Rockville residents Tom Moore and Dana Tofig recently launched MoCo Beat, a podcast about “the news, the politics, and the life of Montgomery County.” Moore is an attorney with the Federal Elections Commission and recently concluded four years of service on the Rockville City Council. Tofig works in the research arm of the US Department of Education was formerly the Public Information Officer with Montgomery County Public Schools. Their first episode looks at the Rockville Pike Plan, the recently adopted Montgomery County budget, places to buy beer, and new restaurants in downtown Rockville. The first podcast is just short of 40 minutes and looks like it might be a weekly production.
With the demise of the Gazette newspaper and spartan coverage by the Washington Post, it is difficult to locate news about Rockville but here are the ones I know: Continue reading →
For the first time in over twenty years, the City of Rockville offered early voting for the Mayor and Council election. Over the weekend of October 24 and 25, 613 residents voted ahead of November 3rd’s Election Day–that’s nearly ten percent of the people who voted in the 2013 election. Saturday was slightly busier than Sunday, but Saturday’s numbers kept falling throughout the day. The first hour of the first day of Early Voting was the busiest with 75 people and Council candidate Brigitta Mullican cast the first vote.
Early voting attracted residents from throughout the city, although there was a bit more activity from downtown and the West End, as can be seen in the heat map (blue being lowest to red being highest). Neighborhoods much further away, such as Montrose, Falls Grove, Twinbrook, and King Farm, participated significantly as well. Anecdotal reports from poll workers suggests that these voters had firmly decided on their candidates, which suggests that Election Day will mostly consist of the undecided.
Early voting, however, also introduced the County’s new voting machines, which were unable to accommodate the entire list of nine candidates for council on one screen. Candidates Patrick Schoof and Clark Reed were placed on a second separate screen, which could have been overlooked by voters. Whether this will affect their outcomes is unknown at this time, but Rockville elections can be very close. In 2013, out of 6,685 ballots cast, Virginia Onley and Tom Moore were separated by 28 votes (0.4% of the total) and Beryl Feinberg and Don Hadley by 88 votes (1.2%; Mrs. Feinberg was elected, Mr. Hadley was not). Both Mr. Schoof and Mr. Reed have filed complaints with the Board of Supervisors of Elections. These voting machines won’t be used on November 3, which will eliminate that potential problem, but it does make one wonder why the same process wasn’t used throughout the entire Mayor and Council election to remove as many variables as possible. Indeed, the November 3 ballots will require voters to fill the bubbles properly to be counted, which could affect seniors who are unfamiliar with Scantron-like forms. Let’s hope this Rockville election isn’t a repeat of Florida’s 2000 presidential election.
For some voters, the Adequate Public Facilities Standards (APFS) serve as a litmus test for candidates for the upcoming Mayor and Council election on November 3. This past year the Rockville City Council debated revisions to the APFS, including a change in school capacity from 110% to 120% to match the county’s standards. Development must meet these Standards, unless they receive a waiver from the City, and went into effect on June 1, 2015 (among other changes to the APFS) with the support of Councilmembers Moore, Onley, and Palakovich Carr and over the objections of Mayor Newton and Councilmember Feinberg. At the Rockville Chamber of Commerce Forum on October 7, several candidates stated their opinions on these new Standards, with Richard Gottfried and Patrick Schoof stating they would overturn them if elected; Brigitta Mullican stating that we need to get out of this discussion because the City has no control over schools; and Mark Pierzchala noting that the APFO failed to prevent school overcrowding and that the city needs a new approach focused at the county level. Beryl Feinberg confirmed her opposition to the APFS changes and went into detail by stating:
As many of you are aware, I voted against the APFO and the weakening of those standards. I believe we have to have an adequate infrastructure. That infrastructure is not only for schools but it is also for transportation, public safety, fire, and water and sewer services. I voted against it because in my view we can have development but it was the developers who were really for the adequate public facilities changing. What we have seen since the change has been an influx of almost one thousand different units from different developers coming through the pipeline without really concerning adequate infrastructure, notably in transportation. One area has been along Wooton Parkway where 102 are proposed for the Rockshire community* as well as an EYA proposal off Preserve Parkway with about 350 units.** Both of those will be on Wooton Parkway.
