Showing posts with label Election 2015. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Election 2015. Show all posts

Monday, January 18, 2016

Public forums scheduled to discuss recent Rockville election

Rockville's Board of Supervisors of Elections is hosting a pair of forums in the coming weeks to analyze the November 2015 City election. The forums are open to the public, and it is hoped that candidates who ran in the election will also be able to attend one of the two dates.

The first forum will be held from 10 a.m.-noon on Saturday, January 23. The second will be from 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, February 4. Both will be held in the Mayor and Council Chambers at Rockville City Hall, 111 Maryland Ave.

At least 3 problems came to light during the November election. Questions were raised by one candidate about the machines used. Second, many inactive voters' names remain on the voter rolls. And third, there were reports that there was not a chief judge in each polling place at all times.

If you want to discuss these, or any other concerns that came to your mind during this most recent election, this is the perfect time to do so. For reference purposes, you can read the Elections portion of the City Code here, in Chapter 8.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Gottfried still pursuing recount of Rockville election

Rebuffed on his offer to pay for a manual recount of this month's Mayor and Council election, Rockville City Council candidate Richard Gottfried is now pursuing other avenues of appeal.

Gottfried said he plans to file a complaint with the Montgomery County Board of Elections, and a separate complaint with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. He will also ask if the Board of Appeals can hear the case.

Problems with the new voting equipment used during elections in Maryland this month are being referenced by Gottfried in his pursuit of further review of the election results. In light of those reports, he will also ask for a reconsideration of the BOE decision that denied a recount.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Former Rockville councilman decries "awful" campaign tactics

Former Rockville City Councilman Jim Marrinan, who served on the Council from 1991-1999, condemned a last-minute attack mailing that contained false accusations against Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton during Community Forum at last night's Mayor and Council meeting. Saying it was the worst political behavior he had witnessed in 40 years in the City, Marrinan suggested the tactic backfired, as evidenced by Newton's overwhelming victory on Election Day.

Marrinan termed the mailer, sent out by the mayoral campaign of Sima Osdoby and emblazoned with logos of the Team Rockville slate, "awful."

Later at the meeting, the newly-sworn-in Mayor and Council held a public hearing to start the process of annexing the former CarMax property near the Shady Grove Metro station into the City. The site is at 15931 Frederick Road (MD 355).

Councilmember Mark Pierzchala questioned why the street between the CarMax site and the new Bainbridge Shady Grove apartments wasn't being included in the annexation. The street is currently owned by WMATA.

Planning commissioners had criticized the planned apartment building at the site for including no retail to activate the streetscape around it, or reduce driving by residents. They did ultimately recommend the proposed annexation plan.

Attorney Pat Harris, representing the developers 355 Partners, LLC and Frederick Road, LLC on the project at 15931 Frederick Road, said that the high ceilings and windows of the building's ground floor will allow future retail build-out if the retail market improves.

The Mayor and Council also discussed legislative priorities for the upcoming 2016 session of the Maryland General Assembly, such as school construction funding, and scheduling meetings on the topic of parking at Rockville Town Square. Parking problems have been blamed for recent business closures there.

Newton said she would like to include landowner Federal Realty in an upcoming worksession, and take action on the matter before the holiday shopping season gets fully underway. However, last night's scheduling discussion made it unclear that such timely action on the issue would be possible.

Photo courtesy City of Rockville

Monday, November 16, 2015

Rockville's first Mayor and Council to serve 4-year term sworn-in / 2015 Inauguration photos

Rockville's first Mayor and Council to serve a four-year term was sworn in yesterday at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre. Peerless Rockville's Eileen McGuckian served as host for the Inauguration, attended by a number of past and present elected officials. Among the crowd were former Gaithersburg Mayor and current Montgomery County Councilmember Sid Katz; Maryland state Delegates Jim Gilchrist, Kumar Barve and Andrew Platt; former City Councilmembers Bob Wright, Jim Marrinan, Tom Moore and Glennon Harrison; and Rockville Planning Commission Chair Don Hadley.

There was some irony present as McGuckian noted both that the Mayor and Council remain a four-woman/one-man body again this term, while - historically - the City's first elected commissioners were chosen by 66 white male voters.

Incumbent Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton was sworn in for a second term by Montgomery County Clerk of the Court Barbara Meiklejohn. Newton then swore in her Council colleagues Beryl Feinberg, Julie Palakovich Carr, Mark Pierzchala and Virginia Onley.
Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton
swears in Councilmember Virginia Onley
In her remarks following the swearing-in, Newton first acknowledged Friday's terror attacks in Paris. Noting that it is "a very tragic time in our world," she said, "we mourn with those who face this tragedy." She used the words of John Wesley to sum up the approach she hopes she and the Council will take - "Together we can."

After listing some accomplishments of the Mayor and Council's previous term - including negotiating an adequate gym for students at the future Richard Montgomery Elementary No. 5, tackling a compensation and classification review after 6 years of stagnant city salaries, and reviving walking town meetings - Newton cited the recent film Bridge of Spies as representative of the cooperation they will have to work toward in this term.

"If they can end the Cold War," Newton said, "we can come together as the governing body of Rockville." She added jokingly that City staff might also be able to go home before midnight on Monday nights. That drew knowing chuckles from many in the crowd who have sat through marathon Mayor and Council meetings in recent years.

Newton promised the Rockville of the future would be "multi-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-priced." She added that the Rockville Pike Plan and citywide Master Plan need to consider the City as a whole, not in isolated "segments." The Pike Plan also mustn't "put City taxpayers on the hook for rights-of-way," she said.

In reference to the debate over how much the City should change its character under pressure from developers, Newton said Rockville doesn't "need to change who we are, as much as we need to trust who we are."
Richard Montgomery junior
Alex Haddad speaks on the
theme of "trust"
The theme of trust carried over from the final part of Newton's speech to a spoken-word performance by Richard Montgomery High School junior Alex Haddad.
A blurry photo of the
Rev. Mansfield Kaseman
speaking with former
City Councilman Jim Marrinan
following the inauguration
One of the most prominent clerical leaders in modern Rockville history, Mansfield Kaseman, also picked up on the trust theme in his closing remarks. "Let us go forward a trusting and very grateful people," Kaseman said, exhorting citizens to resign themselves to not merely being "bystanders, but up-standers."

"Together, we can, and together we will, do great things for Rockville," Newton vowed.

