To sounding trumpets and the cheers of nearly 200 people, Takoma Park's newly elected City Council took charge last week, starting what promises to be a period of change that began with a council resolution calling for a nuclear weapons freeze.
Another signal of change came when Vincent L. Gingerich, city attorney for the past 35 years, resigned. The council voted 5 to 2 not to ask Gingerich to reconsider his decision, an action that indicated the ideological disparity between the five first-term council members, who ran as independents, and two members who were endorsed by the city's traditional political group, Citizens for Sound Government.
Mayor Sammie A. Abbott, beginning his second two-year term with a council majority whose ideas largely complement his own, said he will seek reconsideration of landlord-tenant ordinances that the previous council approved over his objections.
The vote for a nuclear-weapons freeze came after Peter Franchot, Adele Abrams, David Waskow and Roxanna Young--members of the Takoma Park Committee for a Nuclear Freeze--handed the council a petition with the signatures of 300 city residents, calling for the city to join other municipalities in urging the United States and the Soviet Union to negotiate an end to the nuclear armaments race.
Frank Garcia, the only incumbent to be reelected, was alone in voting against the resolution, which was passed amid rousing cheers.
He objected to the measure's call for immediate negotiations, saying, "The country should be as strong as it can be because a strong nation is the best deterrent" to confrontation. He noted that President Reagan has described the United States' arsenal as inferior to that of the Soviet Union.
Other council members disagreed. William Eckert said that while funds for education, health care and municipalities are being cut, "We continue to lavish vast amounts on weapons systems we can't possibly use."
Council member Joseph Faulkner, a newly elected councilman who also served on the council in the 1970s, said he shared Garcia's mistrust of the Soviet Union and agreed that the U.S. must maintain strong weaponry, "but I think that increasing weapons of this kind doesn't add anything to our strength."
Mayor Abbott said that after serving in the Army during World War II, he circulated a petition asking that nuclear weapons not be used again in war. "But for that, I was driven from my job--a decorated soldier treated as a traitor in this regrettable period of American history known as McCarthyism.
"We and we alone had that weapon then," he said. "Where was the guarantee of strength when no one else had it?"
Lou D'Ovidio, Lynne Bradley, Herman Williams and Carl Iddings joined Eckert and Faulkner in voting for the resolution.
Another dominant theme of the new council's first meeting was finances.
After swearing in the new council members, acknowledging previous council members and thanking the Takoma Park Marching and Concert Band for an impromptu serenade, Abbott warned that the prospects for getting more funds from Prince George's and Montgomery counties are not encouraging.
A bill that would have required counties to formulate fair property tax rebates for services the counties don't supply municipalities within their jurisdictions was killed recently in the General Assembly. Montgomery and Prince George's counties currently give Takoma Park some rebate on property taxes collected there, but the city spends an additional $2.5 million on police, a library and other services, according to officials.
During a recent meeting with city officials, Prince George's County Executive Lawrence Hogan rejected their request that the county increase property tax rebates to the city.
"What Larry Hogan told us was the county can't negotiate," Abbott said. "Hogan said if they did it for us, they'd have to do it for every municipality. You talk to county governments and you get the feeling they think municipal government is archaic and unnecessary."
Abbott said city officials will continue to bargain for increases from Montgomery, which currently pays a larger rebate than Prince George's. He said he also will take the city's case to the Prince George's County Council.
The hazy income picture has hampered efforts to put together a city budget. A $3.5 million 1982-83 budget with three separate revenue projections was introduced during the session. Just which of the three plans the city will follow depends on how much revenue Takoma Park can muster, according to City Administrator Alvin Nichols Sr. City workers will get cost-of-living increases only if the two most optimistic revenue projections come true, he said.
Officials said much depends on whether citizens prefer reduced municipal services. Twelve public hearings and council work sessions on the budget are scheduled before its intended adoption June 14. "It'll be up to the citizens to determine," Abbott said.