AT FIRST GLANCE, Bill 43-83 now before the Montgomery County Council reads like another legislative blow for clean government: it provides for the establishment of a Cable Communications Advisory Committee and a Community Television Corporation Task Force, made up of a mixture of residents able and willing to serve their county without compensation. And then come the provisions aimed at conflicts of interest and other activities by the members--which, if left in the bill, are sure to rule out participation by the very sorts of knowledgeable volunteers the commissions should enjoy.
Under the provisions of the bill as proposed by council president David L. Scull and vice president Esther P. Gelman, members of the new commissions would be 1) prohibited from taking active part in support of any local or state candidate--partisan or nonpartisan; and 2) prohibited from being politically active in connection with any ballot question such as a charter amendment, municipal ordinance or referendum. "Politically active" includes almost everything from indirectly soliciting contributions for any partisan or nonpartisan purpose to initiating or circulating even a nonpartisan nominating petition.
There's a show-stopper, too: any member shall not, while serving or--try this--"within three years following service" be employed by any agency funded in whole or in part by the county. In other words, if you volunteer, are named and serve, you aren't to be hired for, or to seek, any other county office for three years.
Certainly there should be standards for service on these advisory commissions, which will be assisting in oversight of the county's cable franchise agreement, advising on fees, rates and arrangements for establishing and operating nonprofit local "access" programming. Existing financial disclosure statements are called for and do serve as a monitor of members. And why not some form of political activities disclosure?
But unless the council votes before its summer recess tomorrow to eliminate the absurd restrictions, the county can expect costly delays and less than the best possible pool of residents eligible to help officials make important decisions about the public's business.