Hans Riemer discusses Smart Growth at campaign kickoff
This past Saturday, February 20th, I attended Hans Riemer's kickoff rally for his campaign for a Montgomery County Council seat at large. In the first paragraph of his kickoff speech, Hans expressed forward-thinking ideas that I've rarely heard a Montgomery County elected official utter before: he explicitly linked vibrant, sustainable, human-scale traditional towns and cities with quality of life, economic vitality, and a better future.
Riemer will be running in the upcoming Democratic primary. I am no political junkie. Politics are the worst means to enact good policy, except every other way. In order to bring about positive policies and change, we must work hard to elect representatives at all levels of government who have the right kind of vision and work ethic to draft and enact good policy.
The event included a large cross-section of Montgomery County community activists, elected officials, civic association representatives, and bloggers including Richard Layman. The audience included a wide geographic representation of the whole county, reflecting the nature of the campaign for an at-large County Council seat.
Some of Montgomery County's brightest elected representatives spoke at the event, including Councilmember Valerie Ervin (District 5, Silver Spring), Councilmember Nancy Navarro (District 4, Colesville), Maryland Senator Jamie Raskin (District 20, Takoma Park), Maryland Delegate Kirill Reznik (District 39, Germantown), and Maryland Delegate Tom Hucker (District 20, Silver Spring). Maryland Delegate Heather Mizeur (District 20, Takoma Park) hosted the event.
Hans began his speech by unabashedly endorsing clustering jobs and housing around Montgomery County's Metro stations. While that idea is not new, Hans has the credentials in urban planning advocacy to have the vision to implement the idea in a Bethesda-like arrangement rather than as a misguided car-dependent edge city.
It was very bold to begin his speech connecting vibrant centers of place with economic development. In the past, many elected officials presented transit-oriented development as some sort of charity. Even with all the successes of breathing new economic vitality in our region's legacy and retrofitted walkable urban places in the 2000's, few elected officials from any jurisdiction ever explicitly made the connection that human-scale places are an excellent way foster economic growth due to their inherent agglomeration effects.
Hans emphasized the need to take a second look at East County instead of focusing all development in non-Metro accessible places like Gaithersburg West, especially to keep Montgomery County competitive regionally. Since Fairfax County is planning on using the Silver Line to retrofit Tysons Corner into a series of urban neighborhoods, they are poised to attract more jobs as more people are able to take transit and live closer to where they work.
Hans ended his speech with a very powerful declaration that he wants to "unstuck Montgomery County politics." He recognized the importance of engaging new people into the ongoing policy dialogue, rather than the "same 200 people" who seem to run in the same circles and show up at county policy forums all the time.
The county has added many new residents in the past decade. As one of those newer residents, Hans' message on that topic appeals to me. He emphasized engaging young and newer residents. Hans' experience mobilizing young people to vote during the last presidential election cycle has engendered his belief in the ongoing explosion of grass-roots policy engagement.
The upcoming county-wide elections represent a cross-roads for Montgomery County. The first decade of the 21st century saw profound changes in the kinds of challenges we face and the tools we have in our toolbox to address them. The sustained success in Bethesda and the dramatic revitalization in Silver Spring and Rockville proved that we can build and improve sustainable, human-scale, traditional towns rather than only building car-dependent places like in the second half of the 20th century. Hans Riemer understands that we need to address 21st century challenges with 21st century tools.
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