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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Daily journals, 11-27/28-11

Monday began with a briefing from council staff about the health care and wellness task force that the council convened this year. The task force identified some helpful information, such as: the expenses per person for health care in MCPS and the county are basically the same, the county in total insures about 100,000 lives, roughly 20% of the insured population accounts for 80% of the expenses (which mirrors national trends), and the only real way to save money in health care spending over the long term is to reduce the growth of total county spending per plan member. The council and particularly the Gov Ops committee will return early next year to this topic. We need to find better ways to manage the spending of what is nearly $500 million per year on health care benefits and we do not invest enough to do that job right.

Monday evening I went to Clarksburg for a meeting with the Clarksburg Civic Association. We had a colorful and even contentious discussion over whether Clarksburg development has collapsed or not (I said it has, while some residents asserted that Clarksburg is booming; I believe the number of housing units that have been constructed in Clarksburg vs. the number approved supports my point), and talked about issues such as the proposed M-83 highway, sidewalks on 355, and so forth. Years ago, Montgomery County residents agreed to establish Clarksburg on certain terms, such as a development tax district that is higher than anywhere else in the county, in order to ensure that the new infrastructure in Clarksburg would be paid for by tax revenues generated in Clarksburg. Now, with rising energy costs and without the benefit of a real estate bubble, it is a question whether this model of development is fiscally sustainable.

Today's highlight was passing the Wheaton Sector Plan, a document that describes how we want development to proceed in the future, largely in the Wheaton central business district. I am very happy about the plan on several fronts, including the more aggressive approach to job growth that it embraces for the downtown, the environmental protections that it encourages including in the Westfield green buffer, and, particularly, the neighborhood protections that it codifies. I listened closely to advocates from the surrounding neighborhoods and urged the council to find solutions for reversing the dismal commercial developments that have encroached on their single family neighborhoods -- truly, there is nothing more depressing than having a storage facility in your single family neighborhood. I was glad to see that Council staff and the PHED committee found a great solution by putting in guidance and a zoning formula that will hopefully result in those properties being redeveloped in a town home style, which would be much more compatible with the neighborhood.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Daily journal, 11-22-11

The morning began with a meeting on the topic of the Metropolitan Branch Trail. At a recent T&E committee meeting I learned that the nonprofit group that manages the historic B&O Train Museum has reversed its position and now refuses to grant the county right of way for the Metropolitan Branch Trail. This is very unfortunate as community and elected leaders rallied behind funding for the restoration of that museum partly on the grounds that it would provide an excellent community asset on the trail. This is an issue we will return to in the capital budget process in January. If you ride the Red Line you may notice how much progress DC has made on the trail --- and that the progress seems to stop as you cross into Montgomery County. This segment of the trail is an important issue that needs to be resolved in order to continue forward.

The discussions with the team about organizing for the town hall we are hosting on December 12 as well as policy issues related to economic development.

At noon, a meeting with officials from the Housing Opportunities Commission to discuss how to improve production of affordable housing. The council is going to consider a new housing policy in January, although that is more of an aspirational document. I am looking for some concrete steps we can take to support affordable housing production.

Then a meeting with Dick Lipsky, manager of the MCPS TV network, as well as Neil Greenberger, the council staffer who manages our part of the county cable network. We talked about ideas for the future of the cable system and continued the follow up from our last Gov Ops committee meeting, where the focus was on building the system we really want for the future. The cable groups have been discussing a new governance model, which is a helpful step. We are contemplating various recommendations for moving forward and I think there is growing consensus that significant changes are needed.

Next continuing discussions about economic development policy and how the county can be more effective in how we market the county to companies and grow our job base. We're going to see a lot of policy initiatives next year on this topic and I am very optimistic about where we are headed.

Have a happy thanksgiving everyone!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Riemer Town Hall on Dec 12

Dear Supporter,

Please join me on December 12, for a town hall Solutions Forum in Rockville. The event will take place at Richard Montgomery High School in the cafeteria, at 7:00 pm.

I am nearing the end of my first year on the County Council! Friends and community members regularly ask me if the job is everything I had expected. The answer is, it is even better than I hoped. I get to spend every day figuring out how to make my community a better place to live.

On Monday, December 12, I’d like to spend some time discussing community needs with you at my first town-hall style event. I’m calling it a “Solutions Forum” because I want the focus to be on solving problems.

