The marvelous Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 17

Please join me for a special event as I introduce Brian Floca, the author of the marvelous book, Locomotive, which my wife Angela and I have read to our youngest son, Travis, more times than we can count. The story is superb and the artwork is unforgettable — for which it deservedly won the 2014 Caldecott Medal (best picture book).

Floca will be among the dozens of nationally acclaimed and noteworthy authors at one of the region’s finest cultural events, the Gaithersburg Book Festival. There is food and a playground for families and books and activities for every interest, and we are expecting as many as 20,000 attendees. See more details on the festival below:

The 5th Annual Gaithersburg Book Festival

Where: Gaithersburg City Hall, 31 S. Summit Avenue, Gaithersburg, MD 20877 (Parking and Directions info here)

What:

  • Talks and signings from dozens of best-selling, award-winning, and up-and-coming authors
  • Writing workshops for adults and children
  • Numerous children’s activities, readings, and performances
  • More than 100 author and literary-industry exhibitors
  • On-site book sales by Politics & Prose Bookstore

Cost: FREE to attend


2012 Featured Author Sheela Chari signing for young fans

The First GREAT Montgomery County BIKE SUMMIT

Montgomery County is home to some of the region’s most avid bikers and biking is a growing form of transportation for residents here. Montgomery County recently launched Capital Bikeshare and there are a number of regionally significant bike paths under construction or in design.

But more needs to be done. Montgomery County will never enjoy a strong bike culture until the planning and infrastructure comes together to meet the needs of the bike community.

Help us get there by participating in the first Great MoCo Bike Summit. Organized by Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer, WABA and MoBike, this discussion will be a great chance for you to interact directly with county elected and transportation planning leaders to help shape the future of biking in Montgomery County.

Saturday, April 5
9:15am – Noon
Jane Lawton Rec Center
4301 Willow Lane
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
RSVP Here »
The Great MoCo Bicycle Summit

A focus for the event will be how Montgomery County should incorporate next-gen bicycle facilities and how to make Capital Bikeshare a success. Topics for the next Summit will be requested.

Please bring your questions and thoughts to this conversation that is sure to shape the bicycle landscape in the County for the years to come.

Meet us outside the Tastee Diner in Silver Spring at 9:15am for a family-friendly ride to the Summit location in Bethesda!

Program

9:15am – 10:00am
Family Bike Ride from Silver Spring to Bethesda along the Capital Crescent Trail

10:00am – 10:10am
Introductory Remarks from Councilmember Hans Riemer

What are the most urgent needs to improve biking generally in Montgomery County?

10:10am – 10:30am
Presentations from Shane Farthing (WABA) and Dave Anspacher (M-NCPPC)

10:30am – 11:00am
Moderated Panel Discussion
Shane Farthing (WABA)
Dave Anspacher (M-NCPPC)
Fred Lees (MCDOT)
Pat Shepherd (MCDOT)
Jack Cochrane (MoBike)

11:00am – 11:10am
Coffee Break

How can we best ensure the success of Bikeshare in Montgomery County?

11:10am – 11:30am
Presentations from Anne Root (MCDOT) and Paul DeMaio (Metrobike LLC)

11:30am – 12:00pm
Moderated Panel Discussion
Shane Farthing (WABA)
Anne Root (MCDOT)
Paul DeMaio (Metrobike LLC)

12:00pm
Closing remarks from Councilmember Roger Berliner

I voted to protect Ten Mile Creek

The County Council is about to make a monumental decision on the future of the Ten Mile Creek watershed in the upcounty. I want you to know where I stand on this critical issue.

The Ten Mile Creek watershed is a special place and an invaluable environmental resource for Montgomery County. Long term study of the watershed confirms that it is home to a diverse and healthy ecosystem. It is of such high quality that it is considered one of the County’s “reference” streams, serving as a measuring stick for the health of other streams in the County.

In fact, according to our county environmental scientists, it is the healthiest stream they have found in Montgomery County, Howard County and Carroll County.

In 1994, the Montgomery County Council made the mistake of upzoning development plans in this precious watershed. Those plans, if enacted, would degrade the creek and its surrounding watershed environment irretrievably.

The Council’s planning and transportation committees reviewed that zoning plan. Along with my colleagues Roger Berliner and Marc Elrich, I have put forward a proposal to restrict development there in a way that will protect the environmental resource of Ten Mile Creek. These committees passed our plan, and soon the full Council will vote on it.

Here is why this matters.

  1. Ten Mile Creek, as a complete watershed, is well preserved today. Therefore the benefits of preservation are much more significant because they apply to an entire watershed.
  2. A development plan that preserves the health of the watershed provides benefits such as preserving open space in a more natural state, with great biodiversity. As a result of this vote, we hope that future generations will always have a healthy watershed right here in Montgomery County.
  3. The watershed and the reservoir that it feeds are important recreational resources. The more they are preserved, the better. The reservoir, for example, supports fishing, canoeing, and wildlife.
  4. The watershed and the reservoir are a source of regional drinking water. The less pollution in this supply, the better.
  5. As a reference stream, Ten Mile Creek can help us understand how development is impacting the environment in areas that are planned for significant growth in the future, such as Germantown and Clarksburg. The watershed is an important environmental science resource.

