Please Join Me for this Important Conversation
Infrastructure and Growth: Are We Keeping Pace?

By now you have probably heard about a forum I am hosting on Saturday, March 7th.  The purpose of the event, called Infrastructure and Growth: Are We Keeping Pace?, is to facilitate a cross-agency dialogue with residents like you about growth in our county, how we are planning for it, and to examine what is working well and determine what improvements can be made to our collective efforts.

So often, while out and about at various events, I hear many common questions from school community leaders:  Why does the county keep allowing new growth when our schools are already so overcrowded?  Why aren’t developers being required to pay more for the burden they are putting on our schools?  Why does so much of the new growth have to go down county? How are we going to pay for all the school projects that need to be done?  Are all the county agencies actually talking to one another as we develop master plans?  Are we really forecasting student generation rates effectively?

But at the same time, I hear from the business community:  Why is it so expensive to do business in Montgomery County? Why is the development process so onerous? And I hear a lot about maintaining our competitiveness in the region.

Reconciling these naturally conflicting viewpoints is not easy and maybe not even possible.  But I believe it’s important for us to talk about these issues as a community.  It’s time to bring everyone together to talk about growth – both from the natural turnover of our existing neighborhoods as well as from new development – and whether our Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance and our processes are doing what they should to keep pace.  It’s time to roll up our sleeves and engage with one another productively, seriously, and creatively to produce positive outcomes – outcomes that work for all residents while ensuring a prosperous future.  

Attached, you will find a flyer for the forum as well as the agenda for the day.  With less than eight hours, one event can never be all things to all people, so I ask for your understanding that this forum is only the beginning of a conversation.  We have tried our very best, in close consultation with the Planning Department, MCPS, and MCCPTA representatives to plan for a busy, productive event that will speak to a broad audience.  I am pleased that the leadership of our County, including the County Executive, the Planning Board Chair, the Acting Superintendent of Schools, the President of the School Board, and many of my colleagues on the Council and the Board of Education will be active participants in this forum.  

I hope you will consider joining us for this important conversation.  If you haven’t already, please register for the event, and childcare if you need it, at

I look forward to hearing what ideas are generated from the day’s discussion.   

Roger Berliner
District 1


The County & Liquor – Time for Serious Reform

We are often proud of our county’s willingness to stand alone on  important issues. In the case of liquor control, our solitary stance does us a disservice.

Montgomery County is literally the only local government in America that pre-empts private-sector distributors from selling beer, wine, and spirits. All restaurants and stores in the county must buy alcohol directly from the county government, while restaurants and stores in all other Maryland and regional jurisdictions enjoy a less rigorous, more business-friendly liquor-control policy.

Even with good people, with the best of intentions, trying to serve the consumer preferences of a million residents with one monopoly distributor is destined to fail.  By almost every measure, our monopoly fails us. Residents drive to Virginia to buy alcohol; our restaurants complain of poor service and poor choice; microbreweries hesitate to locate here; and young and old spend entertainment dollars elsewhere that could be spent at home. These aren’t insignificant impacts.

The quality of restaurants, entertainment, and nightlife has a big impact on this county’s economic competitiveness. These amenities support the new urban quality of life that both younger workers and empty nesters are seeking, and can be easily found elsewhere in the region. In the dynamic social and economic environment we seek to foster, the Department of Liquor Control is regrettably a model borne of a different era, one not well suited for the future.

Given these factors, you may ask what prevents us from making reforms?  The answer is twofold:  Our county derives a net profit of approximately $30 million a year from its monopoly control. That’s real money used for many good purposes. Additionally, options for reform could affect county employees, which is a serious consideration.

I believe there are answers to those concerns, and I am grateful that Council President George Leventhal has formed an ad hoc committee under the leadership of Councilmember Hans Riemer to review these issues, as well as public health and public safety concerns. That work began Feb. 27 with a review of the recently released assessment by our Office of Legislative Oversight of our current system, an assessment that includes a range of reform options.

