Inside, the issues were far from controversial and outside the gray weather begged for a game of touch football, but the Prince George's County Council still hammered away at a long agenda and each other yesterday in one of the last sessions to be held by the present council.
All 11 members, seven of them lame ducks, attended yesterday to decide whether to get rid of some surplus schools, override an executive veto, approve some letters and amend a zoning bill. But the barbs still flew and the tensions and loyalties of the hard-fought primary were much in evidence.
Chairman Gerard McDonough, defeated by school board member JoAnn Bell in the primary last week, introduced a letter asking the water and sewer commission to give a break on sewer charges to the Wild World amusement park in Largo, since the theme park only operates four months out of the year. It was quickly rejected, 8 to 3.
"Absolutely not!" sang out Sue V. Mills, one of McDonough's harshest critics. "Absolutely not, absolutely not," mimicked David Hartlove, whom Mills unseated last week. Hartlove grinned impishly, and poked his neighbor, Floyd Wilson, in the ribs.
Next it was Mills' turn to be rejected. She protested a resolution to declare West Lanham Elementary School a surplus property, arguing that it was still in use. When the council staff said that the school was scheduled to be closed at the end of the year, the rest of the council voted to approve the measure, but Mills fought on.
"I must vote no, this is an untrue motion," said Mills. She would continue to argue over the next hour or two about every surplus school property, casting a "no" vote every time.
Mills feigned disbelief as McDonough, considered one of the council's prodevelopment leaders, voted against an industrial revenue bond to help build a motel. And she snickered 10 minutes after that when McDonough made a grave speech about why he would cast the tie-breaking vote and delay a move to consolidate the county's and the school board's printing work.
"The last time we approved a contract in a rush, we did so at the expense of honest, organized laboring people in Prince George's County," intoned McDonough. "Oh, c'mon," muttered Mills.
Perhaps it was inevitable that the final days would be thus. The majority of the council, which had by and large voted together on dozens of controversial issues the last year, would not be returning. Two of the newly nominated, Richard Castaldi and JoAnn Bell, hovered in the audience, Bell to inquire about a zoning bill.
For the members likely to remain, it was a time to press forward with the same concerns as the week before. For those who were leaving, other factors had to be considered, such as last-minute gestures to help a friend.
"I must say that it is only because of Mr. Amonett that I am voting 'aye,' " said McDonough as he voted for an amendment to a controversial zoning bill that Councilman William Amonett had strenuously supported.
The bill, introduced in July and passed unanimously in August, was originally designed to encourage developers to use comprehensive design zones by delaying the determination of adequate public facilities until later in the zoning process. Some citizens had protested, saying the bill stripped the public of needed protection in zoning matters. Councilman Amonett, who faces a tough race in November, said his original vote was a "mistake," caused by faulty staff work. He introduced an amendment to remedy the "mistake," which some council members said they opposed because it gutted the bill.
"But I'll vote to support Mr. Amonett," said the departing Ann Lombardi, smiling.