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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Making Silver Spring even better

What would YOU like to experience in Downtown Silver Spring?

To discuss this topic, I am pleased to announce that the Montgomery County Planning Department, in partnership with my office and the Silver Spring Regional Center, will be hosting three design workshops focused on "placemaking" strategies for Downtown Silver Spring.

Visit www.silverpringplacemaking.com

Over the past 10 years, county, state and private investment has transformed Downtown Silver Spring for the better. But there is still work to do. Do you have ideas for how we can make Silver Spring a better place to live? Attend our workshops and put your ideas on the table, hear what others have to say, and get involved!

This process is a new way of using our planning capacity, and I hope that it will succeed and become a model for other parts of the county.

What: WMATA Transit
Center Placemaking

Where: 8787 Georgia Ave
Silver Spring, MD 20910

When: Wednesday, October 15,
7:00 PM

RSVP for Workshop A

We have put together the following three workshops:

Workshop A – October 15, 2014 7-9pm, 8787 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD
The session will examine enhancements such as temporary short-term green space and bike facilities as well as improving pedestrian experiences from the Transit Center to Downtown Silver Spring via Wayne Avenue.

Workshop B – October 29, 2014 5-7pm, Denizens Brewing Company
Focus on the community character of the Ripley District and the pedestrian experiences in the area to heighten community identity within the district. Creating a civic green space within the area will also be considered.

Workshop C – November 5, 2014 11am-1pm, TBD
We will examine the areas immediately surrounding the proposed Purple Line station in Downtown Silver Spring. These areas are slated for high density development. Participants will explore design options for the redevelopment of the Metro Plaza site (located on the northeast corner of East-West Highway and Colesville Road), a prominent gateway to Downtown Silver Spring from the District of Columbia. So that redevelopment can proceed in a manner best suited to this location, the workshop will address transit support structures and streetscape enhancements aimed at improving pedestrian connectivity.

Hope to see you there!

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.

budgetMontgomery

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