Following the ceremony, which included a Rockville Police color guard, attendees gathered in the lobby for a reception.
The lobby of the
F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre
Delegate (and 8th District
Democratic Congressional candidate)
Kumar Barve and his
District 17 colleague, Del. Andrew Platt
Past City Councilman Glennon Harrison
and Acting City Clerk Sara Taylor-Ferrell
Outgoing Councilmember Tom Moore
and Platt; City Attorney Debra Yerg Daniel
is in the background at right
Councilmember Mark Pierzchala speaks
with constituents
City Manager Barbara Matthews
confers with City Communications
Manager Marylou Berg at left;
Planning Commission Chair Don Hadley
in background-center; Onley in foreground
Councilmember Onley poses
for a photo
Mayor Newton greets
attendees after the ceremony
and Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr
Barve and Newton

Monday, November 9, 2015

Rockville City Council candidate challenges election results

Rockville City Council candidate Richard Gottfried has contacted acting City Clerk Sara Taylor-Ferrell, and has challenged the results of last Tuesday's election. Gottfried is asking for a manual recount of all paper ballots, under Section 8-41 of the Rockville City Code.

Gottfried finished 282 votes behind incumbent Councilmember Virginia Onley, according to the City's posted election results. In his letter to Taylor-Ferrell, he cites an "excessively high number of under-votes, 1762 to be exact, which constitutes 28% of total ballots casted." He also notes that the new voting machines did not allow voters to compare their paper ballot with the scanned ballot for accuracy.

One other Election Day issue I've heard about from a source was that each polling place did not have a Chief Election Judge on-site at all times. I cannot personally verify this, as I was not at every polling place at every hour of the day. Reportedly, several judges were floating from site to site as needed. Article 10-203-B of Maryland election law states:

  1. One or two election judges in each precinct shall:
    1. (1)  be designated chief judge; and
    2. (2)  supervise the staff at the polling place. 
 Photo via Vote Richard Gottfried website

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Newton reelected Mayor of Rockville; Team Rockville takes 3 of 4 Council seats - 2015 election results (Photos)

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton
addresses supporters after
winning reelection last night
Incumbent Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton crushed challenger Sima Osdoby Tuesday night, easily winning reelection with 64.85% of the vote. Osdoby's Team Rockville slate colleagues fared far better in their City Council races. Incumbents Julie Palakovich Carr (12.50%) and Virginia Onley (11.44%) won, as did challenger and former councilmember Mark Pierzchala (11.68%).
A jubilant Newton supporter
celebrates as the Mayor's
big win is announced
Councilmember Beryl Feinberg bested all of the Team Rockville winners with 14.36% of the vote, and was the only independent Council candidate to win last night. The independent candidates were within winning distance though, with Richard Gottfried the top vote-getter among them at 10.25%. These election results are being termed "preliminary results" by the City.
Newton's campaign manager
and husband, Fred Newton,
welcomes the crowd
Council candidate Patrick Schoof (10.07%) managed to finish just behind Gottfried, despite being relegated to "Page 2" on the Early Voting machine ballot; how much his and Council candidate Clark Reed's (9.51%) vote totals were affected by that unfair circumstance remains to be determined.

The other two Council candidates, Brigitta Mullican (10.04%) and David Hill (9.83%) were not out of the running by any means. This was a fairly close election in the Council races.
Newton arrives at her
post-election party at
American Tap Room in
Rockville Town Square
But voters still chose a divided government, and Newton and Feinberg acknowledged in their victory speeches that all of the winners will have to work together to be successful.
Beryl Feinberg accepts
the microphone from Newton
after winning reelection
to her Council seat
"Two years ago, Beryl and I found out we were sisters," Newton told supporters at a post-election gathering at American Tap Room in Rockville Town Square. "We have found a way over the past two years to come together, to work together."
Former Mayor Jim Coyle
arrives at the party
In thanking her husband and campaign manager, Fred Newton, Bridget Newton promised this would be her last election in Rockville. Fred Newton found himself under attack from the Team Rockville slate in the final week of the campaign, an attack that culminated in an election-eve hit piece mailing that included false accusations against him, Bridget Newton, and Rockville Planning Commission chair Don Hadley.
Fred Newton hands the
microphone to Bridget Newton
after announcing the
election results to the crowd
Bridget Newton grew emotional as she described her husband's efforts as campaign manager while juggling an out-of-town work commitment, and the false charges lobbed by opponents. "He's been working his tail off," she said, "and probably of anybody, he's taken it the hardest. He's got my back."

Of the last-minute smear campaign, centered around a now-infamous mailing that carried an Osdoby authority line but also Team Rockville logos, Newton said, "The last 24 hours have been a low point, probably, in Rockville politics. I have never seen anything like what hit your and my mailboxes yesterday."

Pledging the controversy over that mailing is "not over," Newton said, "You cannot say those kind of things and not have anything happen." Hadley has already warned Osdoby and Seventh State blogger David Lublin that they may be responsible for damage to his professional name and reputation as an attorney.

"Don Hadley was maligned yesterday," Newton added. "I hope people realize that you cannot do that type of thing and just walk away."

Who all the players behind the mailing were is not yet clear, but Newton's supporters were anxious to find out. The hit mailing that arrived in voters' mailboxes Monday may also have impacted the results. Not only was Newton's win resounding, but the nasty mailing may have turned off some voters from voting at all.
Feinberg was the top
vote-getter on the Council
Of the 40,749 registered voters in Rockville, only 6,343 (15.57%) voted last night and during the Early Voting, or by absentee ballot. Turnout was actually higher in 2013 at 16.62%, and there was much hand-wringing after the election about that low number. Whatever efforts were made to address that have clearly failed.
Newton and former
Mayor Larry Giammo
Despite the negative political atmosphere, Newton pledged that "we are moving forward with the leadership of this city. We are going to move this city forward in a very positive way." In addition to thanking her staff and supporters, Newton also thanked the independent Council candidates.
Coyle and fellow past
Mayor Steven Van Grack
confer as they await
election results
She also congratulated the winning Team Rockville candidates. "Together we can do this. We can make this a great, great leadership team," she vowed.

