Town Courier reports on Kentlands candidate forum

The Town Courier posted a story online today about the candidate forum last week hosted by the Kentlands Citizens Assembly.  Here’s the newspaper’s recap of Ryan’s presentation:

Ryan Spiegel was third to address the room’s occupants. On the topic of economic development, Spiegel was upbeat, proud of the city’s accomplishments and optimistic.

“We’ve had challenges but the city did not create the global recession of 2008-2009,” he asserted.
“The question is how did we deal with it? We decided to engage in a bold experiment – and invest in economic development.”

The approach was successful, he said. One company is bringing 185 jobs to the city. Other efforts to keep high-tech jobs in the city were successful.

Stalled projects and other projects are now moving forward in the city – unlike many other places.

“Buildings are going up left and right in Olde Towne Gaithersburg.”

Spiegel pointed to the basic fiscal sustainability of the city. “The city is still debt-free,” he said.
And, while city staff come and go, he pointed to the city’s high quality of service.

Spiegel also cited the city’s environmental stewardship where the emphasis has also been on sustainability and the city has received recognition.

As for community services, Spiegel emphasized his commitment to constituent services and to “watching out for the least among us.”

At a time when the city was making painful cutbacks, Spiegel was one who fought to keep the amounts budgeted for food and other vital assistance level.

For the complete article, click here.

 

The Gazette endorses Ryan Spiegel

Today the Gazette newspaper endorsed Ryan for re-election to the Gaithersburg City Council, noting among other things that Ryan “is bullish on constituent services” and “offers a thoughtful pro-business perspective.”  Here’s the entire endorsement:

“Incumbent Ryan Spiegel also has a solid achievement (albeit less splashy than Ashman’s) in the city’s Bank On Gaithersburg program, which helps low-income residents open bank accounts and offers financial management classes and income tax assistance. It is the only such program in the state. Spiegel is bullish on constituent services; he’s the council member who will make sure your trash gets picked up. He offers a thoughtful pro-business perspective on issues from economic development to the adequate public facilities ordinance.”

We’re proud to have the support of the Gazette.

 

A Busy Week

It’s been a busy week for Team Spiegel as Election Day approaches.  First off, thanks to the many volunteers who have helped us with events, canvassing, and spreading the word.

On Tuesday, Officer Bobby Blackmon read to the GES students right before Ryan did.

The latest campaign finance reports were due to City Hall on Monday, and my report was promptly certified by the Board of Supervisors of Elections.   Then later on Monday evening, my colleagues and I gathered for the last regular City Council meeting before the election.   We approved the purchase of new high-tech equipment to help our Police fight crime.  We were treated to the reading of the award-winning student essays from the CHARACTER COUNTS! Week Adult Heroes Writing Contest.  We discussed our ongoing proceedings against Pepco and our priorities for the 2012 state legislative session in Annapolis.  And we approved a technical change that will allow the Craftstar at Summit Crossing development to be completed with several new high-quality residential units in Olde Towne.

On Tuesday, I read to a great crowd of students at the bustling Gaithersburg Elementary School Book Fair, run by the school’s PTA to raise funds to benefit GES.  Then I attended a candidate meet-and-greet hosted by my neighbor and good friend Jeanne Ellinport.

Ryan speaks at the KCA candidates' forum. Photo Credit: Bob Drzyzgula.

Ryan speaks at the KCA candidates' forum. Photo Credit: Bob Drzyzgula.

Wednesday night I was happy to attend the final candidates’ forum, sponsored by the Kentlands Citizens Assembly, where I spoke about the positive story of Gaithersburg’s ability to jumpstart smart growth and attract and retain thousands of jobs over the last couple years despite a recession.  I also recounted the many constituent services and community improvements that I spearheaded in Kentlands and Lakelands.

Thursday was a whirlwind.  I joined several city and county officials to cut the ribbon on the new Watkins Mill Road extension; presented Character Counts! awards to an auditorium full of students, parents, and teachers; and met with the Maryland Municipal League and the County Council to debate about Pepco and the proposed curfew.  All of this is in addition to my day job as an attorney!

As we head into the final two weeks of the campaign, the schedule is only going to get crazier!  But I am having a great time meeting with people from all over the city, and I am working hard to craft good policies and deliver results.  Don’t forget to register by October 24, and to vote on November 8.  If you can volunteer for us on Election Day, we’ll need lots of help, so contact us.  Again, thank you for your support!

Questions, Questions, Questions!

