Monday, February 15, 2010

A New Alternative for County Involvement?

By Marc Korman.

Back in January, Adam posted a story about change in the civic world of Montgomery County. Rumor has it some of that change is going to come in the form of a new citizens group currently forming. At the risk of sounding like I am promoting Gabbo (any Simpsons fans out there?), I am sharing some of what I have learned about the new group.

Several Montgomery County progressives have begun working together on an organization made up of individuals, as opposed to the Montgomery County Civic Federation which is made up primarily of neighborhood civic associations. The plan is to make the organization truly grass roots by capping individual donations. They are also seeking to form a diverse group of people from different parts of the county, including renters, condo owners, and those in single family homes. For the moment, the organizers have asked to keep their names private and I am respecting that request.

The new group plans to kickoff in March and reengage the county, particularly younger and more progressive residents, in its government. The folks putting the organization together want to tackle the full range of issues facing the county, with transit, education, and environment all specific points they highlighted. Not only are they planning to address a full range of issues, they are also planning to address them with a full spectrum of tools. The group plans to be half public policy think tank and half political action committee. They also want to use technology to allow people who cannot attend public hearings to still have access to the work of their government, particularly the Council committee process which usually meets during the business day.

The County is full of organizations, many of them hyper focused on a somewhat narrow set of issues such as Common Cause, Action Committee for Transit, and EqualityMD. There are many others with a broader agenda including the Civic Federation. All of them spend lots of time advocating for their issues, building their membership, and lobbying the County government. The question for this new organization will be whether they fill a niche and obtain a following. The organizers seem to believe there is a better way for the County to engage in important policy debates. Time will tell if they are right.

Keep watching MPW for more on the emerging organization.