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Who runs Rockville?

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Published on: Thursday, November 07, 2013

By Brian J. Karem

The city of Rockville faces an uncertain, but perhaps promising future following the November elections.

Bridget Newton will take over as mayor in Rockville, promising transparency and cooperation and she does it facing four members of Team America World Police, I mean “Team Rockville,” as incoming council members who ran as a united slate behind Mark Pierzchala for mayor.

Since Pierzchala lost to Newton, it will be interesting to see if civility and cooperation  on civic issues will indeed take place.

Here’s to keeping hope alive.

Three of those elected to the council are new. The lone returning council member, Tom Moore, is returning for his second two-year term and is not necessarily condemned to the rut created by previous councils.

Rockville faces a precarious future. It has multiple suits to deal with, including but not limited to problems brought about by the Town Square project and the continuing strife caused by the scandalous way city managers have treated city staffers.

But, the city faces much more than law suits. It faces growth issues, and phase two of the Town Square as well as issues brought up by the City of Rockville Charter Review Committee.

Some of those issues made it to the ballot this year and voters have overwhelmingly supported increasing the term for council and mayor from two to four years. While most in office have also supported an increase in the number of council members, the voters have said “No” to that proposition as well as saying “No” to moving the city elections to presidential election years.

Most elected officials agreed with voters on extending the terms for office holders and also agreed with voters in the unwillingness to move the Rockville elections to Presidential election years.

They disagreed with voters and many office holders supported increasing the number of members elected to council.

With only a 16 percent turnout at the polls, one can hardly call any decision, including those elected to office an overwhelming mandate.

Moving the Rockville elections to presidential election years might have brought about a greater turnout which could in turn lead to a quantifiable mandate, but don’t look for that to happen.

While the results of the city’s referendum on the charter isn’t binding and while some members of the council have said they won’t necessarily honor the results of the referendum – don’t  expect any unwarranted surprises in Rockville. It is in the interest of those in office to keep the number of voters down to a small, manageable number so there will probably not be a great move to change the city elections to coincide with the Presidential elections.

The exception to this is if some smart office holder (yes almost a contradiction in terms in Rockville) figures out a way to stretch out the current terms for office holders until the 2018 presidential election.

Meanwhile, the current office holders probably won’t jump to add more elected officials to the council since voters voted it down, but that is the one legitimate area where the public’s will could be overturned without serious repercussion.

So, life goes on in the city of Rockville.

Newton has shown herself to be level-headed and fair in her decisions as a council member and she has also shown herself to have a good feel for what the office demands and what can and cannot be done.

This is essential as the new council takes over and the key to the situation in Rockville is determining who actually runs the city.

Not since Larry Giammo left the helm as Rockville’s mayor has there been no doubt as to who is in charge of the city.

Larry guided and ruled, and while other competent people have been elected mayor since his departure, no one has been able to control the city management staff.

They have been emboldened and have, in some cases, misused their power. Some of the pending lawsuits speak clearly to that issue.

The Saul Ewing LLP report continues to be a bone of contention as the city is unsure of what it spent nearly $200,000 on - and how it was spent.

The question is, can Newton and the newly elected city council get their managers under control or will the inmates continue to run and ruin the asylum?

Reader Comments - 2 Total

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Posted By: Brian J. Karem On: 11/18/2013

Title: There is indeed some disrespect

Thank you very much for your cogent response. However, I will disagree with your description of facts. While I am well aware of the type of government that exists in Rockville, it is my belief based on the facts that the city has no need to raise taxes. It needs to be better managed. Further I will continue to insist on the city providing the information to those who need it most to make decisions. I do not consider this a dead issue and while some do, I believe they wish it so for political reasons - not anything that benefits the city. As for saying we disrespect the workers, nothing could be further from the truth as we've taken the lead in trying to assist those who believe they've been downtrodden. I hold some members of the city council in the highest esteem and some of them in the highest minimum esteem.

Posted By: Theresa Defino On: 11/18/2013

Title: Inaccurate characterizations

... four members of Team America World Police, I mean “Team Rockville,”
This is gratuitously nasty as the Sentinel's coverage of Rockville often is. Mr. Karem also seems to be unfamiliar and unaware of our form of government, which is a strong manager -- not mayor -- form. And way to insult every city worker from the manager on down ("inmates running the asylum"). Rockville does not face a "precarious" future. The main challenge will be funding long-term infrastructure with responsible debt, as before, attracting businesses to increase the tax base and managing growth--just like every city faces. The city can no longer cut services. The time will come to consider tax increases.
Time wasted debating the dead topic of the personnel report, as Mr. Karem seems to insist his reporters continue doing, serves no one. Here's to a new day in Rockville and a bright future. As I listed to the credentials of those sworn in yesterday, I couldn't help but feel that the city is in tremendously great hands!


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