2009 Mayoral Promise Number 1: Finance and Budget Assessment
In her inaugural address as the new Mayor of the City of Rockville on November 22, 2009, Phyllis Marcuccio made the following statement, the first promise of her new administration:
First, I would be remiss if we did not respond to the major issue of our recent election: the unprecedented economic stress facing our nation and our city for the next several years. I will within the next two weeks appoint a task force on finance and budget, whose initial charge will be to review and comment on our financial policies, principles, and current processes of the City budget for consideration by the City Council. I will call for their report by the end of March in 2010.
Let’s see what’s happened point-by-point (reordered to simplify analysis): Continue reading →
Mayoral Promises Missed or Fulfilled?
At the November 22, 2009 inauguration of the current City Council, Phyllis Marcucchio opened her speech as the newly seated Mayor with the following words:
In keeping with my campaign issues, where I called for bringing citizens into the decision-making process, there are a number of actions I will propose during my administration which I hope the Council will support and which I believe will move our hometown safely and thoughtfully into a more citizen-driven future. Here are a few of those initiatives.
Over the next five minutes, she laid out a half dozen promises around financial management, charter reform, communications, citizen engagement, the environment, and others. Now that she’s nearing the end of her first term as mayor and hoping to be elected to another, I’ll examine each of these over the next few months to see how’s she fared (and if possible, where the other council members and candidates stand as well and include some of my own analysis). Of course, you’ll be invited to share your opinions but because the election season can provoke stronger and sharper words, I’ll be placing a stronger hand on the rudder to keep us on topic (you’ll want to review the rules for commenting on this blog if you’re unsure what I mean). I am also closing comments after a period of 30-60 days so that we can move the conversation along.
Temperature of Rockville Council Election Just Went Up
With Scott Ullery’s recent announcement that he’ll retire as City Manager in December, the temperature of the upcoming City Council elections just went up several degrees. Hiring a City Manager is one of the most important decisions they can make and has both long-term and short-term implications. We’ve been fortunate to have such a skilled administrator as Scott Ullery, who has been a calm and consistent force at the City despite the continual challenges that come into his office from all corners. I’ve always found him to be ethical and fair, and while I know some people sought his removal, it’s usually because they’re trying to do something that doesn’t align with our city’s strategic plan, violates city codes, or requires Council approval. It’s a thankless job because you are always subject to public criticism and you get a new set of bosses every two years (and the best city managers, like the best editors, are often invisible and let others get the credit).
Selecting the next City Manager will be a crucial responsibility for the next Council–and it’s not an easy job. In my former hometown of Upland, California, we had a terrible series Continue reading →
Historic Designation Process Confounds Council Once Again
The City of Rockville’s process for designating historic landmarks has confused the city leaders and staff once again. For many years, the process has vexed property owners, preservationists, neighbors, staff, and city officials, despite continual calls for reform from the Historic District Commission. It’s frustrating and costs time and money, and yet, here was another discussion about it at the March 14, 2011 meeting. It borders on the surreal, so I’m providing a transcript so you can see it for yourself:
Councilmember Pierzchala: On next week’s tentative agenda, Item Number 11…this is Glenview Mansion, it’s listed as 45 minutes and I’m not sure why. I am planning to vote to Authorize to File and get a Public Hearing going, and I’d rather have staff presentations and whoever is for, whoever is against, all at one point, and where we can ask questions, and so I’m just wondering why we need 45 minutes for next week.
City Manager Ullery: I would agree with you. I don’t think that item requires 45 minutes.
Mayor Marcuccio: Well, is there someone who requested 45 minutes?
City Manager Ullery: It probably came in through the agenda from Rec and Parks department. I think we can probably do it in 20 minutes. Continue reading →
Rockville’s Year 2010 in Review
Usually this type of post goes up on January 1, but I always prefer a bit of distance to identify the biggest stories of past year. Although this is admittedly from my limited personal perspective and is bound to generate controversy (but hey, that’s what these lists are supposed to do), here’s my list for Rockville in 2010:
1. Red Gate Golf Course. This is continued to be a thorny issue and made have seen its thorniest moment when the City Council used $2.4 million in “surplus” money to pay off past debt and the anticipated shortfalls for 2011, and also (once again) punted the decision to another time. Despite countless meetings and studies, for years the Council has been astonishingly agonized about making a decision on whether to commit to an annual subsidy, integrate it into the recreation program, levy a tax to support it, or to close it down. Meanwhile, the golf course continues to bleed money and participation rates continue to slide. Perhaps we need to start over: if we were offered 130 acres today (Red Gate is the second largest park in Rockville), what would most benefit the community? I don’t think most people would say golf course.
2. Snowpocalypse. Who can forget this snowstorm? There was so much snow it closed the federal government for a week. The adventurous walked and explored the city in a new quiet way and neighbors found a new reason to talk and help each other. There was a lot of frustration with snow clearing and the City wasn’t prepared, but remember, the city worked around the clock and conscripted employees into snowshoveling duties to deal with this record snowfall. We also improved our abilities to monitor and respond to these situations so when this happens again (and it may not be for another fifty years), we’re prepared. And someone at the City gets two stars for Continue reading →
Is Rockville’s Mayor the Chief Executive?
At Mayor and Council meeting of June 7, 2010, the Gazette claimed that Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio stated she was “the city leader and de facto chief executive” of the City of Rockville. I didn’t hear that on the broadcast, but confusion over the roles of board and staff isn’t unusual. I’ve served on boards, for boards, and with boards and one of the most common areas of friction and frustration is the role of the board and staff in an organization. It’s made even more confusing because of the various interchangeable titles used by those at the top (e.g., president, chair, chief executive, mayor). Rockville’s Mayor was initially called a President.
Firstly, every organization is different so it’s crucial to understand the rules under which they operate. For the City of Rockville, it’s the City Charter and the City Code. You can’t assume that what happens in New York or Baltimore or Kensington is the same as Rockville. In Rockville, the primary powers of the Council are to Continue reading →
Election Board Meeting Reveals Work Behind the Scenes
Last night, the City of Rockville Board of Supervisors of Elections held a rare meeting with the candidates and treasurers of the election of November 2009 at City Hall. About a dozen people attended, including Phyllis Marcuccio, Bridget Newton, Virginia Onley, and briefly, Waleed Ovase (who was also attending a Communications Taskforce meeting). The purpose of the meeting was to evaluate the last election to determined what worked and what didn’t. The scope of the Board’s responsibilities is fairly narrow yet extremely important because they fix many of the election rules and establish the standards for campaign finance reporting. The discussion focused on four items: polling places, signage, election logistics and information, and campaign finance reporting. I was only able to attend the first hour, but the discussions I found most interesting were: