Takoma Park's Mayor Sammie Abbott, who a month ago scorned Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) for his support of the MX missile, has patched things up and once more invited the representative to the "nuclear free" town, this time for a forum on the controversial missile.
However, the crusty, 77-year-old Abbott has made it clear that the invitation is not an apology for having abruptly withdrawn an earlier invitation to Hoyer for a memorial ceremony April 4 for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The mayor took that action after the House approved funding for the MX in March.
"What the hell did I have to apologize for?" Abbott said yesterday. "Why should people apologize for political positions in America?"
Takoma Park declared itself a nuclear-free zone in 1983, when the City Council voted to prohibit transport or production of nuclear weapons within city limits. But the council has since slightly softened its ban on contracting with companies involved in nuclear weapons production.
Despite their continuing political differences, Abbott has asked Hoyer to appear at a May 16 forum and the congressman has accepted, a Hoyer spokeswoman said.
Hoyer, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, has supported the MX "with reservations" since he was first elected in 1981, the spokeswoman, Karen Johanson, said.
The mayor continues to defend his earlier withdrawal of the invitation, which several City Council members criticized as rude and embarrassing to the city. The council members, most of whom also oppose the MX, wrote a letter of apology to Hoyer.
But Abbott maintains that the upcoming forum, which will consist of a speech followed by a question period, is different from commemoration ceremonies for the slain civil rights leader.
"It would be highly inappropriate for a supporter of the MX nuclear weapon system to speak at the commemoration of a Nobel Peace Prize winner -- especially in a nuclear-free-zone city," said Abbott. "It was in no way restraining or cutting down on his free speech rights. . . .The proof of the pudding is we've asked him to come in, under a different format."
Abbott said it was less than a week after he withdrew Hoyer's invitation to speak in the city that he issued the second invitation.
"My personal philosophy is to provide a platform for the widest dissemination of viewpoints," the mayor said. "If he can convince his own constituency . . .that his stand will further the cause of peace, then more power to him."