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McCarthy enters agreement with Howard County

John-McCarthy-e1349457665442ROCKVILLE – State prosecuting attorney John McCarthy announced on cable-access show “Montgomery Week in Review” he will enter into a join-mutual-aid agreement with Howard County.

Monday McCarthy will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. concerning the agreement.

McCarthy said on the show the program will enable Howard and Montgomery counties to more efficiently prosecute and investigate cases involving allegations against local police.

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Raskin aims for a congressional seat

jamie raskinI first met Senator Jamie Raskin during my own advocacy efforts regarding issues he was working on including gun safety and campaign finance reform. I was very pleased to be able to sit down with Raskin and discuss with him his vision for Maryland and the nation as he launches his campaign to fill the Congressional seat of Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who is beginning his own campaign to fill the Senate seat soon to be vacated by the retiring Senator Barbara Mikulski. The interview was conducted in Raskin's office at American University’s Washington College of Law where he holds the position of professor of Constitutional law and director of the Program on Law and Government.

The Sentinel:     What are your proudest achievements at the state level that you envision championing in Congress?

Senator Jamie Raskin:     I suppose my proudest achievement is simply to zealously and faithfully serve my 150,000 constituents every day. Over the last decade, the General Assembly has passed more than 100 bills I have introduced. Each one of them is an effort to make life better for my constituents and the people of Maryland. When I was the Senate floor leader for marriage equality and we became the first state in the Union to stop marriage discrimination without a court order forcing us to do so, I was serving thousands of my constituents who were being discriminated against in their pensions, their Social Security, their medical insurance and hundreds of other rights and benefits of marriage, not to mention the insult and indignity imposed on their children. This was a great triumph for our state, and I will never forget being greeted and embraced by hundreds of people after we voted.

The Sentinel:  Are there other similar moments?

Sen. Raskin:   Sure, lots of them, but not all so visible necessarily. I worked closely with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Delegate Ben Kramer for years to crack down on drunk driving. When you meet kids in your district whose father was killed by a drunk driver or parents whose daughter died in a drunk driving accident on prom night, it makes a permanent impression. So when we finally overcame the resistance of big liquor and imposed the ignition interlock device on the steering wheels of repeat drunk drivers in 2011, it was a monumental breakthrough. Our drunk driving fatality rate has fallen substantially since then.

The Sentinel: What are your top three federal issue priorities that you'll take to Congress?

Sen. Raskin:   First of all, humankind’s carbon emissions in industry, agriculture, energy and transportation have destabilized the earth’s climate system. The ice caps are melting, the polar bears are drowning, there is drought and out-of-control brushfires in California, hurricanes and flooding in the east, and fracking-induced earthquakes across the land. We need to provide serious and sustained leadership to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop alternative renewable technologies. Second, we have an ailing and crumbling infrastructure in America, witness the collaThe Sentineling bridges and awful Amtrak derailment that happened outside Philly. We need to make a massive investment in our transportation, housing and educational infrastructure for a strong and unified America. If you put our environmental imperatives together with our economic imperatives, we need what I call a “Green Deal,” a massive national investment in an environmentally conscious revitalization of America’s physical and social infrastructure. Right now the actual green deal is a series of special-interest giveaways and tax breaks in Washington where campaign donors and lobbyists have their way over the public interest. So my third priority is to continue to challenge Citizens United, one of the most egregious Supreme Court decisions of all time, and to fight for disclosure of all the Super Pac and dark money that is distorting public policy in America and for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United. I will be fighting hard for the common good over special-interest rip-offs like the “carried interest” provision which allows super-wealthy hedge fund managers to treat their income as capital gains. We tax the labor of working people at a much higher rate than the capital gains of Wall Street traders. I’ll be fighting for the 99 percent.        

The Sentinel:     I am particularly interested in two pieces of legislation you championed, namely Maryland's Firearms Safety Act of 2013 and the Shareholders Protection Act. Let's begin with the issue of gun safety. In addition to currently being a state senator, you are also a Constitutional law professor. Do you see any path to addressing the misunderstanding throughout the nation, but particularly in Congress, about the Second Amendment and its serving as an impediment to closing nationally the so called gun show/internet loophole on universal background checks, something more than 80 percent of Americans favor?                        

