MONTGOMERY COUNTY residents are among the most demanding voters around -- and their high standards for local government have been met remarkably well over the decades. Now, the voters have ordered the furniture rearranged in Rockville, putting Neal Potter in charge of the executive branch and seating a newly constituted, larger county council with -- and here's a first in 20 years -- two Republicans on it. And just to make it more fun, the voters slapped on a property tax cap. What will happen to the next taxpayer demands for improved services? It could get interesting.
It should be a source of some comfort to anxious developers and business leaders -- who have never been favorites of Mr. Potter -- that however different the views of this new government may be, the victors Tuesday are all thoughtful, informed and responsible county figures. Some have sided most with Mr. Potter, on the last council and in the latest campaign; one has been considered a close ally of outgoing County Executive Sid Kramer; one has been a sort of swing vote; and five, including the two Republicans, will be new. The likelihood, particularly with a bipartisan council, is for more open debate, which voters surely should welcome.
Beyond that, the direction this next council will take is only now starting to take shape. The Republicans, Betty Ann Krahnke and Nancy Dacek, have first-rate civic credentials and detailed knowledge of the county government process. As it happens, both campaigned with slow-the-growth views generally close to those of Mr. Potter. So this time voters seem to have considered land-use philosophies more than party affiliations.
Will development stop, businesses flee, revenues plunge or plans for that Chevy Chase-Silver Spring trolley wind up baled for burial in the Travilah Quarry? Or will an ever-vigilant constituency continue to serve as a checking and balancing of the county's checks and balances? Whatever the outcome, you can be sure of good, long public hearings, revisions, alternate systems and environmental impact studies and a redrawing of somebody's cluster plan for schools or highways. Next witness?