Complaints Shelve Plan to Name New Library for Duncan

By Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

In a celebratory tribute to Douglas M. Duncan in the final week of his 12 years as Montgomery County executive, his supporters planned to name the new Rockville library after him at tomorrow's grand opening.

Then library boosters in Rockville got wind of the plan. Duncan, they said, has been no friend of the libraries.

So the dedication will be delayed until a public hearing is held, and Duncan (D) will leave office without his name on the $26.3 million building in the heart of the city where he was raised.

Council President George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) formally proposed the dedication last week at the suggestion, he said, of Duncan's supporters, including longtime aide David Weaver. Leventhal informally polled fellow council members, who "overwhelmingly said, 'Great idea.' "

But Gayl Selkin-Gutman, chairwoman of the Rockville Library Advisory Committee, warned council members this week that her group and the Rockville chapter of Friends of the Library were prepared to protest the ceremony if the proposal was not withdrawn. She told Leventhal that it would be a "travesty" to name the building for Duncan.

In a letter to Leventhal yesterday, Wayne Goldstein of the Montgomery County Civic Federation wrote: "Mr. Duncan went out of his way, at every critical junction, to delay or minimize county responsibility to help fund the Rockville library."

The discontent dates to at least 2000, when library advocates in Rockville and Germantown were dismayed that Duncan's six-year capital spending plan delayed money for library projects. They successfully lobbied the council to speed up the funding by three years.

More recently, critics saw Duncan as an obstacle to free parking for Rockville library patrons. They credited the council -- not Duncan -- with adding more than $500,000 to his proposed fiscal 2007 budget for book acquisitions and frontline workers.

Weaver, Duncan's spokesman, has a different view of the numbers: Overall, Duncan has increased funding for libraries by 75 percent, expanded library hours and fought for state money for the Rockville project. As evidence of Duncan's commitment to libraries, Weaver said, critics should note that the library is the focal point of the new Rockville town center.

Susan Hoffmann, a Rockville City Council member, defended Duncan's record and called the tribute "perfectly appropriate" for a retiring county executive who grew up in Rockville and served as the city's mayor.

"He certainly did not stand in the way of this library being built," said Hoffmann, who is head of marketing for the county's Silver Spring Regional Services Center. "I'm a little nonplussed by the whole thing.

Duncan's administration is leaving the dedication decision to County Executive-elect Isiah "Ike" Leggett (D), who takes over Monday. He supports naming the building for Duncan, his spokesman said yesterday, but wants to give residents an opportunity to comment.

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