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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Making child care a priority

Child care should be a higher priority for Montgomery County Government.

Montgomery County provides substantial services to address housing, transportation, education from kindergarten through community college and many other issues from tree stumps to swimming pools.

But what about child care? Montgomery County families depend on having access to affordable, quality child care, and our children are profoundly affected by the services they receive at this early age, but the County government largely leaves families on their own to find care.

I think this needs to change. Local government should ensure that quality child care is available to all families.

That is why I have introduced a bill to create a new County office focused on providing affordable, quality child care for all families in Montgomery County. (Read my memo about the bill here and the bill here.) The office would be responsible for conducting research about the state of child care services in the county, creating a strategic plan for improving services with the ultimate goal of providing universal early care, developing partnerships among businesses, Montgomery County Public Schools and County Government, and reporting back regularly on progress towards the plan.

What: Office of Child Care Public Hearing
Where: 100 Maryland Ave Rockville, MD 20850
When: Tuesday, March 31, 2015 7:30 PM

Sign Up for the Public Hearing


When President Barack Obama said in his 2015 State of the Union Address, "It's time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women's issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us," I couldn't have agreed more. And I know there are a lot of dad's out there who will agree with me when I say that as a man and a father, child care must be a personal priority for all of us.

I know that this issue is on people's minds not only because I am a parent of young children and have experienced it myself, but also because I hear from other parents all the time about how difficult it is to manage finding child care and how chaotic the "system" is.

As fast as child care costs are rising in Montgomery County, this need is becoming as big of an affordability crisis as higher education has already become. How can families really be expected to pay for child care, save for college, save for retirement, and have anything left?

The public hearing on the legislation is coming up on March 31, 2015 at 7:30pm. Please sign up to testify about why you think child care should be a county priority.

If you can't make it (we'll have child care available at the hearing if you need it by the way), you may send in your thoughts or written testimony about this issue to Councilmember.Riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov.

If you have any questions, please contact Crystal Ruiz in my office at 240.777.7829.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Tree Care 101

One of the many great things about Montgomery County is our plentiful green space and robust tree canopy. In addition to removing carbon dioxide from the air, trees purify our water, protect our soil, and cool our neighborhoods on hot summer days.

With my 100,000 trees initiative, the county is doing its part to reinvigorate the tree canopy that we all enjoy, but did you know that nearly 85% of the trees in the county are on private land? I’m proud of the county’s investment in the future of our tree canopy, but no matter how much we do, a fresher, greener, shadier future will always depend on a partnership between our government and our citizens.

With that in mind, I hope those of you with trees in your yards will consider a trip out to one of Conservation Montgomery’s Tree Care 101 Classes this spring. This is a great opportunity to speak with tree-care professionals about everything you can do to keep your trees healthy and beautiful, and enjoy some fresh air at the same time. You can also organize a class in your neighborhood, so talk to your friends and neighbors, and you can bring the class to you. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Liquor Control Committee Set to Begin

As you may have heard, the Montgomery County Council recently created an Ad Hoc Committee on Liquor Control, and I am honored to be chairing that committee.

The Committee has been tasked with reviewing, evaluating, and making recommendations about alternate service delivery models and alcohol regulations and policies. In other words, the Committee will be making recommendations on how the County should control alcohol. This is such an important debate because it closely affects our restaurant and entertainment sectors, quality of life, and ultimately our local economy.

As Chair, I look forward to objectively reviewing all the evidence and community feedback on this crucial issue. To do this, we have scheduled four Committee Worksessions for this Winter/Spring.

February 27 – Overview
  • OLO Report 2015-6: Review of Alcohol Control (read the report here)
  • Discussion with Executive Branch

March 6 – DLC Management and Operations
  • OLO review of legal environment/current DLC operations
  • Presentation from IG on Preliminary Inquiry Memorandum and update on ongoing investigation
  • Discussion with DLC and MCGEO

March 20 – Economic Competitiveness
  • OLO review of DLC/private sector pricing, survey results
  • Discussion with Licensees, Distributors and Manufacturers

March 27 – Public Health and Safety
  • OLO review of research on impact of Liquor Control on public health
  • Discussion with public health and public safety officials

The Committee will resume its work after the County's budget cycle finishes in June. We will hold a public hearing and additional worksessions with the goal of making recommendations to the full County Council for action.

But to make sure that we find a solution that works, we need your expertise. As a first step, please reach out to me with your thoughts by emailing councilmember.riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov or calling my office at 240-777-7964. You can also share your thoughts with the whole council by going to the Committee's Website.

We hope that you will stay engaged with us throughout the entire process, and be on the lookout for updates from me after each worksession. I hope you are as excited as am I to tackle this important issue.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Getting plastic foam out of our waterways

I am happy to share news that in a unanimous vote of my colleagues, the Montgomery County Council passed my bill that bans certain expanded polystyrene or plastic foam products. The focus of the bill is on stopping the harm caused by these food service products when they become litter. Watch a short video on the passage of the bill below.
Passage of the Montgomery County Polystyrene Ban Bill
This bill is needed because plastic foam breaks into pieces and ends up in our rivers, streams, and watersheds. Numerous studies have found that polystyrene foam is a significant source of litter in our waterways, and one study of an Anacostia River tributary found that 22% of the trash collected in a trash trap was polystyrene foam.
With passage of this bill, Montgomery County joins a growing list of progressive communities to ban polystyrene foam, including Washington D.C., San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and New York City. My bill tracks closely with DC’s recently passed ban, but it goes further by banning the sale of consumer foam products in grocery and convenience stores.
Finally, the bill requires that in 2017, all food service products used in the county must be recyclable or compostable. I hope this will strengthen our county's recycling program.
Specifically, my bill does the following three things
1. Prohibits the use of foam food service products by food service businesses beginning on January 1, 2016.
2. Prohibits the sale of foam loose fill packaging (packing peanuts) and bulk foam foodservice products (bulk foam cups and plates) beginning on January 1, 2016.
3. Requires the use of compostable or recyclable food service products by the County, County Contractors, and food service businesses beginning on January 1, 2017.
What makes polystyrene foam a particularly pernicious form of litter is that the petroleum-based plastic breaks down into small pieces, but it does not completely dissolve. This makes it incredibly difficult and costly to clean up. It also ends up in the food supply, as fish and oysters eat the bits of foam. The National Research Council has recently "upheld the listing of styrene as 'reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.'"
Fortunately, there are competitively priced alternatives to polystyrene foam that are much better for the environment. By joining with Washington, DC, we will strengthen the regional market for alternative products.
I want to specifically thank Councilmembers George Leventhal and Marc Elrich as well as County Executive Isiah Leggett for being early supporters of this important legislation. I would also like to thank the coalition of environmental groups, particularly Trash Free Maryland and the Anacostia Watershed society, for their effective activism, and the many residents who spoke out in favor of the bill. We couldn’t have done it without your help.