Montgomery County Council seeks reconciliation on climate action as 15 risk arrest

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On April 25, the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee of the Montgomery County Council supported a “reconciliation memo” by Councilmember Marc Elrich and introduced by Councilmember Sydney Katz as a sitting member of the Committee in response to the request of a new and growing coalition of Montgomery County (MoCo) climate activists (listed below.)

Originally, the Coalition requested a million dollars to fund the first, fully-staffed Office of Climate Emergency Mobilization in the country reporting directly to the County Executive. They also requested a broad 19-item “Mobilization” package of bills, resolutions and directions to County staff, two of which would also be “firsts-in-the-nation.”

Over fifty members of the coalition attended Council Budget Hearings on April 10 to request this new climate funding in the budget and over a dozen testified during the three days of hearings, making one of the strongest showings of the various groups providing input to the Council.

On the 25, fifteen activists showed up on a workday afternoon at the Committee hearing threatening civil disobedience—for the first time in Montgomery County history on a climate issue--if the memo failed. The Montgomery County police had been alerted and were on hand outside the hearing room. Fortunately, the memo passed.

Traditionally, the County forms a “reconciliation list” based on these requests for discretionary additions to the Budget submitted to the Council by the County Executive. This year, the County faces an especially severe shortfall. However, it is likely that there will be substantial funds for distribution to the list. A no vote on Wednesday essentially would have ended any prospect for any of that funding going in response to the coalition's financial requests.

“As evidenced by nonviolent actions by climate activists across the country, I was willing to risk arrest to highlight as tool we need to consider in MOCO. Most of the people attending today expressed a willingness to risk arrest at the next stage of the process, in a few weeks, when the County decides whether actually to appropriate this small, but symbolic amount,” said Dr. Jim Driscoll, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran and former MIT professor.

Driscoll noted that the individuals risking arrest today were not representing the coalition or any organization. He was one of the key organizers of 13,000 people getting arrested including Carl Sagan and most of the national Convention of the American Public Health Associations in a successful campaign to stop U.S. nuclear testing in the mid-'80s. “That campaign began with a couple of people getting arrested.,” he noted.

Bill Christeson, who helped lay the groundwork for the People Power revolutions that began in the Philippines also was risking arrest today. He warned, “Talk is cheap (on climate), but inaction is prohibitively expensive, just ask the people in Houston, a city hit by three 500-year floods in just three years.

 

Organizational Members of “Spring '18 Climate Emergency Mobilization” Coalition (in formation)

350 MoCo

Capitol View Democracy Crew

Glen Echo Heights/Indivisible

Montgomery County Green Party

Maryland Women's Alliance for Democracy and Justice

MoCo Chapter of The Climate Mobilization

MOCO Education Exploratory Committee for The Climate Mobilization

Montgomery County Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions

Progressive for Equality and Compassion for Everyone (PEACE)

Takoma Park Mobilization Environmental Committee

Anya Grenier