Activists rallied outside the Montgomery County Council Office Building in Rockville Wednesday to demand a halt in the hiring process of the Planning Board.
Following the resignation of the entire Planning Board last week, the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition (BACC)–an organization that seeks to stop the desecration of Moses Macedonia Cemetery in Bethesda– asks for a thorough third-party investigation before new members are hired.
BACC says the Planning Board has enabled the disenfranchisement of Black communities countywide and participated in the ongoing desecration of Moses Cemetery.
On Tuesday, BACC and other local organizations sent a letter to the Department of Justice and members of congress asking them to place Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) under receivership.
“As our community has learned through direct experience with the Planning Board and through historical research and documentation, racism has been at the core of Montgomery County’s land use regulations since its inception. The Planning Board consistently disregards the livelihoods of Black, brown, and working class communities. Intergenerational wealth has been stolen, lives have been jeopardized, and entire communities have been erased. These are not victimless crimes,” the letter reads.
Further stating, “What is essential in this moment is not deliberate speed, but deliberation—with vigorous public input and oversight to ensure that any actor involved in the racism, sexism, corruption, and illegal activities is removed from Montgomery County office and is held responsible to the fullest extent of the law.”
Activists are also critical of how quickly the council wants to appoint temporary board members. Under Maryland law, the process to fill vacancies on the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission shall take “at least three weeks” from the time the list of applicants is completed, and before an appointment is made available to the public.
On Monday, Montgomery County Council President Gabe Albornoz said the council intends to have five new temporary members on the Planning Board by Oct. 27–nine days after the application deadline.
Shortly thereafter the advertising for the appointment of the permanent positions will begin, Albornoz said.
According to Montgomery County Legislative Information Officer Sonya Healy, “The designation of temporary acting officials is a longstanding and necessary part of government operations. Maryland law supports the Council’s action to temporarily fill these vacancies to allow government to function and ensure continuity of service.”
She also noted in the email to MyMCM that the new council that will be elected in November “will be charged with appointing the Planning Board members to serve out the remainder of the terms for each of the five Planning Board positions. The new Council will be inaugurated on Dec. 5.”
Wednesday afternoon the Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County said in a tweet that they had obtained a list of 128 applicants for the five open Planning Board positions. “The public gets to review the list. Council denies us our statutory 3 week review.”
128 Applicants for 5 open Planning Board positions. The public gets to review the list. Council denies us our statutory 3 week review. BREAKING: @PCMC1 Obtains List of Applicants to Planning Board Seats https://t.co/iIwWV8pFLZ
— Parents' Coalition (@PCMC1) October 19, 2022