Libraries are about people

The new Silver Spring Library opened last Saturday, June 20! You can catch the video of my short speech or my written remarks below.

“I’m Hans Riemer, and I love libraries, I have great memories of my libraries when I was a kid, because libraries are about people.

We’re here to celebrate a building, we’re here to celebrate knowledge, but libraries are about people!

They’re about the kids learning to read, and the parents who are finding programming during the day, things to do during the weekend, they’re about people trying to find a job, they’re about people trying to learn about our county, because they just moved here.

They’re about seniors getting things to do, to keep their lives vibrant and exiting.

Libraries are about all of us!

Today is a great day, and let’s keep it going. Celebrate today and enjoy it!”

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

At Bethesda Library

Today I read to a group of second graders at the Bethesda Library. I
had a blast. The event was organized by the library system as part of
a statewide effort. I was excited to join up as I worked hard (and
successfully) this year to restore cuts that had been proposed to the
library system in the budget.

The Bethesda Library shows why libraries matter. As I said to the
kids, they can spend time in the library their entire lives. There is
a kids reading room and a teen reading lounge. A quiet study area for
students and a computer bank where you can job hunt. A room where you
can meet with colleagues or community groups. At every stage in our
community life, the library is a backdrop.

The kids seemed to enjoy the reading, especially the book Stone Soup,
one of my favorites that my parents read to me.

Montgomery County’s New Budget

Dear Supporters,

This morning, the County Council unanimously passed a new budget for the next fiscal year. As I cast my vote, I believe the Council has met its responsibility of balancing our residents’ priorities and keeping the government on a sustainable path.

Here is information that I think you might find useful.

Responsible Spending

The $4.4 billion total budget increased 2.2% from last year, but is still below the level of two years ago (FY 10). With workforce reductions now totaling nearly 10%, the county is becoming more efficient in order to protect priorities that really matter.

$31 Million Increase to MCPS

Tax-supported funding for our public schools will increase by $31 million, from $1.92 billion to $1.951 billion. As a result of this funding increase, class size will not increase even though enrollment is growing. As in past years, MCPS will receive more than half (56%) of all tax-supported spending for government agencies.

Council Service Restorations

The County Council made many program restorations to the Executive’s recommended budget. These were some of my priorities:

1. Libraries: The council restored $2.3 million in the public libraries’ budget. That includes $1 million for materials and a variety of staffing restorations to prevent significant cuts at theSilver Spring, Long Branch, Twinbrook andChevy Chase libraries. Friends of the Librarydeserves great credit for their advocacy.

2. Planning: The county needs a robust Planning Department in order to channel future growth towards transit, thereby enhancing our economy while protecting our quality of life and environment. The council restored $1.58 million to Planning’s budget, enabling them to fill 8 vacancies and proceed with analysis of a new county-wide rapid transit system. We also restored cuts to our parks.

3. Montgomery College: The council restored $4.6 million in proposed cuts toMontgomeryCollege’s budget to protect academic programs, student services, and more.

4. Public transportation – Kids Ride Free: This program allows students to use Metrobus and RideOn for free on weekdays between 2 PM and 7 PM. Kids Ride Free was suspended last year, but the council has now restored it, which will greatly help young people who want to participate in extra-curricular activities, earn income, and provide care to family members.

5. Health care: Working with non-profit clinics, Montgomery County provides a low cost health service for patients who are uninsured and cannot get Medicaid. We restored cuts that would have required us to turn patients away for the first time.

Restructuring Employee Benefits

The county is proud to provide its employees with health and pension benefits that exceed those provided by many other employers. These benefits are a major reason for the county’s outstanding retention rate and its excellent service provision. But over the next five years, their cost has been projected to rise by 48% while the county’s revenues are projected to rise just 2% annually. In order to preserve these benefits, we had to begin to restructure them. This was a tough decision, but it was superior to recurring layoffs, service cuts and tax hikes.

Fiscal Responsibility

Montgomery County’s general obligation bonds are rated AAA, which enables the county to borrow at some of the lowest interest rates in the nation, freeing up tax dollars for education, libraries, and so forth. But that privilege comes with the responsibility of demonstrating that the county is committed to prudent financial management. The council did just that by increasing its reserve contributions, saving money for future retiree health costs, creating a dedicated fund for snow removal and controlling its benefit costs. Nationwide, governments have failed to face up to their fiscal reality. California, Illinois, Michigan and many other states are paying the price for years of mismanagement. Nassau County, New York has been taken over by its state government. Even the federal government’s bond rating is apparently threatened. None of this is going to happen in Montgomery County.

There is no question that this was a difficult budget year. Reasonable people can disagree on some of the council’s budget actions. But I believe that our residents should feel confident that they have a responsive and effective county government. Unlike some governments, we can tackle our big challenges.

This council has met its responsibility by protecting residents’ priorities, controlling costs and carefully managing the county’s money. And we are doing that while protecting progressive priorities like education, public safety, the environment, the safety-net and a world-class quality of life.

Please continue communicating with me and if you find this helpful, consider sharing it with other residents.

Yours Sincerely,

Hans Riemer

Council Member At-Large

P.S. I want to thank the hundreds of readers who responded to my last email about our budget challenge with their personal stories, insights and priorities. I took what you said to heart as I worked through the budget process. Thank you.