Councilmember Riemer’s Solutions Forum

Monday, December 12 at 7:00 PM

Richard Montgomery High School Cafeteria

250 Richard Montgomery Drive

Rockville, MD 20852

That evening, I will discuss some of my agenda items for the coming year as well as review milestones from 2011. I will present some early information about our budget and fiscal situation and talk about how we work to balance priorities at the County Council.

I will look to hear from residents about our priorities: education, economic development, transportation, parks, libraries, social services, neighborhood conditions, youth engagement, senior living, county government effectiveness and responsiveness, sector plans... any issue that is on your mind. Town Halls are a great way for me to get your input and for you to get your questions answered. You can help with Council decision-making by coming out to voice your views about issues happening in your neighborhood. This is the way to have an effective government.

Please forward this message to any individuals or groups that might be interested, of course everyone is encouraged to attend. Send an email if you're planning on joining us.

Thank you!


Yours Sincerely,
Hans Riemer
Council Member At-Large

Monday, November 21, 2011

Daily journal, 11-21-11

Today started in the Takoma-Langley Crossroads area for a meeting with Erwin Mack. He runs a small business improvement effort in that area and they are working on the Purple Line, the sector plan, and many issues. Erwin is also head of the county's pedestrian and bike safety committee. We discussed the recent T&E committee meeting about safety for kids walking to school and some follow up that I am considering.

Then, a Gov Ops committee meeting at 1030 focused on technology issues.

The rest of the day went to a collection of items I'm working on. Economic development, particularly. I was surprised to see another multi-million dollar economic incentive request on my desk from the county executive.

I'm also getting ready for my first town hall type event, on December 12 at Richard Montgomery High School, at 730pm. Please mark your calendar!


The photo is from a quick meeting today with a group of Webelos. My favorite moment: in response to Nancy Floreen's challenge to correctly say how many people live in Montgomery County, we had a very thoughtful and persuasive young man pronounce, FIVE thousand!! "NO," the next one said, "NINE thousand!"

Now I am on the couch... Emailing and watching MCPS TV, trying to get a better sense of what we offer through our county cable channels.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Parade Photos


My thanks to all of the volunteers who came out yesterday to join us in the Thanksgiving Day Parade on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring.

At dinner tonight, a friend asked me, "Why do you do the parade?" I responded that it gives residents a chance to see me personally and I can present a little bit of who I am by the effort that I make. This year, thanks particularly to the excellent staff work of Valeria Carranza on my team, and her partner Lauren Wetherell, we had engaging signs that expressed a view on issues or informed residents about accessing their government.

Some examples:

"Libraries are for everyone" ... "MoCo 4 All: Suburban, Rural, Urban"... "Purple Line, Greener Future"... "Don't know who to call? Call 311"...

It was fun. Plus I love any council activity that I can do with my family. Here I am with my wonderful wife and our two boys, Henry (age 4) and Travis (10 months).




Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What should we do about Big Boxes?

The County Council is debating a proposal to address the impacts from large commercial retail operations or “big boxes”. The discussion has been prompted by Council President Valerie Ervin’s bill that would require new retailers with more than 75,000 square feet of space to negotiate with community groups prior to opening. I have heard from a lot of constituents about this issue. I’d like to share my thoughts with you and hear what you think.

Big box retailers are very profitable. In 2010, Wal-Mart earned $17 billion in after-tax net income. That same year, Home Depot earned $3.3 billion, Target earned $2.9 billion and Best Buy earned $1.4 billion in after-tax net income.

At the same time, a significant number of studies have found that big boxes have had detrimental effects on wages, employment, small businesses, public health care costs and traffic. I believe that some big box retailing necessitates additional community protections. That is why I agreed to co-sponsor the Council President’s bill.

The bill requires incoming big box retailers to negotiate “community benefit agreements” with at least three community groups. The bill would seem to create the likelihood that certain community groups would get “benefits” as a result of a big box coming in. For example, a new swimming pool or support for a library in one community, or, elsewhere, local hiring preferences. It is unclear whether the bill would actually result in any benefits for the communities, however, as the only requirement is negotiation, not agreement.

Community benefits agreements are not the only proposal for addressing big box impacts. The question is, what problems are we trying to solve?

Two problems I am very concerned about are the wages and benefits issues facing workers; and the big box impacts that affect our ability to create great places to live.

