Wayne Avenue and the Purple Line

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with neighborhood activists in the community surrounding Wayne Avenue. We discussed the anticipated construction of the Purple Line route, which, as you know, I strongly support.

As our council has reviewed various parts of the Purple Line route, we have requested changes from MTA and MC DOT. For example, many of us agreed that the plans for Lyttonsville needed to be improved, and we got a great result there.

I am concerned about plans for Wayne Avenue. Particularly, I am concerned that MTA and MC DOT are seeking to overbuild the new Wayne Avenue with more lanes than are necessary. For example, today, there are two lanes inbound to Silver Spring on Wayne Avenue, and they seem sufficient to handle the auto traffic. The new design would widen the existing four-lane road to effectively a six-lane road (by adding turn lanes and an additional transit-only lane) at the Dale Drive Station. The addition of left turn lanes at this intersection would result in negative consequences for pedestrian safety. This intersection is directly adjacent to both a middle school and an elementary school. While the signals would be timed to allow a 3.5-foot-per-second crossing speed for pedestrians only when other traffic along Wayne Avenue is stopped, we should forgo the turn lanes at this intersection in favor of building a pedestrian refuge on the west leg of the intersection, as well as providing for a better operation of the Purple Line.

A similar overbuilding of lanes at the Wayne Avenue/Fenton Street intersection, adjacent to the Silver Spring Library Station, would also have potential negative impacts on existing mature trees along Wayne Avenue.

Residents in the area are hopeful about the possibility of creating a “green street” or “boulevard” on Wayne Avenue. They want to optimally design and rebuild the infrastructure there with the planned Green Trail. This important opportunity to upgrade this street should be considered carefully by the County Council.

Accordingly, I am requesting that the T&E convene a worksession to review plans for the Purple Line alignment from the new Silver Spring Library to the Manchester Road Station. It would be helpful to consider the comments made by MNCPPC in their mandatory review about this segment, and to hear about neighborhood visions as well.

Reducing property taxes for seniors

Seniors often have fixed incomes and rising expenses. About 9% of our seniors live in poverty. For some, property taxes are a significant burden on their small incomes.

I am pleased to share that the County Council unanimously passed my legislation that doubles the senior property tax credit.

Specifically, this bill will reduce the property tax liability for seniors whose property tax payments represent a large portion of their household’s income. In 2012, there were 3,063 recipients and the average recipient received $179.15 from the tax credit. Under this legislation, the average tax credit will double to $358.30. The additional tax credit will begin for the 2015 tax year, starting on or after July 1, 2015.

The age of eligibility will also change from 70 to 65.

While this may seem like a small amount, for our struggling seniors it could mean a lot.

Do you know someone who might be eligible for this tax credit? Please help us reach these vulnerable residents by sharing this information.

Learn more about this important tax credit, and find out how to qualify here.

Making Silver Spring even better

What would YOU like to experience in Downtown Silver Spring?

To discuss this topic, I am pleased to announce that the Montgomery County Planning Department, in partnership with my office and the Silver Spring Regional Center, will be hosting three design workshops focused on “placemaking” strategies for Downtown Silver Spring.

Visit www.silverpringplacemaking.com

Over the past 10 years, county, state and private investment has transformed Downtown Silver Spring for the better. But there is still work to do. Do you have ideas for how we can make Silver Spring a better place to live? Attend our workshops and put your ideas on the table, hear what others have to say, and get involved!

This process is a new way of using our planning capacity, and I hope that it will succeed and become a model for other parts of the county.

What: WMATA Transit
Center Placemaking

Where: 8787 Georgia Ave
Silver Spring, MD 20910

When: Wednesday, October 15,
7:00 PM

RSVP for Workshop A

We have put together the following three workshops:

Workshop A – October 15, 2014 7-9pm, 8787 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD
The session will examine enhancements such as temporary short-term green space and bike facilities as well as improving pedestrian experiences from the Transit Center to Downtown Silver Spring via Wayne Avenue.

Workshop B – October 29, 2014 5-7pm, Denizens Brewing Company
Focus on the community character of the Ripley District and the pedestrian experiences in the area to heighten community identity within the district. Creating a civic green space within the area will also be considered.

