Action in Montgomery works to get out the vote

Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005

A faith-based activist group is promising to rally thousands of voters around an agenda focused on affordable housing and services for immigrants ahead of the 2006 election, group leaders said last week.

Action in Montgomery, a grassroots nonpartisan organization made up of members from 32 religious congregations, committed to a large-scale get out the vote campaign supporting the group’s progressive agenda at a meeting on Nov. 2 at Bethesda Presbyterian Church.

‘‘It will be the largest, most organized get out the vote effort Montgomery County has ever seen,” said Russ Louch, a member of the AIM strategy team and a parishioner at St. Rose of Lima Church in Gaithersburg.

AIM has been pushing county officials to produce 1,000 new units of affordable housing in the county by 2008.

At the Nov. 2 meeting, County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) said he is on his way to meeting that goal. More than 600 affordable housing units will be built over the next several years within developments planned at county-owned sites at Washington Grove, Edson Lane, Forest Glen, Shady Grove and other sites, he said. Duncan had discussed affordable housing for the sites at previous appearances, including an AIM meeting in June at downtown Bethesda’s Lot 31, near Barnes and Noble.

Duncan also said county officials are in the process of identifying additional public sites that could be used to build affordable housing, and he plans to meet with Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jerry D. Weast to discuss using school surplus sites as well.

Also at the meeting, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R), who is making a bid for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Paul S. Sarbanes (D), said he is working to gain support for AIM’s other priority issue, getting a full-service immigration center in the county.

‘‘We’re going to move forward in developing a congressional plan and strategy,” he said.

Steele said he will work with Congress to get funding approved and appropriated for the center.

‘‘Because we have a center in Baltimore, there are members who feel we don’t need one here,” he said, ‘‘but this is where immigration is growing.”

According to AIM, 45 percent of Maryland’s immigrants live in Montgomery County.

Steele pledged to follow up with AIM leaders to make sure the funding and legislation is in place for the center to move forward but gave no timeline for when it could happen