Assuming our council can reach consensus on a positive path toward reform, we’ll need our state delegation to support reform as well. Our county doesn’t have the legal authority to make reforms on our own. Liquor laws are the domain of the state.

Nonetheless, I remain convinced that, working together with all affected stakeholders, we can bring about a more prosperous, enlivened, and competitive Montgomery County, a future in which our county is made whole financially and where more jobs, not less, are created. That’s a future worth fighting for.

Moving Transit Forward

I am a strong supporter of the county's proposed Bus Rapid Transit system. I believe that BRT is critical to improving our quality of life, our county's economic future, and reducing gridlock.  Our goal must be to begin putting this system in place sooner rather than later. 

Yet I also am keenly aware that the proposal has made many nervous about the impact of BRT on their neighborhoods and traffic, and have questioned the county’s capacity to do something this big.  As a result, my commitment to our community has been to make sure that as we move forward, we do so in a focused, cost effective, incremental manner with full public engagement. 

Regrettably, the controversy over the County Executive’s proposal to create an Independent Transit Authority (ITA) and allowing for our county to exceed the charter limit in order to fund the operating costs of our transit system moved us backward, not forward.  Many saw the authority as providing less public accountability when we had promised more.  Some saw the proposal as an effort to “work around” the road centric culture of our current Department of Transportation and the cumbersomeness of our procurement process.  Others argued that to put a proposal on the table to exceed the charter limit for operating costs now, when we have existing authority for capital costs and don’t have a clue what the operating costs will be, made little sense. 

I believe we need to get back to basics and move forward together.  What we need most of all at this moment in time is to find a Director of our Department of Transportation that is a nationally recognized transit expert.  We have not had that at DOT, and we absolutely need it.  Instead of working around a road centric culture, let’s change the culture.  If our procurement process threatens our transit goals, as it stifles almost everything else, then it is just one more reason to roll up our sleeves and reform our procurement process.  If we do those things, and our transit leader tells us several years from now that we can’t accomplish our goals using traditional approaches, that we have met our public engagement responsibilities, and that we need an alternative structure, that will be the time to have a serious public conversation about an ITA.   

In the meantime, I will be focused on making incremental, cost-effective, and real progress towards making BRT a reality.  

Improvements Coming to Wall Park 

What do you know about Wall Park?  Probably not much.  Sadly, many people don’t even know it exists. The property called Wall Park, owned and operated by our Department of Parks, surrounds the parking lots and facilities at the Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center in White Flint and is currently underutilized.

The County’s White Flint Sector Plan approved in 2010 calls for an expansion of the park and a new recreation center adjacent to the aquatic center which will happen eventually after surface parking is removed, roads are realigned, and a new parking structure is built.  But there are certainly things we can do to improve Wall Park now – which is why I wrote to our Department of Parks Director Mike Riley back in October 2014 asking him to look at low-cost improvements until such time the bigger expansion can take place. 

I am pleased to share with you that improvements are now in the works and that the Department believes we could see some progress by mid-summer!  Parks Staff is brainstorming a variety of ways to activate the park so it can be better used and enjoyed by nearby residents and visitors to the aquatic center.  Stay tuned for more information in the next few months!

Keeping Our Sidewalks Open 

By the summer of 2014, it became clear to residents of, and visitors to, downtown Bethesda, that far too many sidewalks were closed due to construction projects. These closures appeared to be occurring despite the fact that, in 2008, I sponsored legislation that required that pedestrian accommodations be made for all sidewalk closures longer than two weeks, unless waivers were granted. On August 7, 2014, I asked for information from the Department of Transportation about the waivers that had been granted. And on January 20, I introduced Bill 3-15, a simple bill that would require a sign to be posted whenever a sidewalk was closed, with information detailing the length of the closure and the appropriate contact phone number.  I am confident that the full Council will pass this measure shortly.  

Since then, the Departments of Transportation and Permitting Services have informed me that they have taken significant steps to reduce sidewalk closures on county roads going forward. They have updated the traffic control standards they give to developers, have added more requirements as part of the traffic control plan permitting process, created a new work group to monitor permitted sidewalk closures, and assigned more inspection resources to provide better enforcement. They also are implementing a signage requirement similar to what we are proposing in Bill 3-15.

