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Rockville Community Coalition: Open Charter Commission's Appointment Process

Panel should also consider the process as part of its charge, group says.

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 , 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.

Ken Sandin April 24, 2012 at 05:58 PM
1:34 pm on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 I endorse this letter and the process it describes, and I hope the Mayor and Council do too. This is what democracy looks like. That's why I joined and am pleased to serve as a board member of the Rockville Community Coalition. I also hope Rockville readers of PATCH agree, will join our organization, and will encourage your neighbors to do so as well. See our website at www.rockcom.org.
Peter Mork April 25, 2012 at 11:14 AM
Tom Moore has drafted a resolution to establish a Charter Review Commission. The Rockville Community Coalition endorses Mr. Moore's proposal; it addresses the concerns we raised in our public testimony. In particular, we are pleased that the resolution includes an opportunity for interested citizens to apply for membership on this important commission and a commitment to a public referendum.
Theresa Defino April 25, 2012 at 11:58 AM
This is expected to be on the mayor and council agenda April 30. Please come out at Citizen's Forum and support this approach. Also, please OPPOSE all efforts at handling the charter commission and appointees during executive session, which some on the mayor and council are trying to do. THIS IS PLAIN WRONG.
Temperance Blalock April 25, 2012 at 12:50 PM
A chronic complaint of Rockville citizens and neighborhood groups has been that actions are taken, or decisions are made, without sufficient notice given to the public for them to react accordingly. Thus, the need to be transparent and to allow equal citizen participation. This Charter Commission needs to operate by those rules.
Doug R April 25, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Good work, Peter. We certainly need a process that is open, fair, and serves the best interests of our city. I for one believe that the resolution creating thee commission should also require the commission to back up recommendations with the three particular supporting items: 1) Evidence that a recommendation is being made in an effort to improve or correct a problem or issue with the day-to-day operation of city-government. 2) Evidence and/or testimony supporting why and/or how, exactly, the change helps to improve upon or correct the problem or issue in running the city government. 3) Assurance that the recommendation's primary purpose is not political in nature, but will assist in solving a problem or issue.
Roald Schrack April 25, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Up to this point discussion of a Charter Review Commission in the city has been clouded, murky, and ill-defined. Despite this people are already being nominated for it. Compare this to the open and transparent actions on the County level where a public announcement has been made and a public request for citizens to apply has been made. Why is it so hard to get similar open and transparent actions in Rockville? The Mayor has made it clear what she wants from the Charter Review Commission. Why don't we make a sincere effort to find out what the people want and what is best for Rockville? Support the Resolution by Tom Moore for an open and transparent means of setting up and establishing an unbiased and representative commission to serve the city interests!
Joseph Jordan April 26, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Maybe Tom and/or the executive members of RCC could share his resolution with the rest of interested Rockville residents and Patch readers
Art Stigile April 26, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Theresa, I agree that these kinds of decisions should not be discussed behind closed doors in Executive Session. About the only time that seems appropriate is if the topic concerns the removal of a commission member for cause, which clearly isn't the case.
Art Stigile April 26, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Like Ken, I'm also a member of Rockville Community Coalition, which brought this issue to the forefront, and transparency in government is one of the reasons I joined. I think we are a better community if issues are discussed openly and the discussion is fact-based and respectful of differing views. Charter review is serious, and I hope RCC is able to provide a forum for citizen discussion of the proposals considered by the Commission.

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