Responses to Rockshire Candidate Forum Questionnaire


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

 

 

OPENING STATEMENT:

 

I am Drew Powell, candidate for Mayor of Rockville.  Rockville is at a crossroads.  The issue facing Rockville is unmanaged overdevelopment, which worsens traffic congestion and school overcrowding, damages our environment, reduces public safety and increases City spending and taxes.  As a 45 year Montgomery County resident, 12 year Rockville resident and civically active small business owner, I will work closely with Citizens, City Councilmembers, City staff and County and State officials to move Rockville forward, while managing development, protecting our environment, getting proactive about public safety, preserving Rockville’s hometown character and holding the line on City spending.  Together, we can create a more accountable, transparent and inclusive City government, which serves the needs of our Citizen, not special interests.

 

General Questions

 

1.  Do you support once a week Refuse and Recycling pick-up or twice a week pick-up? Explain your response in detail.  Do you support the recommendation for a Refuse and Recycling Commission made up of Rockville Citizens to advise the Mayor and Council?   Do you support variable pricing for Refuse and Recycling based on your trash container size?  There has been discussion that the Refuse and Recycling has put one neighborhood against another.  Do you agree with this statement?  Where do you see the City going in the next 5 years regarding this issue and what are your recommendations?

 

POWELL RESPONSE: My position on the Refuse issue has not wavered in the past year, when I started making formal inquires to the Mayor and Council, City Manager, Public Works Director and Director of Finance.  During this time few real answers were forthcoming regarding actual financial data on refuse service or if and how projections were performed to calculate future costs.  Based on the fact that there is little to no data: a.) I do not have an educated position on either once or twice a week pick-up, b.) I support recommendation for a Refuse and Recycling Commission, c.) As it violates the City’s Charter, I do not support variable pricing, d.) Yes, certain members of the Mayor and Council have used this issue to pit neighborhood against neighborhood. e.)  The City needs to gather and provide real data that shows a multi-year history of the costs associated with the City’s refuse service.  It then needs to use this data for multi-year cost projections.  f.) Moving forward over the next five years, the City must seek the council of its Citizens in the form of a commission with scheduled reports back to the mayor and council.  The Citizens’ Commission, working closely with city staff in a transparent environment, will then present options based on best value service.  I am not opposed to each and every voter having a say on this issue, as the City can include this issue as a referendum on the 2009 ballot.

 

2.  Citizen Forum provides the opportunity for Citizens to bring concerns to the Mayor and Council.  Over the years, this format has changed.  Would your administration maintain the current format?  Do you believe Citizens should be permitted to cede time to another speaker during a public hearing or during Citizen’s Forum if their testimony exceeds 3 minutes or is the current system in place effective?

 

POWELL RESPONSE:  a.) Yes, given a majority consensus of the Mayor and Council, I would prefer to continue with the current format. b.) Citizens should be permitted to cede time to another speaker, but only on a limited fashion.

 

3.  (a.) Previous elections have focused on the redevelopment of Town Center as a priority.  Should Town Center continue as the main focal point?  If not, in your opinion, what should be the main focal point?

 

POWELL RESPONSE:  No, Town Center Phase I has been dedicated and is complete, except for the replacement of pavers in Rockville Town Center Plaza.  Rockville needs to get back to its mission of enhancing our quality of life for ALL its Citizens by managing growth, proactively addressing public safety needs, protecting our environment, preserving Rockville’s hometown character and controlling City spending.

 

4.  (a.)  Wootton Parkway was pulled from the City of Rockville’s Master Plan to widen the road to four lanes.  Do you agree or disagree with this decision.  (b.)  are there any circumstances that would change your decision and widen Wootton Parkway…please cite those circumstances?  (c.) do you support a Gude Drive Interchange off 270 (d.) do you support the ICC?

 

POWELL RESPONSE:  a.) Based on the situation as it is today, I agree with the statement; Wooton Parkway should not be widened.  b.) Yes, based on a pressing need to manage future traffic AND if public safety can be enhanced to address the inherit dangers of a widened Wooton Parkway AND if the Citizens, who live in the neighborhoods around Wooton Parkway want to have it widened. c.) I support the study to see if a Gude Drive Interchange off 270 is feasible and would lessen traffic congestion on West Montgomery and other Rockville roads.  As it is a state project, paid for with state funding, assuming that this project would be beneficial, Rockville can advocate for its construction.  Much more is needed to improve traffic flow throughout the City.  d.) I neither support or oppose the ICC.  The decision to proceed with this project has already been finalized on the state level (Rockville government has nothing to do with this decision).  I do, however, hope that if the ICC moves forward, it benefits Rockville and does not drain state funding for other projects such as the I-270/Gude Drive interchange.

