In a week’s time, the county residents would be getting a new Council, so for many council members, it was the last Council session of their terms. Many of them were busy in pushing a number of controversial bills on this day and getting them passed.
It was in the afternoon session, when bill CB-73-2010 was introduced in the chamber for voting. The chamber was fully packed by residents concerned with the possible passage of the bill. Many of the residents were standing in the room – a scene very uncommon in a typical county council session. According to this Washington Post report, some 200 residents joined the session.
Just three weeks ago, on Sept. 28, the outgoing County Council Chair Mr. Dernoga introduced the bill which went through two draft revisions before it was sent to be voted on Tuesday.
For those who were present at the council room, the bill tries to redefine the traditional accessory use of entities, in particular hundreds of community and faith based institutions serving thousands of community members in the county. To many of them, the bill would lead to more conflict and friction between the county government and the these community groups and may raise more discrimination cases. The county suffered a discrimination lawsuit case very recently, costing it 3.7 million dollars. Mr. Dernoga was named in that case.
As the session started, Chairman Dernoga was given a list residents name who signed up earlier to speak. The list was rather very long – more than 70 residents chose to speak against the bill.
Then the drama began. Instead of calling the names of the residents from his list, Mr. Dernoga rather made a brief statement saying he’d like to recommit (kill) the bill. He then requested the packed crowd if they can leave the council room quietly.
“I apologize for creating consternation and concerns” – said a humbled Dernoga, the bill’s prime sponsor.
“The bill is now dead” – said Tony Knotts (D-Temple Hills), who brought the motion to kill the bill.
Good for Mr. Dernoga, for siding with the vast number of his constituents who were present at the hearing.