Montgomery's GOP county executive candidate Joseph C. McGrath, stepping up his attacks on County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist, yesterday criticized his Democratic opponent's response to the growing number of racially motivated incidents in the county, and offered his own plan that calls for more government involvement in supporting the community and the victims.
At a news conference called in a Bethesda neighborhood where a swastika was recently painted, McGrath said the number of hate incidents in Montgomery increased about 42 percent this year over last year. "Typically, Mr. Gilchrist has come forth with a half-baked paper plan that does not accomplish the job nor solve the problem at hand," McGrath said.
McGrath proposed continuous police monitoring of hate groups, more coordination with other jurisdictions and a joint effort among the police and fire departments, civic groups and municipal officials, all coordinated by the county's Human Relations Commission.
McGrath drew swift and angry criticism from Gilchrist, Police Chief Bernard D. Crooke and Joan Weiss, the HRC staff member who coordinates the county's activities against hate groups. They said McGrath's proposals are already being implemented.
Weiss said the HRC and police now report to each other regularly. As for coordination, she said the county participates in the statewide Coalition Opposed to Violence and Extremism, and that the county's program has been cited as a model.
McGrath also said he would reactivate the criminal intelligence unit of the police department, which he said Gilchrist disbanded. Crooke, a Gilchrist appointee, said the unit, which keeps track of hate groups, was not disbanded, but merged with the vice squad and that he is " now getting better information than I ever received before."
Gilchrist and Crooke attributed the increase in the number of hate incidents to better reporting, which they said proves the effectiveness of the program.
McGrath also criticized Gilchrist for moving too slowly in response to the areawide rabies outbreak. McGrath called for the resignation of Edmond F. Rovner, Gilchrist's special assistant, because of a remark Rovner made when the rabies problem was first mentioned in June. Gilchrist said he has no plans to remove Rovner for quipping, "I'd be more worried about being bitten by [council member] Esther Gelman " than by a rabid raccoon.
"That was just a little bickering back in June, before this problem became serious," Gilchrist said.