PDF of Completed Questionnaire
Name: Beryl L. Feinberg
Neighborhood of Residence: Orchard Ridge
Office Seeking: Councilmember
What do you identify as the number one challenge facing Rockville today and how do you propose to address it?
There are several complex issues facing the next Mayor and Council, including reinvigorating Town Center, determining the future of the Red Gate property and the King Farm Farmstead, and adopting sustainable budgets. However, nothing is more important than the safety of our residents. A reduction of driver, pedestrian, bicyclist, and scooter traffic deaths and serious injuries rises to the top of my list as the number one challenge facing Rockville. Each life lost or seriously injured is one too many. In addition to bicycle and pedestrian safety, police responsiveness to criminal activities must be immediate and measured so that we each may go about our daily activities free from worry. To do so, requires that our city employees under the leadership of the recently hired Emergency Manager develop emergency plans, drill, and engage residents before weather events or non-weather related emergencies impact Rockville.
Adoption of a Vision Zero Action Plan by the Mayor and Council is the first step. As the umbrella document, it sets the strategic and tactical safety improvements beginning with the policy shift that traffic deaths are ‘preventable, not inevitable’, a systems approach is necessary, not a siloed, fragmented, turf driven series of enhancements. Assume drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and others make mistakes while navigating traffic roadways, sidewalks and intersections. Together we can prevent deaths and serious injuries with engineering, education, and enforcement modifications. Better road design, lighting, reduced neighborhood speed limits, more stop signs, pedestrian activated walk signals, lane markings, additional median grill works to prevent mid-street crossings, all contribute to a reduction in traffic deaths and serious injuries.
Lastly, but not the least, become involved. The Rockville Bicycle Advisory Committee or RBAC, and the recently formed Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee welcome new members and want to hear from residents. I, too, joined the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee to become a part of the solution.
Further details on how to address safety are found in the response to question number six.
What is the role of City government in addressing housing affordability issues in Rockville and what would you do to encourage the production of more affordable homes for working families?
Why are homes unaffordable in Rockville so that those who wish to rent or purchase in the City are not ‘house burdened’ with more than 30% of their family income needed for housing? Families with and without children move here for the diversity, high caliber Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), and proximity to transit and major highway arterials. Property values are relatively high, translating into high property taxes and rents.
What Rockville currently does:
Rockville has several tools to encourage moderate income families to locate here, including the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program. With 660 rental and 440 home ownership designated units, this is one strategy. During this term, the Mayor and Council expanded the minimum income requirements for MPDU purchasers to 120% of the Average Median Income or AMI versus the 60% which had been in place and was simply too low to be affordable for purchase. Thus, more families with higher incomes may afford homeownership as MPDU designated units for purchase are available.
In addition, the City has a voluntary rent calculation program.
Changes we need:
Consider a change to the MPDU program to generate more affordable homes by triggering the MPDU requirement for developments of 20 or 30 units instead of the current threshold of 50 units.
One government program to assist homebuyers is to adopt a first time homebuyer tax credit on the city portion of the property tax, similar to what the District of Columbia and other cities have adopted as one of the many tools to help with making home ownership more affordable.
Revise zoning to allow for duplexes, triplexes, and quads.
Encourage and incentivize builders to construct smaller, starter homes up to 1,000 square feet, with less high cost finishes and greater density. Encourage homes across the income spectrum in all parts of the City. This will take city collaboration with developers.
So-called up-zoning to permit greater density and increased heights is touted as the cure for generating more affordable housing. However, as pointed out in Seattle, New York City and other places, the up-zoning increased the housing supply but did not lead to affordable housing, and did not drive rents downward. In fact, there were more rentals and owner occupied housing, but at increased prices, and affordability was nowhere to be seen!
In conclusion, there is a role for government programs and incentives, but unless there is developer buy-in to affordable housing, it will not be built and market forces may not drive down prices.
How do you feel about the transportation options currently available in our city? Do we have enough options? How would you mitigate those concerns or change the situation?
There are many transportation options across Rockville, but whether they successfully meet your needs depends on where you live in the city and where you are travelling…to work, to school, to the grocery store, to one of our community centers or the Senior Center. It also depends on when you want to travel, during rush hour, or during weekend days/evenings, when bus and transit intervals are longer. Rockville is fortunate to have two Metro stations within our boundaries, and two, Shady Grove and White Flint, just outside our borders, for north/south travel.
Transportation includes rail and bus rapid transit, single occupancy vehicles, carpools, Uber/Lyft ridesharing, bicycling, walking, scooters. Transportation programs for those with disabilities include Metro Access, subsidized Call N Ride, County pilot called Flex Ride program, and senior transportation. Students may partake of the Kids Ride Free program.
