Inclusion | Opportunity | Innovation

Council Update — pedestrian safety

Dear Resident,

The Council met on Tuesday, and you can see our agenda here. We began reviewing a plan to improve the areas around the Boyds and Germantown MARC rail stations.

For me this week, a big theme has been walkability and pedestrian safety. You’ve seen the wrenching news about pedestrian crashes. Just last Wednesday, five pedestrians were struck in a single day.

To get the County sufficiently focused on this problem, the Council passed a Vision Zero resolution in February 2016 (3 years ago) that committed the County to achieving zero fatalities on our roadways.

The Leggett Administration followed up by presenting a two-year action plan and announced the intention of developing a separate 10-year action plan. We seemed to have momentum at that time.

I am concerned now that we lost what momentum we had. For instance:

  • Of the 41 action items in the two-year action plan, 20 are behind schedule or not yet started.
  • The County has not started the 10-year action plan
  • The County has not hired a Vision Zero coordinator
  • The new County Executive has recommended cutting funding in the Capital budget that helps us meet our Vision Zero goals, including funding for Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Areas (BiPPA), a program I have championed which allows us to make fast improvements in the highest need areas of the County.

Not all of the news is bad. Last fall, the State Highway Administration (SHA) engaged with the Council and announced some changes that it plans to make that prioritize safety, and expressed openness to a new approach. It is a start.

The Council too has a important role to play in making sure we reduce serious and fatal collisions on our roadways.

We are now reviewing the Veirs Mill Corridor Plan, which is a great Vision Zero plan and focuses on changes needed to promote safety in that area. Read recent coverage of that plan here.

We need to make safety a higher priority in our infrastructure, which is why I advocated–and my colleagues agreed–to restore funding to those BiPPA programs as well as for the pedestrian entrances to our Metro stations (White Flint and Forest Glen) at the Transportation Committee this week. My colleagues also supported my request to accerelate planning and design for BRT on Veirs Mill Rd. We have a long way to go before we will know what we can afford in our capital budget. But the Committee’s actions are a great and necessary step forward.

We also need to get back to our Vision Zero plan. The Transportation Committee will soon review the County’s progress on implementing the plan–a special thanks to Chair of the Committee, Councilmember Tom Hucker, for agreeing to a worksession.

We need to take action.

During a shutdown, feds ride free
The Council approved a resolution I authored that would allow the County to waive fares for federal employees and contractors to use RideOn during a future government shutdown. This will enable the County to act more quickly next time.

Farm Breweries, Wineries: Part Two
Following up on an initiative that I organized last year with our farmer and maker communities to expand farm breweries, wineries, and cideries, the Council approved a zoning change that allows these businesses in 25 acre lot size, rural residential zones. Two young brothers want to open one in Olney, which would be the 4th brewery in that part of the County (Brookeville Beer Farm, Waredaca, and Elder Pine).

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Councilmember, At-large

Council Update — budget for school construction, infrastructure

Dear Resident,

The Council is in regular session this Tuesday, and you can view our agenda here.

Among our topics is a discussion about revenue projections for the capital budget, where we handle school construction and other important infrastructure priorities.

The County Executive’s recommended capital budget projects a dramatic slowdown of development (mostly from a projected decline in new housing), causing a loss of nearly $100 million to our budget over six years from taxes paid by developers.

In turn, the Executive’s budget recommends delaying projects that are important priorities such as a modernization at Seneca Valley High School, pedestrian and bike infrastructure in Wheaton and Silver Spring, and new entrances to the Metro stations at White Flint and Forest Glen.

For me, this highlights the complicated issue of how tax revenue from new development funds infrastructure. We often hear claims that we should “pause development until infrastructure catches up.” The Executive’s recommended budget shows how it is not that simple.

The projected slowdown of housing growth results in a massive reduction of tax revenues, even with our developer impact tax rates that are among the highest anywhere. With a much lower baseline of anticipated housing growth, not only will the housing crunch worsen (a huge issue in and of itself) but immediate infrastructure needs cannot be met.

The Council will take up the revenue question on Tuesday morning.

Following are some other highlights of the Council’s week:

Planning and economic development committee
Last Fall the Council passed a zoning change that I authored that enables farmers in the Agricultural Reserve to establish breweries or wineries under certain conditions; my new proposal extends that framework to other rural zones. Two entrepreneurs have sought the change as they intend to open a brewery on their family’s farm in Olney.

On a related note, the Committee will discuss the issue of “small scale manufacturing.” The goal is to identify the status and potential of this sector in Montgomery County. Examples in the County include African clothing and textiles, laser-cut branding products, food, jewelry, 3D printing, and more. You can read more about it in the report that I commissioned last year by a consultancy based in the County, Recast City.

Neighborhood street safety – 15 mph
For several years now I have been working with my colleagues in the state legislature (special shout out to Delegate David Moon) to advance an important change in the law that would allow the County to set a neighborhood speed limit of 15 mph. State law generally prohibits speeds lower than 25 mph on the County’s small neighborhood streets. Here is more about that issue from the Bethesda Beat.

Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission follow up
Last Tuesday the Council unanimously voted on a resolution to establish a commission to secure our County’s memorial from the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to honor the three known lynchings that took place in the County. The Office of Human Rights will soon be identifying residents to join the commission. If you’re interested in getting involved, please reach out to my office, and we will help you get involved.

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about one of the three known lynchings to have taken place in the County, join me this Sunday, February 10 at 4:00 pm at the Old Town Hall in Poolesville when local historian Anthony Cohen, will be speaking about the long-overlooked story of the January 1880 lynching in Poolesville of George Peck, a local laborer accused of assaulting a young white girl, will be examined along with details of his arrest, abduction and murder at the hands of a mob.

