Berliner launches re-election campaign
District 1 councilmember pledges to protect transit, government services
After Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac announced his re-election campaign Jan. 18, he said he will work to protect core government services in a time of fiscal crisis. And according to Berliner, that includes opposing the County Executive's recommended cuts to Ride On bus service.
County Executive Isiah Leggett has proposed eliminating or reducing dozens of bus routes countywide, projected to save about $5 million through fiscal 2011 to help compensate for a $600 million budget shortfall.
"The county executive has proposed cutting it. In my own view, that's a mistake," Berliner told The Gazette. He pointed to transit as essential in getting residents out of their cars, relieving congestion and promoting environmental sustainability.
"I believe that transit is a core government function and we're going to have to find other places to make the cuts, which is going to be very difficult," Berliner said. "I don't minimize the challenges."
Other core government functions he will work to safeguard, he said, include public safety and a "safety net" to support the county's vulnerable.
Berliner serves District 1, which includes Bethesda, Potomac and Chevy Chase.
Berliner's decision to seek a second four-year term comes shortly after the councilman suffered a major setback on Montgomery County's governing body.
In a break with tradition, County Council members voted Dec. 1 not to promote Berliner from vice president to president of the council. In a 5-4 vote, they chose Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park instead for the top post.
At the time, Berliner admitted to being upset by the vote, although he said it wasn't personal.
As he readies his bid to stay on the governing body, he might face primary election opposition from a community activist.
Activist Ilaya Rome Hopkins, 41, announced this month that she has formed an exploratory committee to consider a run at the Democratic nomination. Hopkins is known for her work with the Base Realignment and Closure Implementation Committee, on the Quality of Life Committee on the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board and with Bethesda Green, a group that promotes sustainable living.
Among his successes, Berliner noted that he has promoted the county's quality of life, including championing legislation to promote sustainability and combating "mansionization."
Supporters say Berliner is known for listening to his constituents evident Monday in Chevy Chase as he held the latest in a series of constituent forums he calls "Conversations" and working for change.
When Carderock Springs and Cabin John kicked off a metal recycling contest to raise awareness about recycling scrap metal, Berliner ensured that a scrap metal drop-off site was designated in Cabin John, according to Burr Gray, president of the Cabin John's Citizens Association.
"He supported Cabin John's and Carderock's efforts to promote this idea that there are a lot of other things that are worth recycling that aren't being picked up on a weekly basis by the county," said Gray, who spoke for himself rather than in his capacity as president of the group.
Jean Schlesinger, a parent at Bradley Hills Elementary School, said that Berliner supported the school's efforts to expand its kitchen when it didn't have enough space to store lunches on site.
Still, Berliner encountered opposition on some issues during Monday's meeting in Chevy Chase. Some constituents spoke out against the Purple Line, a planned 16-mile light-rail link between Bethesda and New Carrollton. Some in the Chevy Chase area fear the proposed line's impact on the Capital Crescent Trail.
Berliner, who supports the project, said, "I think that in the end, it's going to be a net plus for our community."
Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin said that while he "doesn't take the same position" as Berliner on the Purple Line, he backs the councilman because he "has an outstanding staff, he works hard, he follows through, and he does what he says he's doing to do."
"You can't ever expect you're going to have someone you agree with all the time," Slavin said.
The primary election is slated for Tuesday, Sept. 14.