Transportation options also mean advocating for a multi-modal approach, reducing the number of single occupancy vehicles on the roads, including a ‘public benefit’ of a shuttle service in Planned Developments, and setting targets for carbon emission reduction. Involve residents and businesses and prioritize low cost, low effort tasks to reduce traffic congestion.
What is missing, is neighborhood connectivity so that an elderly resident without a car in a suburban neighborhood may age in place without feeling dependent on family and friends to get to a doctor, pick up a prescription or play a game of bridge at the neighborhood community center. To fulfill these needs, the current evolution of the ‘Villages’ in Twinbrook, in King Farm, in the West End and other neighborhoods, is a huge step in the right direction.
Do you believe Rockville’s APFO (Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance) is working as intended? Why or why not? What changes would you propose?
Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances, first adopted in Montgomery County in 1973 and in Rockville in 2003, originated as a recognition that new development was outpacing the availability of infrastructure to support the growth. Originally applicable City standards (APFS) pertained to water supply, sewer service, transportation, school capacity, and fire and emergency services. The current City APFO is modeled after the County Council’s Subdivision Staging Policy (SSP) adopted in November 2016, which changed the methodology to calculate public schools capacity, traffic and transportation. Who would want development approvals only to discover that there is inadequate water supply and sewer services? APFS has assured the infrastructure is in place. In terms of schools, while not working perfectly, I would not eliminate the APFS nor increase the school enrollment cap to anything above 120%. This means that the individual school is already 20% over capacity in terms of high school labs, STEM classrooms, playing fields, school classrooms and increased dependence on portables. Simply stated, an educational experience in portables is not appropriate for most students. Educational research shows that early childhood education investments in smaller classroom size reaps significant outcomes in terms of school achievement and graduation rates.
The County and City’s policies are confusing, especially when large new developments cross municipal and county boundaries and MCPS boundary clusters. Understanding that the County’s SSP is under its mandated every four year review and a County Council policy must be adopted by 11/15/20, the City should not undertake any revisions of its policies pertaining to school capacity until after there is full understanding of the County’s changes. It is anticipated that the County SSP will focus on how the policies address school overcrowding.
Clearly, changes need to be made at both the County and City to better coordinate the information sharing of approved projects and pending approval projects with MCPS and Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) to overcome the silos with regard to enrollment projections.
Neighborhood turnover rates are currently not factored into school growth projections and as we have seen, many neighborhoods are experiencing generational turnover and new families are moving into older developments. Anecdotally, professional staff have opined that Moderately Priced Dwelling Units appear to generate more students than market based units – this, too, should be investigated determine if projection rates should be revised.
How do you plan on maintaining a balance between environmental sustainability and economic development?
Economic development includes so-called Smart Growth multi-family developments that are near transit, walkable, pedestrian and bicycle friendly, with ground level and/or anchor retail establishments. As part of the Development Review Process, conformance with the City’s Master and Neighborhood
Plans, Zoning Ordinance, Recreation and Parks PROS Plan, Forest Conservation, Water and Sewer requirements and Comprehensive Transportation Plan are required. These guiding documents, plus the review and recommendations by the Planning Commission, and if appropriate, by the Mayor and Council, provide guidance. In addition, pre-application community meetings, meetings with neighborhoods affected by a proposed development and a public hearing provide input during the process.
Economic development goes beyond large-scale housing development to smaller in-fill properties. It also includes corporate development, incubators, and support for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Our City incorporates environmental sustainability through the following efforts (as shared by our City Manager):
The Swim and Fitness Center locker room renovation includes LED lighting and low flow fixtures and is pre-approved for a Pepco $1,028 energy efficiency rebate.
Completed LED exterior lighting retrofit at Lincoln Park Community Center (exterior building lights and parking lot lights) with an MEA grant and Pepco rebates.
As part of Pepco’s Small Business Incentive Program, received free quick energy checkups at the Croydon Creek Nature Center, Rec Services Building and Elwood Smith Center.
Issued an IFB for utility consulting services to audit and track municipal electricity (112) and natural gas (27) utility accounts. Awarded contract to Eric Ryan Corporation. The contractor now enters monthly utility data for all accounts into the online EnergyCap software and uploads facility accounts directly into ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.
The Water Treatment Plant electrical upgrade and renovation capital improvement project included an energy audit for renovated spaces and a design that includes LED lighting and HVAC upgrades.
Partnering with Maryland Energy Administration for technical assistance to evaluate LED streetlight retrofit and financing options for approximately 6,000 city and utility owned lights.
