At its Monday, December 20, 2021 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss state legislative priorities with District 17 elected officials; approval of 350 apartments in Fallsgrove; an agreement with Rockville Housing Enterprises on 29 homes; tree planting requirements for new residences; revising the ordinance relating to MPDUs, and parkland requirements in lieu of fees. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) is a letter to WMATA about safety. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on the FY 2021 finances.
Correction: The Mayor and Council did NOT go into Closed Session on Wednesday, December 15 to conduct a performance evaluation of the City Clerk/Director of Council Operations. This meeting was postponed.
The 2022 General Assembly Session for the State of Maryland will begin on January 12 and conclude on April 11, 2022 (it’s just a short three months). At this Council meeting, elected representatives for District 17 (Senator Cheryl Kagan and Delegates Kumar Barve, Julie Palakovich Carr [a former member of Rockville Council], and Jim Gilchrist [his last session]) will hear Rockville’s priorities for 2022:
- Allow cities to post electronic legal notices instead of printing notices in the Washington Post since there are no local newspapers in Montgomery County. Hmm, is this the best way for citizens to know what’s going on in government? What can provide a permanent, accessible record of government actions that is controlled by a independent third party? Will Facebook, Twitter, or Tiktok be acceptable? And is this the City’s number 1 priority?
- Additional state funding for education from birth through community college, including childcare. Seems the city is advocating for childcare for parents who are holding down a job, not pursuing education: “some daycare centers are turning children away, leaving parents – mostly women – unable to work.” Education and childcare are both important, but let’s split them up and not mix priorities. Given the majority on City Council are women, how about advocating for issues that are important to women instead of highway funds (#3 below)?
- Restore Municipal Highway User Revenues. Currently, vehicle registration fees and gas taxes provide $2.7 million annually to Rockville for road and bridge maintenance, 85% of the pre-recession level. The Maryland Municipal League notes a bigger and unresolved issue is the rise of telework, and decreased vehicle emissions due to the increase in electric and hybrid vehicles (see #6 below), and other factors that make the current system of funding unsustainable. Seems this is a low priority considering the dollars involved, national trend towards electric vehicles, and the other issues on this list.
- Prohibit demolition of Rockville homes, businesses, and infrastructure in the I-270 and I-495 Managed Lanes Study. Of secondary importance is a demonstration that this highway expansion is financially viable (I suspect that most highway projects are not financially viable, hence their poor condition across the US).
- Install sound walls for homes north of the I-270/MD 28 interchange in the West End, Saddlebrook, and Falls Ridge neighborhoods (meanwhile, poorer neighborhoods in Twinbrook and Lincoln Park will continue to endure the rumble of railroads for several more decades).
- Support climate change policies, such as flood plain planning, electric vehicle incentives (see #3 above), and renewable energy.
- Increase fines for cars that generate excessive noise in Rockville. In 2021, the state legislature failed to increase penalties to $200. Really, the state legislature thinks that modifying a car exhaust system to create excessive noise is okay?
- Enhance funding for senior programs and services because the percentage of seniors is expected to grow to 22% in 2040. Currently 10% of Rockville’s seniors live below the poverty line (and I bet most are women). If Rockville were serious about senior services, they would relocate the senior center to a more accessible location (less than 15% of Rockville’s residents over 65 use the center) and they would approve Accessory Dwelling Units to encourage aging-in-place.
- Allow Rockville to create its own Police Accountability Board, rather than keep it at the county level.
- Issue a $250,000 state bond to renovate the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre lobby, auditorium, backstage areas, restrooms, concession stand, box office, hallways, and corridors. In 2015 (that’s five years ago), Rockville received $175,000 in state bonds for ADA improvements for the parking lot. Left off the list is $150,000 to improve disabled access at City Hall and $250,000 to renovate the city’s emergency operations center. Seems to me that District 17 has to work harder to bring back more funds to Rockville.
More details in the 391-page agenda packet available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_12202021-6441.