In Montgomery County, the forecast for the New Year is cloudy skies with a chance of rain. Montgomery will start 1983 with a long, cold winter as county officials try to cope with an austere budget and diminshing resources.
The thaw will not begin until budget matters are resolved, a new school superintendent is chosen, a police wage contract is negotiated, and the county's cable television franchise is worked out. Even in the warmer months there will be periodic showers, when county salaries must be negotiated and sludge controversies resolved. Overcast skies may reappear when the school board tackles boundary changes and school closings.
By July 4, the county will already have had its share of fireworks.
Normal temperatures should return in autumn, however, as newly elected officials begin to feel at home in their jobs and the complicated problems that county faced in winter begin to change complexion like the falling leaves.
Here is a preview of 1983 in Montgomery County: The Government
County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist, just reelected to his second term, opens the new year facing one of his toughest political battles: the county budget.
Although Montgomery remains economically stable -- and still one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the nation -- the financial crunch is beginning to hit home. Gilchrist wants to find a way to close a projected $11 million revenue gap without raising taxes.
In the first few months of 1983 we'll see the executive experiment with some new ideas about how to raise revenues. The budget office is already looking into some possible new user fees in the county health department.
If the $11 million shortfall has not been remedied by spring, the picture will be bleaker. Gilchrist will ask all agency heads to trim an additional 2 percent from the already-tight budget. This could mean significant layoffs of county workers.
The formal budget will be presented in March, and no agency officials are happy about its anticipated leanness.In fact, fights are already shaping up between the executive and the independent school board and the executive and the bi-county park and planning commission. Both the school board and the park and planning commission have already begun lobbying the County Council for more funds.
The budget debate goes on... and on.... County employes' salaries will be another sticky issue for the council and executive to take up in 1983. A special commission will decide in the spring what, if anything, should be done with salary levels that some, including County Council president David Scull, think are too high.
The council will also be looking at ways to cut costs of the county's generous compensation package -- expecially soaring health benefit costs -- which is likely to pit the council's more antilabor voices (Scull and new councilman William Hanna) against their colleagues and Gilchrist.
High on the list of political hot potatoes for 1983 is a proposal to open a multimillion dollar incinerator at the intersection of Rte. 355 and Shady Grove Road to cope with the county's waste disposal problem. The council will also consider the feasibility of a plan to ship Montgomery's sludge by rail to dump sites in West Virginia.
Personality clashes are a perennial item on the governmental agenda in Montgomery, and 1983 should be no exception. Although Gilchrist has made amends with his former detractors on the council -- Scull and vice president Esther Gelman -- there could be some reorganizations in the executive department that reopen old wounds. Schools
Most of the color and controversy in Montgomery politics during the past few years came from the old seven-member school board, which had been embroiled in fights with the community and the State Board of Education over countywide school closings and policies on racial integration. But now there is a new board and, if its members have their way, 1983 will be calmer and a lot less colorful than 1982. The word from the school board is: Let's get back to being moderate (and maybe even bland?).
Pulling this off, of course, may be difficult. When the board reconvenes in the New Year its members -- four of whom are newly elected -- will face three big tests.
Test Number 1 for the school board is a multiple choice exam that begins with: "Adios Eduardo...." Superintendent Edward Andrews will resign from his $70,000-per-year post on July 1 and the new board must select his replacement.
The problem is... who on earth would want a job that calls for 70-hour work weeks and constant scrutiny by a hyperative group of parents who have PhDs in "citizen involvement," and who raise overachieving kids?
The answer, apparently, is, not too many people. There still is some lingearing speculation that Andrews will stay on, but board members and Andrews have stressed that this is not in the cards. Answer to the question of who will replace him: Wait until the spring.
Test Number 2 will require the board members to do some homework in math: In the first few months of the year they will have to figure out how to battle the County Council over a budget that could be one of the leanest in years.
The answer to this question may have to be decided by holding a roller derby contest featuring the tag team of board president Blair Ewing and superintendent Andrews against county executive Gilchrist and council president Scull.
Test Number 3 is an essay question. For a grade of "A" the board members must show an acute understanding of history and display a solid background in political science. The test is to come up with school closings and boundary changes that satisfy the state board and county residents. The last board flunked this exam and was given a solid "F."
The county's vocal school activists, who will post the board's grades in public places, will be watching closely to see what the new board proposes for the Rosemary Hills Elementary School and Montgomery Blair High School boundary areas, both of which are in southern Silver Spring and have high proportions of minority students.
Tone and style may be the new board's key to passing these first few tests.The five members of the new majority may find tolerance and patience in the community if they appear more open and accessible than the old majority they ousted in the November elections.
Also on the school board agenda for 1983... possible change in policies that require standardized final exams in high schools throughout the county and that ban smoking on campus. County Landscape
* New metro stops at Twinbrook and downtown Rockville, once scheduled to open in 1983, now are not expected to be ready for the public until 1984.
* The skating rink at the new county office complex in downtown Rockville is open and offers stating morning, noon, and night during the winter months. If you come to skate at night you may catch a glimpse of high-ranking county officials practicing. But don't count on witnessing any political wheeling and dealing. Some traditions never die in Montgomery County. And in 1983 politicking will still take place over lunch at Hash Bros.... Cops and Courts
Montgomery County Police Chief Bernard D. Crooke Jr., asked to draft a letter to Santa Claus that included his wish list for 1983, chose three items: a continuation of stiff sentences being handed down in District Court; a continuation of solid public support for the county's police force, and success and a peaceful outcome for negotiations with the county's police officers union. The union is using collective bargaining for the first time in its contract negotiations.
Crooke said he did not want to "be piggy" and ask for more at Christmas than was the police department's due. But if he had, he also might have included an end to racial and religious violence that plagued the county in 1982, or a sobering up of the county's (and the state's) drunk drivers. Or he could have asked for a decline in incidents of domestic violence -- which are on the increase -- or even more money to hire new police officers.
As it stands, the new year promises approval of a "maintenance budget" of $37 million for the police department, which includes a 3.7 percent cast-of-living increase but no additional officers. Police and teachers are likely to fare best among county employes as the 1984 budget is worked out. The Montgomery chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police began last November to bargain collectively for the police officers' contract, and the deadline is Jan. 20.
According to Crooke, economic woes in 1983 may mean an increase in alcohol consumption and domestic spats that lead to criminal activity. But he does not think the economy by itself will necessarily mean higher crime in Montgomery County. For the past two years, Crooke says, crime has decreased during a period of economic strain. His officers will concentrate on weeding out hate violence and reducing drunk driving in 1983, two areas of increasing community concern.
In the county's halls of justice, some notorious cases will be heard in 1983.
Among them is that of the alleged Aspen Hill rapist, Timothy Buzbee, who will go to court on charges he raped six women during an 18-month period beginning in 1981.
Edward Thomas Mann, who last May drove his Lincoln Continental through the glass doors at the IBM headquarters and then sprayed 150 rounds of ammunition that killed two men, wants to plead guilty and be executed for the crime. His wish will be heard by a judge in 1983.