The steps that the Executive Branch have taken should have a measurable impact, and will make all of our downtowns safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles, as well as helping our retailers and restaurateurs that are often affected by construction. More work is needed at the state level, where recent closures on Old Georgetown Road and Wisconsin Avenue have caused headaches. I am grateful that Delegate Marc Korman, joined by Senator Susan Lee and Delegates Ariana Kelly and Bill Frick, have sponsored similar legislation at the state level. Working together, we hope to address this sidewalk closure issue for all roads in our community.   

Making Metro Safe & Affordable

Metro may be the single most important regional institution we have.  We absolutely need it to succeed.  And it clearly has not succeeded.  

Like many of you, I was very taken aback as I followed the tragic events that unfolded during the incident at the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station. At my suggestion, our Washington Region Council of Governments, where I have the privilege of serving as Vice Chairman, invited WMATA and the National Transportation Safety Board to share with us what they have learned and what measures they are taking to improve safety.  I also invited our acting Fire Chief to share his assessment of the situation with our T&E committee, and was gratified to learn how on top of the situation our county officials are.

At the same time, I was deeply concerned when I reviewed the recent proposal by WMATA staff to increase fares and cut services to meet their budget targets.  From my perspective, that approach only beckoned a “death spiral” – there would be fewer riders, generating fewer resources, causing more budget deficits that would lead to more service cut backs.  Not a prescription for success.

As a result, my T&E colleagues, Councilmembers Floreen and Hucker, joined with me in urging the Board of Directors of WMATA to take a different approach.  I am pleased to report that the Board acted consistent with our advice and found other ways to close the budget gap.  Now, we must turn to the long term issues – how does WMATA restore public confidence in its system and how can we ensure that WMATA has the funds it needs to provide a first class metro system.   

Pesticides Legislation Update

As you may be aware, Council President George Leventhal has introduced legislation (Bill 52-14) with four cosponsors that would ban the use of certain pesticides on lawns for ornamental purposes and on county property. Exemptions to the pesticide restrictions are provided for controlling weeds or invasive species, and for agriculture and golf courses.  Our county would be the first major jurisdiction in the United States to adopt such a measure.  However, many provinces in Canada and Europe have adopted similar restrictions.  

It is no exaggeration to say that this has proven to be one of the most controversial pieces of legislation before the Council since I was first elected in 2006.  On the one hand, we have heard from many, including respected physicians, who point to scientific research that links pesticide exposures to serious threats to human and environmental health; that the use of such products affects more than just the homeowner who uses the products, but neighborhood children and pets in particular, and therefore is not a “property rights” issue but instead a public health issue; that there are organic alternatives that have been shown to work in our climate; and that the “precautionary principle” should be invoked on behalf of the public’s health. 

The other side of the argument has also been forcefully presented, including by former EPA officials who argued that the science doesn’t support the ban; the “green team” at our county’s Park & Planning Commission does not believe that the alternatives would keep our playing fields in shape, and have argued that pesticides, used properly, help protect plants;  homeowners argue that their lawns represent a significant portion of their property value that would be adversely affected by this legislation; and others have argued that the Council does not have more expertise than the federal and state government that have found the exposures associated with lawn care and playing fields acceptable.  

In response to the passions stroked by this legislation, we held an unprecedented second public hearing on February 12.  Now, the issue moves to the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee (T&E) that I chair.  On March 16 and March 30, the T & E committee will hold two work sessions on this legislation.  We will hear from national health, environmental, and lawn care experts, as well as local stakeholders, including our own Department of Environmental Protection.   You can see here the letter I have sent to the Director of the National Cancer Institute requesting their assistance in this matter.  

Given the press of the budget, and after conferring with the Council President, the Committee will not then take up the measure again until after the budget in June.  I believe strongly in reasoned decision-making, and on this important and controversial issue, you have my guarantee that we will not act without in-depth consideration of every issue.  

