Blowing it in Rockville

PencilPaperThere is little doubt my generation has much for which it must atone. Born at the end of the last world war and for the next 18 years, our generation professed a great deal of idealism. Best seen at Woodstock, the real tale of our generation begins at Altamont.

No illusions. We embraced greed, corruption and are the “Me” generation. We coddled our children, excused their excesses and forgot to parent them. Not all us of course, but enough of us that educators are often torn between helicopter parents and nonexistent parents as they try to teach those with interrupted educations and those who have no idea how the American system of government operates – not to mention those who have no idea how to spell, diagram a sentence or find middle “C” on a piano.

Nowhere is our befuddlement and inexcusable shallowness more on display than in government today. Just ask those in government. They’ll agree, though they will say they aren’t the problem – it’s the other guy. The truth is, of course, it is all of us. My generation is responsible for electing the worst representatives in the history of the republic to office. The first voters of my generation cast their first presidential ballots in 1976 and we’ve had, with one or two exceptions, the worst run of representation at the highest office since the country began. We’re now the ruling class. The elite. The top of the heap. And we elect a congress that not only can’t get along, but can’t seem to keep their hands out of the cookie jar, can’t help but lie prodigiously, and can’t help but fight over every minute detail.

The governmental shallowness and ineptitude extends down to the lowest representatives. In Montgomery, according to nearly every elected official I’ve spoken with during the last two years, the absolute lowest form of elected body exists right here in our beloved county. Run by a professional staff accused of racism and discrimination, it has settled at least one suit on that count. This entity has been sued repeatedly, refuses to embrace the concept of transparency in government and even fights any attempt at transparency in court. The professional staff holds the elected officials hostage and from top to bottom appears – this according to every other elected official I’ve spoken to on the subject – to be staffed by those inept, corrupt or professionally unprepared for the job they are doing.

Some elected officials outside of this entity say it is difficult to deal with the rules in this entity, while others say the professional staff, being inept, makes things far more difficult due to the unprofessionalism and lack of ability of those in charge.

We are talking about Rockville. A city so rich and so enjoyable it can seemingly employ and elect anyone and still maintain its appeal.

But the city is at a tipping point. Rockville was in court again this week trying to defend its ludicrous position against making a document available to the public. Meanwhile, in the last few months some of the highest appointed staff members in the city apparently told the mayor – the highest elected official in the city – that they didn’t have to listen to the mayor because the mayor is just one vote on the council.

This all stems from the problem of the council/manager form of government. Originally derived to keep elected officials from engaging in nepotism and cronyism when it came to hiring staff, in Rockville the script has flipped and the inmates not only run the asylum but are angering residents – many of whom constantly call us and drop us letters about the indifference displayed by city management staff or the unprofessionalism and rudeness managers in the city display to the same residents.

There is but one solution. You can fire the current city manager, the current public information officer and the city attorney – all of which we would support – but it will just treat the symptom and not provide a real cure.

To effect real change the Rockville charter must change. There are several ways to do that, but the easiest fix may be giving the Mayor of Rockville the ability to fire – for cause – the city manager without needing a majority of votes on the council. It puts some real power in the mayor’s office and puts the staff back where it belongs – responsive to those elected by the city to do the work of governing the city.

We are taxing the system, the announcer told us at Woodstock. One major thing we have to remember is the man next to you is your brother and you’d better remember it or we will “blow the whole thing”. The question is whether or not Rockville can put it back together. For the city government has surely already “blown it.”

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