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For Immediate Release: Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Montgomery County Council elects

Roger Berliner as president,

Hans Riemer as vice president for 2016-17

New president says ‘We do need to help our County

fulfill its even greater promise’ and ‘Get the basics right’


ROCKVILLE, December 6, 2016—The Montgomery County Council today unanimously elected Roger Berliner as president and Hans Riemer as vice president of the Council. They will serve one-year terms as officers of the Council.


Council President Berliner, who represents Council District 1, served as Council vice president for the past year. He is beginning his 11th year on the Council and previously served as Council president in 2011-12. He succeeds Nancy Floreen, who completed her one-year term as president today.


“Fortunately, we do not need to make Montgomery County ‘great again,” said Council President Berliner. “But we do need to help our County fulfill its even greater promise. My priorities for the year ahead to help us fulfill our County’s extraordinary promise include:


  • Getting the Basics Right
  • Serving as a Model Inclusive Community
  • Expanding the Ladder of Opportunity
  • Creating Vibrant Communities


“Our County is a national leader on many, many issues, a fact we are justifiably proud of. But what our residents really expect of us is to deliver on the fundamentals—get the basics right.”


Council President Berliner is in his third term on the Council. He was first elected in 2006. He represents District 1, which includes the western part of the County from the Washington, D.C., line to the Frederick County border. District 1 includes the communities of Bethesda, Cabin John, Chevy Chase, Garrett Park, Glen Echo, Friendship Heights, North Bethesda, Potomac, Poolesville, Randolph Hills and Somerset.

As chair of the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, Vice President Berliner has led the charge on creating more multi-modal transportation options.  He guided the Council to supporting rapid transit, is a forceful proponent for improving Metro, and has been a strong advocate for providing greater bicycle and pedestrian safety.

Councilmember Berliner has been the author of more than two dozen laws that make Montgomery County one of the most sustainable communities in the country, including ensuring that the County buys 100 percent renewable power. He also guided the Council to provide protection to Ten Mile Creek in the Clarksburg area from the threat of over-development.  Councilmember Berliner’s background as an energy lawyer has allowed him to play a lead role for the County and the state in holding Pepco accountable for greater electric reliability.

Over the past year, he sponsored an initiative that would help the County evaluate all of its programs to help feed the hungry so they could be better coordinated and more effective.

Vice President Riemer, the Council’s lead member for digital government, is beginning his seventh year on the Council as an at-large member. He has been a strong advocate for funding public education and public transportation, early childhood programs, libraries, recreation, human services, housing and economic development. He chaired the Council’s Ad-hoc Committee on Liquor Control that sought to reform the County’s program of alcohol distribution.

A dedicated environmentalist, Vice President Riemer has worked to strengthen the County’s rural, suburban and urban areas by placing walkability, public transportation and sustainability at the center of planning goals. For the past three years, he has hosted the “Great Montgomery Bicycle Summit” to bring together bicycle advocates, planners and residents to improve bicycle opportunities throughout the County.

Before serving on the County Council, Vice President Riemer served as national youth vote director for the Obama for America campaign in 2007, and previously as political director for Rock the Vote, where he helped register nearly a million voters. He also served as a senior advisor at AARP and, since his earliest work in Washington, has been a national leader on protecting Social Security from efforts to privatize the program.

Vice President Riemer serves on the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee and its Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee.


 The complete remarks of Council President Roger Berliner upon taking office today:

Colleagues, thank you for the privilege of serving as your President this year. I look forward to working with each of you as we continue to move our County forward.


And forward we will go, even in the face of national headwinds none of us could have predicted.


As FDR observed, “There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.”


Our County will not stand still.


Nor will we trim our sails. For one consequence of the unprecedented presidential election is that our work at the local level becomes even more important if the values that have defined our community are to be realized.


At the same time, how we do our work matters more. In a time of great anger, our response must be to double down on respectful discourse, on listening even more carefully to what our residents are saying to us, on honoring the legitimate needs of all of our residents, and on finding common ground.


Fortunately, we do not need to make Montgomery County “great again.” But we do need to help our County fulfill its even greater promise. My priorities for the year ahead to help us fulfill our County’s extraordinary promise include:


  • Getting the Basics Right
  • Serving as a Model Inclusive Community
  • Expanding the Ladder of Opportunity
  • Creating Vibrant Communities


Our County is a national leader on many, many issues, a fact we are justifiably proud of. But what our residents really expect of us is to deliver on the fundamentals—get the basics right.


And what is more fundamental than education? It is one of the central pillars upon which our County’s reputation and the future of our kids depends. That is why we unanimously passed an Education First budget last year.