One of the many activities that candidates for City Council must undertake is to fill out questionnaires from the local media. Our answers to important questions are then published in newspapers during the days leading up to the election. For those who haven’t had a chance to read my answers in hard copy, here’s where you can find them online.

Kentlands Town Crier, October 2011

Gazette questionnaire

The Town Courier questionnaire

I encourage you to educate yourself about the candidates and the issues. The November 8th election is just a couple weeks away! As always, please e-mail or call to let me know if you have any questions or thoughts. I ask for your vote on November 8th!

 

Ryan’s Videotaped Candidate Statement

Here’s my recently recorded Gaithersburg City Election 2011 Candidate Statement, which will be airing repeatedly on the City’s television station until Election Day. It’s only three minutes long, so enjoy:

Celebrate Gaithersburg – a terrific day

I was thrilled to be joined by family and friends as we enjoyed the 30th Annual Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne — a wonderful street festival featuring music, food, and lots more.

As usual, we kicked off the event with a moving ceremony to swear in new citizens and to recognize those who have contributed so much to our City.  I was honored to present the Distinguished Citizen award to Lenny Levy.  We also presented the Distinguished Friend of Gaithersburg award to Steve and Laurie Augustino for all their work to get the new Gaithersburg High School built.  The Organization of the Year was Whole Foods – Kentlands for their great outreach and community involvement.

Special to this year’s festivities were the new Gaithersburg’s Top Talent competition, a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the return of an Olde Towne fixture – Growler’s Pub – after it underwent significant repairs, and a 30th Anniversary cake cutting with the Girl Scouts:

Congrats to Laura Searles for winning the Talent competition, and a hearty thanks to all the staff, volunteers, sponsors, and participants for making the 30th Annual Celebrate Gaithersburg a huge success.

 

Kicking Things Off in Style

On Sunday, July 17, I was honored to be joined by a crowd of family, friends, neighbors, fellow officials, and other supporters at Griffith Park next to City Hall to officially kick off my campaign for reelection to the Gaithersburg City Council.

Mayor Sidney Katz offered a gracious introduction, and I spoke about three overarching themes that have guided my work during my first term on the Council and that will continue to guide me going forward:  economic development, sustainability, and service to others.

I was also honored to have several state and county elected officials in attendance, including Sen. Jennie Forehand, Dels. Luiz Simmons, Craig Zucker, Eric Luedtke, and Anne Kaiser, County Councilman Marc Elrich, and former City Councilmember Dolly Kildee.  And of course, it was great to have my colleagues Mike Sesma, Jud Ashman, and Cathy Drzyzgula there.

We collected several signatures for our ballot petition and raised a good amount of campaign funds, while enjoying the sunny weather and terrific pizza from Slice of Olde Towne.  Even the bottled water was from “Deer Park” in honor of Gaithersburg’s own Deer Park Road/Drive!  The children in attendance played on the city’s playground and colored handmade campaign posters.

We also got some good press.  The Gaithersburg Patch ran a nice story about the event which you can read here.  The election is in November, but it will be here before we know it, and we have lots of work to do.  Can you help with volunteering, taking a yard sign, making a donation, or hosting a coffee?  Contact us at Ryan@RyanSpiegel.com.  And thanks so much for your support.

 

Banking on a Better Future

On June 6, 2011, I was honored to join the Mayor in declaring that June 2011 is “Bank on Gaithersburg Month” in the City.   Bank on Gaithersburg is an innovative package of interconnected programs and services designed to help our residents — especially those who are “unbanked” or “underbanked” — attain financial security through accessible banking products, free tax assistance,  and free financial education workshops.  It is one of my signature initiatives, proposed after I attended the National League of Cities conference in 2008 and learned about the first “Bank On” program in San Francisco.  You can read more about Bank on Gaithersburg, how it works, and why it benefits not only the participating consumers but also the local economy, community financial institutions, and the government, by reading this guest blog that I authored last year for Maryland Politics Watch.

The program is one of only eight nationwide to be awarded a grant from the National League of Cities, and it has been featured at the Maryland Municipal League’s conference in October, where I spoke to a packed house of municipal officials from throughout the state.  In a nutshell, Bank on Gaithersburg, established in September 2009, seeks to help residents access mainstream financial services, safeguard their money, and identify opportunities for future asset building. The program focuses on increasing the availability of no-cost starter accounts, raising awareness about the benefits of account ownership, encouraging the opening of accounts, and providing free financial education.  In showcasing the program during the month of June, city staff will focus on promotion, outreach, and events.  Look for information about Bank on Gaithersburg presented via events (flea markets, farmers’ markets, open houses, classes), signs, publications, the City’s website and TV station, bus stops, letters, brochures, and other displays.

