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."
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