The Rockville solar energy cooperative is growing, sufficiently to the point that it looks like it’ll be able to solicit bids from installers in June. Maryland Solar United Neighborhoods (Maryland SUN), a nonprofit organization, is working with the Environment Commission of the City of Rockville to make solar energy more affordable and accessible. By using the collective buying power of a group of Rockville residents, we’ll save on the cost of installation (yup, my family has joined). If you’re interested in going solar but not sure where to start, this co-op is a great place to learn. At this point, there’s no obligation to purchase a system or have it installed, they’re just collecting names of homeowners who are interested so that we can obtain the best bids possible. Based on the same principle as buying in bulk, the group will go through the process of going solar together by working with a Maryland SUN to select a single installer. Each participant signs an individual contract with the chosen installer, but all participants get the group discount. After the installer has been chosen in August, it may not be possible to participate in this round.
They’ve held two info sessions so far and the last is coming up on Tuesday, June 9 at 7 pm at Glenview Mansion. For more information and to sign up, visit MDSun.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Along with the City Council, the City of Rockville has 23 official boards and commissions to study, advise, and decide on a wide range of issues, from city planning to cultural arts, from human services to animal matters. In addition, there are at least ten other unofficial task forces or committees. All of these boards and commissions are composed of volunteers, usually residents (some include property or business owners who live elsewhere) and most members are nominated by the Mayor and appointed by City Council (a few have members elected in other ways, such as RSI).
Rockville has always encouraged and supported citizen involvement in its government, and used these board and commissions to keep the residents informed and part of the decision-making process. But how well informed are its citizens? All commission meetings are open to the public (I’m going to call them all “commissions” to keep things simple), but only three commissions–Planning Commission, Historic District Commission, and the Board of Appeals–have meetings that are regularly broadcast on Channel 11 and the City website (most likely because the City Council has granted them exclusive decision-making powers). For the other commissions, to find out what’s happening you have to attend the meeting, talk to one of the commissioners, or review the minutes. Obviously, the most convenient way is reviewing the minutes or notes of the meeting, so let’s see how we’ve done.
On January 20, 2012, I tallied the number of meetings and minutes posted on the City website for 2011 (cancelled meetings don’t count). By dividing the number of minutes by the number of meetings, I calculated a “public information score.” So if a commission had posted 9 minutes for 12 meetings, that would earn them a Minutes Score of 9/12 or 75%. The higher the score the better, and here’s how they fared: Continue reading →
Last Thursday the Historic District Commission held its regular monthly meeting and if anyone was watching to the end, you may have noticed that the clock was nearing midnight. We usually try to finish at 10 pm but we had an ambitious agenda, including:
1. A joint meeting with the Environment Commission, which included three Planning Commissioners. The City has about two dozen commissions and boards but they rarely, if ever, talk with each other, even if they share some common goals or are tackling the same issue. This past year the HDC has requested meetings with other commissions but it’s been slow because finding mutual agreeable times is difficult and sometimes, I regret to say, the Chair of the other commission refused to respond to emails or phone calls to meet (what’s that about??). So far, we’ve met with the Planning Commission and this month with the Environment Commission. These meetings are just an hour so no decisions are made, but they provide introductions and we learn a bit more about each other to discover areas of mutual interest. It’s obvious that the Environmental Commission and the HDC both want to encourage Continue reading →