Candidates, Officials Called to ‘Action’

Candidates, Officials Called to ‘Action’

Interfaith group Action in Montgomery announces ambitious agenda: $200 million for community centers, 1,000 affordable housing units, and guaranteed college scholarship aid.

In front of close to 700 members, elected officials, and candidates for office, leaders of the interfaith activist group Action in Montgomery announced the organization’s 2006 issue agenda March 9 at Woodside United Methodist Church in Silver Spring.

The non-partisan group said it will call on leaders to open a full-service immigration center in Montgomery County; guarantee college or vocational school scholarship aid to every public high school graduate with a C+ average and at least 90 percent attendance; and float a $200 million bond to build four new community centers, including one in Potomac’s Scotland Community.

The group revved up a several-year-old affordable housing push: calling on Montgomery County to build 1,000 affordable and workforce housing units on public land by 2009 and require that 25 percent of units in all new developments of 30 units or more be affordable units, which are controlled by the county and priced below market rate.

It also presented a list of needed pedestrian safety improvements, including the installation of a traffic light at Scotland Drive and Seven Locks Road.

“Their agenda was very, very well crafted, I think,” said Tufail Ahmad, a Potomac resident and candidate for Montgomery County Council at-large. “I approve it and I will fight for it.”

THE GROUP, which comprises 32 county congregations representing 32,000 residents, developed its issue agenda in scores of community meetings and what it called “thousands” of one-on-one member meetings.

Ahmad, a Muslim, said that he would like to see county Muslims join AIM. Nine members of the Montgomery County Muslim Council attended Thursday. Parishioners of Scotland AME Zion Church in Potomac — a prospective member congregation — were also present.

Four speakers highlighted the importance of the AIM agenda items with stories of their own experiences.

Ghanaian immigrant Gabriel Ahiamadi of Burtonsville talked about being denied overtime pay at the Subway restaurant where he works. He said he wants to seek a better job but is not familiar with American customs or skills like writing a resume.

“There needs to be a place for new immigrants to go and learn about the ways of this country,” he said.

Mary Caroline Colletti of Rockville described being struck by a car on Colesville Road in 1993. She was crossing during a “walk” signal but a car made a fast left turn, almost veering into oncoming traffic and jutting back into Colletti.

“I had a lane and a half to go to reach the sidewalk when she struck me,” said Colletti, who described living in constant pain due to tissue damage. “The ER doctor said the defensive posture of protecting my head saved my life and my cognitive abilities.”

“When other pedestrians restrained the driver from leaving the scene of the accident,” Colletti added, “the driver said she didn’t stop because she was in a hurry.”

LISTENING TO stories like Colletti’s and Ahiamadi’s were 17 candidates for County Council and County Executive—including most of the members of the current Council; U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-8th), whose district covers much of Montgomery County; and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R), a candidate for U.S. Senate.

Steele and Van Hollen both vowed support for the immigration center and each of the countywide candidates vowed to meet with AIM members to discuss the AIM agenda before this year’s elections.