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Rockville charter review committee hunts answers

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Published on: Monday, November 19, 2012

By Daryl Buchanan

By Daryl Buchanan

Special to The Sentinel

ROCKVILLE-With a deadline not far off the Charter Review Commission have their goals in sight and are continuing their study of recommending changes to be made to Rockville’s Charter.

Commission Chair and former Mayor Steven VanGrack says the group is starting to focus on the report they will deliver to the Mayor and Council. VanGrack also said they have focused on five areas that they will recommend to the Mayor and Council for consideration.

The five areas are as follows:

1.    Terms of office-this includes term limits

2.    When elections are held- odd or even numbered years, weekend elections, early voting, voting during Presidential elections

3.    Number of council members-expanding the council

4.    At-Large Districts

5.    New types of voting- mail in ballots, online ballots

The Commission recently held Town Hall style meetings where these potential changes were discussed and citizens were encouraged to voice their opinions on the issues. VanGrack admitted the turnout was low, but he believes they still got valuable input.

“The town halls went well. There wasn’t a lot of quantity, but we did see a lot of quality in terms of citizen participation. Former city council members, former city clerks, community activists, and City Manager Barbara Burns Matthews participated in the talks,” said VanGrack.

The five areas that the Commission is researching could mean big changes for Rockville. VanGrack believes there is a great interest within the community to see changes made. In particular VanGrack says there is high interest on the issue of terms, election dates, and a larger council.

“In my opinion there seems to be a lot of support for four year terms and also election dates. More voters may show up if we vote during the Presidential election,” said VanGrack.  “And why can’t we have elections on the weekend when a lot of people don’t have to work? Maybe we can do early voting as well or have more voting locations. I don’t know what changes will be made, but I think there may be some.”

The Commission is also looking into the feasibility of new methods of casting a ballot. Currently mail in ballots and secure online voting are potential options.

The Commission has another meeting later this month where they will be joined by Gaithersburg Mayor Sydney Katz. VanGrack also said the Commission is on target to meet their December deadline when they will present their findings to the Mayor and Council.

Should the Mayor and Council desire to put the potential changes before the residents of the city they will appear on the ballot during the next election.

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