Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal has been pressing very hard for the Council to approve $31 million for needed upgrades to the County Council office building.
Reaction by MCCPTA Leaders
PTA members were not jumping for joy at the prospect in light of MCPS’s severe school construction needs. Cheryl Peirce, Chair of the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (MCCPTA) Capital Improvements Program (CIP) Committee, sent out one alert regarding the proposal:
In light of our recent testimony to the County Council on February 24th for funding for our school buildings and systems, as well as efforts we (MCCPTA, MCPS, County Council, state delegation) have undertaken this year and last in Annapolis, a decision to consider a $30M+ renovation of the County Council offices has raised questions among Board of Education members and many MCCPTA leaders.
Other online critics have been less diplomatic, suggesting that the Council can use portables.
Reaction from the School Board and the County Exec
As Bill Turque reported in the Washington Post, School Board Member Pat O’Neill had already expressed opposition to the proposal:
“We have 9,300 children in [classroom trailers],” O’Neill said. “We have children sitting in some classrooms with coats on” because of poor heating systems.
County Executive Ike Leggett opposed the plan and did not include the funds in the budget he submitted to the Council.
Leventhal on Critics
Leventhal punched back hard:
“In the school system’s view, 100 percent of the budget should be available for school construction,” he said. “Their plan is that any available dollar should go to school construction.”
Earlier comments–that seemingly include colleagues who failed to line up behind the plan–expressed equal regard for opponents:
Leventhal, with some sarcasm, said the council could elect to “remain in this outmoded, falling-apart decrepit building forever.”
On Tuesday night, Bill Turque reported that the renovation plan had been “set aside.”
Leventhal is absolutely right that the council building needs renovation. The heating and A/C are terrible–you really don’t want an office on the sunny side in summer. It may even be, as George said, “odiferous,” though I’ve never noticed it on my visits.
But it ultimately is a question of priorities. Thousands of students are learning in portables and school buildings also have similar problems with the heating and the A/C. Our new governor does not seem real keen on funding school construction, so the County cannot depend on money raining down from the State.
George Leventhal is not a happy person today. Fortunately, both MCCPTA and MCPS have lots of experience in handling ill-tempered people of all ages. The effectiveness of both organizations during this episode signals that neither should be ignored over the next four years.