The Montgomery County Council delivered a setback yesterday to the tiny municipality of Takoma Park when council members refused to support the city's efforts to be unified inside Montgomery.
On a split vote, the council, wary of the fiscal impact Takoma Park unification might have, backed County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist's proposal to set up a task force to study it.
Leaders of Takoma Park's unification battle had wanted the issue put to city voters in November 1983, meaning that the General Assembly would have to approve the bill in its upcoming three-month session. It's doubtful the assembly would approve the measure unless officials from both Montgomery and Prince George's counties favored it.
"What they're trying to do is delay the whole frickin' thing," said Sammie Abbott, Takoma Park's caustic mayor, after the council action. "The task force is a way of killing it."
Takoma Park is now split between Montgomery and Prince George's counties, with Montgomery having the larger chunk. Takoma Park residents, led by Abbott, argue that being located in two counties doubles the headaches of dealing with county governments. Also, Prince George's collects about $1.8 million from the residents in its sector of the city, but provides no services to the self-governing city, except for about $44,000 for street lighting, according to Abbott.
The little city's fight for unification is a drama not exactly of epic proportions, but at least with some of the elements of a modern-day independence struggle. For Takoma Park residents, the issue is one of self-determination; 84 percent of the residents on the Prince George's side said in a referendum that they wanted the chance to decide the issue.
For Prince George's, the issue is one of territorial sovereignty; one county delegate quipped during an earlier debate that the county has never voluntarily ceded land to Montgomery. The Montgomery delegation has generally favored unification.