Two Very Different Candidate Debates This Week

Rockville-Election-UpdateThe campaign season has moved into high gear with the community forums (aka candidate debates) underway.  This week two very different debates at two very different times will be held in Rockville:

Senior Citizens Commission Candidates’ Forum on Wednesday afternoon, October 14, 2015 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at the Rockville Senior Center, 1150 Carnation Drive. This debate will address specific issues affecting seniors, in addition to some questions of general interest, as time allows, with the final hour reserved for one-on-one conversations with those attending.

West End Citizens Association (WECA) on Thursday evening, October 15, 2015 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm at the Rockville Presbyterian Church, 215 W. Montgomery Avenue. Most likely this forum will focus on issues that affect the West End, such as traffic, development, commercial/residential balance, historic preservation, and pedestrian safety, which may be similar to other residential neighborhoods.

Both forums are free and open to the public, and no reservations are needed.

IMG_4392Last week about seventy people gathered at the Thomas Farm Community Center to watch the first candidate forum.  Hosted by the Rockville Chamber of Commerce, the questions focused on issues that were important to the business community, such as the impact of the new developments on the north (Crown) and south (Pike and Rose), the future of the APFO, building heights and street widths on the Rockville Pike, and if the non-residential tax base should grow to support city services.  This was the community’s first chance to see all the candidates together and assess how they handled a variety of questions in a very controlled environment. If anyone expected sparks to fly, the minute-long responses don’t lend themselves to much content that generates controversy.  Many fell to vague pat answers such as Continue reading →

First Mayor and Council Debate Tonight at Thomas Farm Community Center

Rockville-Election-UpdateThe Rockville Chamber of Commerce will host the first Mayor and Council debate of this campaign season tonight, October 7, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Thomas Farm Community Center at 700 Fallsgrove Drive in Rockville (west of I-270, where West Gude Drive, West Montgomery Avenue/MD-28, and Fallsgrove Drive meet).   The event is free for everyone regardless of chamber membership.  Attend in person and you’ll have a chance to meet the candidates, pick up their literature, and carry home a yard sign.  It will also be televised live on Rockville Channel 11, streamed live at, and can be viewed later on the city’s YouTube channel.  Only three of the half dozen debates will be broadcast by Rockville 11.

Recently added to the roster of debates is one being hosted by the West End Citizen’s Association on Thursday, October 15 from 7 to 9 pm at the Rockville Presbyterian Church.  This debate isn’t listed yet on their web site, but I assume it will be open to the public.

Cambria Hotel Opens in Downtown Rockville

Cambria Hotel and Suites in downtown Rockville, MD.

Cambria Hotel and Suites in downtown Rockville, MD.

Choice Hotels International, Inc., headquartered in Rockville, celebrated the grand opening of its new Cambria Hotel & Suites on Monday night in downtown Rockville. Choice Hotels is one of the world’s largest lodging companies, with more than 6,300 hotels franchised in more than 35 countries and territories and 613 hotels in development, including Ascend Hotel, Comfort Inn, Clarion, Econo Lodge, and Rodeway Inn. The celebration included speeches by City of Rockville Mayor Bridget Newton; Steve Joyce, President and CEO of Choice Hotels; Michael Murphy, Senior Vice President of Upscale Brands at Choice Hotels; and Marc Dubick, President of Duball, LLC, as well as entertainment featuring clowns, jugglers, and an aerialist.

Built by Duball, LLC with institutional capital partner CIM Group, and operated by Crescent Hotels & Resorts, Cambria Hotel & Suites stands at 1 Helen Heneghan Way (recently named for a former beloved City Clerk) between the Regal Theater and the headquarters of Choice Hotels International. The 140-room hotel spans eight floors of the 15-story west tower, the first of two towers in the mixed-use high-rise complex. A parking garage is built into the building’s structure, giving guests a convenient place for parking and allowing all rooms to enjoy an exterior view. In addition to the Cambria Hotel, the complex will also be Continue reading →

Follow the Money: Election Campaigns in Rockville

Rockville-Election-UpdateOctober 1 was the deadline for the first financial reports in this campaign season with the second one due October 26, just a few days before the November 3 election.  Financial reports are a result of unfair election tactics and political corruption, and indeed, while most voters feel that money has a bad influence on politics, fundraising is a crucial aspect of campaigning, even here in our hometown of Rockville.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the cost of a campaign is high, especially in mayoral races.