Sen. Raskin:   Well, look, there has been this traditional debate between liberals, who say that bearing arms must be tethered to militia service, and conservatives who say that the prefatory clause to the Second Amendment is separate and detached and so everyone has a right to bear arms even without participating in a “well-regulated militia.” But I think this debate, in the wake of the Heller decision anyway, is obsolete. The five conservative Justices prevailed. But it doesn’t make much difference because even the conservative Justices concede that individual gun rights are subject to reasonable regulation in service of public safety. Even Justice Scalia, for instance, says that guns can be kept from felons, the mentally ill, public places and so on. The constitutional right to have arms for self-defense and recreation must exist in the context of other competing and compelling social interests. So I introduced legislation to give the State Police authority to inspect state gun dealers, most of whom are honest and law-abiding. But a certain number of unscrupulous gun dealers are dealing guns directly into the criminal underground, making life hell in a lot of neighborhoods. We passed that, and we passed my bill to require all stolen and lost guns to be reported within 72 hours so the dealers don’t claim six months later after someone is killed by one of their guns in a gangland execution that the gun was lost but they forgot to report it. It’s the same thing with the assault weapon ban which I introduced and which became part of the broader gun safety package I worked on with now Attorney General Brian Frosh. It’s perfectly constitutional to eliminate assault weapons. Nobody hunts with an assault weapon, nobody needs one for self-defense, and we know exactly what they are good for. So when we got rid of those assault weapons after the horror of Newtown, Connecticut, we made Maryland a little bit safer for our people.

The Sentinel:  Your Shareholders Protection Act, also called “Shareholders United”, is similar to Congressman Van Hollen's Disclose Act in that it also attempts to introduce transparency into the campaign finance process. The Disclose Act failed to pass in Congress; how do you plan to proceed to make inroads into much needed campaign finance reform? I noticed that the Supreme Court just ruled in the Williams-Yulee v the Florida Bar case that states may prohibit judicial candidates from personally asking their supporters for campaign contributions for fear that such a request may "compromise public confidence in their integrity". The Court, in the Citizens United v the FEC case, failed to see the same need for legislators to avoid the same appearance of impropriety.

Sen. Raskin:     That’s an excellent point. The Court is realistic about the role of money in judicial elections but lives in a fairy tale when it comes to money in legislative elections. It has also ruled that the West Virginia Supreme Court violated due process when it allowed one of its justices to rule in a case where he had benefitted from a huge independent expenditure on behalf of his judicial campaign by one of the parties in the case. It saw that as a complete distortion of due process and the rule of law and blind justice. But, on the other hand, the court continues to wipe out campaign finance law as applied to legislative elections and presidential campaigns to turn corporate treasuries into political slush funds for the CEOs. If you don’t think big money distorts legislative decision-making, you’re too innocent to be let out of the house by yourself. So my “Shareholders United” bill says simply that no corporation can engage in political spending without a prior vote of the shareholders and no company can engage in spending without immediate disclosure on the corporate website. I will be very proud to take over from Congressman Van Hollen the fight for the Disclose Act.  

The Sentinel:  Republicans still refer to Reagan's "Trickle Down Economics" as a viable economic course of action even though 90 percent of the economic gains have been going to the top 1 percent. Do you believe that raising the minimum wage is an effective mechanism for breaking the logjam at the top and getting some of that "trickle" to trickle down to the workers?

Sen. Raskin: Yes, increasing the minimum wage is a great start, and I’m proud that, as Chair of the Montgomery County Senate delegation, I organized all of our colleagues to come out early for the minimum wage hike that we passed. But, in truth, we’re looking not just for a better minimum wage but for a real living wage for every Marylander who works to support his or her family. Fifty years ago, the largest employer in America was General Motors and the average employee was in a union and earned $35 an hour. Today the largest employer is Walmart and the average employee makes less than $10 an hour and has no union. A half-century later, the middle class is eroding. We need policies to bring back high-wage jobs in a high-road economy.

      

The Sentinel:     How did you deal with partisanship at the state level and what adjustments do you anticipate if you make it to Congress?

