The revelation last week that hundreds of houses recently were built in the Clarksburg Town Center in apparent violation of building standards has emboldened longtime supporters of slower growth in Montgomery., which monitors developers' influence in the political process, has posted on its Web site a link titled "The corrosive effect of special-interest influence becomes apparent in Montgomery County."

The link includes recent newspaper stories about the Clarksburg issue. It also includes an editorial seeking to connect the current County Council -- most of whose members support the planned intercounty connector highway and generally are viewed as more receptive to development than some of their predecessors -- to the problems in Clarksburg.

Several council members elected as part of that majority, known as the End Gridlock slate, were hesitant to discuss the Clarksburg issue in detail last week.

But one council member who wasn't part of that slate, which County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) put together in 2002, quickly offered up unsolicited comments on the matter.

"I think this a big problem because it further erodes the public confidence in the county's development review process," said council member Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville). "Given the fact the public is rightfully concerned about excessive influence of development interests already, this adds fuel to that fire."

Andrews could stand to gain politically if the electorate decides to use the issues in Clarksburg to send a message to elected officials.

Andrews doesn't accept contributions from developers or political action committees and was a chief proponent of last year's campaign to eliminate at-large seats and have all council members elected by district. He and other supporters of the campaign, which voters handily rejected in an Election Day referendum, argued that it would limit developers' influence in elections.

Andrews also is interested in running for the 8th District seat in the U.S. House should Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) decide to run for the U.S. Senate. He also has been mentioned as a possible candidate for county executive next year, although he has said he has no plans to run for that office.

Courting the Female Vote

The battle for the female vote in the race for county executive has begun.

Isiah Leggett, a former council member and a Democratic candidate for county executive, will hold a forum on Saturday at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring to discuss women's issues.

The event is being hosted by Leggett's wife, Katherine, who is playing a major role in shaping his campaign strategy.

In an interview, Leggett said he expects to hold a number of discussions on a variety of topics between now and next year's Democratic primary. He said it is more than just a coincidence that the first forum, which runs from 10 to 11:30 a.m., concerns women.

"We wanted to do something different and unique," Leggett said. "Women play a big role in all elections, and we have a fairly big contingent of women representing us in the state House delegation and on the County Council."

Not to be outdone, Leggett's opponent for the Democratic nomination, council member Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large), announced this week that he will hold a "women's fundraiser" this fall.

Silverman's fundraiser will be held Sept. 30 at the home of Rachel Simmons, author of "Odd Girl Speaks Out" and director of the Girls Leadership Institute.

Student Joins School Board

Sebastian Johnson, a senior at Montgomery Blair High School, has added another entry to his already stellar resume: He was officially sworn in during a special ceremony Tuesday night as the 28th student member on the Board of Education.

Johnson succeeds Sagar Sanghvi, who made history as the first student board representative to serve two terms.

Johnson, 16, already has had a taste of board meetings, having sat in on a few marathon sessions last month that included discussions about the hotly debated health education curriculum.

Sebastian began his career in politics as the student government association president at Takoma Park Middle School, where he also worked as a tutor for the campus Homework Club. During the 2004-2005 school year, he was student government association president at Blair. And just to show that he hasn't bought into the pageantry and power that comes with higher office, he was founder and co-chair of Students for Sensible Government at Blair.