MoCo Minority Communities Protest Proposed Budget Cuts
You can tell that the Montgomery County Council is getting close to making final budget decisions from the intensity of pressure that various constituencies are putting on elected officials this week in Rockville.
Two dozen leaders from the Latino, Asian and African American communities gathered at the council building this afternoon to protest a proposed 10 percent reduction to minority health programs. The group said the recommendation by the council's Health and Human Services Committee would affect 16,000 people who receive services for diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and HIV, in addition to anti-gang initiatives and a program that lends breast pumps to low-income women.
Community leaders said they were shocked to learn of the proposal, backed by all three committee members - George Leventhal, Roger Berliner and Duchy Trachtenberg.
Berliner said the committee only had "difficult choices" and was looking for money to help the hundreds of people turned away from a county clinic each month who need treatment and screening for sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis.
"This was not something we did lightly, but it was something we felt we needed to put on the table to serve these very communities in what we believe to be a more effective way," Berliner said.
Leventhal showed up before the press conference started to tell the crowd that the proposal was not a "final decision." His aide, Patty Vitale, stuck around to take tough questions about whether the committee understood the consequences of its recommendation.
She thanked the group for putting a human face on the issue and said council members were looking for alternatives to the proposed cuts.
"When we are this deep in numbers, sometimes it's easy to lose track of the faces," she said.
The full council is set to take up the issue on Monday morning.
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