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Service With a Smile: Fruit plates and dueling personalities in Montgomery and Annapolis

My, that was an awkward meeting.

Montgomery County council members invited some powerful members of Maryland's general assembly over for breakfast Tuesday morning, then proceeded to serve them a little finger wagging.

The talk was focused on a controversy over state funding for education--and on hundreds of millions in impending cuts from the state's overall budget.

For years, Montgomery has far exceeded state requirements on schools spending. The county and state have been sparring over whether Montgomery should be able to trim that spending in tight times without being penalized under so-called "maintenance of effort" rules. Some other counties are in similar straits.

There was broad agreement between the council and Montgomery's representatives in Annapolis on some key substantive questions. But as far as style and personalities go, some of them weren't in the same universe, let alone the same crowded Rockville conference room.

House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve told council members they should speak directly with the governor, period. When Barve added that he didn't think it was smart to be "discussing strategy in an open session," councilmember Valerie Ervin shot back: "We have open meetings."

Awkward millisecond pause...

"I don't show people my cards when I play poker," Barve responded.

Later councilmember Nancy Navarro questioned whether matters of substance drive policy making "over there."

"Over where?" Barve asked.

"In Annapolis," Navarro said.

"I've heard that time and time again. The merits don't matter," Navarro added.

Sensing things weren't going well, councilmember George Leventhal tried to go positive. He was "reading the body language" around the table, he said, and wanted to emphasize that the point was not to have the "council vs. the General Assembly."

"We all understand we're in this together," Leventhal said, to noises of agreement all around the room.

But the air was not completely cleared. Added Del. Brian Feldman, "in all due respect" to Navarro: "We do take into account merit. We don't just waste our time down there."

By Michael Laris  |  July 21, 2009; 11:25 AM ET
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Well does matters of substance influence County Decisions, if so then why hasn't the County Council brought pressure on Jerry Weast to resign, Mr. Weast sent a letter to the State Board of Education that could require Montgomery County to come up with an additional 70 million dollars by the end of the fiscal year.He did this in spite or maybe to spite the County Council. Sound pretty substantive to me. Also I haven’t forgotten the Promethean Boards where Mr. Weast ignored the Council CIP and burdened Montgomery County with an additional 13 million dollar purchase during a year where we had to deal with a 600 million dollar deficit. He Broke State Law! This too is pretty substantial to me yet Mr. Weast has only been told don’t do that again. However, remember that the Director of Economic Development made a bad decision and was pressured to resign. Seems issues of substance are ignored on the County Council too depending on influence. Politics always interesting.
Cary Lamari

Posted by: carylamari | July 21, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

The lesson Montgomery County and Maryland officials need to learn is that they can't tax us out of a recession. Big increases in sales, income, car and corporate taxes only worked against us.

Posted by: robinfickerofrobinrealty | July 21, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

The County Council has Open Meetings, except when they take votes by having "staff poll" members outside the viewing of the public.

And now Councilmember Navarro must be forgetting about her previous position as Board of Education President when she took discussion of illegal curricular fees behind closed doors without properly advising the public.

Posted by: jzsartucci | July 22, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Let's get more specific about the agenda that was supposed to save our state and county:
13.5% increase in property taxes
10% energy tax increase
20% sales tax increase
52.6% state income tax increase
20% car tax increase
18% corporate tax increase
15 year high water bill increase + 9% more
75% electricity bill increases
5 year high Metro fare increase
speed camera tax ($53,000/day)
33% parking fee increase
gasoline tax increase (repeatedly proposed)

Posted by: robinficker | July 22, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

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