Opinion: Why Remove Confederate Statues But Keep Confederate Policies?

Ballot Questions for Montgomery County Photo by Margaret Thale

As statues of people who represent discrimination come down, residents of Montgomery County are reflecting on what that means to us.

After all, we live in a county where females are 52% of the population, but the nine-member County Council includes eight males and only one female.

Twenty percent of the county population is Asian but there are no Asian members on the Council.

And 70% of the county’s population lives north of Montrose Road but they have only two elected voices who live in that area on the Council.

Yet, the 30% of the county residents who live south of Montrose have seven voices who live in their area on the Council.

The demographics — from gender to nationality to geography — are very concerning. Before we take down statues, maybe we should be taking down the political machine that perpetuates inequality in our county.

That may sound intense, but it’s extremely relevant on the heels of the vote by the Democratic Party machine of Montgomery County, which announced support for Charter Question C and against Question D.

That move is bad economically and bad politically. Here’s why. Not long ago, voters overwhelmingly approved term limits for the county council. Following that reform, 16,000 Montgomery residents recently signed a petition to get Question D on the ballot.

Question D would transition the four At-Large County council seats into individual district seats. This would give all voters in the county equal representation, with every council member representing a more compact district, each comprised of an equal number of residents.

Although they are supposed to represent the entire county, three of the four At-Large members serving now live inside the Capital Beltway, a small geographical area.

For any bill they want to pass on behalf of their neighborhoods, those four only need to recruit one more vote to get a majority. Essentially that means that the County Council approves what they want, despite the opposition by, or harm to, more than 70% of the county residents who do not live where they do.

The At-Large members can easily control the Council’s agenda – higher taxes, economic policies that push jobs to Virginia or to Prince George’s County, bad housing policies, and school construction that has students in classrooms with no air conditioning and mice in the lunchrooms of schools outside the area where At-Large members live.

Realizing that passage of Question D could mean that the four At-Large council members would lose their seats, eight members of the Council voted to put a competing initiative on the ballot. Their proposal, Question C, would keep the At-Large seats, but expand the Council by adding two new members.

However, those council members have not explained where money to pay for this would come from. Despite repeated commentaries and publicity about the price tag, they have not offered information about how the county could afford millions in added costs each year, while county leaders are saying budgets must be cut in every department.

It is obvious that if Question C passes, taxpayers will have to foot bills of additional millions of dollars for salaries, staff, and new office construction – just so four At-Large members could keep their seats.

As a Black woman, a Democrat and activist living in Wheaton, I am offended by my own local party’s leadership. While Confederate statues are coming down across the county and discussions are taking place toward greater equality, we also must take down the political establishment that still believes in suppressing segments of our society.

Vote NO to Question C and Vote YES to Question D to stop the County Council from raising our taxes while denying us equal representation, and to ensure that all voices have a chance to be heard equally in Montgomery County.

— KIMBLYN PERSAUD

The writer has lived in Montgomery County for more than 25 years. She worked on the Term Limits ballot initiative, approved in 2016, and she leads the non-partisan Nine Districts for MoCo initiative.