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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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Friday, December 19, 2014

Montgomery County Shows Value of Open Data with SpendingMontgomery Initiative

Rockville, Md., December 19, 2014---The Montgomery County Government has taken another giant step forward in financial transparency by releasing spendingMontgomery. Using open data, the new initiative will allow taxpayers to see like never before how the county spends money, who spends it, what it is spent on and with whom the county does business.

The link to spendingMontgomery is: http://spending.data.montgomerycountymd.gov/#/

Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer, the Council's lead member for digital government and the chief sponsor of the legislation that created a County open data policy, praised spendingMontgomery.

"The new spendingMontgomery initiative is a groundbreaking application of the open data vision, and I applaud the County Executive and his team for bringing it forward," said Councilmember Riemer. "This is the kind of innovation in government services that I hoped would result from establishing both an open data policy and a strong collaboration with the Executive Branch to implement the vision. Budget and spending data is complex, but Montgomery County, in partnership with our vendor, Socrata, has managed to take the raw data and make it accessible, understandable and meaningful. This level of financial transparency will set a new standard for government organizations."

Some of the key highlights of spendingMontgomery include:
  • Guided view of all the payments made by the County
  • Ability to search payments based on category, amount, recipient and more
  • Graphs, charts and other visuals that make help make sense of data

"Every single check cut by the Department of Finance, save those omitted for safety and privacy concerns, is now at the public's fingertips," said Councilmember Riemer. "For example, if a resident wants to know how much money is being spent on office supplies, they can find it easily. Likewise, spendingMontgomery allows access to the raw data for more robust analysis by residents, budget analysts, advocacy groups and other interested parties. I couldn't be more pleased with the results of our open data initiative."

The tool is powered by raw data from dataMontgomery, an initiative called for Open Data Act of 2012, which was authored by Councilmember Riemer and approved unanimously by the County Council. The law requires all County departments to catalogue and publish their data sets on the County's open data web site, and the implementation plan describes the schedule for publishing.

Montgomery County has a $5 billion operating budget and a $4.45 billion capital budget for Fiscal Years 2015-20. The county recently launched an Open Budget tool, also piloted with Socrata, that revolutionizes how the government provides budget data, by moving entirely away from paper based budget documents and fully utilizing the power of open data and visualizations to present valuable information.

Councilmember Riemer's work on open data has been described by Open Innovation Magazine, published by Socrata, as "a model for county council members across the country."

The next step in the County's quest for greater financial transparency is contractsMontgomery, which will further reveal the County's financial relationships with contractors. ContractsMontgomery will likely be released in 2015.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Spurring Economic Development With High Speed Networks

County Executive Ike Leggett proposed several new initiatives to improve the County’s economic development efforts in his inauguration remarks delivered on Dec. 1. The initiatives would combine to launch a new County economic agenda that reflects on a number of the key positions I have long advocated for.

I heartily welcome the County Executive’s decision to focus on economic development and entrepreneurship. I have long been a believer that, in order to continue to thrive, Montgomery County must have an economic base that is more diverse and competitive for new and growing companies in our region.

Building on my “Moving Montgomery Forward with Gigabit Speed Networks” initiative, County Executive Leggett is proposing creation of UltraMontgomery, which would be a high-speed fiber network that will connect Montgomery’s businesses and its academic and federal institutions.

I am extremely pleased that County Executive Leggett is moving forward with next-generation network infrastructure that will power economic growth and vitality in the County for years to come.

In August, I published the strategy paper “Moving Montgomery Forward with Gigabit Speed Networks” that addresses how new technology initiatives can drive growth in the local economy and leverage critical economic assets such as federal research labs. The plan led to me being named one of 16 finalists of the NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders) New Ideas Challenge. The New Ideas Challenge gives recognition to smart, pro-growth progressive solutions that are being developed and tested by state and local leaders across the country.

To spur economic development and job creation in key sectors of Montgomery County's economy, my white paper proposes building ultra high-speed, ultra reliable and ultra secure data networks in the County's centers of research and economic activity. These are our innovation districts, such as the future White Oak development, the Great Seneca Science Corridor, Bethesda and Silver Spring.

These districts are attractive for investment and job creation because of the presence of federal agencies, such as the FDA, NIST, NIH and NOAA. He also points out the County’s significant private sector strengths and its highly educated resident workforce base focused around the life sciences, earth sciences, biotech and cyber-security industries.

The proposed development in White Oak, next to FDA, will be a great proving ground for these concepts.

I also praise County Executive Leggett’s initiatives to streamline the development process—an area where I have has successfully championed a variety of reforms. In addition, I support the Executive’s proposal to create a new tech-sector incubator.

I will join a roundtable discussion with County Executive Leggett and County-based entrepreneurs on Monday, Dec. 8, at the tech-sector incubator 1776.