One dish of revenge, served cold.
That may be on the menu for Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) as committee assignments are sorted out for the upcoming 2014-18 term. Elrich actively campaigned to unseat at least one of the three other at-large incumbents in the June 2014 Democratic primary, supporting Upcounty activist Beth Daly. All three — George Leventhal, Hans Riemer and Nancy Floreen — survived.
His colleagues haven’t forgotten, which means his seat on the council’s influential Planning Housing and Economic Development Committee (PHED) — which vets all land-use proposals — is at risk.
One of the key players in determining committee assignments is Leventhal, the council vice president who is expected to succeed Council President Craig Rice (D-Upcounty) in December. Leventhal also sits on the PHED committee and jousts frequently with Elrich, who often contends that the council is far too accommodating to land developers.
Leventhal said this week that while he is “steering the conversation,” any final decisions will be a “group exercise” of the nine-member council.
“Whatever decisions that are made will absolutely reflect the wishes of a majority of council members,” he said. “It will absolutely not reflect Council member Leventhal’s agenda or any desire for revenge.”
Elrich said that he's been told otherwise and that Leventhal intends to oust him from PHED.
“He’s told people that,” said Elrich, who added that he’ll do what he can to keep his seat.
“I’m hoping George cools down,” he said.
Judging from a testy exchange at Tuesday’s County Council session, Leventhal’s temperature shows no sign of falling.
It started when Elrich responded to Montgomery County Parks Director Michael Riley, who was discussing the need for more urban greenspace. You can watch on the council’s video archive, starting at the 2:51:31 mark.
“The only thing I’ll say about irving [clearly means urban] parks is good luck, as we continue to pave over every square inch. You’ve got to have something on the ground to put a park on. . . . You cannot go to an American city without parks all over the place. You can go to any urban area in Montgomery County, and parks aren’t so easy to find, at least ones that aren’t covered with concrete.”
A few minutes later (2:58:44) without mentioning Elrich by name, Leventhal pointed out that Montgomery’s parkland, combined with its northern Agricultural Reserve, comprise half the county.
“The comment that was made a few minutes ago . . . is so wrong and so non-descriptive of the truth. The Natural Resources Defense Council, not a pro-development group, states that the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve is the country’s largest farmland protection program. The statement that we are paving over every square inch is factually incorrect and irresponsible.”
Elrich said Leventhal blatantly distorted his point.
“You know I’m not talking about the ag reserve. What kind of joke is that? This is talking about the downtown areas. . . . You would be hard put to find a park in our downtowns, a park of any size whatsoever in our downtowns. So you can play games and talk about the ag reserve. That’s not what we’re talking about. If you took it that way, I’m sorry you heard it that way.”
Rice, the council president, sounding like a parent reassuring a child who had just heard mommy and daddy argue, told the audience in the chamber:
“So you see that even here amongst all of us we still have differences of opinion. . . . The most important thing for us is to make sure we provide opportunities for everyone: places to live as well as places to play, to work to have fun. . . . You see all of those different perspectives that are always represented here and that’s healthy.”
Healthy for the county perthaps. For Elrich, maybe not so much.