Montgomery’s political leaders did a disservice to the people they represent last week when they shelved a proposed curfew, rather than giving the issue a straight up-and-down vote.
The proposal from County Executive Isiah Leggett has been something of a hot potato since he first pitched it in July, less than two weeks after a fight in Silver Spring ended in a stabbing. Prior to the fight, dozens of young people were seen roaming downtown Silver Spring.
While several civic groups have supported the curfew, others declined to take an official position, despite indications they were opposed to the idea.
The curfew would have prohibited teens younger than 18 from being out after 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends. It would have lifted at 5 a.m. every day.
The council’s decision to table the proposal means it could make a relatively easy return should enough support be found, but the move leaves lingering problems.
Because the bill wasn’t simply rejected or approved, and with a promise from Leggett’s office that there will be continued pressure for its passage, this issue will hang over the council for some time, potentially taking focus from other critical areas, like the coming state legislative session and the county budget process.
Voters deserve to know where those in office stand on such a high-profile matter. In a statement following the decision to shelve the proposal, Leggett said the move demonstrated a failure of leadership.
“I have heard that some council members are ‘afraid’ to vote for fear of offending one side or the other,” Leggett said. “I have heard others say, ‘Let’s wait until another late-night youth crime incident happens and then we’ll vote on it.’ That’s not leadership. That’s the opposite of leadership.”
It’s quite possible the council would have rejected the proposal (vote counts swayed in both directions prior to last week’s action), but Leggett is correct in that the job of elected leaders is to act, not postpone.