[Note: This article contains several updates, indicated throughout, as people have sent in corrections to quotations.]
Every week, we at Rockville Central tune into the Mayor and Council meeting and let you know what the highlights were. Here’s what jumped out at me from last night’s meeting. (Note that it is NOT the whole meeting, just what seemed most noteworthy.)
First off, City Manager Scott Ullery had little to report in his allotted time. He turned the microphone over to Assistant City Manager Jenny Kimball who gave an update on the court house.
You might have noticed there is a new screen that’s been installed to cut down on death ray. It’s a temporary measure, there will be a permanent fix later. Building to be occupied in April 2011. Rockville has been preparing — making sure people can reach the court house and know where to park. This includes on-street signage and walking maps for people who have already parked. City staff have also given thought to protecting neighborhood from inappropriate parking, making sure there is restricted parking, etc. Finally, pedestrian safety: Installing signs warning drivers of pedestrians, and changing traffic signal timing so pedestrians have extra time to cross street before any vehicle gets a green light. The state has agree to put “no stopping” signs in front of the court house.
- Joe Jordan: Spoke about Agenda Item #13 (see below). Believes Scott Ullery should have not let the issue come to this point. Feels the issue is relevant, as he is the one who feels maligned. Disappointed that it was thought he had not met his obligations as chair of the RedGate task force (by not forwarding the National Golf Foundation report, though he had in fact done so). [UPDATE: Mr. Jordan's actual words were: ""I am the person said to have been 'maligned' by Mr. Ullery." He didn't actually say he WAS "maligned."] [UPDATE 2: Here is the full text of his prepared talk.]
- John Moser: Spoke in memory of Bill Hanna. Brought to mind his efforts at replacing the photo collage of Rockville’s mayors that used to be in the City Hall.
- Margaret Hadley: Expressed her concern over the city’s water main system. Has experienced four water main breaks recently (lives on Harrison Street). The most recent break has been running for four days.
- Donald Hadley: Amplified what his wife (Margaret) said.
- Robin Parks: Representing Bean Bag Catering Company and spoke about the Rockville Rewards program, which supports local nonprofits.
- Alice Von Saunder: Spoke against the use of City funds to “rebrand” Rockville.
- Susan Prince: Spoke as president of WECA about the City branding project. WECA feels that none of the options are winners and that the cost of implementing the campaign would be superfluous — and that the project should be abandoned.
- Mike Callahan: Spoke in favor of Scott Ullery’s professionalism.
- Victoria McMullen: Has read the Ullery emails and believes Mr. Jordan was indeed maligned and that this should be brought up in public.
Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio invited City Director of Public Works Craig Simoneau to respond on the water main issue, and he reported that there have been 46 water main breaks this season and Rockville is on track for a record. And — that the repairs now being made will last the life of the pipe, and they will assess the particular stretch of pipe to see if it should be moved up in the replacement process.
Final Recommendations: City Logo and Tagline
As you know, Rockville has been working with consultants (ROI/CRC) to develop, decide on, and implement a new logo and tagline for the City. (Here’s what I think. Here’s what Cindy thinks.) Since that time, the City has been seeking feedback from the community on the ideas, and tallying it.
The City received 200 responses — here are all the tabulated ones from the online survey.
The consultants’ recommendations is:
Here is how the online voting went:
- The World Class City That Feels Like Home – 61 (30%)
- Find The Good Life In a Great City – 48 (24%)
- Get Into It – 35 (17%)
- No choice made – 60 (29%)
So, the winner beat None of the Above by one vote.
One key discussion of the Mayor and Council centered in implementation. ROI suggests that implementation could be phased in over time and that there are ways of finding money in the communications budget (for instance, by distributing Rockville Reports through the Gazette).
Councilmember Mark Pierzchala thanked the consultants for their hard work and said he thought the initial contract of $75,000 was money well spent, if only for the intelligence gathered. He expressed support for changing “The World Class City” to “A World Class City.” He also said that the implementation of a new brand is not a slippery slope — that the budget moving forward would reflect what is appropriate and what is doable. He had tried to get $10,000 into the budget for communications and that died. “We’re not going to spend a lot of money on this,” he said.
Councilmember John Britton expressed his continued support of #3 (Get Into It) because it is fresh.
Councilmember Bridget Donnell Newton pointed out that she thought the process is not complete. “I would have thought that after you got input from citizens that you would go back to the drawing board and tweak a few things,” she said.
Councilmember Piotr Gajewski expressed agreement with Councilmember Newton that it is not worth spending “up to $500,000″ implementing a new brand. However, using existing money is acceptable. While he feels that too much emphasis is placed on the tag line, he expressed support for “Get Into It,” though he likes the first one too.
Mayor Marcuccio said “I frankly think we have spent enough money on this. I don’t see a point in spending any more. . . . Rockville has gotten to the state it is in without a branding and without a logo. . . . This notion that we have to sell ourselves is just a marketing technique.”