Rockville’s election code has a lengthy section on campaign financing that outlines the requirements for a treasurer and record-keeping; acceptable expenses, contributions, and loans; and restrictions on campaigning by people who are not candidates.  At times, these requirements and limitations seem onerous or archaic, such as prohibiting “payment for walk-around services.” Aren’t the days when thugs were paid to hustle people at the polls to gain a vote or to intimidate opponents long gone? Yet in 2003, the Maryland Court of Appeals reviewed a case that accused the Ehrlich/Steele gubernatorial campaign of hiring high school and college students along with 200 residents of a homeless shelter to “accost voters” outside the polls and urge a “voting preference.” The 2013 election campaign in Rockville involved several questionable tactics and since then the Board of Supervisors of Elections has clarified the Election Code to close some of these loop holes (e.g., no statements and materials may be distributed anonymously, even by individuals).

Campaign financial reports also reveal the name, address, and amount contributed to every candidate, which can suggest the shape and nature of a campaign (and the city).  For example, an analysis of the contributors Continue reading →

Rockville Candidates Missing the Forest and Trees for the Rocks

Last week, I received the following email message from Joe Jordan, who is closely associated with Bridget Newton‘s election campaign:

Max, there have been at least two occasions where Clark Reed has been seen wearing a handmade name tag that reads “Rockville City Council – Clark Reed”. It was pointed out to him at the MPT showing on Friday, yet he wore it again at RTS on Saturday. Recalling two years ago, I recall how you were concerned about integrity and propriety and following election guidelines, and while nametags may not be covered under them, I am sure you can see how misleading his nametag can be.

Can I be confident in the fact you will bring this to his and Sima [Osdoby]’s attention, and ask that, at a minimum, he and all slate candidates use the wording “candidate for” if they are not incumbents.

Thanks for your attention to this important matter.

Name badgesMr. Jordan is correct that name badges are not specifically addressed in Rockville’s election code (although it addresses nearly everything else: “any pamphlet, circular, card, sample ballot, dodger, poster, advertisement or any printed, multigraphed, photographed, typewritten or written matter or statement or any matter or statement which may be copied by any device”) and that I value transparency, honesty, and accuracy in government (and in business and personal relationships).  I’ve passed his message onto the candidates of Team Rockville, but just to clarify, each candidate that is part of the Team is responsible for his or her own campaign (I don’t manage individual campaigns, just the Team’s; and this blog is mine, not the Team’s).

More important, though, I am growing increasingly concerned with the topics deemed important in this election.  Richard Gottfried sent out the first campaign mailer of the season and accused his opponents of associating with “fat cat developers” without providing any evidence.  On the Twinbrook Listserv a couple weeks ago, Brigitta Mullican complained about the inaccuracies in my blog post (I said Beryl Feinberg worked in the county’s office of management and budget) and that she wasn’t allowed to post comments, then recruited Beryl Feinberg to pile on:
Continue reading →

Stanford Grill Opens Tomorrow in Rockville

Stanford Grill RestaurantThe Stanford Grill restaurant opens Monday, September 28 at 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard (south of Wooton Parkway near I-270 in one of DC’s “healthiest buildings“) in Rockville.  This will be the second Stanford Grill for the Blue Ridge Restaurant Group, which also has four Copper Canyon Grill restaurants.  Lunch and dinner are served Monday through Thursday from 11 am to 10 pm, Friday through Saturday from 11 am to 11 pm with Sunday brunch served from 10 am to 2 pm and dinner until 10 pm. For more information or for reservations, call 240-582-1000.

The concept is “upscale casual” with a menu that emphasizes familiar comfort dishes including New York strip steak, pork chops, crabcakes, salmon, and chicken pot pie, along with a variety of sandwiches (burger, French dip, sauteed chicken) and salads (club, chicken, tuna, and steak).  It looks like they have a full bar but the wine list needs a rethinking. “Other interesting whites” includes Berginer’s white zinfandel and Dom Perignon is listed among the champagnes.  White zinfandel is not an interesting white and Dom Perignon is now such a cliche that it suggests they really didn’t think about their wine selections.  Looks like this restaurant might satisfy the executives whose offices line the 270 corridor but it won’t appeal to foodies.

Meet the Candidates at a Community Forum near You

In preparation for Election Day on November 3, the candidates for Rockville Mayor and Council will be participating in the following community forums (aka debates):

Wednesday, October  7 at 7:00 pm
Thomas Farm Community Center, 700 Fallsgrove Drive
Hosted by the Rockville Chamber of Commerce (they typically focus on business issues)
(Will air live on Channel 11)

Wednesday, October 14 at 1:00 pm
Rockville Senior Center, 1150 Carnation Drive (Woodley Gardens neighborhood)
Hosted by the Rockville Senior Commission (they typically focus on senior issues)

Tuesday, October 20 at 7:30 pm
Rockville Senior Center, 1150 Carnation Drive
Hosted by the Woodley Gardens and College Gardens Civic Associations (they typically tackle a wide range of issues)