Sen. Raskin::  I have partnered with a bunch of Republican colleagues to pass important bills and make progress for our state. Conservative Republican Senator David Brinkley, who is a cancer survivor, and I fought successfully to pass a medical marijuana law for our state, and the drug is now available to tens of thousands of people suffering from cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis, and other serious diseases. Conservative Republican Michael Hough and I introduced the Second Chance Act to give people convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors, like prostitution and possession of small amounts of marijuana, the opportunity to shield their records if they have been clean for a period of three years. I did important public transparency legislation with conservative Republican Senator Alex Mooney, now a Congressman from West Virginia because I think the public and businesses have every right to know where tax dollars are being spent. My legislation to allow direct wine shipment into our state and also by our wineries outside of state had tremendous bipartisan support. These coalitions are based not on compromise but on finding common ground of principle. Remember, the word “party” comes from the French “partie,” which means simply a part. We have to remember that our own party is just part of the whole, and there are a lot of people in other parties and some who are totally independent; I represent them too.    

The Sentinel:     You've talked about being an "effective progressive." What exactly does that mean?

Sen. Raskin:     It means the ability to effect change and I am proud that the General Assembly has passed more than 100 bills I sponsored or cosponsored into law, and many of those are things that were considered impossible at the time-—marriage equality, abolition of the death penalty, restoration of voting rights to ex-felons, ignition interlock devices on the cars of convicted drunk drivers, the benefit corporation law, the National Popular Vote. I have also helped a lot of my colleagues get their bills passed into law, like the Comprehensive Firearms Safety Act, which Senator Brian Frosh spearheaded. My ability to effect change is also evidenced by how others have viewed my record and I am also proud that my campaign for Congress now has the endorsement of more than 55 elected officials, including Attorney General Brian Frosh, Montgomery School Board President Patricia O’Neill, Montgomery Council President George Leventhal, Congressman John Conyers, who is the most senior Member of Congress and co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman John Sarbanes, who represents the neighboring district, Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman, Frederick County State Senator Ron Young, and a host of others. These are the people I work with every day so it means a lot that they are showing their faith in my service and my campaign.

The Sentinel:     As we sit here in your office as a law professor, as someone who is clearly intelligent, how difficult a transition do you anticipate as you enter the world inhabited by the likes of Louie Gomert, Steve King, and the rest of the crazies?

Sen. Raskin:   Well, the great thing about the First Amendment is that anyone can say anything, and they probably will. It’s actually a privilege to get to a situation where you have to completely stretch your mind to figure out what makes other people tick. I remember I had this famous encounter with Senator Nancy Jacobs, a right-wing Republican from Harford County, before I was even elected. I testified against the Republicans’ anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment as a law professor, and she said, “Professor Raskin, you keep talking about Equal Protection and Due Process, but what about the Bible? My Bible says marriage is between one man and one woman.” And I said, “Senator, with all due respect, when you took your oath of office, you put your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not put your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.” It created this huge furor, but when I got elected to the Senate I ended up sitting next to Senator Jacobs and we came to really like each other. And so we did a number of bills together related to child abuse and protecting women from domestic violence. I learned from her that a lot of people will adopt very right-wing authoritarian attitudes about marriage and family just because they are surrounded by so much social dysfunction. She helped me understand politics based on a different logic. You can learn something from everybody. Senator Jacobs left the Senate but I still think about the different perspective she showed me and I miss working with her. What’s the last line from Catcher in the Rye? You know, “don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”

The Sentinel:     As we bring the interview to a close, what message do you want to send to voters that will inspire them to support your candidacy?

Sen. Raskin:   My campaign is about effective progressive change in Maryland, in Washington and in America, and we are giving necessary and practical hope for the future. We are also trying to put the “fun” back into “fundraising” and believe that politics is all about education, connection and organizing, which is why our “Democracy Summer” program has attracted dozens of college and high school volunteers to come learn the art of democratic politics.

For those of you who would like to find out more about Senator Raskin's campaign, his website is www.jamieraskin.com.  

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Takoma Park activists get Federation award

 

young activistsROCKVILLE - Three local organizations will be recognized Friday for their activism over the years on behalf of the Montgomery County Civic Federation.

The Takoma Park Young Activist Club will be presented with the Sentinel Award, the MCCF Planning and Land Use Committee with the Star Cup, and Save Our Seminary at Forest Glen with the Wayne Goldstein Award.

