Last Friday was the deadline for submitting petitions to be on the ballot for Mayor and Council, so the election season has officially begun in Rockville. Candidates that will appear on the November 3, 2015 ballot are:
- Bridget Newton. Currently serving as Mayor, she is a homemaker and a resident of the West End. [no campaign website at this time]
- Sima Osdoby. Longtime resident of New Mark Commons, is active in many community and advocacy groups at the local and state level (such as Emerge Maryland), and an international consultant on governance and democratic elections.
- Virginia Onley. Currently serving on Council, is retired from IBM, and a resident of the Americana Centre.
- Julie Palakovich Carr. Currently serving on Council, she is a resident of East Rockville with a new-born baby boy and works for a non-profit public policy organization focused on biology.
- Beryl Feinberg. Currently serving on Council, she lives in Orchard Ridge and is the Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of Montgomery County’s Department of General Services.
- Richard Gottfried. A resident of Twinbrook, he is currently the president of the Twinbrook Citizens Association and owns a home-based accounting practice.
- David Hill. A soft-spoken analyst with Westat who lives in Hungerford and currently serves on the Planning Commission.
- Brigitta Mullican. A resident of Twinbrook who is president of Rockville Sister City and retired from Health and Human Services.
- Mark Pierzchala. Formerly serving on Council, he is a resident of College Gardens and owns a consulting business in Rockville that focuses on statistical analysis.
- Patrick Schoof. A resident of East Rockville, he is the CEO of a home-based non-profit organization, A Better World Foundation. [no campaign website at this time]
- Clark Reed. A resident of Twinbrook, he works for the Environmental Protection Agency and serves as chair of the Environment Commission.
This year’s election is more important than in previous years because terms have doubled from two to four years. That means if a councilmember turns out to be a ding-dong, you’ll have to wait much longer to vote him or her out of office. Your vote is more significant than ever this time around.
Five candidates—Sima Osdoby, Virginia Onley, Julie Palakovich Carr, Mark Pierzchala, and Clark Reed—have joined together as Team Rockville. Slates such as Team Rockville are specifically allowed in the city’s election code and were a mainstay of city campaigns from the 1950s to the 2000s to help candidates, especially new entrants, pool resources for increasingly expensive campaigns. In the last election, council candidates who were part of Team Rockville spent an average of $7,500 each on campaign materials whereas the others spent an average of $14,000 each (nearly double). Slates also help voters identify candidates who are willing to work together, rather than act as adversaries, to resolve issues. Many voters can identify 1-2 candidates they want on City Council but not all five seats. For those voters who seek a Council that has a clear direction and common set of values, rather than a random mix that’s often fraught with conflict and labored decision-making (think Congress), slates offer a clear distinction among a long list of unfamiliar names on the ballot. Rockville’s elections are non-partisan, thus the concerns that are typical for party-based slates don’t apply here. It’s more like a game of basketball and you’re choosing teams. Which has a better chance of scoring: a self-identified team that works well together or a random team that doesn’t know one another?
The size of this year’s pool of candidates is typical and has the usual mix of incumbents and new or repeat entrants. Sima Osdoby, Richard Gottfried, and Brigitta Mullican have previously run for office and while not successful, the experience of campaigning gives them an edge over new entrants David Hill, Patrick Schoof, and Clark Reed.
To confirm my loyalties and interests, I’m the chair of Team Rockville and I’m supporting Sima Osdoby, Virginia Onley, Julie Palakovich Carr, Mark Pierzchala, and Clark Reed for City Council. Although Team Rockville was able to elect four of the five seats on Council in 2013, losing the Mayor’s seat continued the dissension that’s plagued the Council for the last decade and made it much less effective. Bridget Newton has led a “party of no” or even worse a “party of I don’t know” that’s mired projects and clogged decision-making, while never offering an attractive alternative except a retreat to the past. Under her leadership, the City Council has gotten very little accomplished (or when they’ve made decisions, it’s been over her objections or abstentions). Although serving as mayor of one of the largest cities in Maryland, she hasn’t been able to be a real honest-to-goodness leader that attracts followers and builds a coalition (a dozen loud residents doesn’t make a coalition). That was obvious in 2013 when she was unable to identify four people who wanted to serve on Council with her and this year, she was again unable to assemble a slate (or if she is, it’ll have to be Beryl Feinberg, Richard Gottfried, David Hill, and Patrick Schoof, which is highly unlikely knowing their disparate visions and styles). It’s time for a change. Voting Newton back into office and expecting things to improve is the definition of insanity.