Leventhal bases Montgomery council work on service to others -- Gazette.Net


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In 12 years on the Montgomery County Council, George Leventhal said his favorite part is being able to help constituents deal with problems they’re confronted with.

In his first term, Leventhal said he was probably too anxious to associate himself with specific issues.

Since then, he’s learned that although it’s a cliche, you really can get a lot more done if you don’t care who gets the credit, he said.

“I just get great satisfaction out of helping people,” he said.

Leventhal (D-At Large) of Takoma Park is one of six Democrats vying in the June 24 primary for four at-large spots on the ballot for the Nov. 4 general election. There are also four Republicans running, along with one Green Party member.

The son of two doctors who worked at the National Institutes of Health, Leventhal said he grew up familiar with the idea of service to others.

He counts the creation of the Montgomery Cares network of community health clinics as one of his most important successes on the council.

The clinics will provide access to health care to more than 31,000 county residents without insurance this year, he said.

Leventhal has been active in trying to lower homelessness in Montgomery, and initiated the county’s involvement in the 100,000 Homes campaign.

He also cofounded the Bethesda Green nonprofit, which he said was the first green jobs incubator in Maryland and promotes community sustainability and reducing carbon emissions.

He was also a cofounder of the Purple Line Now! coalition, which worked to keep the issue of the Purple Line project alive when support for it was not as strong as it has been in recent years. The 16-mile light-rail project running between Bethesda and New Carrollton is scheduled to start construction in 2015.

Along with public service, another early influence as Leventhal grew up outside the nation’s capital getting the Washington Post delivered each morning at the height of the Watergate scandal, was politics.

He participated in his first campaign as a college student at the University of California at Berkeley, and worked as an aide to a Berkeley city councilman while still in school.

He worked on Capitol Hill as a staff member for a U.S. Senate committee, then for Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) for five years.

Later, while working for the Association of American Universities, Leventhal served as the chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee from 1996 through 2001.

Despite his partisan affiliations, Leventhal said he’s been sad to see the decline of Republicans in the county.

“I don’t think the absence of Republicans is healthy for Democrats,” he said.

Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in Montgomery by a nearly three-to-one margin.

Leventhal said if he’s re-elected, he’ll continue to hold county staff accountable for spending taxpayers’ money.

He’s never been afraid to ask questions on spending, and residents deserve to have their questions answered, he said.

He’s also concerned the county’s school system.

There are essentially two school systems in the county, with high-performing and low-performing schools, he said. Education is a great social equalizer, and the county needs to make sure all students have the same chance for success, he said.

That involves studying analytics and finding what works and what doesn’t.

“Greatness requires being honest about where we can do better,” he said.

rmarshall@gazette.net