On Tuesday, June 17th, Action in Montgomery (AIM) successfully demonstrated the power of organization and unity, as it turned out over 600 AIM members and supporters at its County Executive Electoral Assembly held at the Silver Spring United Methodist Parish Church. The theme for the evening was, “What does the ‘Real’ Montgomery County need today?” All four candidates for County Executive—Ike Leggett, Doug Duncan, Jim Shalleck, and Phil Andrews attended this issue campaign. However, they were not there to give campaign speeches or to solicit votes, albeit it was only one week until the primary elections. Instead, this was the venue where these candidates would hear the voice of the community speak out in harmony—harmony across different faiths, races, ethnicities, and ages on the needs of the community at large with the hope that each would commit, should they win the election, to the people’s agenda for meeting the needs of the Real Montgomery County.
So, what is the “Real” Montgomery County? It is both a place of great affluence and a place of diversity and great need. Through our collaborative work across the County, AIM organizes to transform lives, strengthen communities, and achieve social justice for all Montgomery County residents; and AIM was victorious that evening! The outcomes of the three issues brought before the candidates were as follows:
• African Immigrant Caucus. Commitment from all of the candidates to spend half a day before January 1st getting more acquainted with the needs and hopes of the African immigrant community in Montgomery County.
• After-School Programs. A specific date to go to Baltimore with Dr. Joshua Starr, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent, to see Baltimore’s excellent Child First program. Also, as an organization, AIM ratified our commitment to making after-school programs a top priority for AIM’s organizing agenda.
• Affordable Housing. Two of the candidates committed to our two major “asks”, while the other two provided qualified commitments. The commitments were as follows:
1. Permanently dedicating 2.5% of the County’s property tax to the Housing Initiative Fund, in order to give the Fund a steady and reliable funding source; and
2. Production of a minimum of 1,000 new units of affordable housing annually.
Sligo is honored to have played a major role in the successful outcome of this Action. Our church pledged 50 attendees to the Electoral Assembly and surpassed that number by an estimated 20, having close to 70 members and supporters in attendance! Sligo’s new AIM Leader, Terri Jo Hayes, co-chaired the event with Reverend Nancy Ladd, of River Road Unitarian Congregation. Sligo’s Pastor McFarlane eloquently provided a heartfelt opening prayer to begin the evening. Sligo’s AIM Team also contributed greatly, working on the Floor Committee to ensure everything progressed without incident—and it exceeded our expectations! Sligo received many thanks from AIM’s leadership, who attributed the successful outcomes of the evening to the co-chairs’ approach in delivering the AIM agenda to the candidates and congregation.
What a remarkable evening and a privilege for our church to be an integral part of such a wonderful outreach ministry. For more information on the Action, please see the June 19th Washington Post article entitled, “Social justice advocates get the last word in final Montgomery executive candidate forum”.
By Terri Jo Hayes (Sligo Church AIM Coordinator)