Several hundred people came to talk to the County Council about a variety of issues at its town hall meeting on Nov. 12, but Timothy Long got the most applause.
Long was one of many volunteer firefighters who came to ask Councilmember Michael Knapp (D-2) about legislation he has introduced which would restructure the fire department.
“We’re neighbors trying to help neighbors. Why won’t you let us do that?” said Long, a member of B-CC Rescue Squad.
Under the legislation, volunteer chiefs and the fire and rescue commission will have much of their power shifted to the County Fire Administrator. Knapp says it is necessary in order to improve accountability and decision making.
Volunteer fire departments across the county are opposed to the legislation which they think is a power grab that will erode volunteer service.
Knapp first praised both career and volunteer firefighters for the work they have done. He then briefly explained his position, stressing the threats posed to the county due to its proximity to Washington DC. “This was an opportunity to take a good system and make it better,” he said.
Council Vice President Steve Silverman (D-At Large) addressed volunteers’ complaints that the bill is being rushed through the Council.
“I don’t think the Council is going to be moving expeditiously,” Silverman said. “There is no fast track on this legislation.”
The other main issue was the “Carry-in, Carry-out” policy being introduced at county parks, which would eliminate trash cans.
“We believe it will not work,” said Lloyd Guerci of Chevy Chase.
As a cost savings measure, the parks department is removing trash cans from most parks in the county. Residents are being asked to remove any trash they bring with them back out of the park when they leave.
Many resident feel this will lead to increased amounts of litter, with a corresponding increase in the amount of vermin, in the parks.
“This is intended to be, at least, a year effort,” said Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-At Large). She explained that the county is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove the trash and this could help save money. “Can we change our behavior and can we take some ownership,” Floreen said.
Councilmember Howard Denis (R-1), who represents Potomac, is opposed to the policy. “I do not support it as a social engineering experiment,” Denis said.
The concept has been implemented in many national parks, including C&O Canal National Historical Park.
ALSO IN ATTENDANCE were people opposed to the construction of the Purple Line alongside the Capital Crescent Trail. Many who enjoy walking along the trial believe that conditions will be unsafe and that the trail will lose much of its charm if the Purple Line is built.
Councilmember Tom Perez (D-5) disagreed; he cited an example of a similar trail next to transit in Boston which is very popular.
“It is very compelling proof … that they can coexist,” Perez said.
He also noted that when the land was purchased for the trail it was done so with the understanding that a transit line would be placed there as well. “There was no hiding the ball when the county did that,” Perez said.
Denis does not think that the line will work. He believes that the proposed light rail will cause potential riders to change trains and modes too many times and that the line will not be used.
“I think it’s time that we have some more realistic solutions,” Denis said. He recommends a real Metro line — which is heavy rail, possibly underground. “We need a Metro system to go east-west in Montgomery County,” he said.