2020 | Opinion

Opinion: Voters strongly endorsed progressive vision for Montgomery County

Clear majority rejected austerity, supported well-being of the community

In the recent general election, Montgomery County voters faced a series of fundamental choices about the direction of our county. Whether that future revolved around austerity or equity all hinged on four questions at the bottom of the ballot.

With nearly every vote now counted, the results of this year’s ballot questions lay bare a new, organized progressive majority in Montgomery County. Our community has delivered our county’s leaders an astonishing mandate to go bolder and fight harder in the struggle for racial and socioeconomic justice.

The stakes of each question were high.

Question B threatened to artificially limit the county’s ability to raise revenue in the name of lower property taxes for the wealthy.

If passed, the measure could have starved our county of the resources it needs to fund essential public services. And in this moment, it would have devastated our county’s attempts to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and address the inequities that have been worsened by it: unemployment, educational inequity, a lack of affordable housing and a spike in homelessness.

Farther down the ballot, Question D would have eliminated at-large County Council seats historically held by progressives, all in an attempt to create a Republican seat on the council.

The council’s current at-large members — Gabe Albornoz, Hans Riemer, Evan Glass and Will Jawando — represent the future of our county. The measure was ultimately a referendum on their efforts to advance racial justice, protect LGBTQ+ rights, and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.

In the end, both draconian questions failed by overwhelming margins, each losing by around 15 points. In stunning numbers, the people of Montgomery County rejected austerity politics and fearmongering over progressive ideals.

That outcome was never guaranteed.

Just four years ago, the passage of a term-limit ballot question was widely regarded as public backlash to the county funding education through a property-tax increase. Eight years before that, county voters passed a ballot measure making it harder for the council to ever raise property taxes.

This year, that same conservative project to undermine public services and consolidate power over our county was extraordinarily well-resourced. Committees supporting Questions B and D collectively raised funds into the six figures.

There’s no question that those committees had the money. Thankfully, the progressives of our county had the people.

Driven by the coordination of Jews United for Justice, a powerful coalition of organized labor, nonprofits, elected leaders, business groups, advocacy organizations and progressive champions came together to fight for the possibility of a better Montgomery County. This movement, locally unprecedented in coordination and scope, educated and rallied our community.

Thanks to their organizing, the people of our county opted in massive numbers for the progressive questions on the ballot.

Question A, which eliminates an arbitrary cap on the county’s revenue, will open the door for increased investment in our schools, public transit and infrastructure. Question C, which will expand each voter’s representation on the council by adding more at-large council seats, affirms the progressive agenda of the current at-large slate.

Both questions won by a breathtaking margin of about 25 percentage points — roughly 63% to 38% for Question A and 62% to 38% for Question C, with some ballots left to be counted.

There is an unstated cautiousness among many policymakers in our county and our state. We have witnessed it firsthand.

This political timidness is borne of an outdated understanding of this county — rooted in the false idea that the people of our community inevitably prioritize the margins of their pocketbooks over the collective well-being of our neighbors. For many elected leaders, fear of crossing this exaggerated bloc justifies the tabling, slowing or halfhearted study of urgent progressive measures.

This election has demonstrated the terrible irrationality of that myth.

Let these results, once and for all, prove the heart of this county. Montgomery County is an exceptional place because of our collective commitment to the public good.

Here, we support the pursuit of incredible public schools, even after our children attend them. We support investment in this county’s infrastructure, even when roads are repaired where we don’t live. We support taking care of the food insecure, the unhoused and the marginalized, even if our families are doing well. In Montgomery County, we are all bound up in the well-being of one another.

In rejecting the fiscally callous cries of the past and embracing a progressive vision of the future, the voters of Montgomery County have loudly declared their support for a new, compassionate direction for our community. It’s time for all of Montgomery County’s leaders to abandon faintheartedness and embrace that call.

Nate Tinbite is a former student member of the Montgomery County Board of Education and a 2020 graduate of John F. Kennedy High School. Ananya Tadikonda is a former student member of the board and a 2019 graduate of Richard Montgomery High School. Matt Post is a former student member of the board and a 2018 graduate of Sherwood High School.


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