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MoCo Council President, Exec Wrangle Over Housing Aid

Long-simmering yet mostly unspoken tension between Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and the County Council president has boiled over in a dispute over money to help first-time homebuyers.

In the calm of the council's summer recess, Leggett's team was taken aback by a sharply worded news release from Michael Knapp (D) accusing Leggett of dropping the ball on providing at least $500,000 in housing assistance funds.

Last year, Knapp and the council set aside the money so the county could participate in a state program, House Keys for Employees, which provides matching funds through private and public employers of up to $5,000 for down payments and closing costs. Gaithersburg and counties including Calvert, Charles, Frederick and St. Mary's participate in the program.

Knapp said in the statement that he has "continually urged" the executive to join the program but that Leggett "has not spent a nickel of the funds we have provided."
"There is no reason why our employees should be paying the price for the executive's inability to move forward with this program," he continued.

Ouch.

Leggett's housing chief, Rick Nelson, tells a different story. Yes, he said, Knapp raised the issue in May 2007, but a memo described some of the potential obstacles in starting the program and said the issue would be revisited after budget deliberations.

Nelson said that a meeting had been scheduled for last month to discuss the program with Knapp but that it was changed to next month. Nelson said he was surprised by the timing of Knapp's public venting.

"He was unhappy that it was an issue we couldn't take care of quickly, and I understand that," Nelson said. "But unfortunately, affordable housing is never easy, no matter what you are trying to do."

The statewide program would require legislation or approval by labor union leaders because it provides a benefit to county employees.

By Anne Bartlett  |  August 20, 2008; 10:50 AM ET
Categories:  Ann Marimow , Montgomery County  
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Comments

This article cites a tempest in a teapot. Leggett and Knapp stood shoulder to shoulder in giving us a 14% property tax increase this year. They exceeded the charter property limit by $118 million or by more than all the years since 1990 put together where the property tax limit has been exceeded. Next year they plan another even larger property tax increase citing "deficits" in state and county budgets that will be larger than the year before. Their property tax and other increases have caused hundreds of foreclosures and eliminated thousands of housing units from the affordable category.

They both oppose our November ballot question which makes it more difficult for the council to exceed the charter limit, because they want to increase property taxes a lot more.

Meanwhile 40 of 72 policemen who retired from 2005 to 2007 retired on very costly complete disability. Contrast that 55% figure with that of 4% such retirements in Howard County and 3% in Fairfax County.

If Leggett and Knapp were competing in the tax increase Olympics, they would be interviewed by Bob Costas for winning Co-gold medals!

Posted by: Robin Ficker, Broker Robin Realty | August 20, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

It should be clear to all by now that being Council President has gone to Mike Knapp's head.

He's not well respected by his Council colleagues or a great many residents in his District.

This most recent public insult to Ike Leggett is only the latest in a series of missteps and power grabs. Look at what's he's done to the PHED Committee.

Thankfully, we only have a few more months before Phil Andrews becomes Council President. Andrews is a first class public servant.

Posted by: Citizen of Montgomery | August 20, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

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