A Montgomery Weekly article about Takoma Park's elections misstated the status of a referendum on banning handguns. The referendum was taken off the ballot by a judge who ruled that it conflicted with state law. The judge's decision came after the Weekly went to press. (Published 10/29/1999)
Voters in Rockville and Takoma Park will go to the polls Tuesday to elect municipal leaders for the next two years, and in Takoma Park, residents also will decide whether to challenge state law prohibiting cities and counties from banning handguns.
The two Montgomery County cities are confronting a host of issues that spring from geography and the political philosophies of their electorates--one right of center, the other far to the left. The offices are nonpartisan, but whoever wins next week will have a hand in guiding growth policy, improving municipal services and influencing budget issues for at least the next two years.
At the heart of the county, Rockville is struggling to balance booming growth, especially along crowded Route 355 that slices the city in half, with sound economic development policy. Residents are worried about traffic, looming residential development north of downtown, and the health of the city's business district and older neighborhoods.
The mayor and council are elected at-large and so must maintain a citywide perspective on most issues. Only one of four City Council members, James Marrinan, is stepping down. In all, six candidates are seeking election to the four council seats, including a slate running as the Campaign for Rockville's Future.
The slate comprises council incumbents Robert Dorsey, Glennon Harrison and Robert Wright. They are joined by Anne Robbins, a longtime county volunteer whose husband once served on the council.
Well-organized, the group has covered the city with red, white and blue yard signs to win support of Rockville's 23,243 registered voters.
Its Web site says the candidates will step up downtown redevelopment efforts that have lagged in recent years and keep property taxes low through sound financial management.
Council candidates not on the slate are Charlie Adams, a longtime community volunteer pledging to improve downtown redevelopment and youth programs, and Eric (Kuohwa) Wang, a postal worker who wants to improve education.
Mayor Rose G. Krasnow, also on the slate, is vying for a third term against the candidate she defeated during the last election, Lih Young.
Young, an economist, has run for the state Senate, comptroller and other offices, but never successfully. Krasnow defeated her two years ago with almost 90 percent of the vote.
Krasnow said traffic, controlling growth along Rockville Pike, boosting downtown revitalization and protecting older neighborhoods from the effects of new residential development are top priorities for the next mayor and council.
This council and the next will face a paradox created by the vibrant economy: how to expand the tax base while managing growth.
For instance, the council recently imposed a six-month moratorium on "big box" retail stores that have sprouted along Rockville Pike in recent years, generating traffic and leaving officials wondering what would happen to the property if the stores ever close down.
Also, the council is struggling with the development of the King Farm on Rockville Pike, where 3,200 homes are being built about twice as quickly as city officials had expected.
The next council will decide whether to allow 1,800 homes and almost 1 million square feet of commercial space at the Thomas Farm on Route 28.
But neighborhoods along these already busy roads are increasingly expressing concern that more development will swamp them with traffic.
"We don't want to miss this economy," Krasnow said. "It's happening right now. But we have to pay attention to the concerns of these older neighborhoods."
Takoma Park, an aging inner-Beltway community known for its progressive politics, elects its six City Council members by district.
The result is a campaign full of various themes specific to each of the six wards, including tenants' rights, community policing and neighborhood traffic.
Two council members, Reggie Chavez from Ward 6 and Lisa Hawkins from Ward 4, are stepping down. Only two of the six races are competitive.
In Ward 5, incumbent Marc Elrich is seeking reelection by emphasizing his record for tenants rights and increased law enforcement against Andrew D. Busby, who says he will be "a junkyard watchdog for the rights of all our people."
In Ward 6, four candidates are seeking to replace Chavez, including his son, Lester. Raju Charles, Ukpong Udo and Share Maack round out the field, all running on an assortment of community-improvement pledges including increased police patrols, adding streetlights, cracking down on speedy drivers and lowering municipal taxes.
Mayor Kathy Porter is seeking a second term emphasizing her record in helping to implement community policing, addressing morale problems in the police department and keeping the city tax rate steady.
She is facing Sidonie Rupe, who has made stronger tenants' rights part of her platform.
Takoma Park's 7,411 registered voters, including 334 noncitizens, will also have the chance to decide three ballot questions on gun control.
A citizens petition drive placed a question on the ballot that would ban the sale, ownership or possession of handguns in Takoma Park, something that conflicts with state law prohibiting counties and municipalities from regulating firearms. The measure would amend the city charter.
City lawyers are afraid that, if successful, the law would draw a legal challenge from the deep-pockets National Rifle Association and cost the city money. But members of Citizens Against Hand Guns, the group behind the referendum, invite the suit as a way to raise awareness about gun control, and state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D) endorsed the measure last week. It appears as Question No. 3 on the ballot.
As a compromise to avoid a potential lawsuit, the council placed two advisory questions on the ballot. The first question asks voters whether they want the state to change its law prohibiting local jurisdictions from banning handguns. The second question asks whether Takoma Park should ban guns if the state law is changed.
"I'm hoping the charter amendment will pass," said John Guernsey, who helped lead the petition drive that gathered more than 2,000 signatures. "The only reason it wouldn't is because of fear of lawsuit. But the energy seems to be definitely in our favor."
Two Takoma Park residents filed suit Monday to keep the questions off the ballot, arguing that they conflict with state law.
A ruling was pending earlier this week when this publication went to print.