Its defining element was not the dollars; it was the ability of our Council to work with the school system and stakeholders to realign resources to more accurately reflect the priorities of parents. I have sought to continue that collaborative spirit by sitting down with our new Superintendent, the President of the School Board, our County Executive, Chairman Rice, and MCEA to discuss the year ahead. I was encouraged by what appears to be a shared vision and a no-nonsense commitment to achieving it. And I will continue our long standing efforts to ensure the state properly funds our school construction needs.


Transportation—the state of our roads and traffic congestion—is another fundamental responsibility of County government. Our residents expect their roads to be well paved. And we have been behind in this area for far too many years. The solution is pretty straightforward: more dollars must be committed to this fundamental government function.


Traffic congestion is a far less simple matter. It has been the top quality of life issue for our County residents for decades, as it is for most major jurisdictions across the nation. We will need a multipronged approach if we are to make progress:


  • Our County must continue its quest to provide world-class transit options.
  • The Governor must step up and seriously tackle some of the nation’s worst gridlock from 270 to the American Legion Bridge.
  • We must push to implement state-of-the-art traffic signalization to reduce travel times.
  • We can help pedestrians, bikers, and drivers by implementing Vision Zero.
  • And last, but certainly not least: The region must pull together and insist that Metro has the resources, accountability, and governance required to produce the quality of service our region needs and deserves.


We are a model community in so many important ways. Now we have the opportunity to model what a truly inclusive community looks like.


Our County’s diversity provides us with a unique opportunity to showcase how a rich tapestry of 170 different cultures can thrive in harmony. There are not many communities on the face of the globe that have the cultural richness of Montgomery County. And every time we tap into it, it rewards us handsomely.


There are strong headwinds against this vision for our community. But as we have made clear, we will Stand Up to forces that seek to divide us, forces that would pit group against group, forces that spew hate speech, forces that use violence; forces that would deprive any of us of our constitutional rights. This destructive energy will not be allowed to take root here.


Instead, it is my hope that we will embrace the concept of interdependence, as taught by the Vietnamese Buddhist spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hanh. Interdependence recognizes that what one part of our community experiences has a direct impact on the broader community. That is why we must look out for every part of our community and take care of each other. We are most definitely Stronger Together.


If we are to fulfill our County’s great promise, we are going to have to expand economic opportunities up and down the ladder. Our County’s future depends on creating greater prosperity and opportunities for all of our residents.


We know there are too many of us struggling. And we have a pretty good idea of some of the things we can and hopefully will do to help in the year ahead, including but not limited to: invest in entrepreneurship and workforce development, focus on early childhood development and care; promote economic growth throughout the County; increase affordable housing options; and support our strong and effective non-profit community.


Small business is big business in Montgomery County and their health has a huge impact on our economy and tax base. That is one of the reasons why we need to pay particular attention to their needs as we pursue our progressive agenda. One of my goals is to create—in County government—a Small Business Services Center, geared to meet the specific needs of small businesses.


We want businesses of all sizes to thrive throughout the county. Marriott’s decision to relocate to downtown Bethesda reaffirms the strength of our County’s private sector and will lead to a significant investment in our County. We welcome all investments in our county’s future, and if we exercise our land use authority well, it will lead to more.


Our goal this year should be to create vibrant, livable, transit-oriented communities. But as all of us certainly appreciate, many residents often question whether a particular vision of the future will enhance or degrade their quality of life. This is particularly true now in the down-county where we have determined, based upon solid smart growth principles, that if we are to accommodate and plan for the future growth that is inevitable, it should be planned around transit and close to our core urban centers rather than create more damaging sprawl.


Although land use decisions are inherently hard, I hope we can better reconcile these dynamics this year as we take up the numerous master plans coming our way. I think a key will be delivering real benefits to neighborhoods, benefits that offset the perceived burdens that come with redevelopment. I remain optimistic that we can achieve such an outcome in places like Bethesda. We have the opportunity to make the spine of Bethesda vibrant with world class architecture and an enlivened streetscape; provide substantially more green community spaces; increase affordable housing; and honor our existing neighborhoods by treating the edges and transitions respectfully.


Colleagues, we have work to do if we are to fulfill our County’s great promise. Let’s get the basics right, show the world how a multicultural community thrives, expand the ladder of opportunity, and create vibrant transit-oriented communities. And let us model how government should go about its work—thoughtfully, respectful of differences, seeking common ground, and with a positive spirit.


Thank you again for the opportunity to lead us this next year. It is truly an honor.


# # # # Release ID: 16-381
Media Contact: Neil Greenberger 240-777-7939, Delphine Harriston 240-777-7931