Feinberg agreed, telling Newton, "You and I found a fantastic way to work together." Referring to her legislative priorities, Feinberg said, "I have a laundry list at home, so I have to call Bridget probably tomorrow to talk about what I want to work on." Budget and purchasing issues would be at the top of that list, she predicted.
County Councilmember Sid Katz
Both Newton and Feinberg expressed interest in holding a Mayor and Council retreat as soon as possible, to foster a better working relationship among the incoming body, and set "rules of the road."
Council candidate Patrick Schoof
and former
Councilmember Anne Robbins
Among a long list of independent candidates and VIPs at Newton's event were former Rockville mayors Jim Coyle, Steven Van Grack and Larry Giammo; former Gaithersburg Mayor (and current District 3 County Councilmember) Sid Katz; state delegate and 8th District Congressional candidate Kumar Barve; former City Councilmember Anne Robbins; City Council candidates Hill, Schoof, Gottfried, and Mullican; Hadley and Planning Commissioners Jack Leiderman, Charles Littlefield and Gail Sherman; former planning commissioner Dion Trahan; and former Montgomery County Public Schools administrator and County Council candidate Fred Evans.
Council candidate Brigitta Mullican
Rockville Planning Commissioner
and Council candidate David Hill
All of last night's winners made history, as they will be the first Mayor and Council to serve a four-year term.  The new Mayor and Council will be sworn in during an inauguration ceremony at 1 p.m. on Sunday, November 15 at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, at 603 Edmonston Drive. Their first meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Monday, November 16.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Attack on Newton backfires as Planning Commission chair demands retraction of "false" accusations

Rockville Planning Commission Chair and practicing attorney Don Hadley has forcefully responded to "grossly, recklessly and intentionally false" accusations made about him by Team Rockville mayoral candidate Sima Osdoby, and Chevy Chase blogger David Lublin. In a letter Monday, Hadley put both "on notice" regarding the allegations, which Lublin doubled down on yesterday by posting an Osdoby press release to his Seventh State blog.

Former Rockville mayor Steven Van Grack was also the subject of attack in the press release, which was supposed to be a critique of incumbent Mayor Bridget Newton's alleged "conflicts of interest."

But Hadley's response appears to demolish the allegations - and those allegations may have backfired, with consequences that extend beyond today's Mayor and Council election.

For starters, Hadley notes that he was nominated to the Planning Commission in 2010 by then-mayor Phyllis Marcuccio, not Newton, who had no such nominating power when she was a councilmember in that year.

More to the point, Hadley declares that he, in fact, has "never been a business partner with [Fred] Newton or Mayor Newton, directly or indirectly, in any project or enterprise." His involvement as an attorney as it related to a property developed by Newton's husband was merely an "arms-length settlement" for the transaction, Hadley wrote. "I am not in business with Mr. Newton in any way, [and] the seller conducted the historic designation process [for 408 Great Falls Road] prior to Mr. Newton becoming interested in the property," he added.

Hadley and the Newtons are not even "close family friends," as was alleged, Hadley said.

He concludes his letter by warning Osdoby and Lublin that his law practice and reputation may have been damaged by their allegations, and that he is already receiving calls regarding the charges that are taking time from his work. Hadley urges them to retract their statements, and says he will "look to you and and those participating with you for damages incurred."

"All of this is done by you on election eve for the cynical purpose of immediate political and personal gain," Hadley wrote to Osdoby and Lublin.

Rockville voters go to the polls today to elect a mayor and four councilmembers. You can find your polling place here. 

Not registered to vote in Rockville? You can register today at your polling place, and still vote today.

Still deciding who to vote for today? Click on the "Election 2015" tag at the bottom of this post (desktop browser version) to read all of the election and debate coverage here on Rockville Nights.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Rockville candidates make final appeal to voters at King Farm debate

With less than a week until Election Day, Rockville mayoral and city council candidates made their closing arguments at a debate in King Farm last night. Sponsored by the King Farm Citizens Assembly, the debate was held at the King Farm Community Center. While early voting numbers over the weekend were hardly inspiring, this was yet another packed house for a candidate forum. That suggests a high level of interest by engaged voters picking those who will serve the first 4-year terms in Rockville's history.

Given the closing window to change voters' minds, one would expect attacks to increase, and they did. But in an unusual twist, even the moderator of the debate - Rockville Planning Commission chair Don Hadley - found himself under fire.

The table was set earlier Tuesday by former Chevy Chase Mayor David Lublin, writing on his politics blog, The Seventh State. Lublin questioned Hadley as the choice for moderator, because Hadley had a brief past business relationship with the husband of Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton. Mayoral challenger Sima Osdoby picked up this line of attack, charging that Hadley had several conflicts of interest in moderating the debate. Voters in the audience appeared taken aback by Osdoby's attack. Hadley made clear at the outset of the debate that the questions to be asked during the evening came directly from King Farm residents, not him, and that he received them shortly before the debate.

Osdoby ran out of time in her opening statement, and after informing her of this, Hadley joked, "Maybe I should be relieved."

The story isn't quite as sensational as it sounds, however.

Newton's husband, Fred Newton, is being portrayed by her opponents as though he is the development equivalent of Federal Realty, EYA or JBG. In reality, the project Fred Newton and Don Hadley were involved with (408 Great Falls Road) was a couple of small residential lots being joined, and a single-family home being built on the resulting site. Not exactly Downtown Crown or Pike & Rose.

It's hard to characterize a single homebuilding project as "an example of the powerful role development interests can end up playing." The article itself notes that Bridget Newton clearly recused herself from the Council vote related to the property in question.

For her part, Newton seemed determined to stay above the fray. In her closing statement, she recalled former mayor Phyllis Marcuccio - a supporter - chastising her for being "too nice, not tough enough in these debates, or responding to postings on social media" by her political opponents. Newton said she preferred to let her record speak for itself, rather than engage in the political sniping.

The Team Rockville slate, which includes Osdoby, has been under fire by some opponents for its alleged ties to developer interests, so it's understandable their supporters would seek to "flip the script." With Newton having a record of opposing unrestrained development, and of supporting Rockville's tougher pre-June 2015 school capacity standards (that kept parts of the City under a development moratorium), the accusations simply don't ring true.

Another Team Rockville candidate, Councilmember Virginia Onley, has been repeatedly singled out by challenger Richard Gottfried, who has charged that 50% of Onley's campaign funds have come from development interests. Onley again denied the accusation in her opening statement last night, inviting anyone to review her October 26 campaign finance filing. "There are no developer contributions," Onley said. "I do not take developer contributions, or contributions from anyone who does business with the City," she added. She challenged Gottfried to provide evidence of any such contributions by the end of the debate. "I am demanding tonight to know where Rich got his information from," Onley said. Gottfried did not address the topic during the forum.

Incumbent Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr said the demise of the Gazette newspaper means "there isn't anyone to check the facts" when charges are made during the election season (of course, readers of this blog might disagree). Council candidate Brigitta Mullican attempted to separate herself from the squabbling, emphasizing that she has run a "positive, issue-oriented campaign" without engaging in attack politics. Fellow challenger Clark Reed warned that those engaging in "smears and lies" would likely continue those tactics if they are elected.