Her claim of “an influx of almost one thousand different units” since June 1, 2015 caught my ears. By coincidence, the city staff completed a study for the Planning Commission on October 7 (same day as the forum) that summarized residential development activity since the modifications to the APFS on June 1, 2015. It turns out that Feinberg’s claims are Continue reading →
Choice Hotels International, Inc., headquartered in Rockville, celebrated the grand opening of its new Cambria Hotel & Suites on Monday night in downtown Rockville. Choice Hotels is one of the world’s largest lodging companies, with more than 6,300 hotels franchised in more than 35 countries and territories and 613 hotels in development, including Ascend Hotel, Comfort Inn, Clarion, Econo Lodge, and Rodeway Inn. The celebration included speeches by City of Rockville Mayor Bridget Newton; Steve Joyce, President and CEO of Choice Hotels; Michael Murphy, Senior Vice President of Upscale Brands at Choice Hotels; and Marc Dubick, President of Duball, LLC, as well as entertainment featuring clowns, jugglers, and an aerialist.
Built by Duball, LLC with institutional capital partner CIM Group, and operated by Crescent Hotels & Resorts, Cambria Hotel & Suites stands at 1 Helen Heneghan Way (recently named for a former beloved City Clerk) between the Regal Theater and the headquarters of Choice Hotels International. The 140-room hotel spans eight floors of the 15-story west tower, the first of two towers in the mixed-use high-rise complex. A parking garage is built into the building’s structure, giving guests a convenient place for parking and allowing all rooms to enjoy an exterior view. In addition to the Cambria Hotel, the complex will also be Continue reading →
Unlike the 2016 presidential race, where it seems that a dozen people have announced their intent to run, it’s been incredibly quiet in Rockville. The elections for Rockville City Council are coming up on November 3, 2015–that’s five months away–and usually by this time several people have announced their interest. Brigitta Mullican, president of Rockville Sister City, announced in February she is running for a council seat and former city councilman Mark Pierzchala stated in March he is not running, otherwise, nothing is certain. The rumored candidates at this time are:
- Beryl Feinberg (on council)
- Richard Gottfried (president of Twinbrook Citizens Association)
- Brigitta Millican (confirmed)
- Virginia Onley (on council)
- Julie Palakovich Carr (on council)
- Zina Pizano
No word on council members Tom Moore or Bridget Newton, although as incumbents, they have a significant advantage over newcomers and don’t need to announce right away. Summer is typically very quiet, but the election season will pick up in mid-August as candidates form their teams and begin raising money in anticipation of the September 4 deadline for getting on the ballot. This election will be more important than usual because the terms expand from two to four years. We’ll want to have an especially good council because we’ll be living with them for twice as long.
If you’re interested in running for office, pick up your candidate information election packet soon. You’ll have to submit signatures from 100 Rockville residents who are registered voters along with appointing a treasurer and filing a financial disclosure form. The process takes longer than you expect, especially to get those signatures. The most efficient way is to obtain the current list of registered voters from the City Clerk’s office or the County Board of Elections and only go to the homes of registered voters. At this point, you don’t need to ask for their support or an endorsement–you just want their signature to get on the ballot and offer voters a choice. Do not gather signatures at Metro, grocery stores, or city events. You’re wasting your time because many won’t be registered voters or don’t live in the City of Rockville, and their signatures will be disqualified. And just in case, get an extra ten signatures to be sure you have some wiggle room (I’ve had signatures tossed because a person’s married name was different from their registered name–double-check to be sure names match and they’re legible).
If you stayed up until 11:00 pm last night to watch the election returns for Rockville, you know that Bridget Newton was elected Mayor and Julie Palakovich Carr, Virginia Onley, Tom Moore, and Beryl L. Feinberg were elected to City Council. Congratulations to each of them and I wish them all much success and wisdom as they lead Rockville during the next two years.
Although Mark Pierzchala was not elected Mayor, he created Team Rockville, “to ensure that voters would have diverse choices for their next Mayor and Council” and that Rockville would have “elected officials with experience and knowledge about the issues facing the City.” Most importantly, it would “lead the City in a transparent, respectful, and inclusive manner.” With four Team Rockville candidates elected, these values will be carried into the Council chambers and hopefully create a less divisive and argumentative atmosphere than we’ve had under Phyllis Marcuccio.
