On Saturday afternoon January 5, more than 200 progressive Montgomery County activists and engaged residents crowded into the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Cafeteria. They came for a two and a half hour “Celebration and Conversation” with new County Executive Marc Elrich organized by the Montgomery County Progressive Alliance. Comprising four very active local organizations (Democratic Socialists of America – Montgomery, Our Revolution Montgomery County, Progressive Maryland, and Progressive Neighbors), the Progressive Alliance coordinated group activities in support of Marc and other endorsed candidates throughout 2018.
With good vibes still emanating from November’s election, the audience was in a celebratory mood from start to finish. Single-payer advocate Deborah Schumann and her brother Jamie kicked off and closed out the event with beautifully rendered protest songs. Loud applause greeted Emcee Hal Ginsberg’s prefatory remark that Marc received two thirds of the vote despite united opposition from the corporate community led by the Washington Post’s editorial board.
Representatives from each of the four Alliance groups then presented the issues that their members consider crucial. Of particular importance to several was maintaining the county’s diversity, migrating to clean green transit, and interventions to ensure affordable housing for at least some of Montgomery County’s working class labor force.
Following these presentations, Congressman Jamie Raskin delivered a laudatory introduction for Marc which the audience frequently interrupted with approving claps and whistles. Marc then spoke for fifteen minutes about what he considers are the county’s most urgent problems. These include cutting excess spending, preserving lower-cost housing while expanding the total number of affordable units, and reducing congestion on our roads.
Next, the audience broke into five groups. Leaders included 2018 candidates Brandy Brooks, Danielle Meitiv, Lynn Amano, and Jill Ortman-Fouse. All received endorsements from organizations in the Alliance. Over a 30-minute period, the groups addressed respectively concerns about education, housing, law enforcement, the environment, and the business climate. As Alliance member Zola Shaw urged, participants tackled the county’s problems through a racial equity lens.
To close out the afternoon, representatives from the five breakout groups advised the audience of their conclusions and then each asked Marc a prepared question. As you might imagine, there was not much tension or disagreement in the room. Marc did note that Montgomery County is the residence of a large number of the truly affluent as well as many who are needy. Nevertheless, there is little appetite for higher taxes to guarantee essential services for the poor and working-class. This will make his job doubly challenging.
The Celebration and Conversation provided more fodder for those optimistic about our county’s future than it did for those with a gloomier prognosis. Both Jamie Raskin and Marc Elrich stressed that though winning elections is a start, Montgomery County is ready to implement a truly progressive agenda and serve as a positive model for the rest of the country.