In/Out 2013: A New Year's Guide To What's Hot And What's Not in Montgomery County
A guide to living, eating and politicizing in Montgomery County in 2013.
1. Nancy Navarro In; Roger Berliner Out
Each year Montgomery County sees a peaceful leadership change, when the county council president steps aside, making way for a new head at the helm of the county’s democratic process. In 2012, Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) took the reins from Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist 5). After a year focused on economic development, budget wrangling and squabbles with Pepco and public utilities, Berliner stepped down as council president in December, and Nancy Navarro will take over council leadership for 2013. Each council president sets the tone and agenda for the year’s government focus. For 2013, Navarro says she'll emphasize economic development and educational equality.
2. Renting In; Home Ownership Out
The number of Montgomery County’s renters has soared to 30 percent in the last decade, according to a renters advocacy organization, and the group is beginning to find its voice. Renting is increasingly popular in the county’s urban centers, with much of the population centered in Silver Spring and the eastern portion of the county. With many developers choosing rental units over condos for new residential projects beginning to break ground, the group may soon become a much larger part of the conversation across the county.
3. Wine In; Beer Out
When chef Robert Wiedmaier opened his much-anticipated new eatery, Wildwood Kitchen, he chose to highlight the restaurant’s wine selection. It was a departure for Wiedmaier, a noted Belgian chef who spotlights beer in his other restaurants, including Bethesda’s Mussel Bar. And according to one survey, Maryland ranks among states that drink the least amount of beer. So is beer on the way out? Maybe not for long -- a few local breweries may soon put Maryland on the beer-drinking map, Capital News Service reported.
4. Biking In; Driving Out
The long-awaited launch of Capital Bikeshare in Montgomery County is set for 2013, with stations planned for Bethesda, Friendship Heights, Takoma Park and Silver Spring. The service is sure to bring more bikers to county streets, and with the loss of a 270-space surface parking lot on busy Bethesda Row, leaving the car at home may become a more popular option this year. Bike safety is also on the minds of many ahead of the bikeshare launch, and some bike advocacy groups are proposing “road diets” that would remove a lane of traffic to make room for bike lanes.
5. Food Trucks In; Brown Bag Out
Food trucks -- once the lunchtime privilege of downtown DC commuters --began the slow roll into Montgomery County in 2012. We’re not talking your usual sloppy hotdog or dry pretzel slathered in mustard; the DC metro food truck is a lesson in mobile cuisine. Famed local chef José Andrés expanded the reach of his popular food truck, Pepe, into Friendship Heights, Bethesda and Rockville, while in Silver Spring food truck Bánh Mì Annie began serving authentic Vietnamese sandwiches downtown. Even Potomac saw its share of trucks during October’s Trucktoberfest, bringing fresh fish, pizza and barbecue to the affluent DC ‘burb. As the food trucks continue their roll out into the county during 2013, brown bagged lunches may be a thing of the past.
6. Emus In; Goats Out
This year’s favorite wayward wildlife report came in the form of two lovelorn emus who escaped to points unknown across North Potomac at the height of emu mating season. Bertha and Ernie returned after a five-day romantic getaway. So much for the goat that escaped and wreaked havoc on busy roadways in Gaithersburg in 2011. After a Patch video of the galavanting goat was called “the best thing on the Web today” by the Washington Post, his 15 minutes of fame seem to have passed.
7. Light Rail In; Expressways Out
State lawmakers are starting a push to fund transportation projects, including the Purple Line, a light rail line planned to connect Bethesda to New Carrollton, and upcounty bus rapid transit route Corridor Cities Transitway, both of which are facing funding challenges. At the same time, County Councilman Phil Andrews said the newly minted Intercounty Connector is underused and too expensive, and he’s calling for decreased tolls to make the route more attractive to commuters.
8. Same-Sex Marriage In; Republican Leadership Out
Come Jan. 1, same-sex marriage will be “in” in Maryland. Marylanders decided by referendum during November’s 2012 presidential election to grant same-sex couples the right to marry. The historic decision joins Maryland with Maine, Washington state, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia in allowing same-sex marriage. During the same election, Marylanders voted to keep congressional district lines considered by many to be gerrymandered in favor of Democrats. Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett lost his long-held seat in the realigned districts to John Delaney of Potomac, in an election that political observers say should serve as a wake-up call to Republicans. “In terms of Republicans and messaging, they need to have a very serious meeting and realize their messaging is not working, their leadership is not working,” said Christopher Summers, president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute, a Rockville-based think tank.
9. In-State Tuition For Illegal Immigrants In; Effects Bargaining Out
Election Day 2012 furthered Maryland’s progressive reputation when voters also approved the Dream Act -- a policy allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities, provided they apply for a greencard and have proof of paying income taxes. The policy was approved by 58.3 percent of voters. Meanwhile, the 2012 election restrained the powers of Montgomery County’s police union. In a referendum vote appearing on the 2012 ballot as Question B, residents agreed to strip FOP Lodge 35 of its 30-year-old power to negotiate any action by police leadership that has an “effect on employees,” including officer reassignments, disability guidelines and distributing equipment. Montgomery County residents can expect the effects bargaining fight to continue within the county court system, where FOP representatives have sued County Executive Isiah Leggett and his spokesman Patrick Lacefield in Montgomery County Circuit Court, alleging the two improperly advocated for Question B. The suit was scheduled to be heard in February 2013.
10. Derechos In; Earthquakes Out
The DC metro area has seen its fair share of freak storms and natural disasters as of late. Hurricanes may be a yearly storm issue with which we just need to come to terms. But with an earthquake in 2011, and a derecho in 2012, we can’t help but wonder what will be next. While the 2011 earthquake shook the DC region early on a Tuesday afternoon and was more shocking than damaging, the June 29, 2012, derecho storm creeped in late on a Friday night and by the following Saturday morning had left tens of thousands without power in the midst of a summer heat wave. For the following week the region dealt with multiple related fatalities, near misses, downed power lines and streets and homes left a mess with debris in the wake of of the storm. So what’s next for 2013? We don’t have any soothsayers on staff at Patch, but here’s hoping for sunny skies in 2013, both literally and figuratively.