Fortunately, issues were discussed as well, and ones of interest to King Farm residents in particular.

The Corridor Cities Transitway remains not only unbuilt, but controversial in its Master Plan route through King Farm to the Shady Grove Metro station. Newton said she believes the CCT should travel along Shady Grove Road to the Metro stop, which would also help redevelop older properties along that street. "Dividing your community in half is not the way we should be doing things in Rockville," she said. Osdoby said that, while King Farm residents' complaints are "legitimate," the route is "in the plan," and all parties should sit down and try to iron out an acceptable compromise.

Council candidate Patrick Schoof, a former resident of King Farm, said he has spoken with many residents of that community about the CCT. Most of them "don't want this to be one more thing that comes through King Farm," Schoof said.

Speaking of things that come through King Farm, traffic on Redland Boulevard remains a bone of contention for King Farm residents. Council candidate David Hill noted that Redland is a "County access road." He suggested the City's best approach would be not to obstruct traffic, but to slow it down with traffic calming measures such as "lamb chops." Gottfried said he would push to install signs forbidding truck traffic, forcing it to use Shady Grove Road instead.

Osdoby noted that some trucks may have legitimate business within King Farm, such as making deliveries. She said the City should discuss options for restricting pass-through truck traffic, and consider how best to implement them. Newton said she served on a committee in 1991 to address similar issues in the West End community, which produced a plan that the City failed to implement. She suggested trucks be routed to the roads that make up a circumferential highway around the City, rather than traveling through neighborhoods.

The future of the King Farm farmstead buildings was another topic close to home. Mullican said, "I was hoping that it would have been done already." She suggested four-year terms will allow the next Mayor and Council to develop a long-term solution for the site. Council incumbent Beryl Feinberg said that solution might involve a Public-Private Partnership, to create a potential public gathering place for concerts and other events.

Osdoby also suggested exploring partnerships on the farmstead. She said her experience in historic preservation with Peerless Rockville would make this "a real priority for me." Newton advocated for a "farm-to-table partnership," that would provide space for farmers markets and a museum consortium. She said division on the current Council has stymied efforts to move forward.

The topic of slates was a contentious one. Hadley asked candidates to respond to concerns that slates come with an agenda for special interests, and create voting blocs.

Reed, a member of the Team Rockville slate, said that slates were preferable to "wandering aimlessly into the future," with no clear agenda. Team Rockville member Osdoby said the unknown questioner was "entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." The members of Team Rockville are "not a bunch of clones," she said, but "bring together diverse points of view." Newton said she is "not a fan of slates. We are independent thinkers as a city. Let's be independent thinkers as a Council."

Gottfried noted that it was the Team Rockville 2013 slate (minus former member Feinberg) who voted 3-2 to weaken the city's school capacity standards. Feinberg said she "discovered that really there was a lot going on behind the scenes [on Team Rockville] that I didn't want," leading her to become an independent candidate for this election. She promised to continue to make "independent decisions," earning the only other audience feedback of the night, a round of applause.

Team Rockville Council candidate Mark Pierzchala stressed that the 3 members of Team Rockville from 2013 often disagreed on a variety of topics, disproving the idea that slates are blocs. Palakovich Carr, also on the TR slate, concurred. She said that, examining the voting record of the current Council, you would be hard-pressed to tell who was on Team Rockville 2013.

Hill said he is concerned that slates are "a proxy for partisanship," and can be "unhealthy in a deliberative situation." Fellow independent candidate Schoof agreed, saying slates are "divisive." He countered the suggestion that Team Rockville's votes were independent, saying "it's not hard to see" who was on the slate. Perhaps referring to the school standards vote indirectly, where 90 residents and four civic associations testified against the change that was voted for 3-2 by Team Rockville (as Gottfried noted earlier), Schoof concluded that "If we're not honoring your wishes, we're not doing our job."

Reed said he wouldn't be able to run without the support of the Team Rockville slate, and pointed out that slates have a 40 year history in Rockville. Onley said she, too, would be hard-pressed to fund a citywide campaign on her own. Hers is a "grassroots campaign" run on "minimal funds," Onley said. She promised she would "always vote independently," saying that's how she's earned her recognition as the "swing vote" on the Council.

That teed up the topic for Mullican, who said "I don't like a swing vote when you don't know which way it's going to swing." She disputed that one couldn't run without a slate in Rockville. "I'm doing it," she declared. Mullican was the top fundraiser of all candidates in the first reporting cycle.

Friday, October 23, 2015

League of Women Voters hosts Rockville Mayor & Council Debate as early voting looms

The Montgomery County League of Women Voters hosted a Rockville Mayor and Council candidate forum last night at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre. LWV President Linna Barnes served as moderator of the debate.

As the last debate scheduled before the first votes are cast in Early Voting this weekend, candidates were under pressure to land a few punches with a televised platform to work from. City Council candidate Richard Gottfried accused several members of the Team Rockville slate of being untrustworthy at the close of the forum. He said Council candidate Virginia Onley stated she had not received contributions from development interests, but that in reality, "50% of her contributions did come from developers." Onley has previously denied the charge. The second campaign finance reports are not due for another 3 days.

Gottfried also accused Council candidate Julie Palakovich Carr of taking credit for creating the Vision Zero concept, a movement to reduce pedestrian and cyclist fatalities to zero that originated in Sweden. He said she "ripped off the idea from a New York plan," naming one of several jurisdictions that has tried to adopt facets of the plan.

However, Palakovich Carr has cited the results of Vision Zero's success in Sweden in previous public forums, and she denied ever claiming credit for the proposal following the debate. "I never claimed the idea was my own," she said in an email.  "As I previously said in other debates, Sweden is the poster child for Vision Zero, with pedestrian fatalities dropping by half in just a few years. Effective leaders don't reinvent the wheel. They look for best practices and modify them to fit the needs of their community. Vision Zero is a best practice that we should implement in Rockville."

The ghost of Beall's Grant II was summoned by mayoral challenger Sima Osdoby during a question on affordable housing. That was a controversial affordable housing project planned adjacent to Beall's Grant, an apartment building converted from an old hotel at 254 N. Washington Street. The site was also adjacent to single-family homes in the West End neighborhood. Residents expressed many concerns, including loss of green space, out-of-character density and height, massing of affordable housing contrary to Master Plan recommendations that it be scattered, and the City having misapplied the then-new Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, to allow the project to go forward.

Ultimately, several citizens, including former Mayor Larry Giammo, were forced to take the latter question to court, and the project was ultimately tabled.

