Invoking the legendary Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, new Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal (D-At Large) said Tuesday that he wanted Montgomery to be known as “The County That Works.”
Leventhal, named by his eight council colleagues to the one-year appointment, said he sees November’s election results not as an expression of voter anger over taxes, but as a message that residents “want to know that their taxes are paying for a government that works.”
“Richard J. Daley was the mayor of Chicago for 21 years, from 1955 to 1976,” Leventhal said. “His slogan, ‘The City That Works,’ came out of his great attention to the efficient delivery of city services, as well as his efforts to ensure a healthy business and job climate so that Chicagoans are employed. And I want Montgomery County to be known as ‘The County That Works.’’’
Leventhal failed to mention the tens of thousands of patronage jobs Daley controlled to keep his Cook County Democratic machine well-oiled. But you get the idea.
Leventhal succeeds Council member Craig Rice (D-Upcounty) in a post that is ceremonial with a couple of important exceptions. The president controls formation of the council’s agenda and chairs its legislative sessions.
Leventhal, begining his fourth council term, committed to working with Montgomery County Public Schools, which is facing challenges with an achievement gap and overcrowded buildings. But he added that he wanted to see the council and the school board unite to press the General Assembly for changes to the Maintenance of Effort law that establishes mandatory minimum spending thresholds for counties.
The council will also soon be turning attention to what Leventhal called “the ongoing crisis in mental health service delivery” and possible changes in the county’s liquor control system.
Leventhal told colleagues that his door is “always open.”
“That’s a figure of speech, but if you find my office door is literally closed, please knock. If I’m inside, I’ll interrupt whatever I’m doing to hear what is on a fellow Council member’s mind.”
One member who might not be spending much quality time with Leventhal in the near future is Marc Elrich (D-At-Large), who recently lost his seat on the influential Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee (PHED)
Elrich is the council’s most outspoken critic of development policy. He also campaigned to unseat one of his four at-large colleagues by supporting the candidacy of Upcounty activist Beth Daly. Leventhal, who as incoming president takes the lead on committee assignments, has vehemently denied that politics or policy have anything to do with Elrich’s ouster. He calls the decision, which he said was done in consultantion with other members, was strictly an attempt “to utilize the strengths and talents of all members.” Elrich was given chairmanship of the public safety committee and replaced on PHED by Hans Riemer (D-At Large).
Elrich said Tuesday he’s “still not happy” about the switch and that he had appealed to council colleagues for support in rolling it back. But none was forthcoming. He said he would continue to attend PHED meetings.
The unanimous vote for Leventhal’s presidency was by a show of raised hands. But Elrich telegraphed his displeasure by briefly extending just his index finger ever so slightly to say “yes.”