County Council President Gabe Albornoz has proposed creating a sports commission to address gender and racial inequities in Montgomery County in its activities and programs.

The bill was introduced during Tuesday’s County Council meeting. Albornoz said during the meeting that inequities exist in “entire communities.” Those include lower-income adults not having time to volunteer as coaches or in other roles and cost barriers for children from lower-income families keeping them from participating in certain sports.

A public hearing for the bill is scheduled for April 5.

In a news briefing with reporters on Monday, Albornoz said the 23-member commission would complete an annual report for the County Council.

That report, according to a council staff report of the legislation, will examine factors that affect sports participation countywide, along with ways “to improve the quality, quantity, and variety of sports opportunities and facilities in the County.”

It would be staffed by the county’s Department of Recreation. Albornoz was director of that department for over a decade.

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“The focus of this commission is going to be on, sort of, leveling the playing field and ensuring that regardless of where you live in our community, that there are a robust set of sports-based programming opportunities for you,” Albornoz said Monday. “We know that sports can significantly contribute to the health and wellness, especially of our children in youth, but also instills leadership qualities that are really important.”

The county’s Office of Legislative Oversight released a report in February highlighting gender inequity in various sports programs countywide. The report showed that there has been more registration and access to sports and programs for men and boys than for women and girls. 

Albornoz and Council Member Hans Riemer introduced a $100,000 appropriation to address that issue, expanding sports leagues and programs that are popular with girls.

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Riemer said during Tuesday’s meeting that he hopes the sports commission addresses a “dearth” of lighted sports fields in various parts of the county.

Council Member Sidney Katz said the commission could also look into establishing a nonprofit or similar organization to help low-income families pay the fees for sports leagues and programs. Katz said many residents would help in that effort.

Albornoz said Monday that there are many sports commissions across the country, but his proposal’s emphasis on equity is unique. 

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Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com