Rockville Candidates Missing the Forest and Trees for the Rocks

Last week, I received the following email message from Joe Jordan, who is closely associated with Bridget Newton‘s election campaign:

Max, there have been at least two occasions where Clark Reed has been seen wearing a handmade name tag that reads “Rockville City Council – Clark Reed”. It was pointed out to him at the MPT showing on Friday, yet he wore it again at RTS on Saturday. Recalling two years ago, I recall how you were concerned about integrity and propriety and following election guidelines, and while nametags may not be covered under them, I am sure you can see how misleading his nametag can be.

Can I be confident in the fact you will bring this to his and Sima [Osdoby]’s attention, and ask that, at a minimum, he and all slate candidates use the wording “candidate for” if they are not incumbents.

Thanks for your attention to this important matter.

Name badgesMr. Jordan is correct that name badges are not specifically addressed in Rockville’s election code (although it addresses nearly everything else: “any pamphlet, circular, card, sample ballot, dodger, poster, advertisement or any printed, multigraphed, photographed, typewritten or written matter or statement or any matter or statement which may be copied by any device”) and that I value transparency, honesty, and accuracy in government (and in business and personal relationships).  I’ve passed his message onto the candidates of Team Rockville, but just to clarify, each candidate that is part of the Team is responsible for his or her own campaign (I don’t manage individual campaigns, just the Team’s; and this blog is mine, not the Team’s).

More important, though, I am growing increasingly concerned with the topics deemed important in this election.  Richard Gottfried sent out the first campaign mailer of the season and accused his opponents of associating with “fat cat developers” without providing any evidence.  On the Twinbrook Listserv a couple weeks ago, Brigitta Mullican complained about the inaccuracies in my blog post (I said Beryl Feinberg worked in the county’s office of management and budget) and that she wasn’t allowed to post comments, then recruited Beryl Feinberg to pile on:

Max’s blog clearly is amiss on the facts about my work. It is outdated by three years.  Biographical data should be correct and he should have known better.   As the 2013 Team Rockville campaign chair, he knew then that I [Beryl Feinberg] was no longer affiliated with the County’s Office of Management and Budget.  My campaign literature for 2013 clearly showed that then, and now, I am the Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of the County’s Department of General Services.  I was at the County’s Office of Management and Budget for 14 years, as a senior budget manager.  I began my current position in August, 2013.  I share this only to demonstrate that what is portrayed as factual needs verification.  Blogs put forth without the ability to post comments and corrections are, in my humble opinion, disingenuous.

Beryl Feinberg's 2015 campaign literature lists two job titles.

Beryl Feinberg’s 2015 campaign literature lists two job titles.

I apologize that I erred in stating where Beryl Feinberg works in the county, but it’s taken directly from her campaign literature.  It states that she is “Deputy Director and COO of Montgomery County’s Department of General Services” and “Senior Manager in [the] County’s Office of Management and Budget.” I just picked one of them and it wasn’t meant to be insulting or misleading—or disingenuous. I’ve made the correction to the blog post, but again, Ms. Feinberg’s campaign literature clearly lists two different job titles with no dates or clarification. I don’t believe she’s being disingenuous but it certainly is confusing. That she isn’t aware of what is stated in her own campaign literature and accused me of getting it wrong is also confusing—and she should have handled it better.

As for complaints about being unable to comment on my blog at, well…it is my blog.  I generally welcome comments, including those that disagree with me, but during the campaign season, opinions become sharper and hotter (have you noticed?), so I turn off comments for political posts.  I’m straightforward with the readers of my blog about the candidates I support and who I oppose in the upcoming election.  Just as it would be silly to allow opponents to put their signs in my yard, it would be silly to allow them to post on my blog.  It’s probably the same reason that all of the candidates (including Ms. Feinberg and Ms. Mullican) freely share their thoughts and opinions on their web sites, yet prohibit comments at the same time.  Here’s the good news:  if you have opinions or thoughts about the election (or chickens or Rockville Pike or the APFO), you can easily create your own blog or website free at WordPress (that’s how this blog was created).

So here we are five weeks from the election of the Mayor and Council on November 3 and according to some candidates the most important issues facing the City of Rockville are name badges, job titles, imaginary “fat cat developers,” and the inability to post on someone else’s blog.  As an alternative, let me offer some other issues that may be more important to the people who live and work in Rockville:

  1. Town Center.  The City has invested millions of dollars, stumbled over the debt payments for the parking garages, stalled on the plans for 255 N. Washington Avenue (former Bank of America building, now an empty lot), and is confronted by more than a dozen empty storefronts in or around downtown.  What’s next? What’s the plan?
  2. Rockville Pike. The City’s plan is nearly 30 years old and has been working on revising it for nearly a decade.  When will it be finished? Why is it dragging on? When can we expect conditions to improve on the Pike?
  3. Neighborhood Shopping Centers.  Shopping centers in Twinbrook, Burgundy, Lincoln Park, College Gardens, Rockshire, and other neighborhoods are facing various states of neglect and deterioration.  How should they be revived and renewed to enhance, rather than detract from, their neighborhoods? Is the solution in code enforcement or re-zoning?
  4. Schools.  Maintaining the high quality of local schools affects everyone, whether they have children or not, because it bolsters property values, attracts good employees, and builds a thoughtful, educated citizenry.  I suspect the APFO/APFS will be a campaign topic, but it’s a complex issue to explain and a distraction from the actual source of the problem: county council and the school board. How candidates handle this issue will reveal how well they understand the powers and limitations of city government.
  5. City Clerk.  For more than a year, the City has been without a City Clerk, one of only three positions that reports to the Mayor and Council along with the City Manager and City Attorney.  The title is misleading because the City Clerk isn’t just an administrative assistant to the Mayor and Council.  He or she is also the city’s Treasurer, prepares ordinances and resolutions, processes zoning applications, coordinates city elections, preserves city records, and coordinates 18 boards and commissions. This key city position has been unfilled since August 2014 and a job announcement hasn’t even been posted. How will this hole be filled?
  6. City Commissions.  Six “public bodies” in the City didn’t provide written minutes for at least half of their meetings this year, including the Planning Commission, Mayor and Council, and the Board of Supervisors of Elections.  There’s a serious lack of transparency in local government and it’s an opportunity for illegal or dishonest activities (indeed, the City of Rockville is violating Maryland’s Open Meeting Act).  Is this a mountain or a molehill?

No matter if you agree with me or not, please do vote on November 3.

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