Osdoby referenced Beall's Grant II, saying "When [current Rockville Mayor] Bridget [Donnell] Newton was representing her neighborhood association, I believe she opposed that."

Newton said that in reality, she served as co-chair on a committee that was tasked with trying to reach a compromise between residents and the developer, Montgomery Housing Partnership, that would have allowed the project to go forward. She has also discussed her own ideas for a workforce housing plan that could potentially revive a blighted Montgomery County Public Schools property on Stonestreet Avenue. The mixed-income rowhouse concept would include affordable units for teachers, firefighters and police officers.

Transportation, and Bus Rapid Transit in particular, came up often in the course of the evening. A majority of candidates support BRT, which is being proposed for Rockville Pike and Veirs Mill Road. Council candidate David Hill warned voters not to put too much hope into BRT, noting that it serves more of a long-distance commuting role than a City mobility function. Newton suggested BRT won't help Rockville's businesses much if it isn't implemented correctly, and simply moves commuters through the City. "We don't need people coming through Rockville," she said, "we need them to stop in Rockville" to dine and shop.

Newton said she brings additional clout to Rockville as a member of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Transportation Planning Board. "That gives Rockville a seat at the table" in regional transportation conversations and planning.

Another of her transportation proposals, a Circulator or trolley, is gaining support among some of the other candidates. Onley said she supports a Circulator, in arguing that "mass transit is the answer to congestion." Newton said she was pleased the idea is catching on. "I've tried for five years to get a discussion going about a Circulator," saying "the last mile" for the transit-using commuter is a vital one to address.

Osdoby said she would break down the major challenge of congestion into "short, medium and long-range solutions." She said passing the Rockville Pike Plan and BRT would be critical to success. Osdoby advocated for more cooperation with the County and state on transportation. "Rockville's role is really to be a forceful advocate of our needs," she said. "I'm not sure the City has always done the best job in doing that."

Newton countered that, after former mayor Phyllis Marcuccio appointed her to a Maryland Municipal League committee, she was successful in bringing $2 million in state funds back to Rockville.

Barnes brought up an interesting topic not previously discussed in the 2015 debate season. That was regarding the MCPS properties on Mannakee Street that include the Carver Center and Rock Terrace School.

Palakovich Carr said the County does have plans for the Rock Terrace School, but "no definitive plans" for the Board of Education to move out of the Carver site. She recommended the City monitor the plans, and engage with the County. "We are somewhat limited in our oversight because of an issue called 'Mandatory Referral'," she said, referring to localities' reduced authority over government development projects. For example, the County Planning Board can advise, but not stop, a federal project like the Intelligence Campus in Bethesda.

Council candidate Beryl Feinberg said the City should "work collaboratively" to determine what is best for those properties. Gottfried argued that the City should have begun working with MCPS on this issue as far back as 2012. Hill, who sits on the Rockville Planning Commission, noted that the front of the Carver site is already in long-range plans for Montgomery College. He urged the City to "start articulating plans for sites like this."

Council candidate Brigitta Mullican said, "There's really not a whole lot the City can do," and recommended that it be upfront about those limitations, so residents do not have raised expectations.

Onley called for "a bigger push" on the future of the site, making "sure we're at the table with Montgomery County." Council challenger Mark Pierzchala recommended forming a working group on the matter. He said there was precedence for such a group, in his own experience working with Montgomery College as President of the College Gardens citizens association.

Council candidate Clark Reed noted that 2/3 of variations in the quality of schools are determined by non-school factors, and that it was important the City keep that in mind as it plans.

Patrick Schoof, another first-time candidate for Council, was more optimistic about influencing the outcome on the site. "There is a lot the City can do," he said. "We simply haven't done it." He said the City needs to establish trust and an honest partnership with the County, and take "a much more proactive" approach than it has to date.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Rockville candidates consider the increasing diversity in the City

How Rockville can meet the challenge of serving an increasingly diverse city population was a question posed to Mayor and Council candidates at Tuesday night's College Gardens/Woodley Gardens debate.

Council candidate Brigitta Mullican said that, in order to improve outreach to a diverse community, "the place to go is the schools."

Council candidate Beryl Feinberg agreed that reaching more residents is partly a location issue. She suggested city representatives "go to our ethnic stores," and that the City should host more ethnic festivals. Feinberg also suggested public information be provided not only in Spanish, but also in the many other languages spoken in Rockville. And she included the disabled as a population segment to which outreach is important, such as ensuring there are adequate sign language accommodations made in City communications.

"Diversity is what makes this city attractive to me," Council hopeful Clark Reed began. "I don't see as much diversity on commissions throughout the city," he noted. Reed echoed Feinberg's call for more ethnic festivals.

Council candidate Virginia Onley suggested the City's Neighborhood Resource Coordinators do more outreach.

Incumbent Mayor Bridget Newton said, "Diversity is one of the main reasons [husband] Fred [Newton] and I stayed in Rockville." She said they wanted their children to grow up in a city that embraced diversity. Newton recounted the initial success her weekly Mayor's Book Club has had with ESOL students at Maryvale Elementary School. She said she was "amazed at the end of the year how much those children have learned."

Mayoral challenger Sima Osdoby picked up a theme she discussed at a debate last week - how national and cultural backgrounds can impact residents' views of their government and law enforcement. They might have grown up in countries where those institutions are feared, and be afraid to take advantage of public services. Osdoby said it was important to ask those residents "what they need from the city," and work with representatives of ethnic groups in the community.

And, as I reported yesterday, Council candidate Julie Palakovich Carr suggested the City study the possibility of allowing non-citizens to vote, noting that 1-in-3 Rockville residents was born outside of the United States.

The other council candidates, David Hill, Patrick Schoof, Mark Pierzchala, and Richard Gottfried were not asked this question at the debate, but please see my previous article for their answers to other questions.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Osdoby, Feinberg take on critics; candidates tackle crime, purchasing report, EZ Storage in debate

Rockville mayoral challenger Sima Osdoby and Council incumbent Beryl Feinberg fired back at their political detractors at last night's College Gardens/Woodley Gardens-sponsored debate. A standing-room-only crowd packed into the Carnation Room at the Rockville Senior Center to hear what candidates'  plans were for their neighborhoods and the city at-large. And they sat through to the end, earning praise from moderator Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-District 17), herself a past resident of both communities.

Osdoby cut right to the chase in her opening statement, addressing "the rumor going around" that she and her slatemates on Team Rockville are beholden to developers. "There is no room in Rockville for this kind of nasty campaign shenanigans," she declared. Feinberg was dealing with the second broadside against her campaign in as many weeks. But the primary target of her remarks was neither on stage nor on the ballot. Councilmember Tom Moore, who is not seeking reelection, took his once-ally Feinberg to task in a blistering critique on his blog. He chronicled Feinberg's evolution on the Adequate Public Facilities Standards controversy, frankly expressing his sense of betrayal at her shift.