Workshop C – November 5, 2014 11am-1pm, TBD
We will examine the areas immediately surrounding the proposed Purple Line station in Downtown Silver Spring. These areas are slated for high density development. Participants will explore design options for the redevelopment of the Metro Plaza site (located on the northeast corner of East-West Highway and Colesville Road), a prominent gateway to Downtown Silver Spring from the District of Columbia. So that redevelopment can proceed in a manner best suited to this location, the workshop will address transit support structures and streetscape enhancements aimed at improving pedestrian connectivity.

Hope to see you there!

New Montgomery County Online Budget Tool Recognized as a National Model

County Councilmember Hans Riemer’s Open Data Initiative Shows Continued Progress Through Innovative Web Site

The Montgomery County Government has unveiled a new online budget tool that is already becoming a national model for financial and budget transparency. The budget tool is the result of a partnership between the County Government and Socrata, the company that provides the technology for Montgomery County’s open data web site.

Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer, the Council’s lead member for digital government and the chief sponsor of legislation to create a County open data initiative, praised the new tool that will help residents more easily find budget information.

“I am pleased to see Montgomery County working closely with Socrata to develop an innovative tool that will help residents better understand our County’s budget and finances and more effectively participate in the decisions our government makes,” he said. “We are working to replace the lengthy paper budget books and endless PDF files that have provided all of our budget information for years, with web-based tools that allow residents to see spending patterns and priorities over time, crunch their own numbers, and hold government more accountable.”

Some of the key highlights of the new budget tool include:

  • Allows residents to digitally navigate the current and past budgets with interactive graphs and charts.
  • Enhanced search capability and optimized for mobile, tablet and desktop.
  • Translatable into more than 90 languages.
  • Future modules of the tool will include spending and procurement data.

“It is a great step forward for Montgomery County to partner with Socrata and develop this pilot financial transparency tool,” Councilmember Riemer said. “This puts our County into a select category of local governments that are pushing the envelope of open government and civic technology and it is exactly the kind of initiative that I have envisioned as part of the Open Montgomery program. As the County Council’s Lead Member for Digital Government, I have used my budget oversight role of Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Finance to request a toolset for financial transparency. This new program is the result of those requests, and I am very excited by this great step forward.”

Councilmember Riemer’s work on open data has been described by Open Innovation Magazine, published by Socrata, as “a model for county council members across the country.”

The tool is powered by raw data from dataMontgomery, an initiative called for in the Open Data Act of 2012 (pdf), which was authored by Councilmember Riemer. This fall, the County Council will take up the Open Data Implementation Plan, mandated by the Act. The law requires all County departments to catalogue and publish their data sets on the County’s open data web site, and the implementation plan describes the schedule for publishing.

Challenges with child care?

I am the proud parent of two boys, age six and three. As we all know, kids bring challenges, joy, love and even a bit of craziness now and then. Our kids have also brought my wife and me into contact with a patchwork system of child care services. And I can tell you from my personal experience: finding quality, affordable child care is a real challenge.

1. Care is expensive. The state reports the average cost of care for two children as $25,234 per year in our county — more than two thousand dollars per month.

2. We don’t have enough care. In 2012, Montgomery County had 65,162 residents under the age of 5 in 2012 (Census). However, licensed child care providers in the county could only accept 26,719 children. That means we have 38,000 more children than licensed spaces.

3. We aren’t doing much about it. Out of 28 major school renovation or expansion projects in our school construction budget, only two are scheduled to include child care. More than 90% of these schools are not planning for space. We need to do better.

Child care has been a high priority for me during my time on the County Council. In 2012, I passed a law requiring the county to assess the feasibility of including child care in all of its new building projects, and I added an incentive for providing child care to our zoning code for new development.

In the current budget, I suggested to my colleagues that we require child care in every new school project unless it was found to be cost-prohibitive or impossible to fit in because of site conditions. And I have been working with child care providers to ensure fair procedures for bidding out public space to their programs.

But I know that we need to do more – much more. For that, I need your help. I know a lot of our residents grapple with these challenges. If you can spare a minute, please take my Survey on Child Care. I am looking to measure this problem and to gather ideas for how we can do better. And I know we can do better if we work together.