Showing posts with label Steven Van Grack. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Steven Van Grack. Show all posts

Friday, July 3, 2020

Rockville task force on boards and commissions makes recommendations

Former Rockville Mayor Steven Van Grack,
chair of the task force on boards and commissions
A task force appointed to study the City of Rockville's Board and Commissions, and appointments to those bodies, has filed its report. The task force found that one-third of city residents are not aware of Rockville's boards and commissions, the work they do, or that they are eligible to participate as a member of them. In its report, which will be discussed by the Mayor & Council at their July 6 meeting, the task force made several recommendations:

  1. Improve diversity across all boards and commissions
  2. Create a full-time volunteer-coordinator position
  3. Increase transparency
  4. Better coordination among different boards and commissions when missions or issues overlap
  5. Improve clarity of missions and objectives with annual reports and workplans
  6. Enhance the volunteer experience with increased visibility and public acknowledgement of their work, enforcing the limits of terms, a more open expression-of-interest process, timely vacancy filings, and better training
  7. More openness to creating new boards and commissions, and reviewing the relevance of existing ones
  8. Update the City Code and guidelines to reflect any of the above changes if they are adopted
The report made other findings, including that the Animal Matters Board has not met in five years. A similar finding was made about the Personnel Appeals Board, The Recreation and Parks Advisory Board is currently being undermined by "subgroups" within the board, the task force said. 

REDI, the city's economic development corporation, needs more transparency, and attention to conflicts of interest, the report argued. And the task force suggested the Sign Review Board be abolished, its functions replaced by existing city staff and the Board of Appeals as needed.

Task force members include Anita Neal Powell, Anne Goodman, Anne Herbster, James Hedrick, Jack Kelly. John Becker, Lorraine Tarnove, Michael "Ben" Parry. The task force has a high-profile chair, former Rockville Mayor Steven Van Grack. Van Grack is also a prominent attorney, who has remained actively involved in the city long after his 1985-1987 mayoral term.

Photo via Twitter

Monday, November 2, 2015

Mayoral candidates line up endorsements in Rockville

Incumbent Rockville
Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton
with 3 of the 5 past mayors
supporting her - Jim Coyle,
Steven Van Grack, Larry Giammo
Many of Rockville's past mayors remain closely engaged in city politics, and - as you might expect - their endorsements are in great demand. Incumbent Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and challenger Sima Osdoby have both released letters and statements in the closing days of the campaign highlighting those endorsements.

Newton is leading the mayoral endorsement race, with 5 of the city's former top leaders on-board. They are former mayor and Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, and past mayors Jim Coyle, Larry Giammo, Steven Van Grack and Phyllis Marcuccio.

Osdoby has received the endorsement of former mayor Rose Krasnow.
Former Mayor Rose Krasnow
has endorsed challenger
Sima Osdoby
As one might expect, the letter from the Newton endorsers has an optimistic tone, touting Newton's "proven, thoughtful leadership." Their letter goes on to say the incumbent has "been a steady leader who listens to all stakeholders, masters the issues and makes sound judgements." It also applauds Newton's management of the City's growth, and efforts to ensure there is adequate infrastructure to support new development. The mayors also note the City has just been ranked as the 17th "Most Livable City in America" by

Krasnow, by contrast, says she will be "heartbroken" if voters don't elect Osdoby, warning "Our City's future hangs in the balance." Now Deputy Director at the Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission, Krasnow is particularly critical of the delay in passing the Rockville Pike Plan in her statement. Newton has said the plan originally produced by a City-hired consultant was not sustainable, and needed to be thoroughly reworked by the Mayor and Council and Rockville Planning Commission.

Voters will go to the polls tomorrow, November 3.

Top photo by Robert Dyer
Krasnow photo courtesy MNCPPC

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Newton launches mayoral re-election campaign in Rockville (Photos)

A standing-room-only crowd packed into the VisArts Kaplan Gallery at Rockville Town Square last night for Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton's re-election campaign kick-off event. Joining Newton were three highly-regarded past mayors who have endorsed her: Jim Coyle, Steven Van Grack, and Larry Giammo.
Rockville mayors past and
present (L-to-R):
Jim Coyle, Steven Van Grack
Bridget Donnell Newton and
Larry Giammo

Coyle said he is "confident that under Bridget's continued leadership, we can meet the city's growing needs. This is the time to elect a proven leader, and that proven leader is Bridget."

"There was a lot of political gamesmanship in this last term," Giammo said. "Through all of that, Bridget stayed focused on what mattered." It was during Giammo's time in office that the Mayor and Council passed an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that was far stronger than Montgomery County's. The school capacity standards under the APFO were severely weakened by a 3-2 Council vote earlier this year, an action that Newton strongly disagreed with.

Van Grack (R) listens as
Newton addresses the
In her speech last night, Newton said the APFO school standards were "gutted on June 1" in a "back room political deal that was made." The vote by outgoing Councilmember Tom Moore and current Team Rockville election slate Councilmembers Virginia Onley and Julie Palakovich Carr "eviscerated the only tool we had in our toolbox," Newton said.

With the entire city now free of any development moratorium, but classrooms still as crowded as before, Newton predicted a "Katie bar the door" wave of development ahead. "It's going to be unbelievable."

In that context, Newton argued it will be essential to ensure that Richard Montgomery Elementary School No. 5 is built to full capacity. She also called for the hiring of more city police officers, noting that the ratio of officers-to-residents is far lower than in comparably-tiny Easton, MD, which has only 16,000 residents.
Supporters listen to
Newton's speech
But Newton also decried the current political atmosphere in Rockville.