Paid Sick Leave Bill Update 

Along with the aforementioned pesticides legislation, another big piece of legislation that is before us is a bill that would require employers in the County to provide earned sick and safe leave.  Many other jurisdictions across the country have adopted similar measures including San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Washington DC, as well as Connecticut and California.   

Recently, the HHS Committee that I sit on held a public hearing where many in our community voiced their opinions.  We heard stories of mothers afraid to take time off to take care of their children; of those most vulnerable workers who show up sick rather than risk being fired.  We also heard from our business community, who expressed their concerns as to the impact it will have on their capacity to run their businesses effectively.   

Currently, the Maryland General Assembly is also considering a statewide version of paid sick leave legislation.  So for now, our Council will not be acting on this issue until we get a better sense as to what will happen in Annapolis surrounding this issue.  Until then, I want to hear your thoughts on this legislation.  Please contact Warren Hansen of my staff and let him know what you think.  Your input will be invaluable to me as this process moves along.

Turning the Page on Artificial Turf Infill

In February, our Council unanimously voted to approve a resolution that I introduced which states that all future artificial turf projects funded by the county will only use organic infill materials instead of crumb rubber.  I believe this resolution is by no means the last word on the issue of artificial turf infill, but I do feel it represents a turning of the page on how we address the concerns we have heard in the community regarding heat island effect, concussions, and potential toxicity of crumb rubber. 

This resolution came about after I, along with Council President Leventhal and Councilmember Katz, visited the newly open artificial turf field at Lakelands Park in Gaithersburg last fall (photo above).  After seeing the field first hand and hearing from city officials and the company that provided the infill (a mix of coconut husk, cork, and rice husk), I became convinced that there is no doubt that organic, plant based infill is now a viable alternative to crumb rubber. 

A review done by our Parks Department, which was discussed at a recent joint session of the Council’s T & E and Education Committees, confirmed in fact that plant-based infill materials are a viable alternative and can be successfully used to build and maintain artificial turf fields going forward. Both the Parks Department and Montgomery County Public Schools have stated their commitment to pursuing alternate infill materials in future field installations. The next two projects that will use this organic infill are likely to be the Winston Churchill High School stadium field and a playing field at the Laytonia Recreational Park in Derwood.

It is our job as policymakers to do the best we can to reconcile the increased demand for playing fields in our county with the need to protect our children and provide our parents with greater peace of mind about the fields their children are playing on.  I am pleased that we as a Council, along with our school system and Parks Department, are speaking with one voice on this important matter.

Commemorating Black History Month

Last Tuesday, our Council held a moving ceremony to commemorate Black History Month, at the initiative of Council President Leventhal.  At the ceremony, we heard riveting testimony from veterans of Montgomery County’s civil rights struggle.  Simply put, we all owe a great deal of gratitude from those we heard from.  Their personal testimony and stories harken back to a not-so-distant time when there was the injustice of institutional racism in our county and country. 

As I recalled during the ceremony, I can remember spending my summers in 1960 and 1961 in Fayette, Mississippi.  And my mother and I would go to the store that my grandfather ran.  I remember seeing the “Whites Only” sign over the water fountain and remembering thinking to myself “What is this? Why is this?”  And I vividly remember my mother turning to me and saying “One day you will understand.”  

I don’t know if that day has ever come or ever will.  Since the early 1960s, significant progress has been made in this struggle both at a national and local level.  But my colleagues and I were reminded last Tuesday that more work still is to be done if we are to truly live up to our progressive ideals of justice and equality for all, both here in Montgomery County and in the United States of America.  

While I am both a lawyer and a legislator, I have become skeptical of how much more we can achieve in those realms.  I think the next frontier is an inner one – the province of our heart and spirit.  When we come to understand that we are one, so many of our issues will fall by the wayside.  This is not a simple matter obviously.  A brain is hard wired in favor of bias.  And the only way to overcome is that through the practice of self-awareness.

I want to thank Council President Leventhal for pulling this event together, as it was a fitting way to mark this important month.  And I want to thank my colleagues for their honest and heartfelt stories about dealing with this issue of racism and bias in our society.  Ultimately though, this ceremony wasn’t about us as a Council.  It was about honoring those who blazed a trail to equality, who helped remind us of our collective unfinished work.

