Join the conversation!

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!

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 sogand.seirafi@montgomerycountymd.gov 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.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New Montgomery County Online Budget Tool Recognized as a National Model

County Councilmember Hans Riemer’s Open Data Initiative Shows Continued Progress Through Innovative Web Site

The Montgomery County Government has unveiled a new online budget tool that is already becoming a national model for financial and budget transparency. The budget tool is the result of a partnership between the County Government and Socrata, the company that provides the technology for Montgomery County’s open data web site.

Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer, the Council’s lead member for digital government and the chief sponsor of legislation to create a County open data initiative, praised the new tool that will help residents more easily find budget information.

“I am pleased to see Montgomery County working closely with Socrata to 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,” he said. “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.”

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.
“It is a great step forward for Montgomery County to partner with Socrata and develop this pilot financial transparency tool,” Councilmember Riemer said. “This puts our County into a select category of local governments that are pushing the envelope of open government and civic technology and it is exactly the kind of initiative that I have envisioned as part of the Open Montgomery program. As the County Council’s Lead Member for Digital Government, I have used my budget oversight role of Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Finance to request a toolset for financial transparency. This new program is the result of those requests, and I am very excited by this great step forward.”

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 tool is powered by raw data from dataMontgomery, an initiative called for in the Open Data Act of 2012 (pdf), which was authored by Councilmember Riemer. This fall, the County Council will take up the Open Data Implementation Plan, mandated by the Act. 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.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Challenges with child care?

I am the proud parent of two boys, age six and three. As we all know, kids bring challenges, joy, love and even a bit of craziness now and then. Our kids have also brought my wife and me into contact with a patchwork system of child care services. And I can tell you from my personal experience: finding quality, affordable child care is a real challenge.

1. Care is expensive. The state reports the average cost of care for two children as $25,234 per year in our county -- more than two thousand dollars per month.

2. We don’t have enough care. In 2012, Montgomery County had 65,162 residents under the age of 5 in 2012 (Census). However, licensed child care providers in the county could only accept 26,719 children. That means we have 38,000 more children than licensed spaces.

3. We aren’t doing much about it. Out of 28 major school renovation or expansion projects in our school construction budget, only two are scheduled to include child care. More than 90% of these schools are not planning for space. We need to do better.



Child care has been a high priority for me during my time on the County Council. In 2012, I passed a law requiring the county to assess the feasibility of including child care in all of its new building projects, and I added an incentive for providing child care to our zoning code for new development.

In the current budget, I suggested to my colleagues that we require child care in every new school project unless it was found to be cost-prohibitive or impossible to fit in because of site conditions. And I have been working with child care providers to ensure fair procedures for bidding out public space to their programs.

But I know that we need to do more – much more. For that, I need your help. I know a lot of our residents grapple with these challenges. If you can spare a minute, please take my Survey on Child Care. I am looking to measure this problem and to gather ideas for how we can do better. And I know we can do better if we work together.