The Rockville Mayor and Council recently engaged the Novak Consulting Group (who aided in the search for the new city manager) to help refine their list of 23 priorities created in 2016—far too many to get things done. As a result, the Mayor and Council identified the priorities among their priorities, coming up with a list of twelve which are overwhelmingly focused on city planning and development, and may just be wishful thinking:
- Modify affordable housing requirements in new developments.
- Improve the review process for new developments.
- Develop a policy on economic incentives [presumably for attracting businesses and employers].
- Review the roles and responsibilities of the police department [what prompted this?].
- Beautify the concrete walls under the railroad tracks at Middle Lane and Park Road.
- Review the policies and procedures relating to boards and commissions.
- Establish new partnerships between private companies and public agencies/organizations.
- Refine the City’s relationship with Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (REDI).
- Study development standards around Metro stations (Twinbrook, Rockville, and Shady Grove)
- Improve wayfinding and signage around the city.
- Encourage revitalization of neighborhood shopping centers through zoning.
- Support the arts, sciences, and local heritage.
Postponed to future years are a feasibility study for a trolley/streetcar program, support for Bus Rapid Transit, completing the Comprehensive Master Plan by 2018, implementing Vision Zero (eliminating road fatalities), and adopting an ordinance to provide parkland as residential development increases.
The Mayor and Council hasn’t discussed their 2017 priorities at their regular meetings, but have been sharing it with boards and commissions along with a copy of the presentation (pdf: Rockville Priorities 2017). I’m unsure what’s next, but hopefully the Mayor and Council will welcome comments and responses from the community to these priorities, as well as identify the cost in terms of time and dollars, otherwise it’s just a wish list that’s not based on reality (let’s not follow the latest effort in the House of Representatives to replace the Affordable Care Act before receiving an assessment from the Congressional Budget Office). It is strange that they’ve established these priorities after adopting the FY 2018 budget; usually organizations establish goals first, then formulate the budget accordingly. Does this mean the recently adopted budget will need to be revised or that these priorities are actually for FY 2019? Or is this simply an exercise in wishful thinking?
My greatest concern is that the list seems out of balance because most items will be primarily the responsibility of the Community Planning and Development Services department. Given their current responsibilities and loss of their department head (with no replacement in sight) and we’ll begin the new fiscal year in a month, this seems like poor planning by the Mayor and Council. Their priorities deserve a second look when they determine the costs associated with them and receive comments from the community.