Feinberg was equally frank in her response, acknowledging her views on the APFS have evolved. "I've never said my view on the APFS did not change," she said. "I learned. I read. I listened to the neighborhoods. There have been several [online] postings lately that have been full of lies." Promising not to engage in attacks during the campaign, she said, "I have been above the fray."

To the debate planners' credit, those weren't the only notable moments last evening. The format was decidedly more antagonistic than previous candidate forums this fall, including a segment where candidates were told to ask one of their opponents a question.

It not only made the debate more interesting, but also helped voters learn more about the candidates. For example, Feinberg asked (or attempted to ask, as her question exceeded the 15-second time limit) incumbent councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr about Gaithersburg's current flirtation with allowing its schools to operate at 150% of student capacity. The new overcrowding limit was slammed by a PTA representative at Monday night's Gaithersburg Mayor and Council meeting. Palakovich Carr, who voted to raise the limit from 110% in Rockville to 120%, expressed disapproval of Gaithersburg's 150%, saying, "I think that's ridiculous."

Council candidate Mark Pierzchala pointedly asked fellow challenger Patrick Schoof about his active role in stopping construction of the proposed EZ Storage facility adjacent to Maryvale Elementary School in East Rockville. Pierzchala attempted to cast Schoof's role as a negative, asking "Why should voters trust you when your past actions have been so extreme?"

Schoof defended himself, noting that there were 120 pages of health and safety-related evidence against the applicant for the facility. He recalled the Planning Commission had narrowly allowed the project to proceed on a 4-3 vote, "not 7-0." Schoof also echoed earlier comments by Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton, arguing that, had the city performed the Southlawn Industrial Area study requested years ago by East Rockville residents, "this easily would not have gone this way." The City ended up banning self-storage facilities within 250 feet of schools, rendering the approved EZ Storage application moot, a decision that could be addressed in the courts. All of this could have been avoided, had the city acted on the Maryvale community's request for the Southlawn study earlier, Newton said. "Had that been done," she said, the project would never have been an issue.

Monday night's 3-2 vote to postpone action on a report that found serious flaws in the City's purchasing practices has already become a major campaign issue. Councilmember Virginia Onley, who voted for the 90-day delay along with Moore and Palakovich Carr, asked council candidate Brigitta Mullican how she could pay for her property tax cut proposal. Mullican seized on the purchasing report, noting the potential savings to the city's budget if it were successfully implemented. Other cities of similar size have far smaller budgets than Rockville, Mullican noted. She said she wants "a complete review of how our money is being spent."

Similarly, Osdoby asked Newton how she proposed to find the savings to eliminate the Cost Allocation Program, which Newton has said puts an unfair burden on taxpayers. Newton said that if Osdoby had watched Monday night's meeting, the report had shown a potential savings of $5-7 million, enough to allow the City to end the CAP program. "It is imperative that we show our taxpayers where that money is going," Newton said, noting that spending in some departments is "hidden from view in the CAP."

Turning the tables, Newton asked Osdoby if she would have voted to "kick the can down the road" on the purchasing report. "When I have the same opportunity to look at it as you do, that's when I'll make my deliberations," Osdoby responded. The purchasing report has been publicly available online, not just to elected officials, however.

Candidates were asked how they propose to increase Rockville's notoriously-low voter turnout. Council candidate Richard Gottfried said that in the course of knocking on over 5000 doors across the City, many of those who answered don't match the names on the voter rolls. He suggested not overlooking the value of old-fashioned ways of getting potential voters involved, such as U.S. Mail and doorknocking. "Not everyone is high-tech," Gottfried noted. Schoof said voters would be more engaged if the Council was more responsive to residents' stated preferences, rather than voting contrary to the majority's wishes. Palakovich Carr said the City should have a conversation on the question of allowing non-citizens to vote. She said 1-in-3 Rockville residents was born outside of the United States, meaning many have "no say" in government decisions. Palakovich Carr also suggested the City consider again the question of moving its elections to gubernatorial or presidential voting years. "The depressing thing is," she noted, that innovations like early voting have only increased overall turnout by about 5%. Council candidate David Hill opposed such a change, worrying that presidential year voters wouldn't pay close attention to City issues. "The quality of the voters is more important than the quantity of the voters," was his conclusion as a member of the City's 2002 Charter Review Commission, Hill recalled. Pierzchala saluted the host neighborhoods of the debate for having the highest turnout in the City. Mullican said she feared partisanship would creep into the City's non-partisan elections, if they moved to a crowded and highly partisan Presidential ballot. The change could make already-difficult fundraising even harder for City candidates, she said. Feinberg suggested better informing voters of what city funds provide versus County and state funds, and providing seed money to create more civic associations where they don't exist.

Crime was another topic covered last night that hasn't been discussed much during the campaign. Newton was out ahead of the topic in her September announcement speech, when she called for the hire of more police officers. She reiterated her concern that the City currently has only 59 sworn officers, while its daytime population swells to about 100,000 people. Newton also pointed out that more than 70% of calls are responded to by City, rather than Montgomery County, officers. The city should be recouping that $4 million in tax duplication funds, she argued.

Osdoby urged the City to ensure there was adequate street lighting, a problem Pierzchala concurred with from his own experience as past president of the College Gardens Civic Association. "It's very hard to get Pepco to get them all going," he lamented. Pierzchala also suggested a data-driven Special Operational Unit that could target upticks in crime in specific neighborhoods. He also recommended "revising Neighborhood Watch in a big way," recalling seeing Watch signs with peeling paint when he walked every street in the City as a warmup to his campaign.

"Rockville probably has the best police department I've ever seen," Gottfried said. He advised other communities have officers come out to pinpoint problem areas, as he has in Twinbrook, where he is President of the citizens association. Officers showed where bushes should be trimmed to eliminate hiding places, Gottfried said, and the neighborhood is seeking additional street lighting.
Hill said the insularity of neighborhoods can sometimes increase their vulnerability to crime. "Visibility and awareness" are important, Hill said, and he shared Newton's concern over the size of the police force in the growing city.

"We are the best defense against crime," Onley said, also suggesting police increase their visibility in neighborhoods.

