Montgomery County legislators are tired of being perceived in Annapolis as fat cats who should be last in line for state financial assistance.
So on Dec. 6 and 7, the county government will play host to up to 70 legislators and their spouses from around the state for an evening of cocktails, a day of touring and an overnight stay at Bethesda's spark-ling new Hyatt Regency Hotel.
County Executive Charles Gilchrist, who sent out invitations for the gathering earlier this week, is prepared to spend up to $4,500 in county funds for the weekend. Organizers hope they will marshal some statewide support for Montgomery's legislative initiatives for the session that begins in January.
"There's so much perception of the county out there as being only rich and drinking only Perrier," said Gilchrist's legislative liaison, Thomas Stone. "Frankly, we'd like to show them that this is not the case."
The tour, Stone and others said, will showcase the county's economic development successes, with special emphasis on the amount of tax dollars that developments such as the Bethesda Metro Center project with its Hyatt hotel can generate for the state.
"We're taking them to the Hyatt to show them what we are able to do and what we can continue to do so that the state dollar will benefit," said Del. Ida Ruben, the chairwoman of the county's House delegation.
The Montgomery County gathering, Ruben said, is only slightly more unusual than the lobbying bashes that have been staged in the city of Baltimore at the National Aquarium and Memorial Stadium.
Janet Hoffman, a lobbyist who will retire in January after years of representing Baltimore's interests in Annapolis, said the Aquarium picked up the tab for the "finger food-type" reception held there shortly before it opened in 1981.
Baltimore also pays for tickets to one Orioles game a year for legislators, with a party afterward, Hoffman said. The event costs about $8,000.
But, Hoffman said, "If it's a question of spending money, Montgomery County can do it without stress."
On the guest list for the Hyatt overnight are members of the House Ways and Means, House Appropriations, and Senate Budget and Taxation committees.
"The basic pitch is, yes, we are not a poor county, but this is how we are helping ourselves," Montgomery lobbyist Stone said. "What we need is leverage from the state, particularly for roads and schools."
Montgomery County legislators on the guest list say the tour will increase the county's chance of getting back a fair portion of the millions in tax revenue that Montgomery businesses and citizens contribute to the state every year.
Spending "a few thousand to save a few million seems like a pretty good deal to me," said state Sen. Stewart Bainum Jr. (D-Montgomery).
Other legislators who received their invitations for the complimentary lodging, parking, meals in the mail this week were less sanguine.
"I don't think we could do that," said Prince George's House delegation chairman Charles Ryan.
Baltimore Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg noted that the event could benefit the county's "pork barrel" agenda and that the menu will probably feature "all the pork you can eat."