Rockville residents had the opportunity to address the Mayor and Council on the proposed lengthening of 2-year elected terms to 4 years at a public hearing last night. A majority of city voters supported the proposal on last November's ballot. Far fewer turned out to speak at the hearing Monday night at City Hall.
Former city councilmember Mark Pierzchala testified in favor of the change, but lamented the "construct" of the less than 17% of registered voters who voted speaking for the other 83%. Pierzchala, an expert on surveys and statistics, urged the mayor and council to put a second issue - moving city elections to presidential years - back on the ballot again in 2015. That particular calendar change was rejected by city voters in 2013. This time, Pierzchala suggested, the ballot question language should include a statement explaining the benefit intended by the initiative's supporters - namely, increasing voter turnout.
Resident Joe Jordan, who served on the Rockville Charter Review Commission, noted that the majority of voters who didn't turn out last November had the same chance to vote as those who did. Jordan also spoke in support of 4-year terms Monday night.
Twinbrook Civic Association President Christina Ginsberg was more skeptical of the change. Ginsberg said elected officials' efforts to avoid frequent elections, and put forward additional changes that would favor incumbents, were "very dangerous." She recommended the council take the opposite approach, and make changes that would reduce the advantages of incumbency. Such changes, she said, could motivate new challengers to run. Ginsberg mentioned several ideas, including public financing, campaign finance reform, and a limit on how many mailings city candidates could send out.
Another resident, who lives in the Rockshire neighborhood, said she and her husband specifically chose to move to Rockville 37 years ago for its frequent elections, which she believed made municipal government more accountable.
The Mayor and Council are now expected to act on the change to 4 year terms, on the basis of voters' recommendation last November.