As you know, I am an advocate for smart growth. For me, that means making sure our future development creates walkable communities near public transportation. It also means restricting development where it is most harmful and expensive.

That is why from day one I have advocated to protect the creek and watershed from degradation.

Future generations of Montgomery County residents will judge what the County Council chose to allow on this most sensitive of environmental resources. I hope they judge us favorably, which is why I voted to protect the creek.

Hans Riemer at 10 Mile Creek
Hans Riemer examines the biodiversity in 10 Mile Creek

Silver Spring Central Park

I recently wrote a letter to the Planning Board requesting that they study the feasibility of putting a park in Downtown Silver Spring.

The Silver Spring Central Business District (CBD) is a key location for transit-oriented development in our county. It has many advantages including access to Metro, MARC and Ride On, a thriving retail business district, abundant commercial office space and thousands of residents both inside and outside the CBD. Silver Spring’s success in building an attractive urban core is a key element of the county’s development strategy for the future.

One thing Silver Spring does not have is public green space. Its existing public spaces (especially the Civic Center plaza and the Ellsworth Drive plaza) are hardscapes. Its largest pocket of green space is the area behind the Discovery Communications headquarters, but that space is privately owned and is not rogrammed for public use. The District of Columbia, in contrast, has many green urban parks in its owntown. These parks are often a square block in size, have many areas for seating and are heavily used. Silver Spring deserves one too.

Silver Spring once had a public green space: the former Kughn Park. Located between Ellsworth, Fenton and Wayne, Kughn Park was developed by the owner of the then-new City Place mall in 1992 as a required public amenity. The park lasted until it was offered to Peterson, Argo and Foulger Pratt for their Downtown Silver Spring redevelopment. While it existed, Kughn Park had trees and a lawn and was used for public programming like movies and outdoor concerts.

Kughn Park is gone now, but there is an opportunity to create a new green urban park on the WMATA land to the east of the Silver Spring Transit Center (SSTC). The parcel containing the transit center is bounded by Colesville Road, Wayne Avenue, Ramsey Avenue and the train tracks. It has roughly 174,000 SF of space. The western half of it will house the SSTC. The rest of it, which fronts Colesville, Wayne and Ramsey, is not currently proposed for development. This could be a great location for green park land in the heart of Silver Spring.

I requested that the Planning Board examine the feasibility of acquiring this land and designing it as park space. Specifically, I would like a general review of costs and acquisition issues, some conceptual design ideas, and anything else that would be helpful to share with residents and the County Council in order to evaluate the idea. Finally and most importantly, I would like to engage the community to get feedback on this idea. Please share this idea with your friends and other residents below!

If the park can happen, it would provide Silver Spring residents with an important amenity that they once had and should have again.

Our new minimum wage

On Tuesday, November 26, the Montgomery County Council came together around a proposal to significantly raise the minimum wage. I am proud that I helped deliver an 8-1 council vote for this hugely important progressive priority.

Six Facts About the Bill

1. Montgomery County’s minimum wage will be among the highest — if not the highest — in the nation.

2. The county’s minimum wage will rise from $7.25 to $11.50 in four years, a 59% increase.

3. Montgomery County acted first. D.C. and Prince George’s County must follow.

4. The original bill exempted the county government from paying its own minimum. At full council, we fixed that.

5. The original bill allowed a lower wage for short-term workers. I pushed the council to give them the same wage as everyone else, and we did.

6. The original bill allowed employers to cut their wages to offset health care payments. The council fixed that issue.

Our new local minimum wage will rise from $7.25 to $11.50 by 2017. It will be among the highest local minimum wages in the U.S., which is appropriate for one of the most expensive places to live.

We hope that Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia will follow our lead by passing a similar law; and that the Maryland General Assembly will raise the state minimum wage.

I worked hard to strengthen the county proposal. My work fighting to protect Social Security taught me that the broadest policies have the best impact, and so I also opposed provisions of the county minimum wage that excluded young people under 18, and I opposed provisions to exclude short term workers / day laborers.

I lost my fight to keep young people (age 18 and under) protected by the minimum wage when every single one of my colleagues voted against me. But the council did protect short-term employees and day laborers. They will now have the same minimum wage as every other county worker, just like they deserve. A policy like a minimum wage is too important to leave our most vulnerable workers behind.

Add our new rising minimum wage to a rising EITC payment, secured by my legislation that also passed the County Council unanimously a few weeks ago, and we are making real progress on behalf of the least among us.

I hope you are as happy as I am to make such a significant stride forward for our low wage workers.

I’ve always advocated for raising the minimum wage, and the results speak for themselves. We won. Big.