In the interest of providing fair coverage and ending what promised to be a prolonged debate, Takoma Park's City Council and its mayor-editor last week set up a temporary editorial policy committee for the city newsletter's October edition.
Supporters and opponents of Mayor Sammie A. Abbott appeared before the council, alternately praising him for turning out the tax-financed tabloid at no charge or condemning him for using the paper to mobilize support for favorite causes.
The mayor and council, after vociferous citizen comments, established the temporary committee, charged with setting editorial policy for opinion pieces in the October issue, establishing guidelines for submitting articles and ensuring that controversial issues get balanced treatment.
The council also introduced an ordinance that would leave final responsibility for the newsletter and appointment of its editor with the council, which later will consider any long-term plans for an editorial committee. The ordinance is expected to pass, and Abbott, a graphic artist, is likely to remain in charge of editing and producing the monthly paper.
Council member Lynne Bradley and residents Elias Vlanton and William Leary were appointed to the editorial committee.
The mayor and council also decided to register as a political committee, something the Montgomery County Board of Elections decided they must do after the council's endorsement of candidates in various primary campaigns was published in the September newsletter.
That subject also figured in last week's three-hour discussion of the newsletter. Some residents objected to having tax dollars spent in support of candidates they may oppose. Others questioned whether it was appropriate for an elected council to endorse anyone.
Council members William Eckert and Joseph Faulkner contended that although the council had agreed on which candidates members favored, the council never took a vote authorizing Abbott to print the endorsements.
Abbott said he had believed the council's consensus was apparent without a vote and said no one at the time suggested otherwise.
In other business, the council considered posting stop signs along Eastridge, Hudson, Roanoke and Wabash avenues to slow traffic through the residential neighborhoods.