Five days ago, Montgomery County issued construction permits for two structures on the Glen Road property of billionaire Mitchell Rales. Both are part of the expansion of Rales' private Glenstone art museum, which is currently viewable by appointment.
The expansion, which includes a cafe (serving soup, sandwiches, etc.) and an extension of public sewer and water facilities to the site, was controversial due to its location in a rural area in Potomac.
But Rales isn't done yet: the tycoon - whose net worth is estimated at $3.5 billion - recently purchased a 2.5 acre property, and seven others, near his estate, according to Washingtonian Magazine. What ultimately is the intended size and scale of Rales' estate and museum? Is a facility of such urban proportions, and the stormwater runoff it creates, suitable for a rural area? And is it fair for wealthy applicants to get approval for public sewer in rural areas, when other citizens and churches have been denied?
The Montgomery County Council might say, "Yes!" That's because they've received a Fort Knox worth of checks from the Rales family.
When the initial argument over the sewer line - which will bisect Greenbriar Branch stream, an arrangement that has caused contamination in Little Falls stream in Bethesda in recent years - occurred, The Washington Post and Gazette did not inform readers of the money councilmembers had received from Rales, his family, and a Rales business entity, Equity Group Holdings.
But I've done the research they declined to do, and here are the loot totals the council - who approved the sewer extension unanimously - have received so far:
Roger Berliner $1500
Marc Elrich $1500
Valerie Ervin $2000
Nancy Floreen $1000
George Leventhal $750
Craig Rice $1000
Hans Riemer $2000
How much does it cost to get sewer in a rural area in Montgomery County? $9750, apparently.
Reportedly, some or all of the County Council attended at least one posh party at Rales' estate prior to the vote. I say reportedly, because the Post declined to identify the entire list of councilmembers who attended the celebration. When I emailed Post reporter Miranda Spivack to ask which councilmembers were present at the party, she did not respond. Lost in the inbox, perhaps? That's vital information the taxpayers deserve to know, and should have been in the media coverage, along with the money totals I provided above.
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