Ryan presents Bank on Gaithersburg during the "Big Ideas Forum" at the Maryland Municipal League's fall conference.

On May 24, 2011 the Montgomery County Community Action Board awarded Gaithersburg the Henry L. Dixon, Jr. Award for the work that Bank on Gaithersburg is doing to help low-income residents.  It has the potential to ripple outward to benefit the local housing market, local retail establishments, small businesses, educational institutions, and many other entities that rely on financially secure consumers or on loans from banks and credit unions.  When people are saving more, they can rely on a nest egg that makes them less likely to default on their mortgages, or run out of money for college tuition, or require food assistance from the government.  And with a little extra cash saved up, they can spend some of it at local restaurants and stores.  And the more that people deposit into local banks, the more leverage the banks have to free up credit for small business loans.  In recent months, the county, state, and federal governments have all taken steps toward establishing their own “Bank On”-style programs, but Gaithersburg was among the first!

When we added the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance component to the initiative last year, Gaithersburg instantly became the most successful VITA site in all of Montgomery County in its very first year of operation, providing free income tax assistance to more than 700 people, representing 37% of all VITA clients county-wide — due in no small measure to the excellent outreach from Bank on Gaithersburg.  Thanks to Bank on Gaithersburg, 88% of taxpayers using the Gaithersburg VITA service had their tax refunds direct-deposited in local financial institutions, where their money is insured and can earn interest.  Eighty-nine percent of the VITA clients county-wide received money from the Earned Income Tax Credit, which they might have otherwise forfeited if they hadn’t submitted the paperwork.  The total tax returns for all four VITA sites in Montgomery County amounted to just over $7 million.  That is real money that can go back into people’s savings and back into the local economy, especially when considering that 37% of the VITA clients are located in or near Gaithersburg.

Bank on Gaithersburg may have been my idea, but it took the dedication and hard work of city staff, our partner financial institutions, and our partner nonprofits to make it happen.  So I want to again thank all of them for turning my vision into a reality.  I hope you take the time to learn about this innovative and valuable initiative during “Bank on Gaithersburg Month” in June.  It is the creative exploration of new initiatives like Bank on Gaithersburg that makes our City so cutting-edge in the way we govern, lead, and serve our residents and businesses.  I ask for your vote in November to ensure that we continue this successful philosophy.   If reelected, I will keep exploring new ideas everyday; you can bank on it!

Prioritizing Education

Ryan reading to his 6-month-old son Jack.

As the son of a public school teacher and as a graduate of Maryland public schools, I take education very seriously.  That’s why prior to joining the City Council I served on the City’s Education Committee – advising the Mayor & Council on education policy issues and working with local schools to provide approximately $50,000 in supplemental grants to support after-school programs and other educational initiatives.  (The committee was recently renamed the Educational Enrichment Committee.)  As part of the committee, I also helped recognize best practices and outstanding students and faculty with the City’s G.R.E.A.T. awards (Gaithersburg Recognizing Educational Achievement Today).  Additionally, we ran school supply drives to collect donations of pencils, backpacks, markers, notebooks, and any other items that kids in need could use.  Finally, during my time on the committee, we helped to start the “If I Were Mayor…” essay contest in the City, which led to the annual appointment of a Junior Mayor from a local elementary school.  The essay contest has grown by leaps and bounds.

Of course, the City of Gaithersburg does not have jurisdiction over local schools (with the exception of traditional building codes and permits).  Schools are primarily funded and operated by the County (with a lot of financial help from the State), which is obviously doing a stellar job.  For the third year in a row, Montgomery County Public Schools have the highest graduation rate among all the large school districts in the entire nation.  But that doesn’t mean the City can’t play a key role in supporting our students and teachers with grants, scholarships, and programs to build upon and improve an already strong public school system.  The Mayor & City Council regularly submit letters, give testimony in county and state hearings, and meet with all sorts of officials to ensure that Gaithersburg area schools get their fair share of funding and other resources and remain among the very best.  And our annual Gaithersburg Book Festival incorporates reading and writing contests, workshops, and featured authors of popular children’s books – all with an eye toward inspiring the younger generation to get excited about reading and writing.  This year, in response to the Mayor’s Book Club challenge, in the month of April, Gaithersburg third graders in nine different schools read 9,948 books!

