Beryl L. Feinberg -- Gazette.Net


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 fewer; 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: Council


Date of birth: Nov. 16, 1950

Home address: 1200 Halesworth Drive, Rockville

Hometown: originally from Teaneck, N.J.; came to D.C. area for college

Occupation: Deputy Director/Chief Operating Officer, Montgomery County Department of General Services

Education: B.A., School of International Service, American University; Master’s in Library Science, Catholic University; Master’s in Business Administration, University of Maryland (Business School)

Family: Married to Ed Feinberg; one son and daughter-in-law

Have you ever held or run for elected office? No

Do you have any other government experience? (Committee appointments, etc.)

Montgomery County Government, September 1989 to present. Tenure includes entering county services as a librarian with the Department of Libraries. Then, from 1991 through today, have worked in public budgeting/finance, public policy analysis and formation in increasingly senior management levels in the predecessor departments to the county’s Health and Human Services (HHS), in the 1996 newly created HHS, 14 years in the county’s Office of Management and Budget, and currently as noted above, Deputy Director/Chief Operating Officer in Department of General Services.

Served on numerous county-wide task forces and work groups; drafted and given Executive Branch testimony to the County Council, defended budgets; crafted savings plans; when necessary, charted reorganization effort during recession; lead on several county-wide projects.

For the city, appointed by the mayor/council to 2010 Finance and Budget Task Force, appointed to the Rockville Summit, sub-group on City Services and Budget; and served seven years on the ...

About the budget:

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?

Budgeting is an art, and serves as a blueprint for jurisdictional spending priorities. As such, this annual plan must be carefully monitored throughout the year, on both the expenditure and revenue sides, and modifications made, as necessary. Programs must be evaluated for efficacy, efficiency, and appropriate indicators identified for program measurement.

I would like to hold current property taxes at the lowest possible rate. In order to do this, given that costs will go up, the city needs to cultivate more business investment in the city so the proportion of tax revenues from residents may hold steady. Total compensation costs will increase, whether for general wage adjustments, step increases, health care costs and pension contributions. I would like to see a comprehensive review of total compensation costs. Commitments to current employees re: pension plans must be honored, but going forward, a less generous compensation package for new employees could be ...

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?

The city is at a crossroads, and needs to diversify the tax base so as to reduce the reliance on the residential taxpayer. As such, I support incentive packages, analyzing them carefully to understand the fiscal implications for the next year and the future fiscal impact. Packages should be coordinated, where appropriate, with the county’s Department of Economic Development as well as with Maryland state offices. Rockville should make sure that it is competitive to attract and retain companies within its jurisdiction. The 2012 Rockville Summit Report further illustrates the need for the city to actively encourage business investment. In particular, I would like to [see] the city seek to get high tech companies, biomedical firms, and more professional service companies moving into the city. In addition, given the diverse populations in the city, the government and elected officials should partner with local ethnic business groups to encourage local small ...

Development issues:

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?

Again, budgeting priorities are resource allocation issues and showcases a jurisdiction’s priorities. While clearly we must preserve our residential neighborhoods, we need to provide a gateway for young professionals starting out in their careers and those on more limited incomes to reside in our city. Affordable housing for seniors, such as the newly constructed Victory Housing, must be supported. With more affordable housing, both cohorts can reside in the city and over time, by engaging our new residents, they will stay in the city, raise families, and perhaps begin a business here. Affordable housing serves as first step towards a long affiliation with Rockville. Towards that end, I would support the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) Program, and am disinclined towards developer buy-outs. Given the current Adequately Public Facility Standards, revisions would be necessary in order to construct more affordable housing where the number of school age children runs up ...

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?

The Rockville Pike Plan incorporates a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly corridor, with two central Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes to quickly [move] more people along the arterial roadway. Interconnectedness with the Twinbrook Metro would provide commuters to eat/shop/relax along the Pike. Rockville’s section of the Pike should include community gathering/special event areas, open spaces/park land, and small blocks that are easier to navigate on foot. In addition, wider sidewalks with outside dining similar to that in the central Bethesda business district would create another city space that is inviting and says “Come spend your free time in Rockville.” Parking would move to the rear of buildings or below ground, with business front being closer to the roadway and more easily seen by those traveling along the Pike. Instead of turning directly from the roadway into shopping areas, a parallel access roadway, similar to downtown DC’s K Street Corridor would ...

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?

The property you reference is the house on 628 Great Falls Road, currently owned by the Rockville, Maryland, Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As you suggest, this is a balance between individual property rights and neighborhood concerns to preserve the residential character. I would want to get the parties together to clearly present the intended expansion plans, as well as understand specific neighborhood concerns. I would want to listen and [ask] questions, separating rumors from facts. Before the mayor and council makes a final decision, which is imminent, I would want to ask the city staff to provide information re: the traffic impact on Great Falls, Falls Road and the local residential streets from the proposed facility expansion plans. Traffic impacts should include those during worship times as well as drop-off and pick-up from the daycare expansion plan. In addition, public safety should be consulted for any potential impact. Any other ...

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?

Regarding the APFO, I believe that we should see revisions and changes before the 2015 election to clear up ambiguities, make selected thresholds closer to the county’s APFO in terms of school enrollment, and consider a set of prescribed conditions when waivers can be considered to allow more Smart Growth around Metro stations and permit Town Center II development.

Citizen engagement:

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?

Several strategies should be employed to engage more neighborhoods and our diverse community. I would endorse re-starting the neighborhood walking town meetings with the mayor and council having “feet on the ground” to more fully understand localized issues. To better engage our diverse Asian, African and Hispanic communities, each of which is not monolithic, I would charge the city manager with developing a strategic engagement plan with milestones and timelines, incorporating all city government departments as well as a plan for elected officials to go where these ethic communities recreate, shop, worship, and attend Saturday Chinese schools. Engage the Asian and Chinese business leaders. Promote city events on the Spanish language radio stations, in the Asian newspapers.

For more traditional approaches, I would attend civic associations and homeowner association meetings across the city. When possible, I would ask to be included in community list serves so that I could follow ...

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?

Support holding elections every four years instead of the current two-year terms.

Support adding two councilmembers to the council.

Do not support moving the city elections co-terminus with presidential elections. In my view, this would seriously alter the non-partisan nature of city elections. Views expressed saying that the voter turnout would increase to 70% per cent for municipal elections held concurrently does not translate into voters actually voting at the bottom of the ballot for local officials, nor does it mean the voters will be any more engaged in the city election. Just the contrary, many will be consumed with the national debate.