Montgomery County's new Republican congressman. Newton Steers, and the 14 county residents who lunched with him yesterday at the Capitol were following a time-honored political tradition:
They were constituents seeking to influence their representative, who in turn sought to assure them he was not forgetting his campaign pledges.
There was one difference, however. All of the 14 constituents who met with Steers wer eblack and were members of his newly formed black advisory committee.
In forming the group, picked by polling black groups and individuals throughout the couty, Steers was fulfilling a campaign pledge made last fall when he was seeking the Eighth Congressional District seat.
James Moone, the advisory group's chairman, said it was a first for the suburban Washington jurisdiction whose 42,000 blacks comprise just 7 per cent of Montgomery County's population.
The committee's formation reflects not only Steers' political self-interest, but also an attempt by Montgomery County blacks to develop and flex their political muscle.
An aide to Steers said that about 11,000 of the 15,000 blacks who voted in the November election in the Eight District voted for Steers. The contention is significant because Steers' margin of victory over Democrat Lanny J. Davis was about 11,000 votes.
"We're trying to dispel the invisbility of blacks in the county," said Moone, who is president of the Montgomery County Black Voters League. "We want to keep (Steers) aware of our needs and interests."
"We can't wait for bills to be passed or legislation to come out of committees before we act," said Odessa Shannon, another committee member. "We've got to exert our influence before the decisions are made. We've got to be involved in the process."
During the 90-minute luncheon, committee members expressed a wide range of concerns, from black unemployment and the lack of housing in the couty for low- and moderate-in-come people, to full voting rights for D.C.Del. Walter Fauntroy and American involvement in southern Africa.
Steers breifly discussed with the group legislation he has cosponsored, such as a joint resolution proposing full voting rights for the District and a measure aimed at reducing unemployment among youth, but said he was primarily there to listen to the group's concerns.
"I hope you don't think (the committee's formation) is some magic answer - that we'll all just push a button and resolve the problems, he told them. "We should have low expectations and work to exceed them."
Later when questioned by a reporter, Steers said he felt the black advisory committee was necessary because "blacks are still suffering from the effects of years of discrimination. I feel this is a form of affirmative action.We can do some things which will help blacks, and in the long run help everybody."