So where does that leave Bridget Newton, our new Mayor? Continue reading →
Voting started at 7 am this cold fall morning in Rockville and I had a chance to visit several polling places to see how things are going. So far this morning, King Farm, Swim Center, and Senior Center have voters coming in at 1-2 persons per minute, which is busy for a polling place. Campaign volunteers were ready and eager to advise incoming voters, and volunteers for Team Rockville are outnumbering those for the “West End Slate.” The Swim Center traditionally has the highest turnout and candidates Tom Moore, Virginia Only, Julie Palakovich Carr, and Don Hadley were out front greeting voters (and swimmers) along with Delegate Luis Simmons, who will announce his run for State Senate in a couple weeks. At Twinbrook, Newton’s supporters were campaigning within the polling place and the “West End Slate” supporters at Elwood Smith are encouraging “bullet voting” while at King Farm they are recommending two write-in candidates. Otherwise, nothing unexpected is happening but the next big wave of voters arrives after 5 pm.
By now, readers of my blog are well aware that I’m endorsing Continue reading →
The second campaign finance reports for the Rockville Mayor and Council elections for the period October 1-27, 2013 were recently submitted and they reveal that Zip Code 20850 (includes Fallsgrove, West End, New Mark Commons, East Rockville, Lincoln Park, College Gardens, King Farm) still dominates the contributions and even increased their giving by 5 percent compared to September. The other Rockville Zip Codes fell far in the distance at 10 percent for 20854 (Horizon Hill, Fallsmead, Potomac Woods); 6 percent for 20851 (Twinbrook); and 5 percent for 20852 (Hungerford, Montrose, North Farm). For the entire election season, 20850 is tops at 63 percent, contributions outside the city come in at 21 percent, and the other three Zips stand at about 5 percent. Again, that roughly mimics the voting records for those regions and perhaps how much they Continue reading →
In an effort to discourage the shenanigans that are occurring in the current Mayor and Council election, I’ve filed an official complaint with the City’s Board of Supervisors of Elections (BOSE) this week. Last weekend, a couple people were distributing a flyer door-to-door in the King Farm neighborhood that called for the election of Bridget Newton, Don Hadley, and Claire Marcuccio Whitaker to the Rockville Mayor and Council for various reasons. That’s not a problem except it was anonymous, a tactic I find cowardly because the source is secret and isn’t accountable for their statements, but in Rockville, it’s also illegal. The City Code states that, “Every person who publishes or distributes or causes to be published or distributed any pamphlet, circular, card … relating to or concerning any candidate … shall include the name and address of the person, treasurer, or campaign committee responsible for the literature.” That’s why you always see Continue reading →
The first campaign finance reports for the Rockville Mayor and Council elections for the period ending September30, 2013 were recently submitted and they reveal that Zip Code 20850 (includes Fallsgrove, West End, New Mark Commons, East Rockville, Lincoln Park, College Gardens, King Farm) provides more than 60 percent of the funds, with other Rockville Zip Codes 20851 (Twinbrook), 20852 (Hungerford, Montrose, North Farm), and 20854 (Horizon Hill, Fallsmead, Potomac Woods) falling far in the distance with an average of 5 percent. That roughly mimics the voting records for those regions and perhaps how much they feel engaged with the larger Rockville community. For individual campaigns, the breakdown varies considerably and can signal how much a candidate has engaged with or is subject to influence by a particular neighborhood.
New candidates often have to rely on support from themselves, family, or friends and that’s the pattern seen with Hadley, Palakovich Carr, and Whittaker. Feinberg, on the other hand, has been able to obtain more than 95 percent of her supporters within Rockville, an impressive achievement for an experienced candidate and extraordinary for a newcomer. The mayoral candidates of Newton and Pierzchala, both current councilmembers, are relying heavily on residents within 20850 and from outsiders–donors outside of Rockville exceed 25 percent for both candidates. Feinberg and Palakovich Carr have gathered the broadest representation of supporters across Rockville’s four zip codes.
The number of donors seems to fall in three groups. Newtown and Pierzchala lead with about 80 supporters each, Feinberg and Palakovich Carr in the second batch with about Continue reading →