 

5.  Pedestrian Safety, including Traffic Enforcement is sometimes outside the City of Rockville’s jurisdiction on county and state roads that are adjacent to our municipality.   How would you solve this problem?  What other Pedestrian Safety measures would you recommend and implement?  In your opinion, what are the top 5 pedestrian ‘hot spots’ in the City?

 

POWELL RESPONSE:  a.) By leveraging my relationships with County and State officials to look out for Rockville’s pedestrians and motorists.  The pedestrian safety issues that have plagued Wooton High School and now jeopardize the wellbeing of our children at Richard Montgomery should not have occurred.  The City of Rockville must work closely with the Montgomery County Executive, County Council, Montgomery County Police and MCPS on a proactive basis to safeguard our most precious resource; the lives of our children, seniors and all our Citizens. B.) Given a majority consensus of the Mayor and Council, I would task Rockville’s Traffic and Transportation Commission to proactively review potential pedestrian danger areas around all schools within the City limits and report back to the Mayor and Council with its recommendations.  The City must then find the political will to immediately budget for the recommended safety improvements.  This can be accomplished with the savings from not subsidizing expensive development projects.  C.) The top hot spots are: the intersections of Fleet and Park and Fleet and Jefferson in front of the new Richard Montgomery High School, Wooton Parkway and Hurley, Rockville Pike and Halpine (next to Twinbrook Metro/Commons), Veirs Mill and Broadwood and Rockville Pike and Veirs Mills Road.  Immediate action is required at these dangerous intersections.

 

6. RORZOR has many implications for the City in terms of new zoning proposals.  The Rockville Planning Commission will be making recommendations to the new Mayor and Council.   Explain RORZOR and outline the process you would recommend for Citizen input including a general timeline for consideration and recommendations to staff?  List  the pros and cons of RORZOR for communities and neighborhoods in Rockville in your response?

 

POWELL RESPONSE:  a.) It is difficult to “explain” what is still in draft format.  RORZOR is a total revamping of Rockville’s zoning standards.  To date more Citizen input should be solicited as many on RORZOR have the interests of developers, not Citizens in mind.  Due to its potential negative impact to neighborhoods and Rockville’s home town character, RORZOR must be reviewed by a Citizen commission with final recommendations to the Mayor and Council.  There is currently a year devoted to a review process.  This may be increased if more information is required by Citizens.  We must move forward with open eyes.  b.) As it stands now, ROZOR will create a title wave of “Mixed-use Mania,” vastly increasing density thereby worsening traffic congestion, school overcrowding, damage to the environment and decreasing quality of life.  Hardly a structure will be considered without five to seventeen additional stories for high priced condos.  For example, should the Rockshire Giant Food site be redeveloped, ROZOR would allow curb-to-curb six story mid-rise (e.g. first floor retail and five additional stories of condo and/or apartments.  Building heights of six to twenty stories may be common under the current version of RORZOR.  The development industry is already citing RORZOR in its plans to increased height, density and reduce setback at several projects in Rockville.  Lastly, RORZOR may decrease property rights of home owners by disallowing simple room additions or other minor improvements to their homes.  By doing so, assessed home values would also be eroded.

 

Quality of Life’ Issues in Rockville (as listed in the Rockshire Mayoral Candidate Forum Section)

 

1.  Traffic Safety / Congestion / Road Projects

 

Out-of-control overdevelopment is responsible for gridlock on our streets, damage to our environment and a decrease in our quality of life.  For Rockville’s re-development to move forward, the infrastructure to support it must be planned and budgeted.  Development must increase rather than decrease our quality of life.

 

2.  Pedestrian and Crosswalk Safety

The safety, lives and wellbeing of Rockville’s Citizens is paramount to the City’s responsibility in its role as your locally elected government.  Without a priority for public safety, do the other items on this list even matter?  We must be proactive, not reactive about safeguarding the lives of our children, seniors and all Citizens. 

 

3.  Transparency of Government

I have fought hard for Transparency, Accountability, Inclusion and Openness over the years.  Local government is not a country club.  It is a body of elected leaders, who are fully accountable to taxpayers and Citizens.  Making sure that ordinary Citizens have a seat at the table, while providing unfettered access by improving transparency and openness are essential for good government and a City that truly serves its residents.

 

4.  RORZOR

Owing to the long term impact of rewriting the City’s zoning code, it is essential that Citizens be involved at every level to ensure that RORZOR serves Citizen needs, not developer bottom lines.  RORZOR must enhance the quality of life for ALL of Rockville’s Citizens.

 

5. Senior Citizens

Given the importance of our City’s seniors and the contributions they have made and continue to make, looking out for seniors’ needs is important as we move forward.  Demographically, Rockville will be home to more seniors in the near future.  We must manage growth and the City’s budget in order to get a handle on City spending, taxes and fees.  These Taxes and fees have doubled over the past five years, making it difficult for seniors on fixed income to continue to reside in Rockville.

