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Political Hardball in MoCo's Ambulance Fee Debate

It was rare to see County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) publicly push back yesterday with a press conference to denounce a County Council alternative to his proposed ambulance fee.

Council member Valerie Ervin, who supports the alternative, said she and her colleagues have been under an "all-out assault" by Leggett and labor union leaders to get behind the fee that would raise about $14 million.

By yesterday afternoon, Ervin sensed retribution for her actions. She was told that Leggett was no longer interested in funding an experimental school program that she and others have worked on for the last 18 months. The program, based at Kennedy High School and its feeder schools, is aimed at helping some of the county's neediest families.

"For this to happen at this point, it clearly looks like retribution," Ervin said. "We're ready to go forward and he's saying, 'too bad.'"

Ervin said the program costs the county about $150,000.

But Leggett's advisor Jennifer Hughes said any funding decisions are unrelated to the debate over the ambulance fee. There will likely be a more modest expansion of the Kennedy program than anticipated, she said, "but that does not in any way shape or form translate into reductions or not moving ahead."

With the county facing a projected $250 million shortfall for fiscal 2010, however, Hughes cautioned that everything is on the table.

"I'm not sure why anyone would think that their pet project - whether they support the ambulance fee or not - would be protected."

By Ann Marimow  |  November 19, 2008; 11:22 AM ET
Categories:  Ann Marimow , Montgomery County  
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