On the first topic, the federal National Labor Relations Act prevents local governments from directly regulating wages and benefits in purely private-sector circumstances. But when county funding is involved, the county has a right to attach conditions to that funding. The county already requires construction contractors on county projects to pay prevailing wages. It also requires county-employed service contractors to pay living wages to their employees. Perhaps recipients of county economic development grants, loans and incentives should be required to pay living wages and health benefits. That would make sure that county money does not subsidize low-wage job creation, which will not sustain our quality of life.

On the second issue, I am concerned that big boxes in our commercial+retail+residential areas will undermine the core vision of a community designed according to principles of housing opportunity, walkability and public transportation.

The county has abundant powers to regulate land use through its zoning authority. In 2004, the county passed a zoning text amendment requiring combination retail + grocery stores with more than 120,000 square feet to obtain a special exception to operate. The Board of Appeals is empowered to make requirements on noise, lighting, traffic remediation, buffers, parking, signs and other issues. The county’s Planning Board can also address similar issues in its planning and approval process, and is well suited to address the challenges that big boxes pose for community building.

I believe we need to reexamine these regulations for big box stores. The fact that the proposed Aspen Hill Wal-Mart is planned to be 118,000 square feet – a bare 2,000 square feet below the county’s current threshold for a special exception – argues that some sort of reevaluation of our requirements may be in order.

Another Wal-Mart on Rockville Pike would be situated one-third of a mile from the Twinbrook Metro. This location is prime real estate for our continuing efforts on the Pike to build a first class community where you would want to live, shop and work. I share the view, articulated by my council colleague Roger Berliner, that we must develop the Pike consistent with the principles of walkability, with a public-transportation centered strategy. The Wal-Mart as proposed would not accomplish that.

We have to strike a balance between providing the consumer choices our residents deserve and mitigating the impact of huge commercial establishments on our environment, mobility and labor markets. I’d like to get to that balance and I think we can get it done.

But I’d like to hear what you think. How would you do it? What ideas would you put on the table? Please let me know by commenting here or emailing me. Thanks!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Daily Journal, 11-14-11

First thing this morning I was briefed by council policy experts on the draft of their report on MCPS "category 12" expenditures. You'll recall this as the debate from earlier in the year where the council reduced funding on health spending for MCPS and recommended that MCPS absorb the cut by reducing the share MCPS pays for health premiums by 5% (from 95% to 90% for HMO's, for example). MCPS did not implement the council's recommendation and instead absorbed the cut in funding by tapping a large surplus in the benefit fund that the council was not fully aware of. The council will receive the final report at the end of November.

Then into a Gov Ops committee for several hours of nuts and bolts discussion on technology and the county cable plan. The cable discussion was particularly interesting. I worked hard last year to find several million dollars in savings in the cable plan in order to fund other critical priorities in the county, such as public safety, libraries, parks, and health services.

The county collects 5% of the revenue that telecomm companies (Verizon, Comcast, RCN) earn from using our right of way (i.e, wires on our streets, etc). The question is, how should we use this money?

One of my first priorities, consistent with the Open Government agenda that the Gov Ops committee has been developing, is transparency in government. Today, not all council committee work sessions are recorded on video, and I think they should be.

What principles do you think should guide these discussions? What do you know about our cable operations today and what suggestions do you have?

The outcome of the committee meeting was potentially profound, as one of the managers for the MCPS cable operations, Dick Lipsky, stated that we need to stop focusing so much on what cable has been in the past and start asking ourselves, if we were going to build it today, what would it be?

That is exactly the right kind of thinking and it is what we are going to pursue.


Food and Friends

On Saturday, I volunteered with Food and Friends, a nonprofit that provides meals for individuals with life challenging illnesses, including many residents in Montgomery County. Here I am encouraging passers-by in Friendship Heights to sample the pumpkin pie and chocolate cheese cake. If you buy a pie at the Food and Friends website, you'll feed a client for an entire day. Not to mention get an incredibly delicious pie for your Thanksgiving table. Bonus for my day: unexpectedly, I got to volunteer with a good friend Lisa Kinnard, pictured here! Lisa is also involved with Food and Friends and is always with her camera; she took some of our favorite pictures of our boy Henry when he was born.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Daily journal, 11-10-11

Notable today: I attended an event to support Community Bridges, a non-profit that engages young women in empowerment and life building projects. Here I am with a group, several of whom came to the county council youth town hall as well. They are working on an "inner beauty contest" event. Cool idea! I hope at least one of them will run for office one day.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Daily journal, 11-09-11

I began the day running late to meet Dan Adcock, the county's Democratic Party chair. Dan and I have known one another since my second job in DC, back in 1995, when I staffed the Save Our Security Coalition and Dan represented NARFE. He is doing a great job as county party chair, which is probably harder and more thankless than the County Council. :) (Note to self: ask George Leventhal if that is true...)