Thursday, October 22 at 7:00 pm
F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, Rockville Civic Center, 603 Edmonston Drive (Burgundy/Silver Rock/Twinbrook neighborhoods)
Hosted by the League of Women Voters (they typically tackle a wide range of issues)
(Will air live on Channel 11)

Tuesday, October 27 at 7:00 pm
King Farm Community Center, 300 Saddle Ridge Circle
Hosted by the King Farm Citizens’ Assembly (they typically focus on King Farm issues)
(Will air on Channel 11 on October 29)

The forums are free and open to the public; anyone is welcome to attend any or all of the forums.  You not only can hear candidates discuss various issues but also talk with them before and after to learn more.  If you support one of the candidates, they often have campaign literature or yard signs that you can take home or share with friends and neighbors.

Rockville Election Season Begins

Last Friday was the deadline for submitting petitions to be on the ballot for Mayor and Council, so the election season has officially begun in Rockville.  Candidates that will appear on the November 3, 2015 ballot are:


  • Bridget Newton.  Currently serving as Mayor, she is a homemaker and a resident of the West End. [no campaign website at this time]
  • Sima Osdoby.  Longtime resident of New Mark Commons, is active in many community and advocacy groups at the local and state level (such as Emerge Maryland), and an international consultant on governance and democratic elections.


  • Virginia Onley.  Currently serving on Council, is retired from IBM, and a resident of the Americana Centre.
  • Julie Palakovich Carr.  Currently serving on Council, she is a resident of East Rockville with a new-born baby boy and works for a non-profit public policy organization focused on biology.
  • Beryl Feinberg.  Currently serving on Council, she lives in Orchard Ridge and is the Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of Montgomery County’s Department of General Services.
  • Richard Gottfried. A resident of Twinbrook, he is currently the president of the Twinbrook Citizens Association and owns a home-based accounting practice.
  • David Hill.  A soft-spoken analyst with Westat who lives in Hungerford and currently serves on the Planning Commission.
  • Brigitta Mullican.  A resident of Twinbrook who is president of Rockville Sister City and retired from Health and Human Services.
  • Mark Pierzchala. Formerly serving on Council, he is a resident of College Gardens and owns a consulting business in Rockville that focuses on statistical analysis.
  • Patrick Schoof. A resident of East Rockville, he is the CEO of a home-based non-profit organization, A Better World Foundation. [no campaign website at this time]
  • Clark Reed.  A resident of Twinbrook, he works for the Environmental Protection Agency and serves as chair of the Environment Commission.

This year’s election is more important than in previous years because terms have doubled from two to four years.  That means if a councilmember turns out to be a ding-dong, you’ll have to wait much longer to vote him or her out of office.  Your vote is more significant than ever this time around.

Five candidates—Sima Osdoby, Virginia Onley, Julie Palakovich Carr, Mark Pierzchala, and Clark Reed—have joined together as Continue reading →

Rockville View Launches Community Water Cooler

RKView-logoCindy Cotte Griffiths, local resident and co-owner of the much-beloved (but long-gone) Rockville Central, has launched a new blog to cover local news called “Rockville View.””When The Gazette closed up shop, we lost balanced and professional coverage of our news and elected officials in Montgomery County,” says Cindy.  “Without a local paper, we need watchdogs in our community who can bring issues to light. I’m hoping members of the community will join me to provide this coverage and keep us all informed of the facts. Think about it as sharing around the Rockville ‘water cooler’.”  Some of you may know her from her years of service on the city’s Traffic and Transportation Commission and Human Service Advisory Commission or the PTSA at Richard Montgomery High School.  You can visit Rockville View to keep up on the news but you can also follow @Rockville on Twitter or subscribe to the Weekly View newsletter delivered to your inbox on Friday afternoons ($2/month, $10/six months, $20/year). Subscribers can also submit events to the calendar.

I’m delighted to have her join me again on the Internet Super Highway and expect her coding and writing skills will leave me in the dust.

Rockville’s Government Transparency Score Earns Fs for Six Groups

gradesIn 2012, I reviewed Rockville’s boards and commissions to assess how openly they conducted their meetings during the previous year.  It was a miserable showing, with about half not providing agendas or minutes.  Four years later, it has improved and yet six “public bodies” received failing grades, including the Mayor and Council.

On September 1, 2015, I tallied the number of meetings and minutes posted on the City website for 2015 (that’s nine months from January 1, 2015 to August 31, 2015).   By dividing the number of minutes by the number of meetings (cancelled meetings don’t count), I calculated a “government transparency score.” So if a commission had posted 9 minutes for 12 meetings, that would earn them a Minutes Score of 9/12 or 75%. The higher the score the better and anything lower than 60% is an F.  Here’s how they fared: Continue reading →


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