Outside the traditional educational arena, we also provide scores of other youth programs with a large educational component – sports programs and leagues, art classes, musical events, summer camps, swimming classes, theater, cultural programs, and much more.  Our two city-run youth centers are hubs of educational activity for our middle and high school age students, and our other outstanding facilities like the Arts Barn and the Activity Center also house many of these great programs.

Ryan at the GHS groundbreaking with fellow Councilmember Cathy Drzyzgula and City Manager Angel Jones

But in a particularly shining example of the City’s strong support for public education, the Mayor & City Council had a wonderful opportunity on May 26 to attend the groundbreaking of the new Gaithersburg High School building.  I was honored to be there to celebrate this major milestone.  Community activists and local officials, led by the intrepid Steve and Laurie Augustino, have been fighting for many years to obtain the state and county funding for the badly needed modernization of this aged, circuitous, and insufficient facility. I attended many a meeting and hearing to educate people about this project and advocate for making this dream a reality. It was a very proud moment for the City as official after official from the county – County Executive Ike Leggett, Superintendent Jerry Weast, School Board President Chris Barclay – all recognized Gaithersburg as the greatest city in the world!

Construction has already begun on the new school building – located on the site of the current school parking lot.  It will be a LEED-certitified “green” building and will add to the revitalization of the Route 355 streetscape.  But most importantly, it will be the high-quality, modern learning environment that our students deserve.  Certainly others have done much much more, but I am proud to have played a role in advocating for this pivotal project which is one more keystone in the evolution of our bustling city, and I am thrilled to see the new Gaithersburg High School become a reality.  As long as I serve on the City Council, I will continue to make education a top priority.

The Magic Ingredient: A Commitment to Culture

Aside from traditional municipal services like road paving, police protection, and zoning regulation, what makes a place truly a City and not just a random collection of houses and businesses?  One key ingredient to that quality of life we enjoy is a robust set of cultural programs and resources, and indeed that is one of the most important ways that Gaithersburg is special.  It was evident this past week as we dedicated the new Observatory Park to commemorate the historical and scientific significance of the Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory and the connection it created between our City and the city of Mizusawa, Japan.  It was evident again on Monday as our intrepid Multicultural Affairs Committee hosted another public celebration attended by representatives of the Japanese Embassy, where kimono-clad musicians strummed expertly on ancient-looking Japanese instruments while City officials appealed for donations to the Red Cross to help rebuild Japan after the earthquake and tsunami.

And it will be on full display in all its glory come this Saturday, where the cultural component that beats at the heart of a vibrant and lovely City will blossom during the 2nd Annual Gaithersburg Book Festival.  This free all-day event — the brainchild of my friend and colleague Jud Ashman — brings together a stunning array of highly accomplished national and local authors,  all converging on the grounds of Gaithersburg City Hall to share with us their insights and to celebrate literary excellence.

There will be something for everyone — book-signings, children’s activities, poetry readings, college essay writing workshops — and every genre imaginable will be represented, from histories to mysteries, romances, business how-to books, and much much more.  I strongly encourage  you to bring your family and friends to join in this festival of all things literary, a true crown jewel in our impressive collection of artistic and cultural events provided, supported, or co-sponsored by the City throughout the year.  Is it any wonder Money Magazine/CNN named Gaithersburg one of the 25 Best Places to Live in America?

The Book Festival is rapidly becoming a premier event in the region, as reflected in the fact that C-SPAN will be broadcasting it live all day.   After you’ve returned from the Festival on Saturday and are still awestruck by how wonderful it was, check out our long list of other terrific cultural events and programs in the City of Gaithersburg.  There are several free summer concerts, Shakespeare in the Park, art gallery receptions at the Kentlands Mansion and the Arts Barn, plays at the Arts Barn,  signature events like Celebrate Gaithersburg, Oktoberfest, the Labor Day Parade, Independence Day fireworks, recreation classes for children and adults, regular receptions to honor various ethnic and geographic heritages, and so much more.  We also team up regularly with schools, business groups, and other organizations to provide even more special programming.  You can learn more at the City’s website.

As a City Council member, I have consistently supported artistic and cultural programming and sought creative ways to preserve such a critical element of our quality of life even when budgets are tight.  The free outdoor movie nights that have become a staple of our summer programming were my idea.  I am a frequent audience member at performances throughout the city, and I am proud to say that my wife Rachael was a featured artist at an Arts Barn gallery showing.  With your support, I will keep working to protect and expand the tremendous cultural opportunities that make Gaithersburg what it is — a wonderful place to work, live, play, and raise a family.