The event takes place at Tony Lin’s Restaurant at 6 p.m.

“This is a chance to recall the hard work that they do to improve the quality of life in the county,” said Paula Bienenfeld, the president of the MCCF.

The Takoma Park Young Activist Club is currently working on eliminating the use of polystyrene, which is more commonly known as Styrofoam, in food service.

They are the youngest recipients of the award, according to Bienenfeld.

Earlier this year, the Montgomery County Council passed a bill to eliminate the use of polystyrene in county cafeterias and “require the use of compostable or recyclable food service ware by the County, County contractors or lessees, and food service businesses,” according to the bill.

The MCCF Planning and Land Use Committee has been “successful in attempts to keep the quality of life in the county,” said Bienenfeld.

“They’re all volunteers – they volunteer their time, so they deserve this award,” said Bienenfeld.

Save Our Seminary at Forest Glen has continued with renovations and repairs to its namesake seminary and added photos of National Park graduating classes to its archives, according to its most recent newsletter.

This is the 25th anniversary of Save Our Seminary, and it has been 14 years since the U.S. Army decided the campus and the adjacent tract were “in excess to its needs,” which facilitated the transfer of the land to a development company, according to the Save Our Seminary website.

The site was registered on the National Register of Historic Sites in 1972 by the Maryland Historic Trust.

Organizations and individuals can be nominated by anyone, but the winners are chosen by the MCCF’s Executive Committee.

The event will also mark the 90th anniversary of the MCCF, which was founded in 1925.

 

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Rockville draws large Hometown Holidays crowds

Last year's Hometown HolidaysROCKVILLE – Once again the title seems to be in error. Although Rockville’s annual Memorial Day celebration is called Hometown Holidays, the attendees included many more than those who call the city home.

 

Among the roughly 60,000 people in attendance were those who traveled from as far as the Midwest to enjoy the party. Connie Eldridge came from Illinois to visit her son for the weekend – and to enjoy the Rockville celebration.

“Well, I love parades. My son and husband and daughter-in-law are patient with me because they don’t love it as much. But every parade’s unique to the area. We’ve attended parades in Illinois and in Florida. ... It’s just like a snapshot of the community,” Eldridge said. “(Rockville is) very diverse. I enjoyed seeing the different cultural groups, and every parade has the politicians and the scout groups, but this was neat.”

The parade included numerous Cub Scout packs, Girl Scout troops, cultural dance groups, Baltimore performers, local politicians and police and firefighters from throughout the county. Throughout the weekend, town center filled with 24 restaurants selling small bites in Taste of Rockville and four stages with dozens of bands and performances. Headlining the performances were the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Delta Rae.

But amid all the celebration and before the parade, Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton also recognized Corp. Jeff King, a double amputee who walked at the head of the parade, as the grand marshal. A 2003 graduate of Richard Montgomery High School, King served in Afghanistan with the Marines until retiring in 2013. He then earned a master of social work degree from the University of Maryland this month.

“What stands out for me this weekend,” Newton said, “was the symbolism of it being our Hometown Holidays and it also being Memorial Day. I think people really got kicking off the summer but also the solemnity of Monday, and there were more people than I’ve seen at the ceremony. I think people respect and appreciate the sacrifices that our service people have given, and this really seemed to bring that home.”

And from the ceremony to the festivities, all the weekend seemed to go off without a hitch – one of the quietest, according to City Police Chief Terry Treschuk.

“I thought Hometown Holidays was an incredible example of why we are the hometown we are,” Newton said. “The weather was perfect, and that contributed greatly, but it really seemed like things worked well from the staff and the setup and the number of people who came and the bands. People seemed to really have a good time.”

The bands were the best part for Lawrence Harmon, who has lived in the D.C. area for eight years and Rockville for four. He had brought his mother out to watch the parade, but said he also loved the setup of going from stage to stage trying out different types of music.

“My favorite part, believe it or not, is the concerts. I mean you have so many different choices, so many different stages that there are, you can kind of get a flavor of the different styles of music all in a couple of minutes. If you don’t like one band, you can go to the next one and just enjoy that,” Harmon said.

He said he has not missed a Hometown Holidays weekend since he moved to Rockville.