Next up a groundbreaking in Wheaton for the new 15+ story tower over the Safeway. The county contributed a loan into the financing of that project, which allowed it to go as high as it did. The County Executive deserves recognition for real leadership on this. As I said to the Gazette reporter who attended, this will build the customer base for the Wheaton small business community without displacing any of them. It sets the bar very high for Wheaton and now we need to make sure we meet that bar going forward.

Then a press event with the County Executive and Bob Hoyt at the Department of Environment at the Shady Grove Solid Waste Transfer Station. The topic: you may now call 311 to book a bulk trash pickup. I am a big advocate for 311 because it brings government services to the people in a unique way: you do not need to know any politicians or officials in order to get high quality service. Just call or search 311.

Continuing a whirlwind day, I met with the union for MCPS principals and administrators---their new president Deborah Mugge has just started. The MCPS unions are in their budget discussions for the coming year. What I find so impressive about the MCPS labor - management partnership is they have a table where everyone has input and can find common ground. The MCPS unions were the first to give up their COLAs three years ago when this crisis began. I do not think the MCPS collaborative model is appreciated in this era of anti-union education reform but it does contribute significantly to our success.

Next up a meeting with a business leader to talk about some ideas I am considering on the big box bill and then finally a lengthy meeting with the county executive's land-use team to talk about a wide variety of issues that I have been tracking, particularly Lyttonsville, Wheaton, Bethesda and Silver Spring projects.

Say, I am looking for volunteers for the Thanksgiving Parade -- please email me or Facebook me if you can join! I promise fun, friends, and a memorable day.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Daily journal, 11-8-11

I was with family for a funeral on Monday (yesterday), I am sorry to say.

Today began with "state legislation", a meeting between the full council and the executive team's Maryland state legislative representatives. Melanie Wenger heads our efforts and does a superb job.

I find these meetings somewhat exasperating because we are asked to take positions on a variety of bills in the state house that are "county only" bills, meaning they would affect only county residents. We work as a group and there could be 5, 10, or even 15 bills to discuss. For example, a proposal to allow Damascus to bring their liquor prohibition to a ballot initiative, or a bill to allow permitting of roadside solicitation.

As opposed to our deliberative committee process on county bills, this process is hasty.

We also discussed the county's overarching priorities for the state, which are largely about getting certain grants approved, for example for Montgomery College, securing school funds and fending off changes that would prevent us from meeting our state funding obligations for MCPS, passing a transportation fund improvement and securing same funds particularly for transit expansion, and so on.

In the full council session we heard a very helpful presentation from regional economist Stephen Fuller about Montgomery County's economic outlook. The outlook is fundamentally very strong because the DC region is increasingly THE place for companies to be. But MoCo needs to provide the high quality work force these companies will need in order to land in the county, which means education and training as well as housing.

At the end of the day I volunteered for my friends Ryan Spiegel, Jud Ashman and Cathy Dryzygla, who are running for re-election to the Gaithersburg city council. They have been a joy to get to know in my work in the county and they did so much for me when I ran for Council. Even better I was joined at the polling place by council member Mike Sesma and we got a good long talk in about everything from the curfew to the big box bill. Gaithersburg is lucky to have this council working with their fine mayor, Sidney Katz.

Community Voices on the Big Box Bill

Hello All,

I’ve heard from many of you concerning Bill 33-11, known as the Community Benefits Agreement bill. As you can see from the emails below, there are a wide range of views regarding this bill. What do you think of it? Read the bill or send me a message if you need more details!


Donna R. Savage:

To County Councilmembers:

I cannot attend the public hearing for this bill on Tuesday evening, November 1, so please accept this email in lieu of my personal testimony.

I support the testimony you'll hear tonight from the Kensington Heights Civic Association and I support the general purpose of this proposed legislation, although there are many details that appear to be missing that would enhance its effectiveness.

However, it is my considered opinion that, through this bill, the County would be placing the responsibility for accepting a big box store on the community -- which is NOT where such responsibility should lie.