The Mayor and Council first voted on whether or not to have a logo and tagline at all. That motion passed 3-2 (Britton, Gajewski, Pierzchala voted in favor, and Marcuccio and Newton voted against).
The Mayor and Council next voted on which logo and tagline to go with. After some discussion, Counclimember Britton moved to go with #3 (Get Into It) and this passed 3-2 (B,G,P to M,N).
The winner is:
Councilmember Pierzchala said, “The dark horse won.”
Action On Staff Misconduct Allegation By A Councilmember
This issue stems from an exchange relating to the National Golf Foundation report. (I confess I have not understood every bit of how it has unfolded. In my description below, I am trying to be as clear as possible — if I make a mistake, please feel free to correct in the comments.)
A citizen complained that it appeared that the Gazette had had the report before it was posted for public viewing. In an email to the citizen, City Manager Scott Ullery explained that he had released the report to the Mayor and Council and unfortunately a software problem had prevented it from being posted timely on the City’s website. Ullery said he had received a request from the press for the report and, as he had already shared the report with the Mayor and Council, complied. He also said he had shared the report with Joe Jordan, chair of the RedGate Advisory Committee, and had expected he might share it with the Committee. He also said he had sent hard copy to the Committee. Ullery evidently believed the citizen (who was a member of the Committee) had not received a copy of the report from Mr. Jordan. This was not true, as Jordan had forwarded the report.
Here is the key element in Mr. Ullery’s email: “As a member of the Redgate Advisory Group, it is especially regrettable that you’ve not had access to the report. I’d expected that would be accomplished by the electronic copy that Mr. Hall sent to Mr. Jordan on Monday (and the hard copies that I believe followed the next day).” (Here is the full email trail – PDF.)
The citizen felt that Ullery’s email maligned Jordan, and called it unprofessional. At a recent Council meeting, Councilmember Bridget Donnell Newton expressed concern about this email and Ullery’s “very unprofessional” actions. (Here is what she said.)
Some of this has featured in a recent comment thread on Rockville Central available here.
Because the Mayor and Council is the “boss” of the City Manager, Councilmember Piotr Gajewski brought this exchange up and asked Ms. Newton to clarify and called on her to apologize if there was no maligning. He said his rationale is that, if an employee that the Mayor and Council manages has acted unprofessionally, they may need to take managerial action. If the allegation is wrong, then the issue should be clarified publicly. Councilmembers Mark Pierzchala and John Britton voted to place the item on tonight’s agenda, over the objection of Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio, who strongly urged that the discussion take place in executive session.
Last night, as this agenda item came up, Mayor Marcuccio asked Scott Ullery whether he consented to have the matter brought up in public session, and he said he consented.
Councilmember Gajewski then introduced the agenda item: “When it comes to interaction with our staff, and the people we supervise directly, it becomes the council’s business. When anyone of us in an open meeting makes an allegation about someone we supervise, I think it behooves this body to discuss the issue and make findings.” He moved as follows: “The council finds that the allegation that the city manager maligned a citizen in an email to another citizen is not supported by facts and the council disassociates itself from this.”
Councilmember Newton read prepared remarks (which went into detail and which I found very helpful in explaining her position on the issue): “I am not the person who alleged staff misconduct. That choice of words comes straight from Mr. Gajewski. . . . This agenda item is an attempt to discredit me. . . . We are only responsible for the decisions we make by vote, not for our opinions that we may express.” [UPDATE: Ms. Newton's quote was: "We are only responsible as an 'associated group' for the decisions we make by vote. Not the individual comments we should all feel comfortable and free to express."]
[Another UPDATE: Ms. Newton also brought photocopies of the email trails related to this issue, adding more context. The City has made them available as a public record of the meeting, but not online. They are posted here. Thank you to reader Theresa Defino for forwarding them to us.]
The motion to “disassociate” passed 3-2 (B, G, P to M, N).
I have asked Ms. Newton for her remarks and will post them in full if she shares them. For that matter, I encourage all who were a part of this controversy to share whatever documents they would like to, or add to the comments. [UPDATE: She has shared her comments and they are here.]
[Another UPDATE: Ms. Newton passed along a transcription of the portion of her remarks that was not written down ahead of time and asked if we would post it. Here is is: "I am VERY disappointed that the handling of a letter, an email that came from a citizen to you Mr. Ullery, um, concerned about the public dispersement of the report, um, another citizen was then maligned in that email - and the gentleman emailed you back and straightened it out but it is very unfortunate and very unprofessional and I was very disappointed that once again we had a chance to do this right with this report and we didn't do it. And it wasn't until Wednesday of last week - actually Thursday as a Mr. Jordan pointed out that it finally got out to the public and I think that's really too bad."]
The next meeting of the Mayor and Council is scheduled for February 7. [Thank you to Councilmember Newton for pointing out the previous incorrect date.]