Planning for Our Seniors

One of the first sessions I attended as a new member of the Health and Human Services Committee was a discussion with our Commission on Aging about their latest summer study which examined whether adequate attention is being provided for the needs of our seniors in the planning process

This study is of growing importance given the concurrent growth in our county’s senior population, and recent and soon to be unveiled master and sector plans for White Flint, Westbard, Chevy Chase Lake, and the Bethesda CBD with mixed-used urbanized complexes. 

The Commission’s study wanted future planning to consider the needs of seniors regarding issues such as housing options, building access, available public transportation, access to public parks, social opportunities, and access to healthcare.  And I do not disagree with that.  Because I have found what our seniors want in their communities are some of the same things our millennials want.  

While more work remains to be done to make that vision a full reality, we have been ahead of this curve by implementing steps laid out in our Senior Agenda.

In the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to doing a fuller review of progress we have made in implementing the Senior Agenda and working with the Commission on Aging as we plan for a senior forum later this year, similar to the three senior forums I hosted in my previous two terms.  

Montgomery County seeks to be a “community for a lifetime.”  And I know that I, along with my colleagues, want to do everything we can in our power to ensure that holds true for all our seniors.

Council Passes E-cigarette Ban Legislation 

Our Council today passed legislation prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes wherever smoking is currently prohibited in the county
Councilmember Floreen proposed the bill, which I was pleased to cosponsor with all of my colleagues. The bill specifically would add e-cigarettes to the county’s ban on smoking in certain public places.  Currently, the county prohibits smoking in bars, restaurants, businesses, workplaces, elevators, hospitals, county buildings, rail stations, bus stops and schools, and on county property.  Under this legislation, vape shops would be exempt from the ban.  

While e-cigarettes have been used to help people successfully kick their smoking habits, the reality is that their use by kids is booming – creating potentially the next generation of smokers.  263,000 non-smoking kids tried e-cigarettes in 2013 — three times as many as in 2011, according to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in August 2014. In addition, about 44% of non-smoking kids who experimented with e-cigarettes said they intend to smoke regular cigarettes, compared to 22% of kids who had never tried e-cigs.  

This is something that we as policymakers should be proactively addressing.  While the totality of scientific evidence is still inconclusive about the public health impacts of e-cigarettes, there is a growing body of research to suggest that their impact is not positive.  With the Council’s action, we have joined cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, and closer to home – Washington DC and Baltimore in banning the use of these devices wherever cigarette use is banned.  

Nonprofit of the Month: Friends of the Library, Montgomery County

For this month’s installment of “Nonprofit of the Month,” I am pleased to feature Friends of the Library, Montgomery County (FOLMC).  As the former Council Lead on Libraries, I know our library system is one our county’s greatest assets, so ably serving the needs of our diverse communities.

FOLMC is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen, promote, and champion our public library system, as it goes about fulfilling this important work.  It currently has 17 chapters, and operates two award-winning used book stores in Rockville and Wheaton.

In 2014, FOLMC was able to fund interactive Go! Kits, children's computer stations, and the summer reading program for Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) among other enhancements and programs.

FOLMC, along with libraries across the country, just concluded “Library Lovers' Month” in February.  I hope you were able to participate in the festivities in February, but are also able to show your support for our libraries year around, whether you are a senior, a child, or a parent.  Our libraries have so much to offer our diverse communities throughout the county.  To join or receive more information about FOLMC, call 240-777-0020 or visit 


Want to know more about the March 7 Infrastructure and Growth: Are We Keeping Pace? event?

Click on the above photo below to view the YouTube video summary.

Pesticides Legislation: Let Your Voice Be Heard

Bill 52-14 before the County Council would ban the use of certain pesticides on lawns for ornamental purposes and on county property. Exemptions to the pesticide restrictions are provided for controlling weeds or invasive species, and for agriculture and golf courses. 

