akoma Park got a boost today in its bid for a referendum on shifting the Prince George's section of the city into Montgomery County.
Prince George's members of the House of Delegates, who last year voted 14 to 7 against putting the proposal to a popular vote, split 9 to 9 this morning, which keeps the initiative alive. The delegation will reconsider the issue next week and proponents say if all 23 county delegates attend the proposal could pass. The measure requires approval by the full General Assembly.
"I expected to lose at this point but we didn't get killed," said Takoma Park Councilman Lou D'Ovidio, who was at the delegation meeting here today. "This is a win."
Takoma Park straddles the county line, with about a third in Prince George's. Officials and residents say that presents problems of separate school systems, tax rates, garbage collection and court systems.
"We've had instances of serious police needs," said Del. Pauline Menes (D-Prince George's). "The police department wants to know, 'Are you in P.G. or Montgomery?' The caller says, 'P.G.,' as someone tries to strangle him. 'Oh, no,' the police say, 'we have you in Montgomery.'
"This is day-to-day, moment-to-moment agony for people caught in the middle."
In a "straw-vote" last November residents of the Prince George's side of the 100-year-old city voted 970-186 in favor of putting the annexation question on the ballot. No referendum would be held in Montgomery since its Takoma Park residents would not be directly affected by the shift. Montgomery County delegates support the referendum.
The Prince George's delegates argued today over prospects of lost tax revenue for the county, problems with redrawing legislative districts and the need to protect two liquor dealers who might find themselves inMontgomery, which allows private sale of only beer and wine.
Democrat GerardF. Devlin (D-Prince George's) worried that the shift would require a "change in life style" for the 4,200 residents who would go from working-class Prince George's to bucolic Montgomery.
"Polyester will be out and Harris tweed will be in," said Devlin to his colleagues' guffaws. "Pool halls are out and Burning Tree (a Montgomery County country club) is in. Hunting boots are out, Gucci shoes are in."
While today's vote was heartening to Citizens for a Referendum to Unite Takoma Park, delegates warned that time is short for referendum legislation before the General Assembly session ends April 11.
"It's not insurmountable, but it's going to be difficult," said Del. Thomas J. Mooney (D-Prince George's) who lives in Takoma Park.