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 a stalemate, ongoing bickering, or balanced decision-making (or a mix) during the next two years.
- Marcuccio retained her seat as Mayor but she’ll have to stay balanced to keep it. She won four precincts (Swim Center, Lincoln Park, Fitzgerald Theater, and Twinbrook polling places), tied in four (Elwood Smith, Thomas Farm, Senior Center, and King Farm) and lost in two (Montrose and Ritchie Park). Geographically, she has the support of the center and east side of town but wanes in the rest of the city (particularly in the newer sections). Indeed, the voting disparaties seem to reveal a split over Rockville’s future: progressive and urban or conservative and suburban. Can we reconcile these differences? Can the Mayor unify the city by addressing the needs and interests of those who don’t support her, or will she continue to ignore them?
- Marcuccio retained her seat as Mayor but she’ll have to watch her colleagues. Her 3264 votes were far surpassed by Hall (4044 votes) and Newton (3977 votes). Recognizing that the Mayor’s position is mostly ceremonial and she’s “first among equals,” she’ll have to contend with two councilmembers who have greater support in the community. There’s clearly an existing alliance between Marcuccio and Newton, but Hall has been playing in the middle (although he was subtly aligning himself with Marcuccio and Newton during the campaign). He’s typically played the reconciler on the Council but he’s already made his intentions known that in the next election, he’s aiming for Mayor. That means he’ll need to be more aggressive and decisive to distinguish himself while still maintaining his appeal.
All in all, it seems that we either have the making of a good city council or a terrible one. Obviously, for the good of the community, I hope that all the council members will be able to work together to develop their mutual strengths to address several major issues that will face them very soon: hiring of a city manager, hiring of a city clerk, working through the Rockville Pike Plan, a revision of the APFO, responding to intense development at the north and south ends of the Pike as well as downtown, and managing an increasingly tight city budget. It won’t be easy because they will all need to step out of their comfort zones to consider other perspectives and involve political opponents. The alternative is stalemate or unproductive bickering.
The election itself found lots of issues that need to be addressed by the City Election Board (formally known as the Board of Supervisors of Elections), some of which were already noted on Rockville Patch and discussed by City Council. Surprisingly, the election code has no provision for handling a withdrawal from an election, so Joe Jordan stayed on the ballot and even beat out a legitimate candidate in a couple precincts (although his 382 votes don’t seem to have thrown the election). So, we’ll probably hear news about other irregularities as the weeks go by and witness a revision to the election code in 2012.