So far as seven Montgomery County state senators are concerned, the most vexing question facing us this session of the General Assembly is: Where are we going to have our weekly breakfast meetings? More paper and controversy have been generated over this culinary event than all the funding formulas put together.
As with other great issues, a knowledge of history is important. About 10 years ago, Vic Crawford, then Senate delegation chairman, got the bright idea that it would be nice for the county senators to get together for coffee at 8 a.m. every Tuesday. And so we did. The Magnificent Seven crowded around a small table and chatted informally each week. Out of these casual gabfests emerged the strategy that resulted in Montgomery County's getting the state to pick up our share of Metro funding. That was, and is, a very big deal. But what followed is similar to the tale already chronicled in "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" -- a progression of barbarian invasions, inadequate supply lines and bureaucratic overgrowth.
It all started with staff. "Why not have staff here?" someone innocently asked. It seemed harmless enough, though I remember feeling uneasy then. So the next week, we were engulfed by a small army of people with charts, graphs and numbers by the godzillion. Suddenly the room was too small, too inconvenient, and doughnuts weren't good enough. So a staff person was assigned the task of locating a suitable restaurant for our "deliberations."
Not one location picked was congenial to all. So we went from one place to the next with our task force reports, trailed by an ever-growing number of hungry power brokers. Delegates, press, county officials and special pleaders of every stripe appeared before us. By now, of course, we had a formal agenda, and special questions arose. Was the meeting covered by the open-meetings law? Better get an attorney general's opinion. Should the press be briefed? Better get a press secretary. But the most difficult questions of all: What to eat? How much should all of this cost? And who should pay?
Eventually, the Magical Breakfast Tour became a formal banquet. All week long we would argue about the location. The sight of a roach canceled a record-setting three-week run at one restaurant. The noise at a famous local deli in Annapolis was too loud. Larry Levitan, chairman of the delegation, is thinking of transferring our cast of thousands to his office, a suitable location that once served as a set for a TV movie. And there we leave this boiling controversy.
Oh, yes. In November, Gov. Schaefer decided that Montgomery County would have to pay back 35 percent of an $8 million debt to Metro. It was hailed as a great victory. Please pass the butter. HOWARD A. DENIS State Senator, Montgomery County Rockville