Opinion: Have council members live across county, but elect them at large
Residency requirement would keep representatives attuned to communities
To the editor:
I’m opposed to electing Montgomery County Council members by district. It will lead inevitably to parochialism and log-rolling.
I’m also opposed to enlarging the council as a countermeasure. It will increase the council staff and budget without solving the problem both measures on the November ballot seek to address.
The right solution is not on the 2020 ballot (Question C is a County Council with seven district seats and four at large; Question D is nine seats, all by district) — but it can be in 2022. That solution is to require every member of the council to reside in a district, but to have them all elected at large.
During her three terms on the County Council, my wife, Esther P. Gelman, served the needs of our residential neighborhood, but also maintained a countywide perspective. She was phenomenally successful on both counts.
On economic issues, on planning matters, on transportation, on budget questions, on education and a wide variety of other topics, localism is more likely than not to interfere with the kinds of accommodations required to achieve results that serve the mutual interests of all county residents.
District interests will be more than adequately served by a residency requirement. Wherever a council member lives in the county, he or she is aware of what concerns the neighborhood.
Council members also undertake to serve the needs of their constituents. That’s one reason they have a paid staff.
Any resident of a district has a right to expect help from his or her representative. A residency requirement will assure availability of such help.
If a large number of residents of a district feel they are not being appropriately represented by the member from their district, they can say so loudly. Exerting pressure is not an esoteric skill, and Montgomery County is filled with people who know how to do that.
I oppose both election by district and enlargement of the council.
Norman I. Gelman
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