Awarded contracts to lock into cheaper natural gas and electricity supply rates for bills issued after June 2020. The estimated annual savings for cheaper natural gas supply is $13,167/year. The estimated annual savings for cheaper electricity supply is $53,468/year; plus avoiding a cost increase of $42,456/year.
Joined the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program as a partner in May 2019.
Continue to work with the Montgomery County Clean Energy Buyers Group to purchase wind Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for 100% of municipal electricity use (facilities, street lights, water and sewer utilities).
Facilities replaced 8 rooftop HVAC units at the Senior Center.
Community initiatives include (as shared by our City Manager):
Coordinated with the non-profit Solar United Neighbors (SUN) and other jurisdictions to host a third Montgomery County Solar Co-op. 43 people attended Rockville’s May 7th information session. After the co-op closes on September 6th, SUN will provide a status report.
Rockville Community Services and Environmental Management are coordinating with the non-profit Blockchain Frontiers Foundation (BFF) to market free energy audits and weatherization services for low-to-moderate income homeowners. This is funded by a $365,500 Maryland Energy Administration grant to BFF.
Working with Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and various energy organizations to host a Home Energy Roadshow at Lincoln Park Community Center on September 28. Planned attendees include Montgomery County DEP, Rife Lighting Contractor, Montgomery County Health and Human Services, Housing and Community Affairs (Habitat for Humanity), Pepco and their quick home energy checkup contractor, Solar United Neighbors, BlockChain Frontiers Foundation, and the City’s electric vehicle.
Provided stakeholder input to Montgomery County for the launch of the new Energy Coach online platform in the fall of 2019. The program will help residents learn about energy savings opportunities and access energy services/incentives.
Planning and Development Services is updating the building codes to include 2018 International Energy Conservation Code and 2015 International Green Construction Code.
Working with Pepco to install public electric vehicle charging stations at Thomas Farm Community Center (1-Fast charger and 2-level 2 chargers).
Working with the local chapter of the US Green Building Council (USGBC-NCR) to host a Building Commissioning Training on September 24th at Thomas Farm Community Center that is open to private and public sector professionals.
Coordinating with the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments (COG) and Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection to research options, feasibility and costs of a public EV education and marketing campaign. Evaluating potential procurement and funding challenges.
Provided support to Montgomery County DEP and USGBC-NCR for Montgomery County’s annual Energy Summit in April of 2019.
Entered into a MOU with COG for climate action planning support services to provide technical assistance to support the development of the City’s climate action plan. Over the next year, the City will work with COG, Montgomery County, Takoma Park and other regional jurisdictions to develop regional climate action education and outreach campaign materials to aid jurisdictions with climate action planning public engagement.
How will you implement the City’s commitment to Vision Zero? What strategies will you use to effectively partner with the County and State to ensure that Vision Zero is a reality?
Implementation of the City’s Vision Zero plan must incorporate a city-wide approach with all stakeholders. To ‘know’ if we are successful, measureable outcomes for action items should be included. Strategies include the appointment of a Vision Zero Coordinator; development of a ten year action plan; education and outreach to seniors, school age children, person with disabilities as populations most at risk for severe collisions; expansion of the Safe Routes to School programming; bicycle safe riding training; engineering improvements advancing city road design standards; safety improvements to trail crossings and intersections; improvements to traffic signals; accelerate sidewalk construction; development and completion of a Pedestrian Master Plan; increased enforcement of drivers as well as violators of pedestrian and bicycle safety laws; and expansion of automated enforcement to address speeding, red light violations and stopped school bus violations.
Collaboration and partnership with Montgomery County public Schools (MCPS), the County’s Department of Transportation and Police Department, the Maryland State Highway Administration, and WMATA is imperative to reduce the number of bicycle and pedestrian crashes. The latest draft of the Vision Zero Action Plan underscores that the majority of bicycle and pedestrian crashes as well as the top intersections where these occurred are on State roads, namely 355 (Rockville Pike), 586 (Veirs Mill Road), and 28 (Norbeck road). Strategies include 1) a citywide crash study to review the causes for serious crashes, identify high injury networks and priority projects in collaboration with our partners; 2) a review of transit stops and identification of unsafe pedestrian and bicycle crossings and ways to correct unsafe areas with High Intensity Activated cross Walk Beacons or HAWK and Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons or PHBs; 3) jointly develop projects where the city, county and state work together to implement safety projects; 4) accelerate sidewalk construction projects in identified high injury intersections; and 5) expand the network of bikeway facilities on city, county and state roadways; andn6) expand the Safe Routes to School programs in collaboration with MCPS.
As Rockville’s population continues to grow and diversify, do you support increasing the size of the City Council to offer more opportunities for representation? How do you plan to involve residents from all corners of Rockville in the decision making process if you are elected?
