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Friday, September 12, 2014

Banning Expanded Polystyrene Foam in Montgomery County

On September 9, I introduced a bill (pdf) that that would ban the use and sale of certain forms of expanded polystyrene (sometimes called “Styrofoam,” although Styrofoam is just one brand of expanded foam) in the County.

With this ban, Montgomery County would join a growing list of other communities that have taken action to ban expanded polystyrene, including Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York City.

My bill closely tracks legislation passed in Washington, DC, and signed by Mayor Gray in July, 2014. Our implementation timeline would match Washington’s, allowing for a smoother regional effort to raise awareness as well as helping to strengthen the local market for alternative products.

Specifically, the bill includes the following key provisions:
  • Prohibits the use of foam food service products by food service businesses beginning on January 1, 2016.
  • Prohibits the sale of foam loose fill packaging (packing peanuts) and bulk foam food service products (bulk foam cups and plates) beginning on January 1, 2016.
  • Requires the use of compostable or recyclable food service products by the County, County Contractors, and food service businesses beginning on January 1, 2017.

This is important because foam, which is a petroleum-based plastic, is a meaningful share of the litter and pollution found in our watersheds. Over time, discarded foam breaks down into small pieces, but it does not completely dissolve and it is very hard to clean up. When it is ingested by marine life, it causes harm. For human health, the National Research Council has recently “upheld the listing of styrene as ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.’”

Fortunately, there are reasonable alternatives to expanded foam.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

VIDEO: Pushing the technology envelope in MoCo

You might enjoy this short video reporting on my work promoting next generation internet infrastructure in Montgomery County.

I recently released a White Paper called "Moving Montgomery Forward with Gigabit Speed Networks." If you are interested in this topic I hope you’ll read the report and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Moving Montgomery forward with technology

One of my top priorities on the County Council is to develop new technology initiatives that can drive growth in our local economy as well as strengthen the transparency and accountability of government.

If you read my new white paper on Moving Montgomery Forward with Gigabit Speed Networks, you will get a sense of why I think new technology initiatives are so important for our county.

To spur economic development in key sectors of Montgomery County's economy, my white paper proposes the more effective utilization of ultra high-speed (100+ gigabits per second), ultra reliable, and ultra secure data networks in the county's centers of research and economic activity -- our innovation districts. These districts include White Oak, the Great Seneca Science Corridor, Bethesda and Silver Spring. What makes these districts so attractive for investment and job creation is the presence of federal agencies, such as the FDA, NIST, NIH, NOAA, a significant private sector toehold, and highly educated resident base focused around the life science, earth science, biotech and cybersecurity industries.

The specific challenge for the County is to form collaborative partnerships with the major federal institutions, non-profit, and private-sector companies to leverage these ultra high-speed connections. Specifically, the County will need a better understanding how federal agencies, such as the FDA and NIH, could use the next-gen applications made possible by the ultra high-speed networks. Then, the County should use these partnerships to attract businesses to build those applications in each innovation districts. The challenge is great, but the rewards could be substantial for the continued growth in the County's economic base.

If you would like to dig a bit deeper into these exciting concepts, I invite you to read the white paper on this interactive website:

Moving Montgomery Forward with Gigabit Speed Networks

I am also thrilled to share a landmark new development in financial transparency for the county -- the launch of our new online budget tool that is already becoming a national model. The tool is powered by raw data from dataMontgomery, an initiative called for in the Open Data Act of 2012, which I authored.

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.
As the Council's Lead Member for Digital Government, I am pleased to see the Montgomery County Executive--in collaboration with the private sector open data company, Socrata--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. 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.


I look forward to hearing your thoughts on both of these please initiatives. Please do email me at to let me know what you think!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvements coming to Montgomery County

I wanted to share with you news about an initiative that I proposed and my colleagues supported in the FY15 County budget. This capital budget program, called the Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas (BPPAs), will help the County improve aging infrastructure to make it more appealing for walkers and bikers. This will help improve safety and promote revitalization.

Put simply, a BPPA is a defined geographical area where the enhancement of bicycle and pedestrian traffic and safety is a priority. The County has 28 BPPAs spread throughout our commercial and residential areas. However, the Council identified five priority BPPAs to start working on immediately; they are Glenmont, Grosvenor, Silver Spring CBD, Veirs Mill/Randolph, and Wheaton CBD.

The Council appropriated $375,000 for planning and design of subprojects within these five BPPAs for FY15, which began July 1, 2014. Design and construction of the subprojects will begin in FY16. In each of the remaining years, $150,000 is programmed for design and $850,000 is programmed for construction for a total of $1 million per annum.

The specific improvements may include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • sidewalk, curb, and curb ramp reconstruction to meet ADA best practices,
  • bulb-outs,
  • cycle tracks,
  • streetlighting,
  • and relocation of utility poles.
I encourage you to participate in the planning process by reaching out to Ms. Sogand Seirafi at the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) who is heading up the project. You may reach her at or 240-777-7260. Please also feel free to reach out to me and my staff at any time with any suggestions or comments you may have.

I strongly believe that walkability and bikeability must be at the center of County’s plans for infrastructure and revitalization. I look forward to working closely with you in the coming months and years to bring these important improvements to your community.