“This is one of our favorite times to be in this area, in Rockville,” Harmon said. “We stop at the concerts and have a drink or two and just watch the music a little bit, but we experience the whole thing at the town center. I really like it. It was better before they did all the construction here because there was more things for the kids to do, but, you know what, every year they amaze me with the amount of things they can put into the smaller space. I’m really impressed.”

Council member Tom Moore said he was glad attendance was high, although it seemed less crowded because the activities were more spread out. But the Taste of Rockville tickets sold at record numbers, he was told.

One of the most popular foods was Italian ice, which happens every year, according to Council member Virginia Onley.

“I didn’t even attempt to get into that line. When I attempted to get one, the line was so long, I thought ‘Oh, no, no,’” she said, chuckling.

The high attendance only indicated how the weather and planning combined this year.

“Everybody’s hard work really paid off, and it was a terrific event, maybe the best I’ve seen,” Moore said.

 

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Riemer sets sight on transportation issues

HansRiemer-headshotAbout halfway through the year, County Council member Hans Riemer (D-At large) has said he is next setting his sights on transportation systems.

As part of new Council President George Leventhal’s committee assignments, Riemer got switched from Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) to Planning, Housing and Economic Development.

But, from an economic development conference in San Francisco, Riemer talked about his new policy initiative. Although he said he is still working on specific legislation to bring forward, he wants to change the way the county looks at transportation demand management.

“(It means) working with businesses and residents to use alternative means of transportation, whether walking or biking or bus or carpool or Metro or shuttles – looking at our traffic problems and trying to tackle them in a very 2.0 way rather than just saying the solution is just to build more roads. We just don’t really have the money or space to build more roads. It’s not a sustainable solution. We’ve got to use our road system more efficiently,” Riemer said.

TDM refers to the set of policy initiatives and strategies the county uses to provide alternatives to single-vehicle transport, and Riemer wants to take a comprehensive look at it. He said he also plans to work with Council member Roger Berliner (D-1), head of the T&E committee, but he has more to do first.

“You’re hearing it here first,” he said.

Riemer also said he is enjoying his work on the PHED committee since he has worked for a long time on economic development issues. He supported the majority on one of the more contentious issues this budget season – the energy tax. The council decided 5-4 to maintain the current rates rather than reducing them, which inspired Council Vice President Nancy Floreen to ultimately vote against the operating budget as a whole.

Riemer said there is more to economic development in the county than the energy tax and the “cost of doing business” in the county. The county has already started to look more toward attracting industries like cybersecurity to the area.

“I think the fundamentals are very strong, but what we have to do in my opinion is just really kind of focus more on what’s at the cutting edge in terms of sectors of the economy and how to position ourselves so we’re always one step ahead,” he said.

Although the energy tax sparked a split in the council, Riemer said the dynamic this term has been much calmer than in previous years. And Leventhal keeps the procedure on track, a stickler for the “rules of engagement” in a discussion.

“And I have no problem with that,” Riemer said.

He also gets to enjoy chairing his own committee, the Ad Hoc Committee on Liquor Control. Convened earlier this year, the committee is getting close to deciding how much of the Department of Liquor Control to privatize. It will most likely privatize special orders while keeping the rest under government control.

The committee has also looked at the new inventory system the county uses, Oracle, and other concerns about DLC employees. Riemer said it is more fun to chair and decide the committee’s direction.

“You get to really drive the agenda. You know what the plan is, and you’re working to get the input from your colleagues. But fundamentally you’re the one kind of shaping the issues and honing in the resources, whether it’s studies or responses from departments. You’re really able to focus on a goal,” Riemer said.

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Gaithersburg readies for elections

jud ashmanGAITHERSBURG - Gaithersburg residents will cast ballots for four elected city officials this fall. The terms of office for Mayor Jud Ashman, City Council Vice President Ryan Spiegel, and Council members Neil Harris and Cathy Drzyzgula will expire in November.

Ashman was appointed mayor by the council last year following the election of longtime mayor Sidney Katz to the County Council. Harris was appointed by the council to serve the remainder of Ashman’s council term. Drzyzgula announced in March that she would not seek a third term on the council. The Gaithersburg mayor serves a four-year term, although this election will be for the remaining two years of Sidney Katz's term, and City Council members serve the community at large for four-year terms.

