Twas the week before the election and Montgomery Council emmber John Menke, who lost a Democratic primary bid for county executive, admitted he had just about had his fill of campaign promises.
At this week's council meeting, after listening to his colleagues seeking reelection make their weekly campaign pitches from their council chairs, Menke fired a few shots himself.
He was "appalled," Menke said, at some council incumbents' responses to the candidates' questionnaire distributed by the Committee for Governmental Accountability, a newly formed bipartisan business lobby. He accused them of wavering from some long held council policies - which they had previously supported - to gain favor with the now-fashionable business lobby which has been promoting greater economic growth and development in the county.
Menke noted that Esther gelman and Neal Potter had listed "no position" in response to the business community's statement that commercial zoning in business districts is too strict - despite their previous agreement with such zoning policies.
"I caught the same thing," chimed in Gelman.
Then Menke noted how the three incumbents seeking reelection - Potter. Gelman and Elizabeth Scull - had "agreed" with the business community's position that water rates should be set on a "cost-to-serve" basis even though the council has adopted a "water conservation pricing policy" charging less per gallon for lower rate consumption.
"They must have put me down wrong on that one," interrupted Potter. Menke started rolling his eyes at the interuptions.
"Maybe this should become an agenda item, Mr. Menke," suggested Scull, the council president. "I don't think we can go quickly through this."
Menke protested and continued. Finally be noted the business community's statement that the 1980 county budget should be held to 1979 spending levels, without an adjustment for inflation, "even if it results in a reduction in existing (work) force."
"The results of this," Menke said, "would be close to the budget TRIM (Tax Relief in Montgomery) is proposing."
Menke said Potter had remained consistent with his opposition to that idea, while Gelman and Scull, staunch opponents of TRIM, said "agree" and "no position" respectively.
When Menke was finished, Scull had her turn. "As for me," she said, responding to an unidentified campaign criticism, "I'm tired of being accused of initiating the sewer moratorium. I would like to say for the umpteenth time that the sewer moratorium was imposed by the state in May 1970 before any of the incumbents on this council were elected."
And so it went a week before the election.
In other business this week, the council adopted a resolution asking all agencies to institute a partial hiring freeze to generate some surplus to carry over to 1980.
The council asked the agencies not to fill more than half of the positions authorized for the rest of the fiscal year nor more than a third of the jobs which become vacant. Because the budget has been approved and allocated, the council has no authority to impose a hiring freeze.
Budget officers have estimated that the 1979 deficit may reach $21 million because of inflation, rising debt requirements and slower revenue growth. If TRIM is passed on Tuesday by voters, a minimum of $26 million in cuts would face the new council next year.