Rockville City Council candidates faced off Wednesday during the first debate of election season.
The debate was hosted by the Rockville Community Coalition. The moderator, former lawmaker Cheryl Kagan, allowed each candidate one minute to respond to questions generated by the RCC and members of the community.
Rockville’s City elections are Nov. 5. Eight candidates are in the race.
Six have filed for council seats—Claire Marcuccio Whitaker, Virginia Onley, Donald Hadley, and Tom Moore, Julie Palakovich Carr and Beryl Feinberg.
Council members Mark Pierzchala and Bridget Donnell Newton are running for mayor. Their debate took place after the council debate.
Feinberg was unable to attend because she was recuperating from a hospital stay. Her husband, Ed Feinberg, read prepared opening and closing statements on her behalf.
Here are City Council Candidate Hadley's responses:
1. What do you think are the three most pressing issues currently facing the mayor and council and how do you believe that these issues should be resolved?
I think that the nest of issues that we’re talking about—which is growth, APFS/APFO, traffic—those are really one issue. They’re coming back to the planning commission, of which I’m apart. And the reason that we’re going to do them better this time, I think, is because we’re going to collaborate with every community involved. Developers, builders, homeowners, neighborhoods, community associations. The answer just cannot come form any one of us up here telling you what we thinks best or slugging it out up here. It can’t be theoretical it has to be practical.
In addition, there is again—there’s affordable housing. There are huge budget implications and they’re not really apart of the process yet. We cannot really talk about the problems until we know what it’s going to cost us and how we’re going to pay for it.
I would say the big nest of all the things we talked about—affordable housing, the money, how we’re going to do this without overtaxing ourselves or raising fees or other ways to get around the fact that money could be limited.
2. In your opinion, are there places in the Rockville city budget where changes could be made? And that could be either in cut of services or in cut of personnel, cut of fees, cut of anything … . Just speak broadly, if you would about fiscal savings.
Well, a cut of salaries for the mayor and the councilmen. I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve been in a month and I’ve read the budget, but that’s far deeper. I would be lying if I told you I knew how to cut it. But basically, I think it’s a revenue problem.
The question is how are we going to generate the funds that are adequate for the needs we have. We can review those, but as a campaign issue, to talk about whose bull we’re going to gore in saving money is the wrong approach.
Again, this starts from the ground up. I think there’s
expertise that’s involved but I think we need a vision for the city. We need to
know what it’s going to cost. Then we can allocate our resources. … It’s an
asset allocation issue. Not a pick
3. What do you see as the long-term vision for the ultimate development of Rockville’s Town Center?
I don’t think anyone has a valuable vision for Town Center II yet. It bothers me that we’re not working on that. I can tell you what I think, but it matters less what I think than what I think about the process we go through to get he vision. I envision more of a participatory process in which developers, businesses, neighborhoods and all the stakeholders are there.
I think it needs to be a semi-urban—that is a Rockville scale of urbanization. It needs to compliment Town Center I but not mimic it. We need to have more local business. We need to have some park space. I agree with Miss Onley, we need to have some emphasis on family participation there in terms of residency.
The point I’m trying to make is that I can wax eloquently about my vision, but again, I think we need leadership to form a vision. We have people on the council and the mayor vying as to what their position is. It’s ridiculous. It’s what the people want.
4. Which aspects of the Rockville Pike Plan do you support and why? And the other part, is with development around Rockville, what do you think the mayor and council should do, if anything, to make sure the city has adequate green space?
Well as chairman of the Planning Commission, I’ve reviewed it cover to cover more than many times. Even it has taken two years—and it’s going to take a while longer. Just for the record, the Pike Plan is not a finished plan. It’s a work in progress. It also includes a revision of a zoning code, which has to be done as well as this dream document, if you will.
I have favored that we lower densities all the way through, which we have. I have favored that we take a look at the intermediate step. In other words, bus rapid transit isn’t going to be here—if it ever comes—for a long time. The idea of reducing parking and going high and, generally, urbanizing the area—it did start out as an urbanizing plan and I think we’ve changed that to be a neighborhood plan, that we’re protecting Rockville’s neighborhoods and that it should be consistent with the neighborhoods.
Parks are a must. Developers don’t like them. They’re a high cost to the city. There’s a high cost to what we do. But lower density, all the way through. We’re still open to that. We’ve reversed ourselves in the last couple of weeks. It may be frustrating time wise. I don’t see why we can’t take the time we need for a 20- or 30-year plan.
5. In addition to our candidates for mayor and council, there are going to be some charter questions. We’d like each of the candidates to speak to not only their views on the charter questions, but also the weight to which they would offer our views as voters once we speak out … We’d love to hear whether they’d … defer to the voters or what they think mayor and council should be informed by.
I served on the Charter Review Commission and a number of these questions are close. We held community meetings and the input we received was not overwhelmingly in favor of any one thing. So the decisions we came to were largely on what we thought was our best judgment—our very collegial best judgement—but there was lots of discussion along the way.
I think moving the number of councilmen—or women—from four to six, making the total voting body of seven, is a good idea because we need broader representation in this 62,000-[person] community that we have now.
In terms of presidential elections, I’m very close on that. I would not personally advocate for or against that. Sorry to be a fence-sitter, but I am. I think that’s why we go to the people.
In terms of terms, I think that two years has substantial advantages the advantages of four years, people don’t have to turn around — [stopped by moderator for going over time]
6. What can you do for independent small businesses in Rockville?
I don’t think we have enough affordable and accessible space for local businesses in Rockville and I think one of the threats of over urbanization, as I would call it, is that it tends to put a Starbucks or a gym or a restaurant in the first floor of every building and it’s not affordable, usable space for local businesses. So I think in Town Center II, part of that plan needs to be to provide really shopable space, space where people can go and people who live there can go and be served. I’m delighted to see Dawson’s Market here. I know it’s a specialty market, but it’s a step in the right direction.
7. How can we engage populations that are not engaged now? How can we make people feel really welcome and support increasing diversity in the city? What sort of changes or enhancements should we offer?
In traveling the highways and byways of our fair city, a common theme that I hear—even in the 30 days I’ve been on the campaign trail is—is “Nobody listens. Why should I exert myself? Nobody listens.”
I know that in one area of our city that former sub community groups for the Asian community and for the Latin community have essentially disbanded because they don’t feel included. There’s no real place at the table for them. I think the leadership that we need at the mayor and council is where it starts. We have to include people as a matter of daily routine, in every city activity and communication that we do.
And I think that sitting on the council, we actually have to get into the communities and see people. We have to resurrect our community associations. The ones I go to, we have a thousand people in the area and 12 show up for the community association. It takes outreach. People won’t come unless you reach out to them and that’s what we have to devise if we’re going to do that.