A tense discussion late in the evening of the February 25, 2013 meeting of the Rockville Mayor and Council suggests that there are serious problems in the appointment process to boards and commissions, as well as in our elected officials. It was probably missed by most citizens because the chambers were nearly empty at 10:00 pm.
A sense of the troubles began hours earlier, when Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio nominated two residents to the Board of Supervisors of Elections, a city committee that recently lost three of its five members due to resignations. David Berthiaume’s nomination was approved with one councilmember abstaining and Andrew Powell’s nomination failed due to a lack of a second. With one of her nominations rebuffed, Mayor Marcuccio noted that, “I would like to point out that we are in need of a quorum for the Board of Supervisors of Elections and by appointing Mr. Berthiaume I think we have achieved that. But I am quite shocked that our Council does not choose to appoint my other suggestion.”
The issue was forgotten until Old/New Business, when it was raised again by Councilmember Newton (at 3:30 of the February 25, 2013 meeting):
Councilmember Newton: I was disappointed in the decision this evening on Mr. Powell and I would like to encourage this body to think long and hard about Continue reading →
On May 3, 2012, Councilmember Bridget Newton joined the the quarterly Rockville Community Coalition meeting at the Unitarian Universalist Church to discuss various issues facing the City of Rockville, including:
Charter Review Commission: she supports opening the commission membership to applications from citizens and at the last Council meeting it was decided that each Councilmember could appoint one person and that together they would appoint another five, plus the Mayor would appoint the Chair. She doesn’t have any problems with the current charter, although she noted that a few years ago there were some discussions about whether to continue the Manager-Council form of government, but she had no issues with that. She also had no preconceived outcomes, such as a 7-member council, and wants the commission to be an independent group who would do their own research. She’s committed to holding a referendum on any changes to the Charter before Council makes a decision.
Council conflicts: she stated that her goal is to work together and there would no major/minority divisions. It’s not productive to have a divided Council and she looks forward to more 5-0 votes. Newton mentioned that when she first moved to Rockville, it seemed that despite the diverse perspectives and opinions, people got along but now discussions seem to be mean-spirited. She would like things to Continue reading →
About two dozen people gathered in the Red Brick Courthouse last night to hear Tony Greenberg of JBG Companies of Chevy Chase discuss conceptual plans for a three-acre lot in downtown Rockville, the site of the former Giant grocery store on Washington Street near Beall Avenue. The Town Center Action Team hosted the meeting and among those attending were councilmember Bridget Newton and chief of planning Jim Wasilak. JBG is one of the region’s major developers and is currently building the Alaire and rehabilitating the million-square-foot Health and Human Services Building in Twinbrook. Greenberg noted that JBG Rosenfeld is an affiliated but separate company that specializes in managing retail properties (such as the Twinbrook Shopping Center). JBG’s focus is primarily planning and construction of offices, hotels, and mixed use projects (i.e., retail AND residential, such as the North Bethesda Market which combines a Whole Foods Market and 400 apartments).
The Old Giant site has been vacant for years and is receiving very little revenue (mostly leases for parking). It’s part of the next phase of development for the Town Center (aka Town Center 2) and although currently sited mid-block along Washington Avenue, the City’s plans include streets bordering two other sides of the three-acre lot (an extension of Maryland Avenue from Town Center and a new Dawson Street linking Washington and Hungerford). JBG’s current conceptual plans include those streets as planned (although adjustments have been discussed to avoid awkward leftover parcels) and how their project might relate to the adjacent properties as Town Center 2 is developed. Greenberg noted that adjacent properties are separate parcels owned by others, such as the Maxim supermarket and the fire station, some of whom are not interested in selling because they want to develop the property themselves. Plans for relocating the fire station have died down, development of the Bank of America parcel have been scrapped due to the economy, but a Walgreen’s drug store is underway along Hungerford.
JBG considered various possible uses, including office, condo, and hotel, but in the current economic climate, the only ones that made sense were Continue reading →
Today’s Peerless Rockville Brunch at Glenview Mansion was packed with lots of members, friends, residents, and community leaders. Mayor Marcuccio was joined by Rockville City Councilmembers Bridget Newton, Mark Pierzchala, and Tom Moore; Montgomery County Council by Phil Andrews and Hans Riemer; Maryland State Delegate Kumar Barve and Luis Simmons; and Maryland State Senator Jennie Forehand. Everyone was generous with their potluck dish and I regretfully made it to the dessert table long after Brigitta Mullican’s famous Christmas cookies had been devoured. During the presentation, Peerless Rockville noted the important achievement of this last year was the designation of Glenview as an city landmark and that this year they’ll be focusing on simplifying the historic designation process in the city.
The Rockville City Council elections are over and while the results aren’t official until certified, congratulations to Phyllis Marcuccio who will continue as Mayor, Bridget Newton and Mark Pierzchala who will continue on Council, Tom Moore who will be new on Council, and John Hall who will return to Council after a brief hiatus (and thanks to John Britton and Piotr Gajewski for their recent service on Council). No doubt everyone has already seen the election returns and noted that the Mayor’s race was not only heated but close–they were separated by 415 votes out of a total of 6113 votes. If 209 people (that’s 3 percent of those voting for Mayor) had voted differently, we’d have someone else as Mayor. It’s even closer in the Council race–Moore made it onto Council by just 51 votes. So if anyone thinks their vote doesn’t count, think again if you’re living in Rockville.
