In the end, the story could be told by who was in the audience and by the red and blue ribbons on Rose Crenca's lapel.
Watching last week as the Montgomery County Council took the last of its formal votes enacting a growth policy for Silver Spring were three lawyers from Linowes and Blocher, the premier land use law firm in the county; developer Lloyd S. Moore and his partner, and four members of PROGRESS, a citizens group in favor of a major redevelopment of the downtown. The ribbons worn by council president Crenca were PROGRESS' badge.
Throughout the months-long controversy of how many jobs to allow in Silver Spring -- 15,000, 13,500, 11,250, 9,500, 8,500, so the bidding went in what one council staff member likened to an old-fashioned auction -- Crenca was the key. She was courted, lobbied, cajoled, pushed, pressured and pulled in both directions.
To council member Bruce T. Adams, the contest was "Crenca versus Crenca," the onetime civic activist against the three-term council member.
But, to Adams' council colleague Isiah Leggett, there really was not much suspense in Crenca's decision.
Back in October, before the council began its deliberations on Silver Spring, Leggett predicted that Crenca would opt for a number close to the 13,500 jobs favored by County Executive Sidney Kramer rather than siding with the Silver Spring-Takoma Traffic Coalition, which so vigorously opposed his plan.
The people active in PROGRESS "go a long way with Rose," Leggett said.
"They have been involved in trying to revitalize Silver Spring from day one, and Rose has a great deal of faith in them. She valued their opinion."
Another factor, he said, was Crenca's pride in her hometown and her steely determination to see it revitalized. Perhaps the best example of that came in an exchange with Adams on the day she announced her decision.
Adams warned Crenca that her numbers were excessive and the result would be worse than the high-density problems of Bethesda. "Bethesda will look like a walk in the country compared to Silver Spring," said Adams, who lives in Bethesda.
"You want to compare Bethesda and Silver Spring," Crenca countered, "compare the value of your house with my house." Crenca said she was willing to take the gamble to see something done for Silver Spring.
Leggett, too, took a gamble that day. Like Adams, he wanted the fewest possible new jobs. Unlike Adams and council member Neal Potter, Leggett was not willing, in an important straw vote, to accept the 9,500-job proposal advanced by Crenca. He held out for 8,500.
That refusal created a deadlock on the seven-member council when none of the figures offered could gain the four votes needed for passage. Crenca subsequently gave her support to the proposal for 11,250 jobs.
Adams and others think that if Leggett had voted for the 9,500, it would have stuck because it would have been hard for Crenca to change her mind to support the higher figure. Crenca agreed, "It would have been decided . . . . We would have had to live within 9,500."
"A strategic error," Adams said of Leggett's vote.
Leggett disagrees, pointing out that the vote was strictly a straw poll and that he believes Crenca was always leaning toward a higher number. He also said her proposal was framed so as to be legally unsound.
Leggett, some local office holders say, approaches issues like the law professor he is and not the politician he could be.
They point to his actions during the council's confirmation of Kramer's controversial nomination of John P. Hewitt to the Planning Board. Leggett opposed Hewitt but came out so late and in such a way that he lost the crucial vote of council member Michael L. Gudis, who assured Hewitt's nomination to the board.
"Leggett likes to do his own thing, but on the council your own thing doesn't mean much if you can't get three others to do your thing, too," said one council member.
Since September, county officials as well as the reporters covering them and the public watching them have done little but talk, think and breathe Silver Spring.
Crenca suggested there might be withdrawal pains. To wit, here are some of the best lines and moments from the untold hours of debate: Council member William E. Hanna Jr., to Crenca and Adams who reported how they spent Sunday in their council offices: "And I was in church praying for both of you."
Crenca, reporting on what she told Kramer when he lobbied her, "If I want to be nagged by a man, I will stay home in Silver Spring."
Planning Board Chairman Norman Christeller, when Crenca said that "buildings over eight stories are obscene," responded, "You voted for several last week."
Adams, quoting from Lewis Carroll to object to the council's definition of future Silver Spring traffic as tolerable: " 'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'
" 'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.' "
Hanna, casting his vote for 11,250 jobs: "Yes. I am not Chicken Little and I do not believe the sky is falling."
Council Vice Chairman Michael L. Subin, voting for 11,250 jobs: "Fairy tales are for little kids."
Leggett, announcing just hours after the council had decided on 11,250 jobs, that John F. Herrity, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, widely regarded as a proponent of growth, had been trounced in his reelection bid: "Anyone want to change their vote?"