us on a path for continued prosperity into the future. The Council will formally thank Ike for his service with a proclamation on Tuesday.

Council focuses on pedestrian safety
The Council will be meeting State Highway Administrator (SHA) Greg Slater to discuss the recent wave of pedestrian injuries and fatalities on State roads. The Administrator will brief the Council on the State’s review of the these collisions and what they intend to do to prevent them.

Regrettably, the recent wave of pedestrian injuries continues an ongoing trend. From 2012 to 2016, there were 970 fatalities and serious injuries in Montgomery County on Maryland State highways, comprising about half of all fatal/serious pedestrian and bicyclist incidents in the County. The rate of crashes is highest in our lower income and higher-minority areas.

This is unacceptable. We have to make safety the first priority on our roads. To get there, we need to use the safety data we have to efficiently and equitably target engineering solutions that lower speeds and promote safety in our most dangerous areas. That means road diets, safer crossings, pedestrian lead times at intersections, and more. Implementing these safety measures will require closer collaboration between the County Council, MCDOT, and the State Highway administration. The meeting with SHA on Tuesday moves that dialogue forward.

Supporting Small Business
Spearheaded by District 3 Councilmember Nancy Navarro, the Council recently approved a $200,000 appropriation to small businesses in downtown Wheaton at its meeting last Tuesday. The money will help the businesses that are impacted by construction of the Wheaton Revitalization Project, a mixed-use development that includes a town square, government office building and underground parking garage.

MCPS Student Performance Data
Last week, the Council’s education committee received a briefing on student performance data within the context of their Evidence of Learning (EOL) framework. The EOL framework uses multiple measures to determine whether students are learning enough. You can read the Council staff report and/or explore the data yourself.

Thanksgiving Parade – Nov 17, 2018 10am-12pm!
Held in downtown Silver Spring, the Thanksgiving Parade heralds the start of the holiday season. The parade begins at the intersection of Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street and proceeds south on Georgia Avenue, ending at Silver Spring Avenue. If you aren’t able to make it in person, it will also be televised live on News Channel 8 with a rerun on Thanksgiving Day.

This year’s parade will also have a special place to take a family holiday photo. Right next to the ice rink, you can take your photo with inflatable turkeys, penguins, or Seasonal decor. All parade selfies marked with the hashtag #MoCoThanksParade will also be broadcasted on the jumbotron at Ellsworth and Fenton St. along the parade route. Find additional information on the parade here.

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President

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Statement by Councilmember Hans Riemer on Wireless Infrastructure

Over the past two years I have worked closely with County Executive Ike Leggett and several of my colleagues at the Council to support the future of wireless infrastructure in Montgomery County. Basically this is about whether your devices will be able to do what they are designed to do in the future. The industry is running out of capacity on wireless networks in the County due to growing demand (i.e., us on our phones, and everyone having multiple devices) and they need to place antennas at the street level. The industry is also working on a new technology, 5g, that will be way faster that 4g (think 40g), but also it requires antennas at the street level, rather that up on tall towers.

We successfully established rules for these antennas in our commercial areas this year, which was a great step forward. We need to address them for residential areas as well. We had a bill before the Council, prepared by the County Executive, and championed by Councilmember Craig Rice and me, to accomplish that goal.

Unfortunately amendments were introduced that essentially sought to obstruct deployment of wireless infrastructure in the future. This was a real concern because many people want to have good wireless coverage in their neighborhoods, whether to use devices for entertainment and communication, or to call 911, or to work from home, you name it.

Not to mention that the industry is watching us and wants to take away our local control over how this infrastructure can be placed, with legislation at the state and federal level. Regulating deployment is one thing, but trying to obstruct it is something else.

Rather than approve a bad bill that would set us back and invite State and Federal pre-emption, I pulled the legislation. I look forward to taking some additional time to work on it with the new County Council and I hope we’ll get it right next time around.

Wireless and fiber communications infrastructure is important to the future of the county, just like water, power, or transportation infrastructure. We need it all to grow and thrive. Local government must rise to the challenge.

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The Council Connection — State legislation and childcare

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

We cannot let our places of worship become places of fear.

On Saturday morning, our nation endured another horrific and senseless tragedy driven by hate when 11 people lost their lives and six more were wounded by a gunman during Shabbat services at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. We send our condolences to the victims, their family members, and the entire Jewish community. In Kentucky, a different shooter tried to gain access to an African-American church; he ended up shooting 2 persons at a grocery store nearby. In the midst of our grief, we must also all recommit ourselves to stamp out anti-Semitism and racism and to continue the fight for gun control. Read the Council’s full statement.

