Prince George's County delegates, "unanimously and perfunctorily" in the words of one, rejected a bill today that would have ended Takoma Park's annual quest to allow residents to vote to unify the city in either Montgomery or Prince George's County.
The Prince George's delegates voted 16 to 0 to reject a bill, introduced by Montgomery lawmakers, that would have granted Takoma Park the right to hold a referendum on unifying the city that is now split between the two counties. They also rejected, by a margin of 18 to 0, a bill that would have granted the city independent zoning authority, separate from the governments of Prince George's and Montgomery counties.
In other action, the county's delegates unanimously approved a measure that expands Prince George's County's Board of Elections Supervisors from three members to five. The bill must now be reviewed by the standing comittees of both the House and Senate and then the full membership of both houses.
By legislative custom, such "local bills" must be approved by the affected delegation before they are considered by the full House or Senate.
After the meeting, state Del. Gerard Devlin (D-Prince George's) said the Takoma Park bills, which caused heated debate in previous years were "unanimously and perfunctorily rejected" today because legislators believe most problems associated with the city's divided status have been worked out through other means.
Moreover, said state Del. Thomas Mooney (D-Prince George's), who represents the Prince George's portion of Takoma Park, "It's not good public policy to allow people to vote to decide which county they want to live in. If they want to live in Montgomery County they should move." Mooney previously supported unification, but he changed his position last year. He said Montgomery lawmakers should stop sponsoring the bills. "It's kind of Montgomery's creeping imperialism," he said.
Takoma Park Mayor Sammie Abbott countered, "I would retort that he's Mooney been there for his second term and I think this will be his last."
Takoma Park's boundaries span both counties, and residents and city officials have long complained that their divided status causes them to suffer unwarranted administrative burdens. This was the fourth successive year Takoma Park backers have attempted a boundary change. The first two years the bills died in the Prince George's delegation, which approved the measures last year, only to have them killed by senators.
The Prince George's delegates also approved bills that raise the ceiling on the number of liquor licenses the county can grant and give the Maryland-National Capital Park Police jurisdiction in both counties.
The bill to expand the county's Elections Board to five members is being supported by black leaders so a black voting member could be appointed without firing any current members. The board now has three voting members and three nonvoting alternates. One of the alternates is black. Black leaders in the county said such representation is unacceptable given the county's large numbers of black residents and black participation in voter registration efforts.
Although the measure passed by a vote of 21 to 0, several delegates said the bill as currently drafted gives the Republican Party unwarranted representation. The bill calls for two Republican members and three Democrats, while Democrats outnumber Republicans in the county 3 to 1.