Candidate packets will be available online and at Gaithersburg City Hall beginning June 5. To appear on the ballots, candidates must submit a petition signed by at least 100 registered Gaithersburg voters to the city’s Board of Supervisors for Elections via the City Attorney’s Office by 5 p.m. on Sept. 18. Candidates will be required to attend one of two training sessions, and financial reporting will be required throughout the campaign.

City residents who are registered to vote in Montgomery County are automatically registered to vote in the election. The deadline to register is Oct. 19. Early voting will be held at City Hall on Oct. 25, 27 and 31, prior to the general election on Nov. 3.

For more information, visit www.gaithersburgmd.gov or contact Elections Clerk Lauren Klingler at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .         

 

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Feinberg sees resistance

 

beryl feinbergNote: This profile includes excerpts from a video interview conducted on May 5, 2015, and so does not take into account events after that date. It is the first in a series that will profile Rockville City Council members and the mayor.

ROCKVILLE -- As one of the City Council’s newest members, Beryl Feinberg has had a fast learning curve, but said she is starting to understand more about how the city operates.

She first got involved through her experience with budgeting and public policy analysis.

During the day, Feinberg works at the county’s Department of General Services, and she previously worked in the Office of Management and Budget. She said she first became involved in the city because she was on a budget and finance task force and had done public policy analysis for the county for so many years.

“I thought ‘Why not bring that to the city where I live?’ And that’s really what drove me to think about running,” she said.

And since she has taken office, Feinberg said, she had learned a lot about how the city works as an organization.

“I think there’s some growing pains that it has. I would like to see some of the vacant positions filled. Specifically, we would all like to see the city clerk position filled. I would also like to see the procurement director filled, which has been (vacant) since last August. And now, as you know, I have been very much encouraging and put forth a senior buyer slash [Minority, Female and Disabled-Owned Business] program, kind of a split position,” Feinberg said.

Feinberg has also pushed for an outside look at the procurement processes in the city – a study currently out for bid – after the previous purchasing manager, Ken Hayslette, submitted a report on the problems he saw in the system.

But Feinberg also sees a resistance to change that has to be balanced with the benefits of those who have been working for the city for a long time and lend institutional knowledge.

“With that longevity also sometimes is a resistance to change, so it’s a double-edged sword. It has a real positive value, but also sometimes you need to get some new blood to get in there to say ‘You know what, there’s a lot of value doing something X way, but let’s maybe at least consider another way,’” Feinberg said. But, she said, “I am definitely not speaking about any one personality.”

Working with city staff is also different from the county staff in many ways, she said. When the city staff provides “green sheets” with background on each agenda item, Feinberg said she wishes the staff gave opinions on the best option but also presented all sides of an issue. She trained as a librarian, a profession in which you always have to provide someone who comes to the reference desk with all sides of an issue.

“From my personal background as a librarian, it’s like, if you don’t tell me both sides of it, I’m going to be really frustrated. And when you don’t tell me both sides and I begin to see that, I’m going to ask questions and more questions and more questions. And one of the things about librarians is we like research and digging deeper,” Feinberg said.

Feinberg’s concerns also extend to the dais and how the council members seem to be more divided now. She said if there were more opportunities to talk informally, perhaps the council would work better together.

“Sometimes the Open Meetings Act, while there is a good reason for (it), works against you – against having a group of three people just get together – or four. It’s like ‘Oh, we can’t talk because of the Open Meetings Act.’ I understand that you shouldn’t do business, but also there is a way of trying to just communicate – going out to dinner – that’s not just a twosome so to speak. I think that would engender more of those deeper and better relationships to work better together,” she said.

That could also make meetings shorter because there might be less “bantering back and forth” on the nights of the meetings. The council has recently had contentious discussions about the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance/Standards and the Animal Control Ordinance.

The Sentinel has also reported multiple years in a row the concerns of city police in particular who did not get step increases in pay for five years. Now, with compensation recommendations under consideration, the council is debating whether to switch from step increases to open pay ranges. And Feinberg said, while she has the utmost respect for the police, she does not agree that step increases would give them any more of a guarantee than open ranges, or “banding.”

