Expanding pre-K for low income children in Montgomery County

Here are Hans Riemer’s prepared remarks from the release of the Office of Legislative Oversight’s Report Pre K in Montgomery County and Other Jurisdictions:

Our recent joint HHS/ED committee meeting on prekindergarten, where we discussed our new OLO report, was incredibly informative. From that conversation and others, it seems to me that we now have key people across County government – my fellow Councilmembers, Superintendent Smith, our early childhood leaders at HHS – that are committed to champion an expansion of quality pre-k.

While middle class families struggle to pay for quality early care and education, their children generally do receive it. The story for low income families is different. According to research in our new strategic plan, seven out of ten of our children who qualify for free and reduced meals are not ready for kindergarten. This is because the average cost of one year of quality pre-k in Montgomery County is $13,595. That’s an access issue to our families who just don’t have the resources. The inability of these families to provide quality pre-k for their children is why the research shows such a positive impact of early education investments for low income students.

During our committee conversation, I requested OLO to provide information about how we could expand pre-k programs in an incremental or staged manner. My staff has been researching this topic and, with the benefit of OLO’s response, I believe a path forward is clear: expand existing Head Start and pre-k programs from a half day to a full day. This is the best first step the County Council can take to provide early education for our most disadvantaged children.

Currently we provide half day pre-k to over 2,800 children. There are proven benefits to full-day pre-k for 4 year olds. Taking these programs to full-day is an important step. It could be implemented through a combination of approaches: if the school has room to expand the program, then it will be school based; if the school-based program does not have room to expand, then we can contract with private providers.

There is widespread academic research to support investing in enhanced early education for 4 year olds. The reasoning is simple on its face: children who begin learning one year earlier receive an additional year of education. Without quality early education, many of the lowest income children will enter kindergarten far behind their peers; they will struggle ever to catch up and many will not catch up. Pre-k for low-income 4 year olds helps put these children on a more even footing, which pays enormous dividends over time. The OLO research documents the incredible impact that pre-k can have and how it allows a school system to use its funds more efficiently later by reducing remedial or intervention expenses for these children during their subsequent years of education.

An investment of $20 million would enable us to provide full-day pre-k to ALL children eligible for free and reduced meals. This is achievable by, for example, investing $5 million per year over four years. The payback for our educational goals would be enormous. An investment plan of this nature would not require additional revenue sources or breaking the charter limit.

I urge my colleagues to consider the importance of pre-k for low income families as we begin to formulate our goals for this year’s County budget.


Improving the quality of County playing fields

Cabin John Park Ball Field

Playing Fields!

As a parent of two kids and as a guy who spent a lot of his youth playing sports, I know that quality playing fields make a big difference.

Over the past eighteen months, with the strong support of Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson and his great team as well as my colleagues on the County Council, I have been working with MCPS and the Department of Parks to put a greater emphasis on the renovation and maintenance of playing fields, whether they are located on MCPS property or MNCPPC property.

I am happy to share that the Department of Parks has launched a program to determine the condition and maintenance needs of every Park and public school athletic field in the County. Every single one! The initial assessment of all the fields was completed over the summer. The ballfields were assessed using criteria that included quality of grass, grass coverage, soil compaction, infield mix, infield grading, and drainage.

Our Council Committee received an update about the assessment, which you can read here.

During the 2016 capital budget review, I worked with the Education committee to allocate $750,000 over two years from permit fee funds managed by the Interagency Coordinating Board (ICB) for the Department of Parks to renovate ten school sites (with more than 15 fields) in Winter 2017 and five additional school sites in summer/fall 2017. The list of the first 10 school sites will be finalized soon.

Falls Road Soccer Field

I also worked as a member of the Planning Housing and Economic Development committee to increase the Parks budget for local field park ballfield renovation by 10%, which I certainly think is a good use of taxpayer dollars.

This grass field renovation will start building the supply of quality athletic fields across the County. Parks will use this opportunity to renovate not only the grass (or dirt infield), but improve the quality of the soil beneath when needed, regrade the field for drainage and review whether an irrigation system is realistic. Parks will also be investing in goal posts, nets, backstops and fencing that go along with the athletic fields.


Appointment to the FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee

I am pleased to announce that Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commisison (FCC), has named me to the FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee.

Please see the press release below:

Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer appointed to FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee

Riemer looks to deepen work promoting competitive markets for high speed Internet

January 5, 2017

ROCKVILLE, Md., January 5, 2017—Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler has named Montgomery County Council Vice President Hans Riemer to serve as one of two county officials nationally on the FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (IAC).

