Last night, the Rockville Community Coalition held a forum on the proposed revisions to the Rockville City Charter, the city’s “constitution”. The Mayor and Council appointed a Charter Review Commission last year to review the charter and develop recommendations to increase voter participation. The commission suggested increasing the terms from 2 to 4 years, increasing the city council from 5 to 7 seats, and aligning the city election with the presidential election cycle. Those ideas were debated last night with lively comments, questions, and observations by the audience of about three dozen people, which included Councilmembers Hall, Moore, and Pierzchala. The City Council is currently considering whether any of these recommendations go to the ballot this fall as an advisory measure, or if they wish to take action immediately.
Good points were made for all positions and rather than share them here, I suggest you watch the forum on YouTube. It should be available in a week or so.
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 →
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’ve read the literature, participated in two debates, visited the websites, listened to neighborhood discussions, and talked to some of the candidates and am now ready to announce my endorsements for City Council:
- Tom Moore: I met Tom during the last election and even though I was among his opponents, he was incredibly fair, thoughtful, considerate, and funny. I liked him so much that I passed out his literature as well as mine on election day. Although he wasn’t elected to Council in 2009, he’s continued to stay involved in the community and shows that he analyzes issues and gives other perspectives a fair hearing.
- Mark Pierzchala: Mark’s knowledge of city and neighborhood issues has grown tremendously during his first term on Council and he understands the complex nature of making decisions in a diverse community. I don’t always agree with his decisions (he seems to favor businesses more than residents and the city’s heritage at times) but he always explains how he came to his decisions. He’s the only incumbent I’m endorsing for City Council, and losing him would lose continuity on the Council.
- Virginia Onley: Virginia has a long history of service to Rockville through various committees and boards, so she’s experienced the community from various perspectives. Yet, serving on Council will be Continue reading →
Today is a double-header for the Rockville City Council candidates, putting a punctuation point to a long series of debates this season. I attended this afternoon’s session hosted at the Senior Center and tonight is the last with the Chamber of Commerce. By now, the candidates have honed their thoughts and can quickly state their positions, which is much more helpful to the voters. You can also see where alliances have formed, how their personalities affect their thinking, and where there is uncertainty. From today’s forum, it seemed the alliances are Marcuccio, Newton, Hall, and maybe Gottfried vs. Gajewski and Pierzchala (if we arranged this by nationality, we’d have. . .hmm).
This forum was primarily focused on the needs and interests of seniors, so there were questions about the candidates’ ideas to support “aging in place,” homeowner’s tax credit, affordable housing, and the impact of decreased county and state support on Rockville’s senior programming, but some ranged further, for example a surprising question on the King Farm transitway. The $100 homeowners tax credit was discussed throughout the afternoon, with Gajewski and Hall clearly supporting its reappearance; Marcuccio and Newton only if the eligibility criteria could be tightened (e.g., only for seniors); and Francis clearly against, calling it a smokescreen for the more important issue of unfair property taxes and adoption of a piggyback income tax. Time was wasted on the question, “Where senior services ranked as a priority” because no politician will 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?