A few weeks before the Nov. 5 election, The Gazette sent each candidate for the mayor and council a list of questions about some of the hot topics in Rockville this year. Candidates were asked to respond to each question in 150 words or less; questions longer than that have been truncated. Other than that and a few formatting changes for clarity and consistency, their responses are presented here just as they provided them to us.
Office sought: Mayor
Date of birth: April 13, 1952, 61 years old
Home address: 816 Fordham Street, Rockville, MD 20850
Hometown: Born in South Bend, Indiana, but lived in a number of places and Rockville is now the place that I have lived in the longest.
Occupation: Statistician, systems analyst, survey practitioner for complex government surveys
Education: MS Statistics – Michigan State University, BS Mathematics – Central Michigan University
Family: Lesley Cross – wife; 2 daughters
Have you ever held or run for elected office? I ran for Mayor in 2007 (came in second out of 3), ran for Rockville Council in 2009 and was elected, and re-elected in 2011.
Do you have any other government experience? (Committee appointments, etc.) College Gardens Civic Association President – 4 years, Town Center Action Team – 1 year before elected to the Rockville Council. I was a federal employee with the Department of Agriculture for about 10 years.
In the following, MMP stands for Mark M Pierzchala.
Do you think the city’s spending and tax rates are where they should be? Have you identified anything you would like to change about the city’s budget or budgeting process?
I like the tax rate where it is. Our spending is in control for programs and services. For benefits, spending has increased too much, primarily for the retirement fund; City Staff should contribute more to the health of their retirement fund. In the next term there will be pressure to increase salaries for staff, and we have to be very careful about that. I would like to see the City adopt a 20-year plan for Capital expenditures; we have so many bridges and buildings that have to be renovated over the coming years, we have to plan ahead.
In recent years, we’ve seen area companies shopping around to see which cities and counties will offer them the best incentives package to move or stay put. How should Rockville respond?
I have proposed that the City formulate an incentives policy, with measurements over the years that track how well the incentives meet City goals. We should offer only modest and strategic incentives for City goals that are publicly decided ahead of time. These might be to fill existing office buildings, or to boost economic activity near our Town Center in order to protect our huge Town Center investments.
Housing costs are high and getting higher in much of the D.C. area. Should the city play a role in making affordable housing more available? If so, how?
The City should allow more residential development near Metro Stations. The market will take care of itself when there are enough apartments for the demand. As it stands now, our younger generations have a difficult time moving out of the house and staying in the City.
Rockville and the surrounding areas have many quiet neighborhoods of small, single-family homes, but just to the south, Montgomery County is encouraging high-density, high-rise development in the White Flint Sector. What should Rockville’s section of Rockville Pike look like in the future? What role should the Mayor and Council play in encouraging urban growth, preserving suburban neighborhoods or both?
Focusing urban growth near Metro Stations helps to maintain quiet neighborhoods. This practice provides housing outside of existing neighborhoods and relieves pressure on them (for example, coming from families doubling up in neighborhood houses). Human population has grown ever since humans have been around; we need to channel growth better. Also, Rockville is not an island. We can deny development in Rockville, but then it would occur on our borders, and people would drive across our City to get to Metro and other amenities. The people who try to stop growth are the ones who hurt us the most because they stop initiatives that would better handle growth.
The Mayor and Council recently held a public hearing on whether to designate a house owned by the Rockville, Maryland, Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses as historic. A neighbor requested the designation, and the congregation is opposing it because it could block their plans to expand facilities on the property. How would you approach a request for historic designation if the property owner objects? How do you balance private property rights with neighbors’ concerns about their property values and quality of life?
You only designate property over the owner’s objections only if it is a true historic property. The historic designation process should not be used to stop development; that practice diminishes the value of historic designation.
The Gazette asked 2011 candidates this same question, but the debate has not abated. What is your position on the scope and effectiveness of the city’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance? Do you think we will -- or should -- see major changes to the APFO before the 2015 election?
The APFO has flaws that need to be fixed. The one change I believe would benefit everyone in the City would be to better align our APFO standards with those of the County. Rockville’s tighter standards have backfired twice on us. Once we almost lost some zoning authority by a bill introduced in the state legislature, and Richard Montgomery school number 5 was delayed a year by the Board of Education over confusion caused by our tighter standards. The County is the provider of education and they operate on the County’s standards. I want to take the harm out of the APFO so that it can serve us better.
Many of the people who show up to testify at Mayor and Council meetings and public hearings are “the usual suspects” -- the same people from the same neighborhoods tend to show up repeatedly, while other people don’t show up at all. As an at-large representative, how will you represent the interests of the entire city?
I already represent the interests of the entire City. I am well aware of who testifies before Mayor and Council. I take their testimony seriously, but I also keep in mind that there are other points of view out there and other considerations that have to be taken into account.
In addition to electing representatives to the Mayor and Council, voters are being asked to weigh in on potential changes to the city’s charter: adding two councilmembers to the council, holding elections every four years and holding city elections at the same time as presidential elections. Would you support these changes?
I support 4-year terms. I support going to 6 councilmembers instead of 4. I am leaning against the idea of holding elections during presidential years.