Mayor and Council to Choose Earmarks and Decide Upcoming Election Changes
At its Monday, February 27, 2023 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss proposed earmarks for the FY24 federal budget, requests from the Board of Supervisors of Elections, and recommendations from the Charter Review Commission. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are the preservation of public art, funding for the Rockcrest Ballet Center, Taste of Rockville agreement, and funding for the flood resilience master plan, among others. The Mayor and Council will also receive reports on operating budget and capital improvements budget for FY2024.
Yes, Congress is openly using earmarks again, “funds provided for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient.” For some, it’s simply another form of pork barrel politics but for others it’s a vital project. Perhaps the most famous earmark was by US Senator Ted Stevens to construct the Gravina Island Bridge or the “Bridge to Nowhere” for $250 million in 2002. But if you want federal funds for a specific project, the best way to ensure it is through earmarks. This year, the City of Rockville is considering several potential requests to Senator Cardin, Senator Van Hollen, and Congressman Raskin, including the emergency operations center at 6 Taft Court, police radio equipment ($1.4 million!), storm drain improvements in Potomac Woods, security for the water treatment plant, and water main or sewer main rehabilitation in an “equity focused area” (not identified but somewhere in southeast Rockville).
Preparations for the 2023 Mayor and Council election are underway and candidate information packets should be ready by May 1—however, there is still lots to be done. The Board of Supervisors of Elections is waiting for approval from the Mayor and Council on several changes to the City Charter and City Code in limbo; proposed translation of outreach materials in Spanish, Chinese, and French; adding a second vote center at Thomas Farm and placing ballot drop boxes in Montrose, Lincoln Park, and the Rockville Senior Center. Indeed, if the minimum voting age is lowered from 18 years to 16 years and the deadline for submitting nomination petitions is increased from 60 to 90 days prior to the election, the City may have already missed its ability to implement these changes for the November 2023 election.
Discussion of the 30 recommendations by the Charter Review Commission continues, this time on a more “precise, open, transparent, and definitive administrative process” for filling a vacancy on the city council after two years; adding a “none of the above” option on election ballots; increasing the size of the Board of Supervisors of Elections; increasing the number of ballot drop-off boxes; lowering the voting age to 16; and limiting the number of consecutive terms of council members to three four-year terms (but allowing a person to serve 12 years as a councilmember and 12 years as mayor—really? 12 years is plenty, give other people a chance!).
More details in the 450-page agenda packet are available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_02272023-6820.
Petition for City Council Certified
I am delighted to announce that my candidacy for Rockville City Council is official! I submitted my papers with a petition of 100 registered Rockville voters this morning and the City Clerk’s office certified them this afternoon. This Web site will change over the weekend as I move from the “exploration” to “candidate” stage. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who has encouraged me to run, gave me sober advice, and signed my petition.
Many people don’t know that in order to run for office in Rockville, you need to submit a petition signed by 100 registered voters who live in Rockville. Persons running for state senator or delegate don’t have the same requirement, so at first I was a bit puzzled and wondered why we had to jump through this hoop. Now that I’m in the process, it does make sense. If you’re running for public office, you need to be serious and have sufficient support from the community to place your name in the hat. It does require time, but much more time will be needed if you’re elected. Finally, it gets you out in the community–few people know one hundred people that meet the qualifications–and meet your fellow citizens. That’s what I’ve enjoyed most about the process.
My signature collection process has been very strategic. First, I privately asked people who knew me best and could offer friendly advice about the process and suggest how I could clarify my message. I then went public with a booth at the Memorial Day festivities downtown to meet a broad range of people (most of whom weren’t from Rockville, but it gave me insights into who visits and shops). Now I’m going door-to-door to various neighborhoods to meet registered voters, starting with my own neighborhood of Twinbrook. Here’s what I learned so far: Continue reading →