“If there are financial downturns and you’re in the public sector, you can have raises, step increases withheld, you can have a period of multiple years without [cost of living adjustments]. If you are in a pay-for-performance senior level – let’s say in the police department or any level in the city – you may not have funded pay for performance, so although you’re in a pay-for-performance system, it’s not there. You can also, if things are really rough, be let go in a public environment,” she said.

She also said, during the years police did not get raises, many others in the city did not either because no one could predict the city’s financial situation. Although she may have handled it differently, she said there could have been factors she does not know about because she was not on the council at that time.

Overall, Feinberg said, she has loved serving. She has met many people through her position she would not have met otherwise and wants to make sure the council is engaging as many people as possible.

“It’s incredible. I feel like I have built a whole entire additional community of people that I ... from any neighborhood, different ages, different interests, diverse people, who I had never encountered before,” she said.

It is also up to the city to try to get more people involved by going to them rather than making them come to City Hall or the council, Feinberg said. While Hometown Holidays brings a lot of people out to the town center, she also wants to start a World of Rockville event that would showcase all the different cultures, including those that may not typically encourage government involvement.

“I think we have to showcase the different cultures that we have. (We have to) go to where they are, go to where their markets are, go to where they pray, don’t make them come to us,” she said.

She is also hopeful that mechanisms like early voting, which the city will have this year, will bring the voter turnout up from 16.5 percent in 2013.

 

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Rockville creeps into election season

Council member Tom Moore

 

ROCKVILLE — As election season approaches, potential candidates for city office are taking it slow: Only one has officially filed for candidacy so far.

While that differs from last year, it is actually closer to the norm, Rockville politicians say.

Prior to the 2013 elections, the Team Rockville slate – the current council plus Mark Pierzchala for mayor – announced in March. But that was because there was a lot to get organized, according to Pierzchala.

“In 2013, it was the first time in years there had been a slate. Nobody had done it in a long time. We just wanted to get all the organizational stuff out of the way as early as we could before the campaign,” Pierzchala said. “Team Rockville was early but not exceptionally so. I mean, there have been candidates out as early as April and May in previous years, but it’s also not unusual to have people decide at the last minute.”

The last election also had three open council seats and an open mayoral race, according to current Council member Tom Moore. Although this year no incumbent has yet officially filed, it is unlikely there will be three open seats, he said.

“There were going to be a lot of new people on the council, and the people who organized best and got their names out their best and worked the hardest had the best chance of winning,” Moore said.

He has not yet decided if he is going to run, nor has current Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton. Beryl Feinberg and Julie Palakovich Carr were not available for comment, but both have picked up candidate funds packets, although they have not officially filed to run. Only Virginia Onley of the current council said she is going to run, but she has not yet kicked off her campaign.

The only candidate officially filed with the city is Brigitta Mullican, a Twinbrook resident and head of Rockville Sister City Inc. Richard Gottfried, president of the Twinbrook Citizens Association, has said he’s running and filed paperwork to collect contributions. Zina Pizano has also picked up a packet but could not be reached for comment.

Mullican, who ran for mayor in 2005 and council in 2007, said she got her campaign started early this year because she wants to have time to knock on doors. Although she was in the parade this year as a candidate, that was a last-minute decision when the city reached out to her letting her know it was an option a few days prior. Soon she will start campaigning in earnest, she said.

“This weekend, I met a lot of people and a lot of them live in town center. And they’re new, never voted in Rockville. Those are the kind of people I need to reach out to and let them know,” Mullican said. “To reach the voters, you need to start now.”

But Newton said she is glad the campaigns have not already started this year.

“In some municipalities in Maryland, this is their law – that things don’t start up until September – and I think it’s actually a good thing. Do the job you’re elected to do, and if you’ve done a good job, people will let you know. And then you can run in the fall,” Newton said. “I think these long, drawn-out campaigns are hard. They’re not just hard on the person running; they’re hard on the electorate, who just gets inundated.”

Moore agreed. But Pierzchala said Newton also has the advantage of being an incumbent to think that way.

“If you’re a challenger, let’s say all five of them decide to run again, so other people would be challengers, no open seats, they really have to get started earlier, especially if it’s you’re first time in the campaign,” Pierzchala said.

Moore also said it is nice to not have the campaigns hanging over the last few months of the elected officials’ terms.