The question of increasing the size of the City Council from four to six or some other number is important. However, one simply cannot raise this subject without simultaneously determining if other changes should be made, including whether there should be councilmanic districts or not: whether terms should be staggered to prevent a wholesale turnover of elected officials after an election; whether the Mayor should be separately elected or should be the candidate who receives the most votes, rather than occupying a separate position; whether the mayoral position should rotate during the four year term among all the electeds; and what changes are necessary to the duties and responsibilities of the mayor and the councilmembers. All these are important issues, and I believe that a Charter Review Commission should convene, study these issues, solicit resident input through town meetings across the city, and make recommendations to the Mayor and Council during the next four year term.
Involvement of residents runs the gamut from responding to constituent emails and neighborhood concerns, and meeting with them during the monthly Drop In sessions. My greatest feeling of accomplishment comes from working with many Rockville neighborhoods on issues of pedestrian/bicycle safety, pathway lighting needs, missing sidewalks, and school safety needs. While our dedicated professional staff respond to issues, they simply cannot see everything…they need resident eyes and ears to alert them to issues. Your concerns become my concerns.
Attending civic association and homeowner association meetings and annual neighborhood meetings increases my awareness of local of issues. Similarly, appointments to boards and commissions with the lens of demographic diversity enriches neighbors meeting neighbors and more fully engages those communities who may feel marginalized.
As a Council liaison to several boards and commissions, this is another avenue to meet more residents and work together to solve problems.
Are you satisfied with Rockville’s city-manager form of government? If not, how would you propose changing it?
To begin this response, understand that there are four basic structures for municipal government:
1) Commission; 2) Weak-Mayor; 3) Strong-Mayor; and 4) Council-Manager. Each has pros and cons. Under our Council-Manager form of governance, the City Manager is similar to a chief executive officer who runs a corporation and the mayor and council are the board of directors. The City Manager oversees the day-to-day operations of the City, and implements the policy directives and ordinances passed by the elected officials.
Conversations about changing the form of government often begin when residents believe the current structure and organization is not serving their best interests. However, in my opinion, it is not the form of government that is the current problem, but rather the underlying politics that has led to inertia. With an elected body that pledges to work collaboratively, come prepared to meetings, seek innovative solutions to complex issues, and treat each other with respect, this form of government works effectively, efficiently, and permits professional staff to manage daily affairs.
Do you support protecting equal rights for all individuals in Rockville, regardless of gender, race, age, religion, ethnic origin, disability, immigration status, sexual orientation or gender identity?
I firmly believe in and support policies and practices in support of equal rights for all individuals in Rockville, regardless of gender, race, age, religion, ethnic origin, disability, immigration status, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Among my accomplishments while serving as a Councilmember, I initiated the Minority, Female, Disabled (MFD) Procurement Program, so that the goods and services purchased by the City better reflect the diversity of our population. (See https://www.rockvillemd.gov/231/Procurement) Technical assistance to MFD vendors is provided, professional staff attend MFD procurement fairs, and annual reports incorporate outcomes for this program.
My leadership brought Project Search, a program dedicated to providing education and training to young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities through an innovative workforce and career development model that benefits the individual, to Rockville. Through my efforts, the City’s personnel complement includes two part-time dedicated positions for persons with disabilities.
Throughout my six years on the Council, I have led the charge for LGBTQ enhancements to policies and practices. Annually, the City participates in the Municipal Equality Index, and proudly, the City’s scores reach above ‘100’. Progress was made on an inclusive workforce; a youth bullying prevention policy for city services; and contractor and subcontractor non-discrimination ordinance. Hiring practices and procedures manuals include provisions against discrimination of all types listed.
In terms of immigration status, I fully embrace the Rockville City Police policies, procedures and practices that do not ask a person’s immigration status. I want our residents to reach out to our police and seek help, as necessary, not turn away from them for assistance. Community policing seeks to maximize relationships with all our diverse neighborhoods and residents so that people feel safe to shop, worship, play, and go about daily activities free from fear.
If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
Assuming that the $1 million is a one-time only award, I would propose the following to address the unmet needs of Rockville seniors, contribute to the revitalization of Town Center, and enhance the relationship between Montgomery College Rockville Campus students and our businesses:
Develop a plan to purchase or lease two 12-passenger neighborhood buses, one for additional senior transportation and one dedicated as a shuttle for students and faculty from the college to Town Center. This dedicated funding would be less than $1 million annually to acquire/lease the vehicles with the remainder in a dedicated reserve for the bus replacement/lease funds. A portion of the funds would provide seed money for certified drivers, bus maintenance and fuel. Eligibility criteria and outcome measures would be developed to assess its usefulness.