Do you support or oppose Bill 52-14?

MCPS Superintendent Search Public Forum

Montgomery County Public Schools wants to hear from you as it undergoes its search process for a new Superintendent. Tomorrow night, March 4 at 7 pm, MCPS will host a public forum where you can express what characteristics you are looking for in the next Superintendent.  MCPS has a stated goal of having its new leader on board by July 1 this year, so your comments now will be important as the school system moves forward in its search.  The forum will be held at Walter Johnson High School, located at 6400 Rock Spring Drive in Bethesda.

Planning Department Continues Work on Bethesda Downtown Plan

The Planning Staff is still hard at work on the Bethesda Master Plan update.  They have met with numerous stakeholder groups and held several community workshops already with more on the way. 

As with all master plans, it will be a while before this plan is ready to head over to the Council, but I will continue to alert you to ways you can get involved and help shape the future of Bethesda.  Here are just a few:

There is a great deal to view, read, and learn on the Planning Bethesda Downtown Plan website.  A retail study of the area done by Streetsense is available, where you can read through a feedback loop with comments from your neighbors, and you can see the most recent update given by Planning Staff to the Planning Board.  If you are interested in the Plan and haven’t joined the Planning department email list, you can do so here to receive announcements, updates, etc. or you can follow the Plan on Twitter at : @bethesdaplanner #bethesdadowntownplan.

Although the Council will hold its own public hearing when the Bethesda Downtown Plan is sent to us this summer, the best thing you can do right now is attend all the meetings on the Plan that you can and provide your feedback and suggestions directly to the Planning Staff assigned to this Plan.

There will be plenty of discussion about heights, densities, public gathering spaces, green spaces, and other public amenities as this Plan is fully drafted, presented to the Planning Board for public hearing and review, then makes its way to the Council for another public hearing, committee review, and then full council deliberations.  I look forward to having these conversations with you as we work together to make Bethesda the place it can be -- for the immediate future and for future generations.

Westbard Planning Update

The Planning Department is also hard at work drafting the Westbard Sector Plan Update.  My staff and I have been following activities related to this plan closely and are especially engaged in the school capacity issues in the Whitman Cluster right now.  I will continue to work closely with the PTA on this issue to ensure that any action taken in this plan is accounted for in MCPS’s long range planning for the Cluster. The Council will not receive Westbard recommendations from the Planning Board until late summer/fall.  At this time, it is expected that the Council will hold its public hearing on the Draft Plan in the fall. The Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee (PHED) will then review before sending it to the full Council for further deliberations.

County Bikeshare Success

Good news for bicyclists!  Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) reported in late January that its network of 51 Capital Bikeshare stations exceeded revenue projections during its first full year.

Bikeshare was launched with 14 stations in late September 2013 and gradually added stations to three clusters: Bethesda/Friendship Heights, Silver Spring/Takoma Park, and Rockville/Shady Grove/Life Sciences Center.

According to MCDOT, trips originating from Montgomery County Bikeshare stations increased by 95 percent in April 2014 compared to March 2014. The county reported 3,182 Bikeshare trips started at a county Bikeshare station in April, compared to 1,630 in March.

While we still may have several more weeks of winter, as the weather gradually warms up, consider using this growing asset to our county’s transportation.  Bikeshare is good for riders and our environment.

Young Montgomery TV Show

The Montgomery County Office of Public Information (PIO) has launched “Young Montgomery," a half-hour Cable Television Show geared to highlight the accomplishments and activities of the County’s youth population.

“Young Montgomery” will focus on featuring youth who are engaged in after-school clubs, sports teams, community groups, or non-profit organizations that are having a positive impact in the community.  It will involve interviews, pre-taped news reports, and PSAs.  The show will be hosted by Alicia Escoto and Daniel Menéndez, both graduates of Montgomery County Public Schools.   

The show debuted on February 2 with guests from the Gandhi Brigade, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering the leaders of tomorrow through activism.

“Young Montgomery” will air on County Cable Montgomery -- Channel 6 for Comcast and RCN subscribers; Channel 30 for Verizon subscribers -- according to the following schedule:  Monday, 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday, 9:30 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 p.m.