If the Council knows (and I believe you do) that big box stores present significant problems for communities, especially in our dense Downcounty areas, then all of you should stand up and say so. If you don't want them here, say so -- and legislate accordingly. Be clear about your vision of growth for our County. The responsibility for that vision and for its implementation lies squarely in your collective laps.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this proposed legislation.


Adam Schiffenbauer:

I have lived in Montgomery county for most of my life and have seen our county grow. I would like to see the big box community empowerment bill passed as I feel many of the big box stores (particularly Wal Mart) are interested in coming to our community to be leeches who suck away jobs and tax revenue instead of supportive active members of the community. I am taking the time to write this to hope my voice is heard.


Abigail Brassil Adelman:

Council Chair Valerie Ervin and County Council Members,

I am writing to support with some reservations the above mentioned Bill 33-11.
In particular, I wish to express support for lines 73-75 as written. This is very important as in my community,
Kensington Heights, we have experienced great difficulty dealing with Costco concerning the specifics of their yet to be built new store in Wheaton at Westfield Mall.

Last week, on
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 the Kensington Heights Citizens Association (KHCA) met with 2 Costco officials and 13 of their hired 'experts'. The meeting ended at 9:30 pm with NO mention of a schedule for site preparation and demolition mentioned or discussed.

At
4: 30 am, on October 26, 7 hours later, in violation of the Noise Control Ordinance and exceeding the 85 decibels allowed for construction from 7am to 5 pm, demolition started on the old Hechts Building.
Why? The poorly prepared and poorly secured site along with the unlawful timing points to undue haste to "start" the project. It has now been halted.

The is only one reason why this situation occurred: the proposal of Bill 33-11.
Westfield and Costco will point to this poorly prepared and secured site to claim that the project was already underway when (and if) the proposed legislation is passed.

As a citizen and a taxpayer , I am respectfully requesting that the clause (lines 73-75) stand as written and the Costco NOT BE ALLOWED any 'grandfathering opportunity'. Any claim by
Westfield or Costco that the project was 'underway' on October 26 is false and should be so noted.

Thank you for your consideration in this very important issue.


Dean S. Cooper:

Dear Councilmembers,

In these tough economic times, which you've made worse with your proposals for anti-business legislation, it's amazing that any businesses would want to do business in Montgomery County! I don't understand why you are now proposing legislation to deter big box stores, and am especially dismayed that you'd have this apply to the Costco which you previously approved and we are waiting to be built at Wheaton Plaza. Come on: we need the jobs and the taxes from these businesses.


Warren Manison:

I have been a resident of this County for almost 40 years and it has becoming increasingly difficult to remain a resident. I see that the Council is about to dictate to private business that they can no longer use their business acumen to make decisions on their own regarding such things as where best to locate a business enterprise, but will have to negotiate with civil and governmental entities, as if these have any foggy notion what business is all about. I refer to Bill 33-11 Urban Renewal and Community Development - Community Benefits Agreements - Large Retail Stores.

This legislation is an abomination and must be killed before it places too much power and potential for more graft in the hands of politicians and self-interest groups. Dictating to a business who to hire, where to locate and what is to be the actual design of a store goes beyond the pale. Is this Council trying to drive business out of the county and make this a more inhospitable county in which to do business? Do more of our citizens have to flee this county for a less dictatorial county/state in order to free ourselves of actions such as these? Reminds me of the ridiculous action by President Obama's NLRB preventing Boeing from building new airliners in So. Carolina, forcing China to cancel orders and instead buy from Airbus. Is this the kind of atmosphere this County Council wishes to foster here in Montgomery Country? WAKE UP, COUNCIL MEMBERS AND DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR THE COUNTY AND ITS CITIZENS.


Brian Haney:

Council members,

As a native Washingtonian (3rd generation), a current downtown Silver Spring resident, and employee of a Bethesda-based firm founded in 1890 (the second oldest continuously operating business in Greater Washington), it has come to my attention and to the attention of the members of our firm, our families, and what I would consider the greater community at-large that legislation such as the proposed Bill 33-11 is an unnecessary and unproductive use of the council’s time, and an absolute detriment to our county and community of registered voters. The Community Benefits Agreement legislation is at best redundant to federal and state laws regulating employment practices, redundant to the County’s current regulatory review process and at worst, another example of Montgomery County’s trend towards business unfriendliness, putting us at an even further comparative disadvantage to our neighbors in DC and Virginia. Having worked in Bethesda for the last 10 years, and having seen several good firms move their Headquarters out of the County (like a CoStar for example), this is a serious concern!

