Budget Part 4: Creating jobs for all through minority-owned business

Dear Resident:

Small businesses are a bedrock of our economy and our communities. Small business owners bring a passion and vitality to their work that enriches all of our lives.

For too long, I have heard that Montgomery County does not provide enough support for Black-, Hispanic-, Asian-, and other minority-owned businesses. I wanted to do something about that, because most jobs are on the payroll of a small business. If we can help all small businesses grow, we’ll create more success for the County.

But COVID has taken a deep toll on our small businesses, forcing many to shut doors and defer lifelong dreams. And minority-owned businesses have been hit the heaviest here, deepening existing inequities in small businesses ownership and entrepreneurship.

We need to help our entrepreneurs and businesses recover, start new businesses or just grow and expand to their full potential. One strategy our County can get behind is boosting minority-owned businesses, which have tremendous potential to grow and create jobs.

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What is Thrive 2050?

Dear Resident:

By now you may have seen email traffic on your local listserv about Thrive Montgomery 2050. Perhaps some of it is alarming.

I’d like to provide some context and clarification for your consideration. I support moving forward with Thrive because I believe we need to be more creative and think differently about housing.

So, what is Thrive anyway?

Thrive is a guide for our community planning process. It is a policy document that is at the “vision and strategy” level.

You’re already living with the policy vision embodied in Thrive. That’s because what Thrive does is update a 1950s “general plan” with the modern planning principles that we have been using for years now.

If you like the changes in development that we are making on Rockville Pike — you can see them in action at Pike & Rose — then you’re valuing the kinds of ideas that Thrive articulates.

So while broadly Thrive is already in use, there are a few important shifts that Thrive also calls for. They don’t happen directly as a result of Thrive, but Planners and the Council will have guidance to consider them in the future.

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Councilmember Hans Riemer urges County to keep “streateries” open

Streateries in Wheaton, Silver Spring, and Bethesda may face closure at the end of November

Rockville, Maryland, October 29, 2021—Today the Chair of the Council Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee Hans Riemer sent a letter to County Executive Marc Elrich urging his administration to keep the “streateries” in Wheaton, Silver Spring and Bethesda open through 2022 and develop plans to make them permanent thereafter.

The County worked with local restaurateurs and stakeholders in the summer of 2020 to open a network of streateries–outdoor dining on streets closed to vehicle traffic–to provide much-needed and safer space for commerce, dining, and gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The County had previously announced that these streateries would remain open at least through the end of November 2021. But since these streateries have proved enormously successful even as the worst effects of the pandemic have receded and capacity restrictions were lifted, the letter details why we should work to make them permanent.

Read the full letter here.

We need better wireless service. Now we will get it

Dear Resident,

Most of us don’t think much about how our technology works. We just expect it to work.

I know that your wireless bill is a significant expense. What is the point of paying for poor service?

I am happy to share that the County Council passed zoning change legislation I have been working on to legalize the installation of small antennas on utility poles and light poles so that our wireless networks can continue to expand.

If we do not make this change, our service quality will steadily decline. We will have trouble doing whatever we want to do with our mobile devices because the networks will be overwhelmed with traffic.

While the prospect of some additional equipment on our utility poles isn’t exactly lovely, our home wifi routers aren’t either and yet we all have them and rely on them. This isn’t much different, it’s just that equipment is outside.

Montgomery County has to take steps to build a stronger economic future. While we have been debating whether 5G should be legal, other jurisdictions in the region have long since moved forward.

How are we supposed to compete for job growth from companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, or Amazon, if we turn our backs to technology infrastructure? The answer is that we can’t. Companies don’t want to be in a technology backwater.

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On the American Legion Bridge and 270 improvement plan

Some may be surprised that I brokered a deal to fund transit with toll revenue from the managed lanes plan — and supported moving forward with that plan.

You shouldn’t be. First of all, I have said clearly and consistently: my position is I want 1. the project to remain the existing right of way and 2. to make transit a real component.

With the agreement from the state to fund transit with toll revenue, these goals will be met.

Let’s talk about transit funding. The resolution that the 5 Council members supported at the COG TPB, with approval/support from Transportation Secy Slater and MDOT, refers to a major transit line such as the CCT or BRT on 355 and says, “MDOT will work collaboratively with Montgomery County to develop plans for construction, final delivery, and operation, funded through ongoing toll revenue”

MDOT has also stated they will advance fund engineering on the project to take it to final stages of completion. That’s the near term money; the long term money is the toll revenue.

What project are we talking about? Either the decades long planned Corridor Cities Transitway, or a high level BRT line on Rockville Pike / 355. These are not small projects, these are big projects, well north of $500M, and we have no other prospect for funding them.

Using toll revenue — aka a carbon tax, aka congestion pricing — is a good way to pay for transit alternatives. Prior to this deal, the County and the State had no plan to pay for a transit alternative.

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