You Make a Difference
One of the most important qualities that makes Rockville a great place to live is the access to involvement of residents in the affairs of the city through its Boards and Commissions. Did you know that Rockville has 25 Boards and Commissions and another 7-10 special groups working with issues and policies impacting the city?
Membership in these groups is limited (with a few exceptions) to residents of the City who are willing to volunteer their time, talent, and expertise. These groups are responsible for monitoring aspects of their area and making recommendations to the Mayor and Council on related issues. At this moment we have openings for city residents who are interested in serving on at least 11 of these groups. Check the City web site rockvillemd.gov for details and an online application form. Most appointments are for three years and groups generally meet once a month. A few examples include:
Landlord Tenant Affairs Commission: Mediate resident disputes between landlord and tenant.
Human Rights Commission: Ensures equal treatment, free from discrimination for people who live, visit, work, or recreate in the City.
Sign Review Board: Reviews applications for sign permits and regulations.
As your Mayor, I have witnessed citizens make countless contributions to Rockville through service in these groups. However, I would be remiss if I did not mention the interested citizens who come to Citizen's Forum during our Mayor and Council meetings, those who fill our emails, make telephone inquiries or comments, and who sign our petitions. Just recently over 2,000 signatures were turned in during our sessions on RedGate Golf Course. Citizen participation is the key to the success and wellbeing that make our city extraordinary. Thank all of you for your involvement.
The business of doing business in Rockville is sometimes tricky. We experience great things when our elected officials and city staff (collectively "official Rockville"), business community and residents collaborate early to address business issues and resolve the often inevitable tension between private interests and the public good.
Alas, there is sometimes a disconnect among Rockville's businesses, official Rockville and our residential communities that is not easily addressed by existing business and communication mechanisms. Too often, business issues and concerns are before the mayor and council in reaction to a crisis or problem, usually a conflict with a non-business interest or need, and we fail to address such issues and concerns through a long-term and community-inclusive approach.
It should be axiomatic, however, that business, government and residential interests need not be in conflict. Business-community harmony warrants developing relationships and processes that allow businesses to learn of and understand the rationale for city actions, the city to timely evaluate the direct and indirect impacts of official action on businesses and residential communities, and residential interests to be acknowledged and reasonably accommodated. This demands increased communication and information sharing among representatives of business, government and residential communities.
A good place to start is the convening of a Business Summit attended by elected officials, city staff, members of the business community writ large, representatives of neighborhood and community associations and other residents.
The results of such a summit would be determined by the scope of its agenda and the breadth and diversity of its attendees but the intent would be to enhance communication and interaction among our business, government and residential sectors, to promote better and more informed business investment that strengthens Rockville's economy, to involve businesses in the community and to instill in the community awareness of and support for local businesses.
The City of Rockville operates under what is known as the council – manager form of government. The five members of the Rockville City Council (including the mayor) are elected and then appoint the city manager, who serves as the top administrator. The position is often compared to that of a CEO of a corporation, with the council being the equivalent of a board of directors.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, in this form of government: "The council acts only collectively, and its individual members, including the mayor, have no administrative functions. The city manager … is in full charge of the administration of municipal affairs. He prepares the budget, appoints and dismisses personnel, [and] directs the work of municipal departments."
Rockville's city manager Scott Ullery has been in his position for six years and has worked with four different councils, including three different mayors. Citizens sometimes approach individual council members or the mayor to get action on various matters. But in the council – manager form of government, the city manager, Scott Ullery is the only one with the real resources to address whatever needs action.
In the coming weeks, the city manager will propose the FY12 budget. This is a daunting task, as he must consult with the five council members to solicit our budget priorities and gauge where each member stands on various budgeting approaches. What programs and services should continue to be funded? What programs might be eliminated? What new ones should be added? What infrastructure repairs and improvements must be included? And how will all this be funded?
Citizens are urged to actively participate in the budget process. Much information is available at www.rockvillemd.gov. Please let us hear from you! E-mail addressed to email@example.com is routed to city manager Scott Ullery as well as all the council members.
Dear Rockville Resident:
I'd like to take this opportunity to wish each of you a Healthy and Peaceful New Year! May blessings abound in your lives.
While campaigning for Council, I heard repeatedly, and from all communities, that Rockville needed to have better communication between the City and her citizens. In January of 2010, Mayor Marcuccio commissioned a Communications Task Force (CTF) composed of citizen volunteers. I was privileged to serve as the Chairperson. This group, with their varied expertise, donated countless hours and gave invaluable advice. They brought diverse skills and the knowledge of Rockville that only citizens can provide. The City staff jumped in with support and implemented many of the recommendations before the final report was submitted, and has helped set a positive tone for future implementations.
Check the city website for the full report. The recommendations approved by the Mayor and Council are truly far reaching and will make for clearer and more transparent communications between the city and council, residents, businesses and developers. Here are some of the specifics:
Revamping the website to make it easier to navigate
Channel 11 and Rockville Reports are providing One on One time for councilmembers to communicate directly with citizens.
Citizens will be invited into the development approval process from the beginning.
Meetings of the Design Review Committee (DRC) will be open to citizens.
The Pre-Application Area Meeting will occur prior to the 1st DRC meeting.
Packets of information, (location, use, size and description of project, information on training), will be sent to citizens regarding proposed developments replacing the "little green postcards".
Rockville's residents are the heart and engine of our City. As we look to 2011, I look forward to working together with you to make Rockville all that we know she can be.
If you wonder why governments have such a hard time cutting costs, look no further than the saga of Rockville's RedGate golf course. Originally intended to operate as a business including covering its overhead costs, RedGate has been losing money for many years. A 5-year plan to revive its prospects failed. Taxes have subsidized the course culminating in a $2.4M dollar bailout voted in September. This money came from the General Fund reserve. A surplus from last fiscal year made this easier but this money had better uses. Even this large number does not fully reflect the RedGate subsidy.
RedGate backers waged a political campaign throughout 2010 emitting much heat but shedding little light. Of the supporters who spoke at Citizen's Forum, many of them were not Rockville taxpayers. Few spoke of the main cause of RedGate's problems; it faces daunting competition from the County's golf courses. Rounds are down greatly from their years-ago peak. No one acknowledged that other programs might have to be cut in order to support RedGate.
Mayor and Council are unlikely to end golf at RedGate though I would let it go back to nature. I will work to limit any taxpayer subsidy. RedGate telecommunications revenue should go to the course but this will not cover most of its costs. RedGate should stay in an Enterprise Fund and taxes should not support its overhead. I will oppose cuts to other programs in order to subsidize golf. We must define, ahead of time, Rockville's limits to its golf support and a way to exit the golf business if these cannot be met. Rockville has higher priorities for its limited taxpayer resources and many obligations. There are other excellent public golf courses nearby.
An announcement: I will run again for Rockville City Council in 2011.