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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.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Outcomes of Silver Spring Placemaking Workshops to Planning Board

See the following press release about my work with the Planning Department on our Silver Spring Placemaking initiative.

County Councilmember Hans Riemer Presents Outcomes of Silver Spring Placemaking Workshops to Planning Board
by Bridget Schwiesow on January 16th, 2015

Silver Spring, MD – At its latest meeting, the Montgomery County  Planning Board, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission  (M-NCPPC), learned about the ideas generated at three Silver Spring Placemaking Workshops held in October and November 2014. County Councilmember Hans Riemer, who led the public placemaking effort, opened the presentation to the Board along with Parks and Planning staff and representatives of the Silver Spring Urban District on Thursday, January 15. The purpose of the workshops was to enhance the identity of the Downtown Silver Spring area and improve opportunities in key locations, while building on the 2000 Silver Spring Sector Plan.

“The whole process was fantastic and we had such a positive reaction from the community,” said Riemer. “Now we want to make sure the workshops contribute to meaningful change in Downtown Silver Spring.”

Councilmember Tom Hucker, whose Council district includes Silver Spring, said “I was very excited to participate in the Placemaking series. We identified some great ideas to enhance Silver Spring and I look forward to seeing them realized.”

Learn more about the Silver Spring Placemaking project.

What is placemaking?
This approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces involves listening to the people who live, work and play in a particular area about their needs and aspirations. The information from the community is then used to create a common vision for a specific place.
The Silver Spring Placemaking Workshops were initiated by Councilmember Riemer in collaboration with the Montgomery County Planning and Parks Departments, and the Silver Spring Urban District. County planners joined Riemer, community residents and other participants to explore the brainstorming sessions and brought in creative ways of enhancing three downtown locations.

Three workshops for three places
The first workshop, held at the Planning Department’s headquarters on October 15, explored the creation of civic space in the vicinity of the Transit Center.  Enhancements to Gene Lynch Urban Park and ways to improve the pedestrian experience from the Transit Center to Downtown Silver Spring via Wayne Avenue were examined, along with looking for temporary green spaces and bike service facilities in this location.

The second workshop, held at the Denizens Brewing Company on October 29, focused on the urban character of the Ripley District and enhancing pedestrian experiences in the area to heighten community identity.

The third workshop at the Silver Spring Civic Building on November 5 examined the areas immediately surrounding the proposed Purple Line station in Downtown Silver Spring that are slated for high-density development. Participants weighed design options, including pedestrian-friendly streetscapes, surrounding 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. Ways to improve  the pedestrian connectivity from the Transit Center to South Silver Spring and the Blairs was also studied.

Plan to implement workshop concepts
As part of the January 15 presentation to the Planning Board, the Silver Spring Placemaking team recommended specific improvements to the three areas as a result of the workshops. These action items range from enhanced crosswalks, clearer signage and new bike lanes to outdoor movies, public art and food trucks. For each recommendation, the team suggested a “champion” was needed including public agencies and corporate sponsors, to implement the change.

“One of the reasons we held the workshops was to enhance the Silver Spring Master Plan so we have a head start when that master planning effort comes back around for updating,” says Robert Kronenberg, the Planning Department’s Chief of Area 1, who helped organize the events. “The Silver Spring Placemaking Workshops are the first of many we will be doing in the County. They set the stage of what is to come.”

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Increased service for Silver Spring circulator bus

ROCKVILLE, Md., January 15, 2015—Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer today lauded Montgomery County's dramatically increased free bus service in downtown Silver Spring. The Silver Spring circulator, also known as "VanGo," will now run later into the evening and on Saturdays.

The new VanGo schedule is the following: Monday-Thursday: 7 a.m.-12 midnight; Friday: 7 a.m.-2 a.m.; Saturday: 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Buses will run every 12 minutes. Previously, VanGo service ran only from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on weekdays.

Circulator stops are located at the Silver Spring Metro Station; 13thand Kennet Street; East-West Highway and Colesville Road; and Cameron Street and Georgia Avenue.

The new schedule for the Silver Spring VanGo Circulator will complement the existing circulator in Bethesda to provide improved transportation options in two of the County's urban nodes.

"The Silver Spring VanGo Circulator service forms an important part of the urban area's transportation fabric," said Councilmember Riemer, who led the fight to secure additional funding for VanGo. "It supports Silver Spring's growing residential population, efforts to get individuals out of automobiles and the burgeoning night-time economy there."

Councilmember Riemer said the extended service will help people with different needs and purposes than were served by the previous weekday daytime hours.

"While VanGo's old schedule helped individuals get to and from the Metro and parking facilities for their morning and evening commutes, it failed to meet the needs of a residential population who wants to use it in the evenings and on the weekends," he said. "That demand is now met."

Councilmember Riemer is also working closely with the County's Department of Transportation, the Silver Spring Urban District and residents to explore rebranding and rerouting the circulator.

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