Well, I got what I wanted: County Executive Ike Leggett knows who I am and now he might actually be scared.
I went to Ike Leggett's Town Hall Meeting in Chevy Chase last night, attended by a standing-room-only crowd that spilled into the lobby of the Leland Community Center. A number of big MoCo names were there, including Del. Bill Bronrott (D-16), Dr. Dana Beyer and scandalized former Planning Board Chairman Derick Berlage.
After hearing all the Civic Association presidents complain about "overdevelopment" and "high-rises" - my favorite was the woman who wanted the State to compensate her for building the Purple Line next to her condominium, even though she wasn't losing any property - I had an opportunity to tell Ike Leggett what I think of him. This is what I said to him, taken as best as I can from memory:
"Mr. Leggett, my name is Dan Reed and I have lived in Silver Spring since I was three. I go to school in College Park, and I worked in Bethesda. I am one of those people who would benefit from the Purple Line, but all I have heard from your campaign this year is about how development needs to be stopped and how we need to place building moratoriums in the County, and it still takes me an hour-and-a-half to get to work in the morning.
"It's why all of these people here voted for you, but it is not a solution. I want to hear that you are committed to better transit in Montgomery County, because the only way we'll deal with this traffic is by improving the infrastructure."
No one applauded for me. A lot of people were staring at me as if I'd just dropped the F-bomb. But this is Chevy Chase: the Purple Line is unsafe political territory, but it was the white elephant in the room tonight. A number of people brought it up, whether they were for or against it. This is the number one issue in Montgomery County right now, but no politician here or on the State level seems to want to fully tackle it.
"I thought we covered this during the campaign," Ike said, eliciting a timid laugh from the audience. He went on to explain that "we do not have the resources" to build the Purple Line, but that it was not going to solve the traffic problem alone. He had a plan, he said - "slowing the rate of development," "providing additional mass transit," and "other solutions." "We cannot simply build our way out of this," he said, "and, young man, for you to say that the Purple Line will fix all our traffic problems is fine, but it will not."
"With all due respect, Mr. Leggett," I answered back, "that's not what I inferred."
I think he was a little taken aback, because he just repeated what he'd said earlier and went on to the next person. A photographer from the Washington Informer took down my name and, later, a photograph of me introducing myself to Ike after the meeting.
"I just wanted to say 'hi'," I said. "I know who you are," Leggett said, not too enthused. "I hope you hear from me again," I responded. (Whoops! My bad.) "I mean - until I can ride that train, you should expect to hear from me."
Something pushed me away. Maybe it was the crowd of people seeking a second with him - the woman who'd asked me to take a picture of the two of them together - but I made my way out, stopping to say "hi" to a few loyal readers.
This is the beginning of the next four years in Montgomery County. Everything I feared about our new County Executive is true: he is as patronizing and wishy-washy as any politician capable of earning the title "Nice Guy" can be, but so long as he wants to listen to what we have to say, I am going to keep my promise to Ike Leggett.
second in a week of features at Just Up The Pike.