Montgomery County Councilman Norman Christeller, speaking during his last day on the job, urged the council to place high priority on the development of a new housing program for the county.
"We still do not have an adequate county housing program and we still do not have a good supply of moderate income housing," said Christeller, who announced last month that he would resign from his council post after this week's meeting.
Christeller cited two other areas in which he said he has noted a "lack of progress."
"We haven't been able to accomplish tax reform needed," he told the council. "We need to switch from our heavy dependence on the property tax to (more dependence) on a broader tax more related how much people can pay."
And the outgoing councilman urged his colleagues to continue lobbying for the controversial Glenmont Metro line, a part of the new rail system that may not be built because of a lack of funds.
"All of the policies stressed by the new (federal) administration would say build the Glenmont line," he said. "I think it's partly the problem which we are always plagued by - Montgomery County is rich, people say, so let's go help someone else . . . We have a large number of citizens of very modest income. I hope people don't think Metro serves a large block of homogeneous, well-to-do people - it certainly doesn't."
Action that could lead to the housing program Christeller wants was taken this week, when the council approved a resolution that will establish an 18-member Task Force on Moderate Income Rentals.
The group, which is to prepare a report for the council by June 1, will be composed of representatives of business, tenant and community organizations, and the county government. They will study ways of "increasing and maintaining a supply of moderate income rentals in the county," according to the resolution.
The task force will investigate possible expansion of federal and county relief programs as well as construction of rentals units on county-owned land.
Thomas Hamilton, the former head of the office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs, will be a member of the group.
Christeller told the council that he has no solution for the problems of the heavy workload borne by council members, which was criticized recently by a group of Montgomery County officials, including Christeller.
"We're too busy putting out fires," said Christeller. "We're doing everything to meet deadlines. We don't have enough time for long-range planning, but that's exactly what we should be doing."
In other action, the council introduced a bill that would allow home owners and other property owners to install smoke detectors, already required by law, in any location that is most effective.
Under the present law, smoke detectors must be placed "at the head of" a stairway leading to an occupied area. The newly proposed law would specify that smoke detectors can be installed "in or near each stairway" leading to an occupied area as long as the rising smoke is not obstructed in reaching the detector and cannot bypass it.
The change has been proposed because "testing shows that due to stairway insulation, the top of the stairway is not always the best place to put the fire detector," said James Dalton, the county fire marshall. "Testing has shown that if the stairway is closed, the detector will be better at the bottom, and if the stairway is open, it should be at the top."