She fired back at Team Rockville's assertion that she failed to generate consensus on issues, noting that she was able to make allies on the Council despite being the only member not part of the 2013 Team Rockville slate. One of those allies, Councilmember Beryl Feinberg, was in attendance at last night's event.

Newton also disputed Team Rockville's bleak assessment of Rockville Town Center. "Rockville is doing very well," she said, noting that several restaurants and bars will be opening soon at Rockville Town Square, and that the Duball development across the street has attracted several tenants, including World of Beer and Panera Bread. A groundbreaking will be held at the Kettler development across Beall Avenue from Rockville Town Square in a few weeks, as well. The new Cambria Suites hotel "is booked solid almost every weekend," Newton reported.
Former mayors Van Grack and
Coyle chat with attendees after
the speech
On the personal side, Newton said she has "a strong distaste for the politics of today. I strongly, strongly object to the way the conversation is going in our city, in our state, and in our country." The mayor recalled a recent blog post by the campaign manager of Team Rockville that described her as "a homemaker, as though that was an insult." The post angered many of her supporters. Newton said that in 2015, people should be celebrating individuals for "the choices they make, not putting labels on them."

In addition to a wide variety of leadership and public services roles she has held, Newton said her role as a parent gave her a set of skills that comes in handy in city politics. "There is no difference between a 2-year-old having a meltdown than dealing with a councilmember having a meltdown. With one, it's age-appropriate," she added to raucous laughter from the crowd.

She urged the crowd to focus in the next 6 weeks on "who will champion what is great about this city," and said having independent voices on the council would be an advantage. To that end, she invited the independent candidates for City Council - Beryl Feinberg, Rich Gottfried, David Hill, Brigitta Mullican and Patrick Schoof - to her event.

The remaining candidates are on the Team Rockville slate: Sima Osdoby for Mayor, Onley, Palakovich Carr, Mark Pierzchala and Clark Reed.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Helen Heneghan Way is "choice" in Rockville street name change

View down the future
Helen Heneghan Way
Former Rockville City Clerk Helen Heneghan's big contributions to the city will be memorialized in a big way. In a 4-1 vote by the Planning Commission last night, commissioners chose to rename Renaissance Street to Helen Heneghan Way, barring final objection by Montgomery County officials.

No current street in the county is named Helen or Heneghan, according to city staff who researched the many names submitted. The name change was initiated by Choice Hotels, which is headquartered across E. Middle Lane from Renaissance Street, and who have a new Cambria Suites hotel along it.

Commissioners whittled down the dozens of choices to 5 finalists, through straw votes. The 5 candidates were Randy Caruso Lane, Helen Heneghan Way, variations on Cairo or Cinema, and Crutchfield.

Randy Caruso Lane had a lot of emotional support from many in the community, garnering the most votes from the public. Caruso is fondly remembered by many residents, including two who spoke at last night's meeting. "Randy touched a lot of lives in the city," one said. Caruso "was a special needs person," he continued, "and this was during a time when people were not very kind to special needs persons." Yet he affected a generation of residents with his positive interactions at community and sports events, supporters testified. Caruso was known to many as the "Mayor of Rockcrest."

Commissioner David Hill said he thought the heartfelt support of residents who submitted Caruso's name, and who don't ordinarily engage in government meetings, deserved extra consideration from the commission.

Heneghan had numerous supporters who had worked with her during her time as City Clerk, or were familiar with her many contributions to the community.

Former mayor Steven Van Grack testified in support of Heneghan last night, saying naming the street after her would be "a certain way of letting people know about" her contributions to the city. Heneghan passed away on July 13.

Van Grack recalled a time when he remarked that "Bill Hanna may have been the finest mayor in the history of Rockville." Rockville racked up 2 of its 4 All-American City awards during Hanna's time in office. Van Grack said Hanna responded, "there wasn’t much done during that tenure without Helen Heneghan." Heneghan's contributions to the city weren't merely in the civic and government realm, Van Grack added. "She raised 5 boys in Rockvllle, who have all excelled in many ways," he noted.

Several commissioners also voiced support for Heneghan. "She did yeoman duty for the city of Rockville," Commissioner Anne Goodman said. Commissioner John Tyner credited Heneghan for the flag in Veterans Park, and in particular, raising the funds for it. "She, frankly, kept St. Mary’s [Church] running," Tyner recalled, adding jokingly that she also "kept Steve Van Grack out of trouble." Commissioner Jack Leiderman said his former neighbor was greatly missed since her passing.

"I'm speechless," Chair Don Hadley said. "It's really a very tough decision." In a second set of straw votes, both Heneghan and Caruso received unanimous support from commissioners.

Ultimately, the commission voted 4-1, with Hill dissenting, for Helen Heneghan Way. Commissioners were eager to ensure Caruso would not be forgotten, suggesting the potential for renaming Hillcrest Park after him. There would also be additional street names in Town Center Phase II to be decided, as well.

Heneghan's name surfaced late in the search process. After resident Patricia Woodward asked the Mayor and Council Monday night to consider Heneghan for the street name, she was encouraged to approach the Planning Commission by Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton. Woodward testified at last night's meeting.

Is Choice Hotels satisfied? Choice representatives declared City Center Way and Peerless Way their favorites prior to the commission's deliberations.

The name now will be run by the County to find out if they have any objections to it.