“I expect that most incumbents’ campaigns really won’t start until close to Labor Day ... so that’s an extra five months of being able to get city business (done) with minimum distraction,” Moore said.

The city also will, for the first time, elect members to four-year terms rather than two, which has multiple effects on encouraging people to run for office. Pierzchala himself announced in March that he would not run for council or mayor this year primarily because of the financial burden after four campaigns, two of which were successful.

But he is not sure the city can change much structurally to help a candidate like him. The four-year terms mean there is more time in office as compared with the time spent campaigning, but it also means someone who loses has to wait four years to run again.

City activist Drew Powell, who has also run for office in the past, said he has heard from people that the four-year commitment had discouraged them from running because of age or financial burden from juggling other jobs.

“I guess that’s what you call unintended consequences (of the change),” he said.

Joseph Jordan, who has closely followed city politics for years, also said the four years could be a deterrent, as well as the feeling the current council does not function as it ideally would.

“There is also the possibility that more and more people are turning their backs on City politics because they feel their voices are not always heard, there continues to be divisiveness among Council members, meetings run too long and there is increasing tension between the Council and senior City staff members,” Jordan said.

Candidates have until Sept. 4 to file as official candidates. Rockville will hold its city elections on Nov. 3.

 

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Rockville man confesses to murder

Scott-Tomaszewski-166x300ROCKVILLE – Police say a Rockville man confessed he brutally murdered his neighbors and then left town for a vacation cruise to Alaska with his parents.

 

Police arrested Scott Tomaszewski, 31, late Saturday for the murder of Richard “Dick” Vilardo, 65, and Julianne “Jody” Vilardo, 67. Police in Alaska detained him when the cruise ship pulled into Juneau on a scheduled stop, said Capt. Paul Starks, spokesperson for the Montgomery County police.

Tomaszewski waived his extradition Tuesday, which means he will not fight Montgomery County’s request to bring him to the county to stand trial, said Montgomery County state’s attorney’s spokesperson Ramon Korionoff.

“The defendant waived his extradition (Tuesday), so the judge decided to hold him for us on a no-bonds status,” Korionoff said. “He is going to be picked up by Montgomery County police for arraignment here. There is no set date, but (police) are working on the logistics for that transfer.”

Korionoff said he believes Tomaszewski will be transferred between the middle and end of next week.

According to Starks, investigators found evidence including blood-soaked cash believed to be from the Vilardo home. Authorities executed a search warrant on Tomaszewski’s Rockville residence and his cruise ship cabin on Saturday.

Tomaszewski confessed to both killings while being questioned by authorities, Starks said.

According to Starks, detectives charged Tomaszewski with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of armed robbery and one count of first-degree burglary.

The arrest comes only a day after the heartbreaking funeral for the Vilardos, who left behind two children and two grandchildren.

Relatives thanked law enforcement Sunday for bringing them closure so they can “take the first step on the long road to healing.”

“For the past week, we have known the where, the when and the how; now we know who,” the Vilardo family said in a statement.

Neighbors and friends of the Vilardos also reached out to the police Sunday to express their thanks.

“They were very appreciative and expressed their thanks to Chief (Tom) Manger and Capt. Darren Franke and spoke very highly of the Vilardos, what good people they were and what a tragedy this was,” said Montgomery County police spokesperson Officer Nicole Gamard.

Investigators said they believe Tomaszewski entered the Vilardo home early on Mother’s Day through an unlatched window, brutally stabbed both spouses and left the husband dead in the backyard and the wife dead in the home.

After the couple did not show up for planned Mother’s Day activities with their family, their daughter Katherine went to their house, where she found her parents dead, and alerted authorities, Starks said.

Police also said Tomaszewski had committed more crimes in the neighborhood.

On Easter, a burglary occurred on the same street where the Vilardos lived, and as part of the investigation, Starks said, law enforcement learned Tomaszewski had pawned items on April 20 that had been taken from the burglarized house.

According to police, the investigation on Tomaszewski remains open.

“Our investigation is ongoing. Whether that includes other crimes or not, that’s all part of the investigation,” Gamard said.

According to Starks, once the extradition process is complete, Tomaszewski will be transported to Montgomery County for arraignment.

 

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