Council candidate Clark Reed said he thought community policing was working well in the City. He said police notify civic associations to crime spikes in a timely fashion.
Jerry Callistein, President of
the College Gardens Civic Association
confers with moderator
Cheryl Kagan moments before
the debate begins
Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton
makes an opening statement;
L-R: Council candidate
Beryl Feinberg, mayoral
candidate Sima Osdoby,
council candidate
Richard Gottfried

Sima Osdoby

Friday, October 16, 2015

Feinberg fires back at video attack at WECA debate in Rockville (Photos)

Updated 10/18/15: Three corrections were made to this article - the city gives $26,000 per year to Choice Hotels, not $2600, as mayoral candidate Sima Osdoby had incorrectly stated during the debate; a quote regarding Chestnut Lodge was incorrectly attributed to Council candidate Julie Palakovich Carr; and more detailed context has been added regarding the extent of the City of Rockville's contributions to Choice Hotels. I apologize for the errors.

A YouTube video posted by the mysterious entity named "No Funds Expended", mocking the similarities between Rockville City Council incumbent Beryl Feinberg's video candidate statements in this and the 2013 election, produced the closest thing to fireworks in the debate season so far last night. Titled, "Watch as Beryl Feinberg Phones it in", the video has been seized upon by supporters of the Team Rockville candidate slate to suggest Feinberg is not putting much effort into her reelection campaign.

While there is no public indication of who exactly produced the video, Feinberg returned fire at an unnamed "Rockville blogger" at the conclusion of last night's West End Citzen's Association Mayor and Council debate. She said the video "proxy for insolence" by detractors implied "that I am lazy and ill-prepared." Being consistent on the issues and keeping campaign promises is "something to celebrate, not denigrate," she said. Responding to the criticism that she was wearing the same outfit in both videos, Feinberg took something of a Carly Fiorina tack. "As a woman, I am thankful that I can fit into the same outfit. My husband appreciates my frugality," she said as the packed room roared with laughter and applause.

After the debate, Feinberg told me that the video sampled only 2 minutes out of her nearly 4 minute candidate statements.

This follows an early September blog posting by the campaign manager of the Team Rockville slate that characterized incumbent Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton as simply a "homemaker", which some of her supporters termed "sexist" for A) subtly implying there was something wrong with that career choice, and B) excluding her professional accomplishments in public service with local and regional organizations, and as an elected official.

The debate began with the mayoral candidates, Newton and challenger Sima Osdoby.
Mayoral candidate
Sima Osdoby during
opening statements
Incumbent Mayor
Bridget Donnell Newton
Osdoby gave some personal insight into how she became involved in community service in Rockville. Having a child who suffered from serious birth defects "made me recalibrate and change the direction I was going." She began volunteering with local organizations like Peerless Rockville and Children's Hospital. From her career working with organizations here and abroad that have dealt with very divisive situations, she said, "I have a long career getting people to agree on stuff."

Newton said that for neighborhoods like the West End, "the Master Plan and the zoning ordinance are the only guides for redevelopment. I understand the value of growth, and how it must be managed." The city's Adequate Public Facilities Standards, now weakened by a Council vote Newton opposed, was "the finger in the dike" to prevent development from outstripping infrastructure, she said.
WECA President
Noreen Bryant starts
the event
Moderator Sonya Green
prepares to ask the first question
of council candidates
Rockville Town Center remained a glass half-full/half-empty issue last night. Newton noted it got off to a rough start when it opened "right when our economy went into a tailspin." With eight restaurants opening in town center, and the Cambria Hotel and Suites "doing very, very well," she said there is reason for optimism. Newton acknowledged "there have been some stumbles along the way. Parking has been one of them." She has proposed having free parking on Friday nights and weekends, suggesting "the city needs to partner with the property owners" to resolve the parking issues many feel are a drag on the success of town center.

Osdoby agreed town center is "a great place," but argued for diversifying the mix of businesses there. The town center should be a place "not just to go out and eat, but to really be able to go and buy some stuff," she said. She recommended the northern phase have enough residential density to "support businesses." Osdoby also backed subsidies to attract companies. She said Rockville will put out $26,000 a year for six years to Choice Hotels, and is receiving $175,000 in annual revenue from Choice in return. "I wish my retirement fund was doing that good," Osdoby joked.

However, detractors of the Choice Hotels deal have noted the cost to city taxpayers far exceeds $26,000 a year. The total of that 6 year contribution of $156,000 cited does not include the other city expenditures in the deal. Those include $1,155,000 in parking incentives, a $2,405,078 New Jobs Tax Credit, and a $180,000 City of Rockville Permit Fee Waiver.

Add in the $980,000 grant for the just-opened Cambria Hotel and Suites, and the total taxpayer expenditure is $4,876,078. Assuming the $175,000 annual revenue figure over ten years proves accurate, the city would end up with a shortfall of more than $2 million. And some have noted that, under the deal, Choice could move out of its headquarters in only 5 years.

As a councilmember, Newton was not in favor of taxpayer subsidies for Choice, arguing at a recent debate that the hotel giant didn't need that much public money to be successful in Rockville. Osdoby has criticized her for that position in this month's debates. In response, Newton stressed she never opposed Choice moving to Rockville. Newton was referred to as the biggest supporter of Choice Hotels in Rockville by a company official at the Cambria grand opening.

Concluding the discussion of town center, Newton said she took advantage of a recent literary conference to try and attract a bookstore to town center.

On the question of whether or not megachurches and other large institutions should be allowed to open in established older neighborhoods like the West End, Osdoby said, "This is not the right place for it." Newton noted neighborhoods like East Rockville have had to deal with projects like the "White Whale". "We shouldn't have to sue our city to be able to protect the community we live in," she said.

Regarding the APFS change, Newton said "I was one of those who voted to maintain our APFS." Now that that tool is gone, she advocating continuing to increase efforts to convince the county and state to provide more school construction money. She said she would like Rockville to have the power to borrow money to build schools that Baltimore currently enjoys, and proposed the city "put a tool in place that does even more for us and our children than the APFS" did. Newton said she disagrees with those who believe the city must "open our barn doors" to unbridled development to get a new school built.

Osdoby again called the APFS a failed experiment. She said there needs to be a "reprioritization of how schools get built, where and when" in the County. But, she argued, "I don't think the city should be getting into the business of what our County does so well already."

The County "isn't doing it well," Newton countered. "If they were, we wouldn't have the situations we have. It's not working the way we're doing it. The APFS was the only tool we had. Now [after the weakening of it], over a thousand units are coming online."

Asked what the right building heights and density should be along Rockville Pike, Osdoby said, "When you have an asset - Metro - you want to have high density there. Somewhat taller buildings near the Metro stations, and somewhat less tall" as you move away from them. She said 12 stories might be the right height near Metro, but noted that total height would depend upon how tall each of those stories was.

