Bethesda councilman to enter sophomore term with bigger role
Berliner says he aims to finish what he started
When the next Montgomery County Council session begins Nov. 23, Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac will be setting his sights on some familiar issues.
Entering his second term after routing his Republican opponent in last week's general election, Berliner said he plans to take on many of the same issues he faced when he came into office: transportation improvements along Rockville Pike, the unfinished financing plan in White Flint, and advocating for the Purple Line all while addressing the structural deficit that plagued the council during his first four years in office.
"It's going to be a challenge; doing less with less," he said. "It will not be easy."
Berliner the first Democrat to hold the County Council seat in District 1 defeated both his primary and general election challengers by wide margins.
The unofficial totals from the Nov. 2 general election showed Berliner earning more than twice the votes of Rob Vricella, his Republican rival. In the September primary, Berliner earned more than 75 percent of the vote, tallying 13,834 votes compared to challenger Ilaya Hopkins' 4,557.
Berliner said that since entering the council he has supported the Purple Line, a 16-mile Metrorail track connecting Bethesda to New Carrollton via Silver Spring a project that hasn't found sufficient funding to get off the ground.
The $1.6 billion project is awaiting federal and state funding. Berliner said that although the council approved their functional plan in July, the line will continue to need advocates.
To help fund the track and other transportation, Berliner said he is going to advocate for state funds raised from another initiative he supports: a higher tax on gasoline across the state of Maryland.
Through those state funds, Berliner said he plans to fund the renovation of Rockville Pike a major portion of the White Flint Sector Plan, which calls for massive commercial and residential growth in the area. He said he feels confident he can find support in the form of state transportation money by emphasizing continued commercial growth along the route and its heavy usage.
The White Flint Sector Plan outlines a wider Rockville Pikes supported by additional access roads, designed to better handle increasing volumes of traffic. Portions through and near White Flint are estimated to cost $64.2 million.
"Rockville Pike in the most important commercial corridor in the state of Maryland," he said.
Current County Council Vice President Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring, who is widely considered the most likely candidate to be voted in to take over as president when the council reconvenes, said Berliner will probably get the nod to chair the county's Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy, & Environment Committee.
Berliner is currently on the Public Safety and T&E committee. He is the lead member for Energy and Environment on the latter.
She said was impressed by his testimony at an August Public Service Commission hearing, where he advocated legislation that would connect Pepco collections to the level of service it provides.
"He's been a champion in that respect," she said.
At the hearing, Berliner along with Del. Brian Feldman (D-Dist. 15) of Potomac called for the utility to establish reliability standards that, if not met, would reduce its profits incrementally through penalties or rates adjustments.
An energy lawyer, Berliner unseated Republican Howard Denis in 2006. The District 1 seat which includes Bethesda, Cabin John, Chevy Chase, Garrett Park, Glen Echo, Friendship Heights, North Bethesda, Potomac, Randolph Hills and Somerset was first occupied by GOP member Betty Ann Krahnke of Chevy Chase, who took office when the County Council was expanded from seven to nine seats in 1990.
District 1 results: Total Votes: 60,846
Roger Berliner Democrat: 41,066
Rob Vricella Republican: 19,697
Write-in Votes: 83