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.

Yes, vaccinations should be required for County employees

Dear Resident,

President Biden and national health advisors are strongly urging employers to adopt vaccination requirements. They say requirements are a critical policy to make workplaces safe and finally get COVID under control.

Here in Montgomery County, we are discussing legislation I have introduced with Councilmembers Jawando and Albornoz to require County employees to get vaccinated as a condition of employment (with certain limited exemptions). MCPS already has the requirement, which their unions supported.

We introduced the law because we are concerned that the County Executive’s “vax or test” approach is too weak or ineffective.

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Statement from Councilmember Hans Riemer on Vaccine Requirement for County Employees

Statement from Councilmember Hans Riemer
on Vaccine Requirement for County Employees

Since the beginning of this pandemic, I have been incredibly proud to serve on this Council. As a body, we have been laser focused on saving as many lives as possible, and minimizing the damage to our community. Time after time, we have stepped in to address shortcomings in the County’s response to make sure that it was fast enough, robust enough, and served all Montgomery County residents.

Our County workforce has done incredible work under terribly difficult circumstances to keep our community safe. But COVID is not done with us yet, and we can’t throw in the towel. Employees, their families, and all County residents are still at risk.

So I am deeply disturbed that the County Executive is resorting to scare tactics, rather than standing strong as many Mayors and Governors are doing across the Country in the face of anti-vaccine resistance.

And I am disappointed that certain union leaders, here in Montgomery County, would engage in right-wing conspiracy theories and attack my family, just to try to stop a vaccine requirement that would keep their own members safe. Their advocacy stands in stark contrast to the school employee unions, which have embraced a vaccination requirement.

I want to address this deranged conspiracy theory head on. Yes, as I have disclosed each year on my financial disclosure, my wife works for Pfizer. She is amazing and I am so proud of her. No, this vaccination requirement has absolutely nothing to do with her job and my family will not see a dime as a result of it. That’s because Pfizer has said they will manufacture 3 billion doses this year and 4 billion doses next year. The federal government has already agreed to purchase 600 million doses. A few hundred additional vaccinations is a drop of water in an ocean.

This County is known for good government, and I take my responsibility to uphold that standard very seriously, so I asked the Ethics Commission for an opinion and they have confirmed that there is no conflict. The opinion states: “The Commission concludes that the County’s vaccine policy does not impact the company. As a consequence, the bar of 19A-11 does not prohibit the Councilmember from participating in matters relating to whether the County should impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.”

The full Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion is available here: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/Ethics/Resources/Files/pdfs/A21-10-017%20FINAL.pdf

Fighting vaccine mandates? Here??

Dear Resident,

This week I joined my colleagues Will Jawando and Gabriel Albornoz to introduce legislation mandating that County employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment, unless they qualify for a documented medical exemption.

We need to take this step because the existing vaccination policy for County employees is not getting results. While County Executive Marc Elrich has come out against a mandate, he has also been bargaining for months with the County unions to promote vaccination.

The results speak for themselves.

As of September 30, 77.6% of County employees reported having at least one dose of a vaccine, compared to 98% of eligible County residents. Vaccination rates in some county departments are much lower, with the Department of Corrections and Fire and Rescue Services reporting only 63% of employees having gotten at least one dose.

This is simply unacceptable.

Getting vaccinated is one of our most powerful tools to contain the pandemic. Our employees who are doing the right thing and getting vaccinated deserve to know that their workplaces are safe.

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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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