 

6. Environmental Concerns

What better way can local government protect our environment by managing growth.  Rockville current has a 5,000 tree deficit.  We must commit to preserving our tree canopy and green spaces.  Overdevelopment and Mixed-use Mania do not facilitate a reduction in Rockville’s Carbon footprint.

 

7. Refuse and Recycling

For now, the City government has voted on this matter.  However, there is a great deal of concern for many Citizens on all sides.  More consideration must be given to this issue, one that affects our environment and the lives of all of Rockville’s Citizens.  We need to hear more, not less from Citizens.

 

8. City Budget Process

Even though this is eighth on my list, this issue cuts to the heart of the City’s responsibilities to taxpayers and Citizens. It is a very important quality of life issue.  How can quality of life for Rockville’s taxpayers be protected, when our pocket books are not protected.  Taxes have doubled in the last five years.  Taxpayer subsidies of development are at unprecedented levels.  City spending on “outsourced” consultants, including legal fees, is a major percentage of the City’s budget.  We must rein in spending and learn to live within our means.  Also, important is to improve the City’s transparency on the City budget itself.  It must be easy to understand and accessible to all Rockville Citizens.

 

9.  Older Existing Neighborhoods

Rockville as a city of neighborhoods, must protect its existing communities and neighborhoods.  This is why we all have chosen to live in Rockville.  It’s a place to raise our families.  Preserving Rockville’s hometown character by preserving neighbor hoods is essential to maintaining the quality of life we’ve all come to appreciate.  Let’s not realize what we have now by losing it forever.

 

10.  Neighborhood Crime

According to Rockville Police statistics, crime in Rockville is relatively low, when compared to other local or jurisdictions.  However, when crime happens to yourself or a family member, crime destroys quality of life.  The City must be ever vigilant to protect its Citizens against crime and provide the necessary budget to enable our police to do their jobs.

 

11. Affordable Housing/MPDU

Increased affordable housing can be a really if we stop encouraging the destruction of existing neighborhoods with zoning standards that serve developers not Citizens.  Houses within Rockville’s city limits will stay more affordable if we protect of existing neighborhoods.

 

12.  Town Center

Town Center Phase I is complete (except for Plaza pavers) at an up front cost of $89 M by Rockville’s taxpayers and an ongoing one third of every taxpayer dollar offsetting Town Center’s yearly operational losses.  If Town Center II and III is to move forward, these development projects must not be taxpayer subsidized, must not further exacerbate traffic congestion, must not negatively impact the environment and must increase quality of life for ALL of Rockville’s Citizens.  Additionally, any new public/private partnership developments, such as Town Center, must include standard contract boilerplate establishing transferable duties by land owners to safeguard Citizen first amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.

 

13. Civility

Keeping things professional, not personal is very important for smooth local government operation.  Working on a consensus level with Citizens, Councilmembers, staff, County and State officials is key to functionality and civility.

 

14. Staff Salaries

Although it’s last on my list, the City must closely manage what is the largest portion of our budget; the number of City employees and their salaries.

 

CLOSING STATEMENT:

 

Your choices for Mayor are clear.  Do we really want to see more taxpayer subsidized overdevelopment, which reduces our quality of life?  Or do we want a Citizen-friendly City government, which preserves Rockville’s unique hometown character?

 

Will we continue to tolerate the current ineffective climate in City Hall, while City government pits neighbor against neighbor?  Or will we stand together to create a government, which unites our great City?

 

Do taxpayers want to see more out-of-control spending and tax increases or do we want City government to hold the line on spending?

 

Can Citizens bear continuing conflicts of interest or do we yearn for a more accountable, transparent and inclusive City government?

 

As Executive Director of Neighbors for a Better Montgomery, I’ve fought tirelessly to move Citizen agendas forward, helping to create a more Citizen-friendly County government.  Your votes in the 2006 County election signaled a sea change in County politics, which resulted in a more responsive County government.  The time has come to do the same in Rockville.

 

As candidate for Mayor of Rockville, I have vowed never to accept campaign contributions from developers or companies doing business with the City of Rockville.  My opponent, on the other hand, received nearly half of all her 2005 campaign funds from the development industry.  It is essential that your elected officials avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

 

Most importantly, I believe that local government must be open, accountable and transparent to Citizens.  After all, this is your government paid for with your tax dollars.  Giving Citizens a voice and reducing the influence of special interests in local government is my core value.  Conversely, in a recent vote, my opponent went so far as to vote against a public hearing.  We need to hear more from Rockville’s residents, not less.  Rockville needs leadership that listens.

 

Together, we can move forward to make Rockville the best place to live and raise a family.  I look forward to serving you and I ask for your vote on November 6th.  Please visit www.votepowell.org for more information.  Thank you. ■