How do I…?
…sign up for a public hearing.

In-person public hearings are one way to express your views to the Council. Simply navigate to the County Council Public Hearing website, find the public hearing you are looking for, and click “Sign Up.” A new window will pop up (make sure your browser allows pop ups), and you will be asked to fill in some basic details.

Upon completing the form, your request will be registered. Council Staff will then reach out to everyone who is invited to testify. The Council does its best to make sure everyone has an opportunity to share their views with the Council and that the Council hears from all perspectives. There are hearings when we have more requests than time will allow, but for the most part we are able to accommodate everyone who signs up by the deadline.

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Councilmember, At-large

Council Update — Veirs Mill Plan and tech talent

Dear Resident,

The Council is in regular session this Tuesday. View the agenda.

The Council will receive an overview of the Veirs Mill Corridor Plan, an area stretching about four miles from Wheaton to Rockville. The area was once agricultural until a growing federal workforce and postwar boom drove the construction of workforce single-family housing. This pattern of development in the area has largely remain unchanged to this day.

The Veirs Mill Corridor Plan aims to strengthen these communities by increasing transit connectivity, improving the safety of all users of Veirs Mill Rd, particularly pedestrians and bicyclists, and supporting limited redevelopment opportunities in the corridor. Of particular importance, the Plan makes way for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line envisioned for Veirs Mill Rd. Additionally, the Plan will be the first to explicitly embrace Vision Zero principles, intending to support the County’s goal of zero deaths on our roads by 2030.

Read the Plan.

The plan’s public hearing will be on January 29, 2019 at 7:30pm, but you can also share your input on the plan by writing to the Council at county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov or using the hashtag #VeirsMillPlan2019 on social media.

Following are some other highlights of the Council’s week:

Discussion on the tech talent pipeline
Council economic development and education committees will convene a discussion on how the County can improve its tech talent pipeline.

As Amazon establishes its second headquarters in Northern Virginia and tech jobs grow in our region, we need to make sure that companies growing in Montgomery County have access to the talent they need and that all of our young people, regardless of zipcode, have access to jobs.

Many of these jobs don’t require a PHD or even a bachelor’s degree but rather an associates degree or certificate. An effective “tech talent pipeline” will require close coordination between business, educational institutions (MCPS, Montgomery College, USG/UMD), non-profit organizations, and County Government.

FY19 Savings Plan to be approved
The Council is poised to approve a $45.7 million reduction in spending for the current fiscal year. Council committees reviewed the County Executive’s recommended reductions and largely concurred with the recommendations. A decline in 2018 revenues necessitated the reductions in spending.

Council weighs in on proposed state legislation
County staff will brief the Council on state legislation relevant to the County. The Council will weigh in on legislation covering topics including drug overdose and infectious disease clinics, e-scooters, and forest conservation.

State grant to improve retention of first-year teachers in Title I schools
The County received a $500,000 state grant to administer a program that provides personalized training opportunities for first-year teachers in Title I schools. The program gives the teachers improved teaching and learning skills as well as a better understanding on how to connect with the students and families they serve.

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Councilmember, At-large

Council Update — proposing a Commission for Remembrance and Reconciliation

Dear Resident,

The Council is in regular session this Tuesday. View the agenda.

As you may have heard, the Council recently received an update on County revenues that indicated a nearly $44 million hole in the County’s reserves. Consequently, the County Executive has wisely proposed a “mid-year” savings plan, which the Council is reviewing presently, to ensure we do not end the year dipping into our reserve. I applaud the Executive’s decision to stay the course on our reserve.

Today Council staff briefed the Council on the factors driving changes to revenues and expenditures. I recommend this presentation if you want to learn more about our overall fiscal situation.

Following are some other highlights of the Council’s week:

Establishing a “Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission”
Today I introduced a resolution to establish a Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission. Joining me as co-leads were Councilmembers Jawando and Rice. The commission will work to establish a memorial for the three (at least) African Americans who were lynched in Montgomery County; George Peck and John Diggs in 1880 and Sidney Randolph in 1896. The Commission will seek a community dialogue about our history, and how to promote reconciliation, peace and justice, as we seek to participate in the Equal Justice Initiative’s program. The Office of Human Rights, under the direction of Jim Stowe, will support the initiative. I encourage you to read the resolution here.

Council Committees take up the FY19 Savings Plan
This week the Transportation and Environment (T&E), Government Operations (GO), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) committees will review and make recommendations on the County Executive’s recommended FY19 Savings Plan.

Policy Forum on Accessory Dwelling Units
I hosted a policy forum on accessory dwelling units (ADUs) this past weekend. We had a wide-ranging and interactive discussion on what it will take to increase the supply of this important housing type. You can view a video of the event and the presentations. ADUs are seperate dwelling units — like backyard cottages or in-house apartments — on the same lot as a house. Unfortunately, the County’s rules treat this housing type as a nuisance to be avoided rather than a resource to be welcomed. The zoning change I have introduced aims to change that framework. You can discuss on social media with #mocotinyhouse, and your comments will be captured in our process.

The public hearing for the zoning change will be on Tuesday, February 26 at 7:30pm. Sign up to present a three minute testimony here.

Opportunities for public service
The County is seeking applicants for the Public Election Fund Committee and the Charter Review Commission. Both are great opportunities for you to help the County make better, more-informed decisions.

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Councilmember, At-large