Officials in the Town of Chevy Chase delayed a decision on whether to hire a legal and lobbying firm to represent the town’s interests in Purple Line planning.
The Town Council had been scheduled to vote on whether to hire Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, a D.C. law firm, at its Wednesday meeting, but following a closed session, Mayor Pat Burda said the council members were not prepared to make a decision.
“We have decided that we are not able to make a decision tonight,” she said.
The council had hired the law firm to oppose some aspects of the Purple Line on a month-to-month basis, but is considering giving them an 18-month, $360,000 contract.
Al Lang, secretary, said for the past four or five years, he has wanted the town to work on Purple Line issues with a legal and lobbying firm.
“We really needed to get more oomph [and] experience,” he said.
Kathy Strom, vice mayor, said she realizes not everyone will agree with the council’s eventual decision, but said the council members are trying to listen and move forward in good faith.
“We’re working on it; we are definitely taking into account all the opinions and comments that we’ve gotten,” she said.
David Lublin, treasurer, said his goals are to get the state to provide answers on things like ridership and provide real mitigation to address some residents’ concerns.
“There’s a whole kaleidoscope of views in the town,” Lublin said.
Burda said the council had continued to receive public comments until the record closed Wednesday.
The Town Council had come under attack recently from the Action Committee for Transit, or ACT, which supports the Purple Line. The group announced last week that it had filed a public information request for the contract, invoices and correspondence between the town and the law firm. It also called on the town to hold another public hearing before deciding on a longer contract for the firm and said it had filed an Open Meetings Act complaint related to the town’s hiring of the firm.
The group zeroed in on a quote from Burda in a January Washington Post article saying that the town is not lobbying Congress. ACT pointed to a congressional lobbying disclosure report filed by the law firm listing the town as a client and said it wanted to pin down whether the firm is lobbying Congress on behalf of the town.
Burda read a statement Wednesday evening to clarify that the town is speaking to members of Congress to raise issues about the Purple Line. Burda said the quote printed in The Washington Post referred specifically to an inquiry about lobbying the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Burda said the town has been working for four years to get commitments on noise walls, a safe crossing for students and mitigation of environmental concerns.
“Our goal is to convey to decision makers the significant concerns held by the majority of town residents regarding the Purple Line as proposed,” she said. “... The Purple Line project is just not ready for prime time.”
A public meeting will be held next week to announce the council’s decision on whether to hire Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, Burda said.