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 a steep learning curve and although I winced when she said, “I’ll always listen to you and vote with the majority,” I’m hoping that she mis-spoke since she’s an African American woman. One of the biggest challenges for persons holding office is that you have responsibilities to everyone in the community, not just the majority, and your willingness to go against the grain to do the right thing will be tested over and over.
- John Hall: I guess that’s why I’m ambivalent about John Hall. He’s an incredibly nice guy to the point that he always plays the middle child, avoiding conflict and trying make others happy. Conflict is a natural part of governing because you are always making decisions that affect others for better and worse. We don’t have to be mean or cold-hearted about it, but we do need to have the courage to make those decisions in a clear, efficient, and reasonable fashion so we can move on. And with all the controversy surrounding the APFO, I’m puzzled by his willingness to say there’s nothing that needs to be adjusted or revised–even the State Court of Appeals noted there are flaws.
The mayor’s race is one of the most contentious and bitter I’ve seen in my decade of living in Rockville, although some of the old folks have told me it was just as bad in the 1970s and 80s (and of course, the 1950s when there was a significant switch from the old timers to the new residents). Supporters for either candidate have really dug in their heels in a manner that reminds of the recent battles in Congress and the candidates haven’t made matters any easier.
- Phyllis Marcuccio is continually confused, swayed by the latest opinion, unsure of the facts, mouths empty platitudes, forgets the law, and is duplicitous but it now includes underhanded and mean election tactics. She presents herself as the kind little old lady, but I got a glimpse of her mean and vengeful side after the 2009 election when I applied for Planning Commission and was given a tongue lashing by her during the interview. I supported her opponent and I know that elections have consequences, but to be treated this way when I was offering to volunteer at the city was completely inappropriate. This recent election seems to have brought that mean-spirited side out more publicly and it’s not pretty. So I’m clearly not supporting her, but what about her opponent?
- Piotr Gajewski is a hard person to like. He can be rude, arrogant, dismissive, pompous, biting, sarcastic, bombastic, and misogynistic, but I’m voting for him. It’s not because I’m a masochist or I don’t have any other choice (if it’s not clear yet, I’m not voting for Marcuccio), it’s because I’ve discovered that I can tolerate most of these traits because of the many other characteristics that demonstrate he’s a good elected official: he understands the city ordinances, processes, and policies; the respects the roles, responsibilities, and limits of council and staff; he responds in a timely manner to my emails; he holds public meetings where residents can discuss issues at length; he’s familiar with city issues and tries to analyze them from various perspectives; he willing to talk with both his supporters and opponents; and he doesn’t tolerate time-wasting political theater (like Joe Jordan’s tactics on the Red Gate Golf Course). I don’t always agree with his decisions but I understand them because he explains his reasons and they’re consistent–but he’s willing to change his mind if presented with good evidence (he was once an advocate for a strong mayor form of government for Rockville and sensibly moved to my opinion that the current city manager form is best for our town). I’ve also discovered that he’s not intentionally rude. If he stands in front of me at an event and blocks my view, I just poke him in the back and he moves over with a smile.
I’m sure my endorsements will bring joy to some people and infuriate others (anger seems to be a prime mover in this year’s campaign), so comments are welcome with the usual caveats and fortunately, it’ll be all over in a couple days. No matter what, if you’re a resident of Rockville, do vote on Tuesday. Remember, you can even register and vote on the same day at City Hall. If you aren’t sure of your entire ballot, just vote for the ones you do support and ignore the rest–your ballot won’t be disqualified if you vote for less than all five seats (and indeed, you’ll actually be helping your candidates improve their chances because you won’t be giving a vote to one of their opponents. Confused? Roald Schrack can explain this better than me.). And yes, your vote really does count. We’ve had candidates lose by just a handful of votes so go out and make a difference.