County youth interested in being featured on “Young Montgomery” can send a message through Young Montgomery’s Facebook Page.

Gas Appliance Compliance Reminder 

Just a friendly reminder…Gas appliances such as water heaters, furnaces, ranges, grills, generators, dryers, and fireplaces are dangerous if not properly installed and can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Before replacing existing gas appliances or installing them for the first time, consumers should consider the following:

•   Price comparison--It is recommended you get three to five prices from licensed contractors for the work involved.
•   Get the proposal in writing--The price should include the required WSSC Permit Fee (this includes the required inspection by the WSSC Inspection Services Staff).
•   Once you have decided on the contractor:

• Verify that the contractor has obtained the WSSC Permit.
• Check the installer’s license.
• Schedule the inspection. The installer should provide you with this information and the scheduling procedure as noted on the WSSC Permit.  
• The day of the inspection, verify the time, if necessary.

If you have had a gas appliance installed and a WSSC permit was not obtained nor an inspection performed, contact Ed Iames at 301-206-8616 or You may also call Inspection Services Scheduling at 301-206-4004.

Sign Up for Our Legislative Updates

If you wish to stay up to date on all the action here at the Council, please sign up for our Legislative Alerts which are emailed once a week on Wednesdays. New legislation and Council Agendas are updated each week.

Why I Voted ‘No’ on Bill 45-14  

Recently, the Council voted on Bill 45-14, introduced by Council President Leventhal, which would mandate a member of a common ownership community governing body to complete an online training session provide by the Commission for Common Ownership Communities.  The bill passed on a 6-3 vote.  I voted against the bill, along with Councilmembers Floreen and Katz. 

Common ownership communities play an important role in our county’s civic life.  If you add up all of the HOAs, Condo Associations, and Co-Ops in the county, the total number of their governing boards is 1,034, according to the Chair of the CCOC.  Out of the roughly more than 1 million county residents, 340,000 residents are covered by one of these 1,034 governing bodies.  That comes out to 40% of the county’s total housing stock.

My opposition to the bill was not because I disagree with the need for training.  It is a good thing for those who serve on common ownership community governing bodies to be up to speed on the responsibilities and duties of their position.  My opposition rather stems from the need to mandate training, particularly since these positions are volunteer. 

After careful deliberation over the bill and hearing from our community about the bill, I decided to vote ‘No.’  I believe it was simply a step too far in mandating something on volunteers.

Volunteer Tutors Needed

THE WINSTON CHURCHILL HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION in keeping with its mission, “to enhance the educational environment and learning opportunities of students within the Churchill Cluster,” is requesting volunteers to assist the Scotland Storm provide academic support to Churchill Cluster students.

To work with students in grades 1-8 on any weekday,
Mondays through Thursdays at Cabin John Middle School.

*Tutors are especially needed on Mon. and Wed. from 5-6 p.m.
ADULT tutors are preferred: Please contact Lauren Mead via email at, or by cell phone 301-461-0527. 

Committed High School students should contact fellow Churchill student: Carli Needle via email at  

More information about Scotland Storm can be found on their website

Operating Budget Hearing Dates

Budget season is upon us and that means ample opportunities to make your voices heard.

The County Executive will be releasing his FY16 Operating Budget on March 16

The public hearings on the FY16 Operating Budget are scheduled for April 14, 15, and 16 at 7:00 pm, and April 15 and 16 at 1:30 pm.

Persons wishing to testify at the operating budget hearings should call 240-777-7803 to sign-up, beginning on March 20.

Talking Transit at the County Chamber of Commerce

On February 9, I had the pleasure of meeting with members of the Montgomery County Chamber’s Transportation Committee where I discussed the importance of moving transit initiatives forward.  The above photo is with Gigi Godwin, President and CEO of the Chamber and Josh Bokee, Co-Chair of the Chamber’s Legislative Affairs Committee.