The IAC provides guidance, expertise and recommendations to the Commission on a range of telecommunication issues for which local, state and Tribal governments explicitly or inherently share responsibility or administration with the Commission. In the 2017-19 term, the IAC will be focused on the role state and local governments play in broadband deployment and adoption, wireless infrastructure deployment, Universal Service programs, consumer complaints processes and public safety issues.

“I am honored to serve on the FCC advisory committee, and I intend to use this role to advocate for a more competitive and robust marketplace for broadband deployment,” said Council Vice President Riemer. “Local governments have a positive role to play in broadband deployment, and I look forward to bringing Montgomery County’s experience to the Commission.”

Vice President Riemer was nominated to serve by the National Association of Counties (NACo). In his letter recommending that Vice President Riemer serve on the committee, Matthew Chase, the executive director of NACo, wrote: “His experience and background uniquely qualify him to serve on the IAC. He is currently a member of both the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, as well as the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, for Montgomery County, Maryland. Through his work on these committees, he is responsible for oversight and the development of Montgomery County’s information technology and telecommunications infrastructure.”

During his six years on the Council, Vice President Riemer has strengthened Montgomery County’s digital infrastructure. The County owns and manages FiberNet, which is a 650-mile fiber optic network that connects more than 500 community anchor institutions, including public schools, the community college, libraries, recreation centers, and government buildings. With an annual budget in excess of $8 million, FiberNet is a critical piece of the County’s ability to efficiently and effectively deliver services to residents.

Council Vice President Riemer has worked to strengthen the County’s investment in FiberNet by successfully funding a 24/7 carrier-class network operations center and putting forward a strategic plan to make the governance and funding of FiberNet more sustainable.

He also has championed the growing deployment of Chromebooks in the County’s public schools and public wifi in urban districts. In addition, he has been a major supporter of the County Government’s ultraMontgomery initiative, which utilizes FiberNet to promote economic development in the County’s strategic industries of life-science, bio-technology and cybersecurity. UltraMontgomery recently facilitated a direct fiber connection from Ashburn, Va., to Montgomery County, strengthening the capacity of the County’s data networks and data centers.

Vice President Riemer is currently working on policies that promote a more competitive market for broadband networks and services. These policies are “Dig Once,” “One Touch Make Ready” and “broadband-ready” building codes.

“Communities need local government officials to put planning for high-speed data networks on the same level as planning for transportation, power and water networks,” said Vice President Riemer. “It is an evolving policy area and I hope by serving on the Committee that I will be able to identify ways for the FCC to support the work of local government. I also look forward to providing a voice for local communities on 5G deployment, an issue with which our County is currently grappling.”

# # # #


Update: New Sidewalk Snow Legislation Passes County Council

With snow in the near forecast, I am pleased to announce that the County Council passed my sidewalk snow legislation (Bill 46-16) that established a commercial-class fine for failure to remove sidewalk snow. I would like to thank Council President Roger Berliner for co-sponsoring this legislation, my colleagues on the Council for their support, and members of the community for their strong advocacy.

This legislation will enable the County to levy a fine on commercial property owners up to $250 for the first offense of not clearing snow and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. While a $50 fine seems adequate for residential properties, it has very little, if any, deterrent effect on commercial property owners. The fine needs to be larger to enable code enforcers to more effectively deal with the problem actors, which are few but have a larger impact.

Please see my full comments on the bill in the video below:

Overall, I am pleased with our progress on sidewalk snow removal, which I addressed in legislation in 2014.

  • MCDOT inventoried all of the County sidewalks and identified which ones the County is responsible for clearing. This information is organized in a GIS layer which I expect (and have requested) will be released soon.
  • In all other cases, the property owner is responsible, as per the original legislation passed by Councilmember Phil Andrews in 2001.
  • In 2015 MCDOT cleared over 50 miles of sidewalks focusing on high traffic pedestrian areas and bus stops.
  • This year MCDOT will be responsible for clearing over 320 miles of sidewalks.
  • Urban districts have significantly improved their response with better and more equipment and staff time devoted to removal.
  • In my experience, private property owners are acting with more care and diligence for sidewalk snow removal. County education efforts have made a big impact.

There is, however, more work to do, particularly when it comes to enforcement. Ensuring that the County responds to property owners who do not respond to county education efforts or personal appeals to clear their sidewalks in a timely manner is an area where I think we still have work to do. This legislation will help.