The West End Citizens Association (WECA) held its Candidates Forum last Thursday, October 8, 2009 and attracted a large crowd. The room was pretty full and we had an excellent moderator, although I think we all were stumbling over our responses to say what we wanted in the short time allowed (it was our second Forum, so please be patient with us!). In case you missed it, it was televised on Channel 11 and available on the RockvilleMD.gov Web site.
It’s always interesting to see the concerns of citizens so I wanted to share the questions we received at the Forum, as well as those we didn’t address due to lack of time. How would you have answered them?
At the Forum
- I have lived in Rockville since I was 1 year old and that was in the early 1960s. Rockville has always had such a “livable” feel to it with many small local businesses and the like. Now to put it bluntly, I don’t recognize my hometown. My local pizza place is now a wine restaurant (whatever that is). The High’s where I bought milk is gone and in its place are a bunch of boutiques and chain restaurants. After years of the Town Center, there is still no grocery store. Do you think this is progress? What are you planning to do to get us some useful stores? A grocery, a hardware store, a garden center?
- One issue that has clearly been of great concern to many residents is the massing of high-density, affordable housing in certain parts of the city, like the Haiti area of the West End – a policy that many feel violates the city’s master plan which calls for “scattered site” affordable housing. If elected, how will you address these concerns?
- The State and County had to cut back by laying off employees, furloughing employees and cutting back on programs. Do you think the $1.7 million in raises to city employees were appropriate given our current economic downturn?
- Business and restaurants in the Town Center are either going under or are barely holding on. Many owners feel the recent increase in parking hours will negatively impact their business. How will your resolve this issue?
- The Master Plan says the city should identify all possible ways to preserve open space, and underdeveloped parcels should be evaluated for parkland acquisition before they are developed as infill. Why hasn’t the parcel where Victory Housing is proposed to be built been considered for green space? How do you reconcile that it hasn’t with Rockville’s claim as Tree City USA and the State and County programs to encourage citizens to plant more trees?
- If Rockville participates in another public-private partnership, such as Town Center, would you support or oppose Rockville taking on a major partner such as Federal Reality, which has a track record of preferential treatment of national chains to the detriment of local businesses?
- Are you a current (dues paying) member of your neighborhood civic association? What involvement have you had in your neighborhood civic association? What have you achieved as a result of those efforts?
- There is a perception in the community that the city is not defending citizen’s rights to a reasonable schedule when it comes to new development proposals and a fair process. Why do developers get years, working hand-in-hand with the city, out of view of the citizens? Citizen’s hear about it years later and get only 2-3 months to come up to speed and respond. Would you work to change this process to make it more objective, fair to citizens, and not pro-developer? What specific changes would you recommend?
- How can Citizen’s complaints be better addressed other than once a month mayor and council meetings?
- Everyone is in favor of senior housing and low-income housing, but why is there such a heavy concentration of each in Rockville?
- What would you plan to do about the abandoned housing in the West End?
- When is Rockville giving up on our off-year elections? This would increase voting dramatically.
- Should increases in planned fees be put off in light of State and County budget cuts?
- How do you feel about the ICC?
- Can we reduce the number of city policemen if we continue to use cameras for speed enforcement? Since millions of dollars are collected and the contractor is managing the cameras with a good percentage of the fees, would it be appropriate to see a savings?
- One of the greatest protections that our residentially zoned neighborhoods have from commercial encroachment is that non-conforming uses in residential zones are not allowed to be expanded. Pumphrey’s Funeral home has stated to many neighbors that they want to expand their parking on the vacant lot on West Montgomery Ave. and would need a zoning text amendment approved by the mayor and council to allow this. What is your position on either allowing or not allowing expansion of non-conforming uses in residential neighborhoods?
- If you could go back in time and redesign Town Center, what would you do differently? Give specific examples of the mix of businesses you thing would have enabled Town Center to better weather this economic environment.
- A house in the 700 block of Beall Ave. has sat unfinished and vacant for the last 2 years. The property has been a mess for the past 2 years. The front yard is covered with construction materials and the grass is 2 feet high. Why hasn’t the city government done anything to remedy this situation? What will you commit to do between now and the election to remedy the situation?
- The city’s conversion of the old post office to the new police station was originally set to cost less than $5 million. It will now cost nearly $10 million. How can you justify such a large cost over-run?
- Rockville has always had wonderful city services. I wish I could say that I thought that this was still true. Our twice weekly trash pickup, that I used to joke that I didn’t want to part on the street or else risk having them pick up my car, is being replaced by once-a-week “just what I can fit in the City supplied can,” service.
- Rockville has its own police force, yet when my tires were slashed while my car was parked in front of a friend’s Croydon Park home, the Rockville City Police would not let my friend file a police report, since it was not his car, and it was parked on the street, and not on his property. Why are we paying for these services when Montgomery County has trash pick-up at one a week and they have a police force that I am paying for already? I don’t mind paying for services when I get a return on my taxes, but we’re paying extra and getting nothing extra in return.