Wednesday, April 2, 2008

City operating without rules, councilman criticizes

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Is the Rockville City Council operating without rules?

That’s Councilman Piotr Gajewski’s take after a recent vote to hold a meeting on April 7.

The motion, made by Gajewski, failed when only two council members, he and Phyllis R. Marcuccio, supported it.

Complicating the situation was there were no votes in opposition, and two abstentions. Councilman John B. Britton was absent.

Following the 2-0-2 vote, Gajewski researched the city charter and learned that no formal rules have been adopted for the council’s governance.

‘‘I found this week that we operate under no rules,” Gajewski said. ‘‘We are a rule-less body.”

In their place, Mayor Susan R. Hoffmann said, the council has used past practice as a guide.

City Attorney Paul Glasgow said the council has not adopted a formal set of operating guidelines since he began serving the city more than 25 years ago.

In the case of the motion, the action died due to lack of a majority of those present, which would have been a minimum of three votes.

Gajewski pushed to temporarily adopt Roberts Rules of Order while the staff drafts suggestions for formal rules of governance. That motion was shot down by a vote of 3 to 2. Marcuccio and Gajewski voted for the motion.

‘‘I would not want anyone to get the impression that this governing body is spinning out of control because it does not have written rules,” Hoffmann commented after the vote.

The council agreed to discuss the issue at its next scheduled meeting on April 14. Gajewski unsuccessfully pushed to meet next week.

‘‘One option is to walk away, literally,” Gajewski said. ‘‘As in, ‘I can’t be in this meeting if we don’t know what rules we’re under.’”

More on the courthouse

As state legislators finalize funding to assure a new District Courthouse will be built at the site of the old Rockville library, the Rockville City Council moved on Monday to designate the vacant building historic.

The City Council voted 4 to 1 to instruct staff to put historic designation legislation on the fast track. A vote rezoning the 1971 library as historic is expected to take place at the next council meeting April 14.

That may be too late for those who want to preserve the building and prevent an unpopular six-story courthouse from being built in its place.

Both Senate and House funding bills call for a new $71 million courthouse to be built at the corner of Maryland Avenue and Jefferson Street.

‘‘I think that says it all,” Del. Charles E. Barkley, (D-Dist. 39) of Germantown, chairman of the Montgomery County House delegation, said when asked to comment on the site-specific funding language.

An historic designation from the city would not prevent the state from proceeding with demolition of the old library, which could occur as early as this summer, and construction of the courthouse.

Twinbrook recordto close April 11

The Rockville Planning Commission voted last week to close the public record for the Twinbrook Neighborhood Draft Plan on April 11.

Any written comments can be submitted to Planning Commission Chairwoman Robin Wiener at 111 Maryland Ave., Rockville, MD 20850.

The Twinbrook Neighborhood Plan, when adopted by the City Council, will serve as a planning guide for the Twinbrook community for the next 20 years.

Copies of the plan are available in the Community Planning and Development Services Department at City Hall, Twinbrook Community Center, and the Twinbrook and Rockville libraries.

The Planning Commission’s next worksession on the plan is on April 23.

Creek cleanupset for Saturday

Rockville is organizing a stream cleanup on Saturday. Volunteers will be sent to Woottons Mill Park, Dogwood Park and Rock Creek Park off of Southlawn Lane.

The idea is to collect trash that has traveled from streets and parking lots through storm drains and into local creeks.

The cleanup is expected to last from 9 a.m. until noon. Teams of five or six people typically collect 20 or more garbage bags of debris, city officials reported.

Volunteers are invited to assemble at City Hall, located at 111 Maryland Avenue, at 9 a.m. For more information, call 240-314-8872 or go to www.rockvillemd.gov.

Election roundtable planned

The Rockville Board of Supervisors of Elections will hold a roundtable discussion today from 7 to 9 p.m. in City Hall. The talk is designed to be a post mortem of the election from a candidate’s perspective.

All 14 mayoral and City Council candidates and their campaign treasurers are invited. The public is welcome to attend.

Council’s next meeting

The City Council will meet next on April 14. A second public hearing on the proposed fiscal 2009 budget will be held.

The April 7 meeting was cancelled due to insufficient business, city officials said.

New task forceneeds members

Rockville is looking for 12 local residents or business owners to serve on a new Asian Pacific American Task Force, which the City Council recently approved.

Mayor Susan R. Hoffmann said in a statement that she hopes the task force would ‘‘foster better communication between Rockville’s city government and its Asian-American residents.”

The task force will be charged with participating in events and celebrations, such as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May, the Chinese New Year commemoration, the Asian-American business conference and a possible Sister City partnership with a city in China.

Those of Asian-American heritage or with Asian-American family members are encouraged to apply.

Interested applicants must fill out and submit an Expression of Interest form available at www.rockvillemd.gov and a resume to the city clerk’s office by April 25.

The City Council will appoint members to the task force in May.

For more information, call the city clerk’s office at 240-314-8280.