Wednesday, March 12, 2014 8:31 AM
Published on: Thursday, January 17, 2013
By Holden Wiler
ROCKVILLE - Major changes could be in store as the Rockville City Council begins writing three referendums based on recommendations made in the final report by the Charter Review Commission at Monday’s city council meeting.
The commission, formed in April, was charged with making recommendations to meet the city’s goals of increasing citizen participation, as well as responsiveness, effectiveness and leadership by city officials.
The commission’s final recommendations are:
1. Lengthen the term of both the mayor and council members from two to four years.
2. Increase the number of council members from four to six.
3. Hold elections for the mayor and council members during the presidential election.
Steven VanGrack, chairman of the Charter Review Commission, said the commissioner’s main goal was to increase citizen participation. VanGrack said voter turnout in Rockville during the 2011 election was 16.9 percent; meanwhile, the turnout for the presidential election was almost 55 percent .
“One of the most important things that our people participate in their government is the vote,” VanGrack said. “If we’re getting 16.9 percent of the people voting that doesn’t reflect the best citizen participation.”
Before making the decision to write three referendums, Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio and the council members wanted to clarify a few questions they had about the recommendations.
Councilmember John Hall Jr. wanted to know if all of the decisions made by the commissioners were unanimous and why no minority decisions were reported. While not all of the decisions were unanimous, VanGrack said, none were close and all had a clear majority.
VanGrack also answered questions about the four-year election process. He said implementing staggered elections and electing Council members by district would not serve the best interest of Rockville. Originally, some thought diversity would be a reason to elect council members by district, but VanGrack said minority members of the commission don’t think it is an issue.
In the end, Marcuccio decided the council should work with VanGrack in order to keep the spirit of the commission alive when writing three potential referendum questions based on the commission’s recommendations.
VanGrack said he was thankful for the opportunity to lead the commission and to help make Rockville a better city.
“Rockville is a unique city,” VanGrack said. “Our theme was we will make a great city even greater.”