Montgomery blacks chastised county officials last week for a growing lack of concern for minorities.
"In the past, the image and reputation of Montgomery County has been one of the most progressive in the nation," former school board member Roscoe R. Nix told County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist and five of the seven County Council members. "It has been a community creative in reaching solutions to bring people together along racial . . . and economic (lines). But that reputation is seriously tarnished."
Nix was among black leaders whose comments on housing, employment, schools and health care rang with frustration as they cited a lack of progress in hiring blacks and providing them with services.
More than 100 persons -- twice the number expected -- attended the meeting at the county office building.
Black leaders including ministers, spokesmen for civic associations and fraternity and sorority members were invited to the gathering, billed as a "dialogue" between elected officials and the black community.
The meeting was arranged by DeVance Walker, a county minority affairs officer. Council members Esther P. Gelman and Elizabeth L. Scull did not attend.
During the evening, several speakers cited a report on county government employment released two weeks ago by the Montgomery branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The report showed, among other findings, that few blacks hold top paying positions in county government.
"There are still large numbers of minorities receiving low pay who are locked into jobs with very little upward mobility and very little training," said Ruby A. Rubens, an official of Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority.
Gilchrist said the NAACP report was based on 1978 figures, which predate his administration.
"We still have a long way to go, (although) we have begun to make progress," he said. "I'm very much concerned about what kind of county this is and what people think our intentions are."
Rubens called "repressive" a recent proposal to combine the personnel office with the employe relations office that handles equal employment opportunity, affirmative actions and grievances.
"I sharply disagree with you," said Gilchrist. "I think by melding the staff together we can continue to make much better progress on affirmative action than has been made before."
"An enlightened government would want an independent source of information about minority employment," countered Hanley Norment, an official of Alpha Phi Alpha, a black fraternity.
County police officer Tony Fisher, president of the Coalition of Black Police Officers, objected to a recent requirement that police trainess must have two to four years of college. He said in 1962 a federal program assisted police officers to obtain college degrees. The program only benefited white officers, he said, because there were no blacks on the force at the time.
The white officers "are the people who are trying to persuade politicians that (college) education is necessary to be a police officer," Fisher said.
"When you realize there was not a single black on the force until 1968, I think you see the scope of the problem," said County Council member Rosa Crenca. "There is a serious problem in the police force."
Gilchrist said the college requirement for police trainees was instituted before he took office. He said one difficulty in recruiting black officers is that black applicants often cannot wait for employment until the county begins another police training class. Gilchrist suggested that the county might consider providing employment for people who are waiting for a training class.
A number of speakers expressed concern about recent school board decisions, which they said were not in the best interest of blacks. They cited a 1979 decision which made optional an in-service training course in black culture and history. Previously, all school staff members had to take the class.
"The school board has made decisions which are inimical to black children and black parents," said Nix, who added that the black community has developed a "serious disaffection" with the school board.
Housing for low- and moderate-income families also drew heated comment. Speakers said the county lacks sufficient low-rent units. The increasing number of condominium conversions is forcing out of the county residents who cannot afford to buy homes. In addition, speakers urged the council to avoid clustering low-income families in one place.
Gilchrist said the county was "trying in every way to encourage the construction of more rental housing," and that a proposed tax on condominium conversion would enable the county to "double the amount of assisted housing."
Elvira F. Williams, a health administrator and educator, asked Gilchrist about the county's commitment to health care for the poor. She said that although a high number of doctors per capita work in Montgomery County, many consistently refuse to treat low-income patients.
"You're quiet right," said Gilchrist. "In the area of health we have not expanded our program." But he also warned that in a period of "fiscal crisis such as this, it's going to be very difficult to do that."