Rockville likely to re-examine citizen advocate issue -- Gazette.Net



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Rockville is likely to have discussion this fall on whether to create a city position to help residents get their problems and concerns addressed.

The mayor and City Council will probably look at the issue in the next few months, Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said Tuesday.

The suggestion of having an advocate or ombudsman to help residents navigate the city’s planning process was raised in a 2010 report from a communications task force responsible for suggesting ways to increase communication and dialogue between residents and the city.

Newton, a councilwoman at the time, chaired the task force.

The mayor and council approved many of the recommendations of the task force in November 2010, but left the advocate issue unresolved.

Then-Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio said Thursday that while she and Newton strongly supported the idea, the rest of the council was “lukewarm” about it.

To get such a proposal passed in the city, at least three votes and the support of city staff are needed, Marcuccio said.

“We didn’t have either,” she said.

Former councilman Mark Pierzchala said it wasn’t well-defined at that time what the purpose of the position would be.

The mayor and council essentially play the ombudsman role to help residents address complaints, he said.

“And that is a very good avenue for getting a problem addressed,” Pierzchala said.

If the city reconsiders the issue, Pierzchala said, he would like to know over whom the ombudsman would be watching.

If it’s city staff, that’s a role for elected officials, he said.

Newton said she’s gotten “numerous” phone calls, emails and letters since becoming mayor in 2013 from residents looking for help in the city’s development review or permitting processes.

She thinks there are several areas beyond planning where a position could be beneficial, and said she looks forward to a full discussion of it with her colleagues on the current council.

Marcuccio said she’s glad the mayor and council are revisiting the issue.

She hopes the idea would move beyond the planning process to cover other areas where citizens interact with the city.

“It should stretch across the entire gamut,” she said.

rmarshall@gazette.net