Newton agreed that there should be taller buildings at Metro stations, but said she wants the city to foster "good development," rather than accept development for its own sake. She suggested the proposed width of the Pike be slimmed down, so that developers would have more of their land to build on, reducing their need to build higher if land was taken for access roads.

Moderator Sonya Green asked about the city's apparent movement away from family-oriented development to more transient, multifamily rental housing. Newton said single-family homes and townhomes are "where the people who are most invested in the city are." Osdoby said the city needs to "stay desirable," by adapting "to the changing needs and wants of the people who want to live here. It's taking longer to get to work. People don't want to do that anymore" in an area ranked as having the nation's worst traffic congestion. Newton lamented that many of the units being built are too small for families, and said the city needs to promote transit, such as the Circulator/trolley she has proposed.

Regarding the city's budget, Osdoby said, "I don't have the familiarity with the budget that any of the incumbents have at this point." But, she added, she has "overseen budgets. I've worked with very large budgets, so I know what to look for," such as identifying duplication and wasteful spending.

Newton said the costs of services are becoming "unsustainable" for many in the city who are on fixed or low incomes. She again referred to the Cost Allocation Program she opposed, recalling that "CAP buried the golf course. They went from being in the green, to sinking it." Newton said a study of purchasing and procurement on the agenda Monday night will end up showing "a lot of areas in which we can improve," and made the point that the study found the city is currently only at a 23% efficiency level. The financial advisory board she led the effort to create is "humming" today, after 5 years of effort, she said.

Council candidates (L-R)
Julie Palakovich Carr, David Hill
Clark Reed, Brigitta Mullican
and Beryl Feinberg
Virginia Onley, Richard Gottfried,
Patrick Schoof, Mark Pierzchala
The council debate considered many of the same issues. Green asked if the candidates agree with the city's Master Plan vision statement from 2002, which states: “Rockville will continue to be a city that emphasizes the characteristics of a small town community, offers an excellent quality of life, provides a responsive government serving its citizens, and has a distinct positive identity tied to its history.”

Brigitta Mullican said she would like to explore how Gaithersburg is offering the same kinds of services and quality of life as Rockville, but with a much smaller budget. Clark Reed asked if, with a population of 65,000, could Rockville really be called a "small town".

Noting that he had more land use experience than the other candidates, as a longtime member of the city's Planning Commission, David Hill said he actually was in a position to "change those words, and we decided not to." Nevertheless, Hill said, Rockville is "not a small town anymore." But he wants to ensure the city doesn't chase the level of density that is springing up north and south of it. Instead, it should distinguish itself as not part of that fad. "We want people to drive up Rockville Pike, enter Rockville, and go, 'Aaaahhh," Hill said.

Julie Palakovich Carr agreed that "we're not a small town anymore. Rockville is a bustling small city. We should be embracing that. We are a city now, and we need to be planning for it."

Feinberg suggested the city offer "more nighttime activities. A lot of things shut down at 8:00 or 9:00," she said. There should be more community centers west of I-270, as well, she argued.

Candidate attitudes toward the West End itself were interesting last night. The community is known as one of the most engaged in the city, and has often been influential in shaping the outcomes on controversial issues.

Patrick Schoof said, "The West End is what sold me on Rockville." Mark Pierzchala said that College Gardens, where he was president of the civic association, and Twinbrook were the only neighborhoods fully engaged on the zoning rewrite several years ago. "I could have used some help from other neighborhoods," he added pointedly. Hill admitted that his position on the APFS doesn't line up with the majority of West End residents', and conceded the political power of the neighborhood in the city. "I will not pander to you. It may very well cost me the election." Onley, the deciding vote on the APFS change, acknowledged that "some of you strongly disagree with me" on that issue. "You are a very well organized and politically-savvy organization."

On the question of whether the city should move away from a family-oriented community in terms of housing, Reed said, "I do think that we ought to have an emphasis on single-family homes." Echoing Newton's earlier statement, Reed added, "That's where people are most likely to be invested in the city."

"The biggest problem with families is the cost of living in Rockville," Hill said. Affordable housing by nature means multifamily housing, he said.

Palakovich Carr made the point that "our rental housing stock maintains diversity" in Rockville. She cited the fact that 81% of African-Americans in Rockville are renters, and nearly 50% of Latinos are, as well. Millennials, she said, are "looking for different things. A more urban lifestyle. they don't mind living in 800 square foot apartments."

Feinberg proposed a First Time Homeowner tax credit, to encourage those young residents to set down more permanent roots in the city.

"I embrace apartments," Mullican stated, because from a practical standpoint, there is no more space in the city to build single-family communities. She also said the demand is strong for rental apartments, which "fill up right away" as soon as developers deliver them.

Candidates were asked if the city should pay to acquire parkland, particularly along Rockville Pike as it redevelops.

Schoof said the city needs to make clear what exactly it wants regarding parks. Right now, he said, "developers are proposing ideas for us," because we haven't articulated what we want. "We need to do that," Schoof argued.

Gottfried drew chuckles when he said he hoped "developers don't think that having a picture of a tree on the side of a building counts as green space, as they do at Pike & Rose," a new development south of Rockville.

"We need to demand" green space and parks, Virginia Onley said. "That should be a requirement, that they give us gathering space for families and parks."

Pierzchala advised the city try to work with the hundreds of landowners along the Pike to consolidate pieces of land for larger parks. "You don't want these postage stamp-size parks" that will otherwise result, he said.

Asked if they support the new plan for townhomes on the footprint of the former Chestnut Lodge, Gottfried replied, "No, I do not. It doesn't fit the character of the neighborhood." In knocking on over 5000 doors, he said, he has heard many ideas from voters on potentially better uses of the site, such as recreation facilities or a park.

"Unfortunately, you know, you can't force someone to change their property," Onley observed. However, she said, "I don't support the townhouses," and would rather see the old condominium plan be brought back.

"People do have property rights," Schoof said. But the Chestnut Lodge site "has historic value. I've been to the site. I've walked it." He noted that he signed the WECA petition to oppose the townhome plan.

There were differences of opinion on how heavily citizen opinions expressed through public hearings, and other feedback, should be considered by councilmembers. Gottfried and Schoof made the strongest statements about honoring the wishes of their constituents. "If 90 residents come up, and four civic associations," Gottfried said, harking back to the contentious APFS public hearings, "I'm listening to you."

Schoof said the city needs "officials who have not already had their minds made up" when they take office.