As an employee of a firm who will be making a relocation decision in the next 12-18 months, legislation like this makes it measurably easier to move out of the area, quite candidly. I won’t beleaguer you with charged rhetoric, but simply request you do what I personally, the members of my community, the Chambers in the county, and the area at large demands you do – VOTE AGAINST THIS BILL!


Arnold J. Kohn

I would like to register my opposition to this measure. If community members are concerned about a specific land development application, they would have ample opportunity to air their concerns before the Planning Board. Site plan applications currently require applicants to meet with community members prior to the public hearing on their applications. Many of these community meetings already result in voluntary developer-community benefit agreements under the current procedures.

And Planning Board hearings are open public events at which community members frequently voice their opposition to specific proposals. I have personally seen Planning Board members act during public hearings as unofficial mediators between developers and community opponents, brokering ad hoc developer concessions for the benefit of residents.

But the message that Bill 33-11 would send to future retailers looking to add County locations is, at best, that the development of their store will be difficult and costly, and at worst that they simple aren’t welcome in Montgomery County. Some retailers would, I fear, just redirect their search for new locations to other jurisdictions where they would feel more of a welcoming atmosphere; Bill 33-11 will thus be viewed as anti-business and anti-retail in particular.

County residents looking to shop in some of these large stores without convenient County locations will instead either drive by automobile to jurisdictions like Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, thus adding vehicular trips, additional traffic and air pollution to Montgomery County while depriving the State of needed sales tax revenues, to say nothing of the loss of potential property taxes and income taxes for the County.


Terry Fortuna:

VOTE AGAINST bILL 33-11


Peter Anton:

Please do not allow any big box stores on Rockville Pike. The traffic is already dreadful!!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Daily journal, 11-3-11

This morning I met with volunteer PTA leaders from the BCC cluster to talk about the new middle school. Last night Dr. Starr announced he would reinitiate the site selection process for that middle school, acknowledging a flawed MCPS process. I applaud his decision and I think it was both wise and courageous for him to clear the decks on an issue like that. Nevertheless the schools are overcrowded...

This afternoon we held a joint meeting of the Prince George's County Council and our Council's transportation committees. We discussed the Purple Line, bus rapid transit and the state commission's recommendations to raise some $800 million in transportation funds. I made the point that the Purple Line will be a game changer for economic development as it connects our 355/270 corridor and the Red Line there with Silver Spring, UMD and New Carrollton - on up to NYC. Plus a few more Metro lines in PG and some MARC lines to boot.

Regionally the Purple Line is our most critical transportation priority and our two counties, which suffer from heavy traffic and will pay a huge share of the needed gas tax increase, should insist on a funding commitment this year in the legislature. If we support the gas tax together then let's get the Purple Line together!

The photo shows us at the WSSC board chamber where we sometimes meet when it is a joint function.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Daily journal, 11-2-11

I started the day at a legislative breakfast on early childhood issues. As a parent of two young boys, I think a lot about the challenges our families face to provide quality child care and basic life skills for their little ones. The highlight for me was hearing comments by Dr. Josh Starr, the new MCPS superintendent. He talked about how hard the schools work to bring every child to a level of readiness to learn and the tremendous disparities that teachers must bridge. Then he said that while some school districts are starting to test kindergartners!, he believes the skills that contribute to the success of the child are not all learned in a book. There are social and behavioral skills that a child must develop early in order to be ready to learn in the first place. This strikes home with me as a parent; I certainly believe that a healthy childhood is the best foundation for academic and life success. I applaud Josh for having the courage to push against the orthodoxy.

This evening featured a town hall on Wheaton community issues. Residents came out to talk about redevelopment and big boxes, the curfew and small businesses. It was a great discussion.

The photo is from the town hall.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Daily journal, 11-1-11

[I posted a journal yesterday but it hasn't appeared yet..]

Today's highlights included meeting with a large group of members from the Women's Suburban Democratic Club. I talked a bit about my passion for responsive and progressive government and why it is such a privilege to be part of the Montgomery County Council.

Then in council session we passed the economic development bill that I have been working on with my colleagues, by a margin of 8-1. This bill will help investors preserve capital for making investments by deferring (not reducing) their taxes until the end rather than the beginning of the development process.

The real fireworks though came tonight during the public hearing about the big box bill (see photo). More on that soon.