We have strengths. Let’s build on them

Dear residents,

Montgomery County can find success as a place where companies grow and thrive, providing jobs for our families and communities — but we have to be forward thinking and play the long game.

It is not about tax cuts for the wealthy and that tired anti-government agenda — it is about making smart decisions and savvy investments in our future.

That’s why I am so excited to share the news about an important partnership that the County is now backing to land a Federal Pandemic Prevention Center.

Some of the world’s top scientists and biotech leaders have come together through a regional economic development organization to propose a federal strategy to advance medical breakthroughs for dangerous pathogens — before they become pandemics.

This exciting idea has even won the philanthropic backing of the Gates Foundation.

For example: with funding, scientists could develop monoclonal antibody treatments for various coronaviruses that are known but not yet circulating among humans — and stockpile those recipes in case one of the coronovarises becomes a pandemic.

Montgomery County is the natural place to house this new center. With the NIH, FDA, and a powerful life sciences industry, we are already an epicenter of global pandemic response.

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Vaccines and reopening

Dear residents,

About a month ago (on March 22nd), I wrote to you about our progress on vaccinations. I projected that by the end of April, at least 470,000 residents would have a first dose. That math has guided my perspective ever since.

A lot of readers appreciated the forward thinking, but I also got some understandable pushback — “we don’t know if that’s true… we don’t know if supply will keep up,” etc.

Today I am pleased to say that we are over 535,000 residents with a first dose.

With about 800,000 residents presently eligible (age 16+), we are more than 60% of the way through first doses for the eligible population; and about 50% of the way through the total population.1

It should be no surprise therefore that even with the more contagious variants circulating, our new cases plateaued weeks ago and are now trending downward. The vaccines work!

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Accelerating the Electrification of the RideOn Fleet and Seniors Ride Free

MEMORANDUM

To: Council President Hucker and Councilmember Glass
From: Hans Riemer
Date: April 22, 2021
Re: Accelerating the Electrification of the RideOn Fleet and Seniors Ride Free

When the Transportation and Environment Committee takes up the RideOn operating and capital budgets on April 30, I request your thoughtful consideration of the following two proposals I will offer at the worksession.

First, I propose that we include funding in the FY23 Ride On Bus Fleet (P500821) to purchase an additional 10 electric buses instead of diesel buses. Importantly, these new electric buses would be earmarked for the mid and upcounty and stationed at the Gaithersburg Depot. To that end, I ask that the Department of General Services and RideOn begin work to build out charging and electrical capacity at the Gaithersburg Depot. Based on cost estimates provided by MCDOT, the fiscal impact would be approximately $3,860,000.

Combined with a proposed microgrid and other electrical upgrades at the Brookeville Depot, the County Executive recently proposed a schedule of 50 new electric buses over the next 4 years. These are smart investments, but they are geographically-bounded to the down county. My proposal would bring the benefits of electric buses to our mid and upcounty residents.

Second, I’d like to propose that we make RideOn and Metrobus free 24/7 for seniors and people with disabilities. Notwithstanding the current—and temporary—pause on all fare collection for RideOn, seniors and people with disabilities would normally ride free on RideOn and MetroBus Monday-Friday, between the hours of 9am – 3pm, Saturday, between the hours of 8:30am – 4pm, and half fares the rest of the time. Building on previous Council actions to make the bus access more equitable and affordable, I believe now is the time to make RideOn and Metrobus free for our residents most in need. MCDOT has estimated that this targeted expansion would require an additional $949,720 in funding for FY22: $705,620 in RideOn revenue loss and $244,100 in WMATA reimbursement.

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Police reform is my priority

Dear Resident,

You may have seen the news and footage about a 5 year old boy who was handcuffed and traumatized by police officers in Silver Spring, while MCPS staff did not intervene.

A tragedy like this should have never happened. It is absolutely unacceptable.

It is also a symptom of decades of leaning too heavily on our criminal justice system to solve problems in society. We need major changes to police work as well as a big shift in how we respond to youth in schools and people with social service or mental health needs.

Does that mean “defund” or “abolish” police? No — it means prioritizing police reform and charting a new vision for improved social services. Our police officers should be focused on solving serious crimes and keeping us safe.

To get there, your elected officials need to make reform their priority — and take on the defenders of the status quo.

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Doing the math on vaccination doses

Dear resident,

The pandemic’s peak is in our rear view mirror, but like a beast in a horror movie it is also chasing us. We have to keep our foot on the gas. That means continuing to mask and social distance while getting vaccinated.

If you are wondering when you’ll likely get a dose — or how far we are from having a high share of the County vaccinated — you might find the following information helpful.

Here’s the bottom line: By summer we could finally be ready to roll credits on this terrible movie. This is how the math works.

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