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 Whittaker, Virginia Onley, Donald Hadley, and Tom Moore, Julie Palakovich Carr and Beryl Feinberg.
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.
Council members Mark Pierzchala and Bridget Donnell Newton are running for mayor. Their debate took place after the council debate.
Here are City Council Candidate Onley’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 the APFO—I support it, but the APFO needs to be our guide tool. We can't just create an APFO or an APFS, put it to bed and then say five years from now we need to look at it again. I think it's something we really need to focus on and we really need work together, because schools will over crowd. We also need to work with Montgomery County Public Schools to make sure our children get their fair share of schools.
I think that growth is another issue, with Town Center II and the Rockville Pike Plan. Those are all issues that I will concentrate on because it's very important that we grow for years to come and not in the next 10 minutes.
The other thing is making sure we all are heard in this city—and not just particular neighborhoods. It's important that we're all represented.
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.
I wouldn’t want to cut services, but one of the things I’ve noticed recently is that we could do some water conservation. I think it’s an educational thing.
I went into a meeting at 9 o’clock and the water in this building was running and running. And I came out at 2:30, and the water was running and running and running. And I made a joke about it: Who pays that water bill?
But I believe we could do a grassroots campaign on to educate our residents on water conservation and I really think that could be one way we could cut costs.
3. What do you see as the long-term vision for the ultimate development of Rockville’s Town Center?
I’d like to see something that would host families—something that would really draw families in. The only thing I can think of is the little park where you have the miniature golf course—putt-putt golf. I believe families would go to Town Center II if we had that.
We have a lot of nice establishments in Town Center, but I don’t think there’s anything that zeros in on "OK, it’s family day." I really would like to see that. I spoke about this before, for Town Center II. I think it would be good for the city. And I think it would attract people from other areas to actually be able to bring their children into town center and enjoy a day, an afternoon or an evening out.
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?
As I look at the Rockville Pike plan, what I like the best is ... the express lanes. I think once we get those installed, it will move traffic down the pike and back in a much [more] rapid speed and it will be much more efficient. If you go to the city, and you look at Washington, DC, K Street, where they have the local lanes, I used work there, coming in in the mornings we would breeze in and out. Now that doesn’t say that we’re not going to have traffic, but traffic is just going to run more efficiently.
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 also served on the Charter Review Commission.
Two versus four years, I think by the time you serve two years, you’re just getting your feet wet and it’s time to go out and campaign again. I really support four years.
As far as the members, they had to talk me down on that. At first I said is it going to be more members representing more of the city or is it going to be more arguments? But in the end I did end up supporting more members on the council.
As far as changing he election year to the presidential, I think—but we didn’t discuss this very much—I think we could still keep it at an odd year and skip a year. But I really do think it needs to be every four years. And I believe if we kept it that way, we would not change the character of Rockville because that’s what people are most concerned about.
6. What can you do for independent small businesses in Rockville?
I think one of the things we could do is, as small businesses move in, is encourage them to have theme nights so that they could bring people out—give a discount, give a coupon, have a door prize—just to bring people in. I think that advertising is the key. People like local businesses. People like small businesses.
Dawson’s Market is a very good example. I go there just about every week. Now some things are very expensive for my pocket book at Dawson’s, but I have found things that I can afford there so I patronize them on a regular basis. And I think just getting the word out and encouraging people to use our small businesses and encouraging them to do things to bring customers in is what we really need.
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?
The city is very diverse and unfortunately we don’t have the diverse population participating in our processes. They are at the senior center, the swim center. There [are] Asian special days that they celebrate, but for some reason we can’t seem to engage them. I would do an outreach to get them in our processes. They don’t apply for boards and commissions. They’re at Hometown Holidays, they’re at all our functions. And I think we just need to collectively go to these communities and engage them in certain things so that they can be apart of the process.
It’s really nice that we have a divers city—that’s what I love about it. But we don’t them and we need to do an all out campaign to get them involved with what goes on in this city.