Turning to the Council’s legislative business on Tuesday, we have a full agenda.

Getting ready for upcoming State legislative session
The Council begins its day by discussing the County’s legislative priorities for upcoming State General Assembly Session. Of top concern are pushing the State to increase investments in K-12 and higher education; and transportation, particularly the proposed traffic relief plan for I-270/I-495. We also have identified partnering with the State to increase affordable housing as well as implementing next-generation 911. Read the staff report on the wide range of important issues we will work towards in Annapolis.

Update on childcare and early education
The Council will receive an update on the state of childcare and early education in the county as councilmembers work to expand Pre-K and other early childhood services. According to a 2016 report, less than half of the county’s children arrive to kindergarten demonstrating a “full readiness to learn,” highlighting the need to devote more resources to our early childhood and Pre-K education programs.

During the scheduled update, MCPS officials will provide the Council an update on the following:

  • Implementation status of current Pre-K programming
  • Recommendations of Kirwan Commission on Pre-K resource requirements
  • Changes to the State Child Care Subsidy & County Working Parents Assistance programs
  • Recent findings of the Cost of Quality Child Care Report

The full report can be found here.

Smoking in outdoor serving areas
On November 1st, the health committee will review a bill that would prohibit smoking on outdoor serving areas–patios, decks, and porches–of restaurants and bars. The Council will consider the recommendations of the committee and all feedback from stakeholders before taking action. A full council staff report will be available on Oct. 30.

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President

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The Council Connection — WMATA chief to brief Council

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

The Council in in regular session on Tuesday, and we have a full agenda.

WMATA chief to brief the Council
During Tuesday’s session, the Council will hear from Paul Wiedefeld, General Manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Mr. Wiedefeld is expected to discuss how WMATA plans to use the new annual infusion of $500 million to its capital budget, which was recently agreed to by Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Beyond the remaining rehabilitation work necessary to fully restore reliable service, some of the candidate projects for these funds include the Forest Glen Station underpass, a new stairway at Shady Grove, a northern entrance and underpass at White Flint Metro and eliminating the Red Line turn backs at Silver Spring, among others.

In addition, the Council sent a letter to the WMATA Board of Directors requesting that it continue the Riders’ Advisory Council. The Council is a group of riders and residents from the DC-metro area that suggest service improvements and provides feedback on proposed changes. You can read more about it here.

Council to vote on wireless infrastructure zoning changes
Following a lengthy and productive worksession two weeks ago, Council is set to vote on a zoning change that guides the deployment of wireless infrastructure in our residential areas. With setback, size, and design requirements, the general concept is to allow a streamlined path for wireless infrastructure on existing utility poles and tall light posts, but to require greater scrutiny for the replacement of neighborhood light fixtures in areas without utility poles. The zoning changes allow for the deployment of this critical infrastructure in a way that is a sensitive to resident concerns.

Before making a decision on Tuesday, the Council will consider the zoning committee’s recommendations, a variety of amendments by Councilmembers, community feedback, and Council staff’s analysis. Read the staff report for more information.

Montgomery County receives Triple-A Bond Rating for 2018
Montgomery County has maintained its Triple-A bond rating for 2018 from all three Wall Street bond-rating agencies. Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s all affirmed the “AAA” rating – the highest achievable for a municipal government. According to Moody’s, the Montgomery County’s tax base “will experience additional growth because of economic expansion and diversification” while affirming that “going forward, Moody’s will continue to monitor the county’s ability to main financial flexibility and reserve levels that are compliant with its 10 percent fund balance target.”

The Triple-A bond rating enables Montgomery County to sell long-term bonds at the most favorable rates, saving County taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds. The rating also serves as a benchmark for numerous other financial transactions, ensuring lower costs across the board.

Pressing the State on pedestrian safety
In light of the recent spate of needless and tragic pedestrian deaths on State highways in the County, the Council has called on Gov. Larry Hogan to take immediate steps to address pedestrian safety along the Rt. 97/Georgia Ave corridor and other high danger areas. The Council has requested that the State review the speed limits along Georgia Ave as well as install a number of short-term initiatives to immediately improve pedestrian safety. State officials will brief the Council on November 13, 2018 on their plans.

Autumn has arrived and so have the leaves
Ready for fall leaf cleanup? The County’s Vacuum Leaf Collection Program will begin on Monday, November 5, 2018. The Neighborhood Leaf Collection signs will be posted in your community during the week of October 22, 2018. View the schedule for your neighborhood!

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President