Although we know the election results for the entire city, Roald Schrack has broken it down by precinct which provides a clearer picture of what happened–and what it might mean for the governance of the city during the next two years:
- Voting followed two different clusters of candidates: Hall-Gottfried-Newton-Trahan vs Moore-Onley-Pierzchala. That suggests that the community has formed two different visions for its governance, and since the election resulted in an even split among these two “slates” on Council, we might have Continue reading →
I had a chance to attend my first city council candidates forum today, which I think is actually the third of more than a half dozen. If you missed it, don’t worry, you have plenty of opportunities coming up (including two this upcoming week that will be broadcast).
Today’s forum was held in the senior center and hosted by the neighborhood associations for College Gardens, Woodley Gardens, and Plymouth Woods and moderated by Cheryl Kagan. All the candidates were seated in a single row, barely fitting on stage, and about 60 people attended, mostly senior citizens. Unlike some neighborhood forums that focus exclusively on their parochial issues, this one ranged widely around Rockville, including such topics as Rockville in ten years, budget and finances, the APFO, Rockville Pike Plan, the fence separating Montgomery College, the city logo and branding, qualifications of the next city manager, relationships with other government agencies, relations with city staff, the proposed Walmart, and an assessment of the city’s website. Perhaps the most provocative question was, “which candidate do you oppose in this election and why?” I won’t provide a detailed report on everyone’s statements–I’ll leave that to the Gazette or you can watch the 2+ hours of it on YouTube–but will just give general impressions and highlights.
It seems that the candidates are beginning to solidify their statements and finding ways to Continue reading →
I’ve just confirmed with the City Clerk’s office that the following persons will be on the ballot in November 2011:
- Peter Gajewski
- Phyllis Marcuccio
- John Hall
- Tom Moore
- Bridget Newton
- Virginia Onley
The deadline for getting on the ballot is Friday, September 9, so I suspect more names will be added this next week.
If you’re not familiar with the process, it’s not required of any other elected officials serving Rockville–not the County Council, our State Delegates, or State Senator. Each candidate has to submit a petition signed by one hundred registered Rockville voters along with their request to be placed on the ballot. Superficially, it sounds like a nice way to separate the wheat from the chaff, but it’s very hard to do. Most of us don’t know 100 registered Rockville voters, so you have to find them at shopping centers, the Metro stations, or walking your neighborhood. Because most strangers don’t want to be bothered, it provides a major advantage to incumbents who have name recognition and a existing pool of supporters. Complicating matters is that you have to sign the petition exactly as you registered to vote with the Board of Elections or it won’t count. And after Congresswoman Giffords’ shooting in Tucson, shopping centers are shooing away political activities to avoid a repeat of that tragedy. So now it’s more than just an exercise in identifying serious candidates, it’s become one of Donald Trump’s projects out of “The Apprentice”. It may be legal (but I’m guessing it’s as legal as poll taxes), but this process of collecting 100 signatures isn’t required at county or state levels of government (our neighboring City of Gaithersburg requires 100 signatures, but are they our model?). Has it ensured a better quality candidate? Or has it dissuaded good residents from running? Why one hundred?
In her inaugural address as the new Mayor of the City of Rockville on November 22, 2009, Phyllis Marcuccio made the following statement, the first promise of her new administration:
First, I would be remiss if we did not respond to the major issue of our recent election: the unprecedented economic stress facing our nation and our city for the next several years. I will within the next two weeks appoint a task force on finance and budget, whose initial charge will be to review and comment on our financial policies, principles, and current processes of the City budget for consideration by the City Council. I will call for their report by the end of March in 2010.
Let’s see what’s happened point-by-point (reordered to simplify analysis): Continue reading →
With Scott Ullery’s recent announcement that he’ll retire as City Manager in December, the temperature of the upcoming City Council elections just went up several degrees. Hiring a City Manager is one of the most important decisions they can make and has both long-term and short-term implications. We’ve been fortunate to have such a skilled administrator as Scott Ullery, who has been a calm and consistent force at the City despite the continual challenges that come into his office from all corners. I’ve always found him to be ethical and fair, and while I know some people sought his removal, it’s usually because they’re trying to do something that doesn’t align with our city’s strategic plan, violates city codes, or requires Council approval. It’s a thankless job because you are always subject to public criticism and you get a new set of bosses every two years (and the best city managers, like the best editors, are often invisible and let others get the credit).
Selecting the next City Manager will be a crucial responsibility for the next Council–and it’s not an easy job. In my former hometown of Upland, California, we had a terrible series Continue reading →
The City of Rockville’s process for designating historic landmarks has confused the city leaders and staff once again. For many years, the process has vexed property owners, preservationists, neighbors, staff, and city officials, despite continual calls for reform from the Historic District Commission. It’s frustrating and costs time and money, and yet, here was another discussion about it at the March 14, 2011 meeting. It borders on the surreal, so I’m providing a transcript so you can see it for yourself:
Councilmember Pierzchala: On next week’s tentative agenda, Item Number 11…this is Glenview Mansion, it’s listed as 45 minutes and I’m not sure why. I am planning to vote to Authorize to File and get a Public Hearing going, and I’d rather have staff presentations and whoever is for, whoever is against, all at one point, and where we can ask questions, and so I’m just wondering why we need 45 minutes for next week.
City Manager Ullery: I would agree with you. I don’t think that item requires 45 minutes.
Mayor Marcuccio: Well, is there someone who requested 45 minutes?
City Manager Ullery: It probably came in through the agenda from Rec and Parks department. I think we can probably do it in 20 minutes. Continue reading →