State Highway Administration Update on Lane Shifts on Rockville Pike in Bethesda

At a soon to-be-determined date (weather permitting), crews will shift traffic lanes on MD 355 (Rockville Pike) for a new traffic pattern at the West Cedar Lane intersection.  Traffic on MD 355 between North Drive and Locust Hill Road will be shifted to the west side of the road where widening of MD 355 recently took place.

While SHA will maintain three through lanes in both directions during peak travel times, drivers should remain alert for a changing traffic pattern at the intersection.

SHA recently removed the concrete median at the MD 355/Cedar Lane intersection. This work will allow crews to construct a new underground culvert beneath northbound MD 355 travel lanes. Most of this work will occur in the median of MD 355, requiring SHA to restrict left turns from northbound MD 355 to West Cedar Lane.  This temporary left turn lane restriction will be in place through the remainder of the overall project.

Turning movements from West Cedar Lane onto northbound and southbound MD 355 will not be impacted by this phase of work and nearby sidewalks and trails will remain accessible.  The shift was originally scheduled for last month, but was postponed due to inclement weather. Later this year, all traffic will shift to the east side of the road to continue the culvert work.

The $13.8 million intersection improvements at MD 355 and Cedar Lane involve widening northbound and southbound MD 355 (Rockville Pike) at the Cedar Lane intersection to provide new travel and turn lanes. New traffic signals will be in place at the MD 355 intersections with Wilson Drive, North Wood Road, Elmhirst Parkway, and Cedar Lane. Additional improvements include sidewalk and a bike path. Weather permitting, construction will be complete in late summer 2016.

Apply to Youth Leadership Montgomery

Youth Leadership Montgomery is a program that empowers students with the skills necessary to achieve success in all facets of their lives. There are other youth programs available for high school students, but there is no comprehensive program that has as profound an impact.

How Students Benefit
• Meet new friends from different backgrounds
• Examine their own values, philosophies, and beliefs
• Become more confident
• Learn about leadership
• Improve presentation and communication skills
• Looks good on college applications

Who Should Apply?
Montgomery County public or independent high school students entering grades 9-12. No previous leadership experience is necessary.

There will be an informational event for this program on Thursday, March 19 from 6:30 to 8 pm.  The event will be held at the Council Office Building, 1st Floor Auditorium, 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville.  Come to hear what program graduates have to say about how they benefited from this program.  Ask questions from the program staff.  Find out who else may be joining you.  You don't need to attend the informational event to apply.

If you have additional questions, please contact

Thingstitute Kick-Off: Fostering Innovation in our County

On January 27, I was pleased to attend a press conference announcing the opening of the Thingstitute. This latest initiative undertaken by Dan Hoffman, Chief Innovation Officer of Montgomery County, will provide more room for companies and researchers to collaborate and conduct the exploration necessary for advancing technological innovation.

Back in 2012, when I worked with my Council colleagues to help create the position of the Chief Innovation Officer, the goal was always to make sure that we encourage and foster innovation from our business community in order to promote economic development which addresses the emerging needs and concerns of our communities.

With the Smart Community Alert Network (SCALE) project (something I have discussed in recent past editions of The Berliner Brief) being at the core of the Thingstitute, it is heartening to see work being accomplished by Montgomery County’s Innovation Program that is conducive to the goals we outlined in 2012.

The Thingstitute is a great indicator for the future of entrepreneurship and technological innovation in the County. It will be exciting to see what new projects will emerge from this initiative.

Last Newsletter

Did you miss the January 2015 edition of The Berliner Brief? Click here for the browser version.

My Office

As always, my staff and I look forward to hearing from you and to seeing you at community events.

Cindy Gibson is my Chief of Staff and handles land use issues for me; Drew Morrison works on transportation, environment, and energy issues; Warren Hansen assists with education, health and human services, and parks and recreation issues; Zac Trupp handles public safety issues, constituent service, manages my busy calendar, and is the friendly voice on the other end of the phone when you call our office; and Vikrum Mathur works on government operations matters, fiscal policy, cable and technology issues as well as helps with outreach efforts. All of them will try to facilitate your interaction with County government in any way that they can.


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