Mayor and Council to Tackle Elections and Rental Housing
At its Monday, February 6, 2023 meeting, the Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss lowering the voting age to 16, permitting non-US citizens to vote, setting term limits, creating representative districts, changing the election year, and changing to ranked-choice voting as well as several issues affecting renters and landlords. On the Consent Calendar (items approved without discussion) are North Stonestreet Avenue sidewalk improvements and city-wide bus stops improvements, among others. I suspect this will be a loooong meeting with these topics.
There are several major changes to voting and elections under consideration, prompted by recommendations by the Charter Review Commission. The arguments for and against each of these recommendations is too lengthy to even summarize here, so read the report for yourself online. At this meeting, the City Council will hold a Public Hearing to accept comments from residents and will then decide whether to move forward, stop, or send it to the voters for their advice (this last happened in 2013).
The Mayor and Council has decided to move forward with the expansion of City Council from five to seven members (which includes the Mayor) and will be reviewing the changes to the City Code at this meeting. As written, this expansion will occur in this year’s (2023) election (I’m unsure what will happen if the Council decides to change the election year to align with presidential elections).
On other matters, the Council will discuss the Voluntary Rent Guidelines, which includes a recommended maximum rent increase of 5.8 percent (in 2022, it was 0.4 percent). Secondly, they are considering radon testing for basement or ground-contact rentals, which follows Montgomery County’s requirements, and that the City be allowed to inspect rental facilities if they suspect code violations (currently, “property owners are not obligated to allow City inspectors to inspect the inside of the rental facility”).
More details in the 143-page agenda packet are available at https://www.rockvillemd.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_02062023-6800.
Pedestrians and Cyclists will be Safer in MoCo, how about Rockville?
The Montgomery County Council unanimously passed an ordinance that amends the county’s urban road code to make sure new or reconstructed streets in urban areas are safe and attractive for all users. Co-sponsored by Councilmembers Riemer and Berliner, it requires:
- Narrower lane widths of 10’ to slow traffic and reduce accidents (it may sound contradictory, but wider lanes for cars result in more frequent and more serious collisions with pedestrians and cyclists–it’s all about the speed of a 2,000 pound car).
- A 25 mph maximum speed for urban areas
- Pedestrian bumpouts and smaller intersections, which will mean safer turns by drivers and a shorter distance for walkers to cross.
- Stronger requirements to build sidewalks during road construction.
Perhaps something like this needs to be adopted in Rockville. We often promote cycling and walking, and yet overlook the needs of pedestrians and cyclists in the strangest ways. For example, at the Twinbrook Recreation Center, it was years before a sidewalk was laid for pedestrians connecting it to the street. During construction around Twinbook Metro, sidewalks are often blocked and people have to walk in the street.
Want to learn more about what makes safe, complete urban streets? Check out this great infographic from our friends at the Active Transportation Alliance.