Editor's note: The Rockville City Council does not meet tonight. The council's next meeting is April 30. The following letter was submitted to the council and presented during Citizens' Forum at last week's meeting.
The letter addresses the council's move to form a commission to review the city's charter, with a focus on the size and terms of the mayor and council members and the timing of city elections.
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The testimony was testimony was signed and submitted by Temperance Blalock, Peter Mork, Doug Reimel, Art Stigile, Alan Frankle, Virginia Onley and Roald Schrack, members the Rockville Community Coaltion executive commitee, and Theresa Defino, a member of RCC's communications commitee. It was read by Mork.
April 16, 2012
Dear Mayor and Council,
One goal of the Rockville Community Coalition is to "encourage greater civic participation by all members of our community by voting, serving on Commissions and Boards, and by running as candidates for Mayor and Council."
It is in this spirit that we write to draw your attention to what we see as inconsistencies and actions regarding the manner in which the members of the proposed Charter Review Commission are being selected, and to point out a related area of possible study by the commission.
According to statements made at recent Mayor and Council meetings, the members of the Charter Review Commission have already been selected, as has the chairperson. This has occurred through the Mayor and Council selecting residents to serve and submitting two-to-three names to the Mayor for her consideration. The Mayor said she selected a chairperson for the Charter Review Commission, whom she identified by name.
However, the resolution creating the commission itself has not yet been issued publicly, considered in an open meeting, or acted upon. At the April 9, 2012, Mayor and Council meeting, the only resolution that was presented, for background purposes, was the one establishing the 2002 Charter Review Commission.
Furthermore, there has been no public call for citizens to volunteer their services. This is in stark contrast to other vacancies on boards and commissions, which are posted on the city's website, announced nearly weekly at Mayor and Council meetings, and, in some cases, are the subject of news releases, as with the Citizens Implementation Committee and the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance Task Force.
The Rockville Community Coalition strongly believes that when a body as important as the Charter Review Commission is impaneled—as these occur only every decade or longer and their work will have a lasting impact on the city—that the Mayor and Council must provide an open invitation to all Rockville residents to serve, thereby creating the widest possible pool of participants and ensuring adequate representation of the interests of all residents.
Members should be selected through an open and transparent process that does not rely solely on citizens becoming informed on their own of a possibility to serve and then scrambling to lobby the Mayor and Council for a position on the commission. The Mayor and Council, of course, would also be expected to put forth names of citizens they wish to nominate for the commission, with final selection occurring through a fair and equitable process during an open meeting
Similarly, the choice of a chairperson and a possible co-chairperson for the commission may be best left to the membership of the commission to determine, but, in any event, should not occur at such an early stage in the life of the Charter Review Commission.
We ask that you delay appointments until such time a resolution creating the commission has been approved and a public call has been issued for volunteers, with time allowed for citizen responses and full Mayor and council consideration of all applicants. To do otherwise opens the Mayor and Council to accusations of bias, cronyism and political favoritism.
We also believe the Mayor and Council should not act to change the charter unless such alterations are approved by the residents of the city in a referendum. It would appear that this idea already has the support of the Mayor and Council, and we request that such language be included in the enabling resolution establishing the commission.
Finally, we recommend the Charter Review Commission have included in its charge a general examination of the city's process for making bulk appointments to new boards, commissions and ad hoc advisory bodies.
We thank you in advance for your consideration of our concerns.