Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Another newcomer may enter City Council race

Montgomery Village mulls new leader, budget

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A ninth potential candidate in the Gaithersburg city elections this November is resident Shawn Ali, who picked up a candidate packet Aug. 10.

Ali, 33, an information technology consultant, said this is the first time he’s run for City Council, though he did make an unsuccessful run for the Maryland House of Delegates in 2002.

Business development, education and reducing crime are his top priorities, Ali said.

‘‘I think it’s something close to my heart,” Ali said of holding public office.

Candidates Jud Ashman and Cathy Drzyzgula, who are running together, on Aug. 13 also each filed the required 100 signatures from Gaithersburg residents registered to vote to be eligible to run for election, though their full candidate packets have not yet been submitted.

It’s the earliest in recent history that a candidate has filed so early, as most typically wait until a couple days before the deadline, Assistant City Manager Fred Felton said Monday.

The signatures and the full candidate packet, including the first of four campaign finance reports, are due Sept. 24.

Later finance reports are due Nov. 1, Dec. 31 and April 30.

Meanwhile, incumbent council members John B. Schlichting and Geri Edens and former City Manager Sanford W. Daily still have not confirmed whether they will run.

Edens plans to make an announcement after Labor Day, she wrote in an e-mail to The Gazette on Monday.

Schlichting and Daily did not return a call seeking comment.

On a related note, the City Council on Monday unanimously approved appointing Gaithersburg residents Bill Larson and Barbara Fahey, as an alternate, to four-year terms on the Board of Supervisors of Elections.

Also on Monday evening was a public hearing for a proposal to eliminate the city’s voter registry. Since 1977, residents can register with Montgomery County to vote in city elections, making the city registry redundant.

No residents testified during the hearing. Council members might decide on the amendment during their Sept. 4 meeting.

New Village leadersto take their spots

The Montgomery Village Foundation’s board of directors will vote in closed session Thursday whether to accept the nomination for executive vice president, according to foundation documents.

It has been more than a year since former EVP John R. Zakian left the foundation. The EVP is the foundation’s top administrator.

After interviewing more than a dozen candidates, a committee of residents made its pick last week, but will not name their nomination.

Long-time Village resident Pat Huson has filled in since Zakian’s departure and will stay on part-time to help through a transition period.

Meanwhile, the foundation has named its new director of finance and administration. G. William Blum will take his position Sept. 4.

Blum, 52, was previously the chief operating officer for the Washington County Public School System.

Village resident Lois Campbell, who has served as interim finance director since last year, is expected to go back to being the foundation board’s treasurer, a volunteer position.

Solicitation law delayed another six weeks

Gaithersburg leaders have decided to wait even longer to settle the fate of the city’s controversial anti-solicitation ordinance.

Passed in February, the law amends existing city code to make soliciting work on city streets, parking lots, sidewalks and on private property a misdemeanor for workers and employers.

With questions arising as to its constitutionality, the City Council appealed to Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler for his opinion. The council agreed to wait to enforce the ordinance until Sept. 15 to give Gansler time.

Not having received Gansler’s response, the City Council voted 3-1 Monday night to push back enforcement until Nov. 1.

Councilman Henry F. Marraffa Jr., a key proponent of the ordinance, cast the dissenting vote, accusing Gansler of stalling indefinitely.

‘‘I think we need to call somebody’s bluff,” he said, drawing applause from the audience.

City Attorney Cathy Borten interjected that Gansler’s review was likely delayed by a recent exchange of letters between the city and the American Civil Liberties Union, which blasts the ordinance as discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Councilmen Michael A. Sesma and Stanley J. Alster agreed with Marraffa’s frustration, but said the city needs to wait for Gansler’s input.

‘‘By golly, we are stuck and it is darn frustrating,” Alster said.

— Chris Robinson and Sebastian Montes

A balanced budgetfor Village

With a raise in annual assessment fees, tightened expenses and a $700,000 contribution to its reserve funds, the Montgomery Village Foundation has come up with a balanced budget for 2008.

The foundation’s board of directors will take its first look at the $8 million budget at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the North Creek Community Center, 20125 Arrowhead Road.

The balanced budget draft is one of three scenarios the board will consider Thursday. A second proposal considers less of an assessment increase. A third looks at no assessment increase.

After two years of deficit budgets that alarmed many Village residents, the foundation balanced its 2007 budget by cutting the contribution to reserves to $118,000.

‘‘It takes time to undo the mistakes of the past. ... Sound financial management is required. It cannot be accomplished in just one year, but this draft budget is the first step in the right direction,” said Lois Campbell, interim finance director.