CASA in Action Endorses Team Rockville Candidates

CASA in Action, the region’s largest pro-immigrant electoral organization, is pleased to announce its endorsements for Rockville’s upcoming elections on November 5. CASA in Action’s Board of Directors endorsed those who support a pro-immigrant agenda that benefits working families.

“Now more than ever, our local elections are important for our immigrant community. This year we will fight to elect candidates who will provide social and economic opportunities to help all Rockville residents,” said Yaheiry Mora, Director of CASA in Action. “The candidates we endorse have a longstanding history of activism and are fearless champions in the fight for equity and justice.”

Here are the Team Rockville candidates who inspired CASA in Action members to get involved:

​As a member of the Rockville City Council for six years, Virginia D. Onley fought for progressive policies that increase participation of all residents of Rockville. This includes voting in favor of Rockville’s Fostering Community Trust Act, a critical ordinance that ensures that the City remains inclusive and safe for all members. We believe that Ms. Onley is the right person to lead Rockville as Mayor.

A fierce advocate who has dedicated his life to advancing affordable housing, James Hedrick is a progressive activist who will increase funding for housing and job opportunities for low and moderate-income working families.

As a pediatrician and physician representative for the Montgomery County’s Mental Health Advisory Committee, David Myles has worked to ensure that public initiatives are mindful of the challenges faced by children who have mental health conditions. His goal is to improve the lives and access to healthcare of all children and residents of Rockville.

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Team Rockville Rallies in Lincoln Park

Team Rockville gathering in Lincoln Park to start the get-out-the-vote campaign for the current election.

This morning, dozens of Team Rockville supporters met in Lincoln Park to help get out the vote for the current Mayor and Council election. Because the east side of town is under-represented in city government and voter turnout is lower than average, we made a special push this morning to encourage residents east of Route 355 to vote-by-mail and have their voice heard by voting for Team Rockville.

Thanks to everyone that came out to walk neighborhoods in Lincoln Park, East Rockville, Burgundy, Silver Rock, Twinbrook, and more. It was great to see so many people gather on this beautiful morning, and a perfect way to enjoy Rockville and support your community.

Mark Pierzchala on RedGate Golf Course

Mark Pierzchala at the former RedGate Golf Course in Rockville.

Mark Pierzchala, a Rockville City Councilman who is up for re-election this fall, was extensively interviewed in Governing about public golf courses in “Course Correction.” The case study is Rockville’s RedGate Golf Course, which was recently managed by Billy Casper Golf until it decided to end its lease. Here’s an excerpt that provides some background and Mark’s vision for RedGate:

Back in Maryland, Rockville’s first reckoning with its municipal golf course came in 2010. The Great Recession had wreaked havoc on the city’s budget and amid all the cuts to consider, RedGate’s half-million-dollar annual losses floated right up to the top. “Many golfers were very angry about the idea of not subsidizing the course,” says Councilman Mark Pierzchala. After weighing various options, the city opted to contract with Billy Casper Golf to run the course beginning in 2011. The hope was that by folding RedGate into a national company’s portfolio, Billy Casper would make the necessary investments to get the course to turn a profit. “We knew there was a possibility they couldn’t make it work,” says Pierzchala. “But in the end, we figured it was our best shot.”

Eight years later, the prevailing market forces are now too strong to salvage RedGate. It’s surrounded by competition. Four different country club courses are just miles away, and a county-run golf course and driving range is about 10 minutes northeast. Unable to turn much of a profit, Billy Casper Golf cut down on maintaining the course, which led to a host of irrigation problems in the hilly terrain. A National Golf Foundation report issued after Billy Casper dropped the course found that it would cost at least $2.5 million to repair the drainage, irrigation, cart paths and other landscaping necessities required to restore the course to its heyday. In total, the city was looking at an investment of up to $3.7 million to get the course back in good condition. And that investment came with no guarantee that the course would then break even.

In June, the city council officially decided to consider other options for the course and took the first step in hiring a consultant to conduct a master planning process. Unlike in 2010, there was very little—if any—pushback. Instead, most council members view it as an opportunity. For Pierzchala, it’s a chance to finally get the $15 million windfall the city needs to restore a historic dairy barn and farmstead on the north end of town for use as an event venue. The city’s town center also needs new investment, he says. The councilman is hoping Rockville sells a portion of the land to a developer for mixed-use housing and retail. Others would rather invest in keeping the entire area as open parkland. The debate is sure to dominate the city’s elections this fall. “To me,” says Pierzchala, “it’s about what are you giving up to rescue this place.”

To read the complete story that puts Rockville in a national context, visit To learn more about Mark Pierzchala and his vision for Rockville, visit

Cynthia Cotte Griffiths on Everyone Is Responsible for Street Safety

Pedestrian and cyclist safety is going in the wrong direction. Maryland is one of 25 states to experience year-over-year increases in accidents and pedestrian deaths increased 25% in the last year.

Montgomery County and Rockville both adopted Vision Zero initiatives and Maryland followed last year. However, the devil is in the details. This means that even though all of our jurisdictions have agreed to work toward zero driver, pedestrian, and cyclist deaths, the actual action items and implementation will take more time and effort to complete than realized.

Montgomery County adopted a Vision Zero traffic safety initiative in February 2016 to eliminate pedestrian fatalities by 2030. A two-year action plan was implemented in November 2017 and half of the 41 items outlined are behind schedule or haven’t started, and a separate 10-year action plan hasn’t been touched.

Meanwhile, Rockville city staff have been working with the Rockville Traffic and Transportation Commission and other interested bodies to formulate the city’s action plan that is basically modeled after the County’s plan. Rockville was built as a suburb with car-oriented major thoroughfares designed to move traffic. As our city has grown to include more walkable neighborhoods, we must redesign to actually make the streets safe for walking and biking. This is called creating “complete streets.”

This decorative fence in the median keeps pedestrians from jay-walking on busy Park Road.

Vision Zero primarily makes sure our streets are engineered to be safe so that even if you make a mistake while driving, walking, or biking, you don’t die from that mistake. An example is the black fence on Park Road by the Rockville Metro station that prevents people from jay-walking across the street. Vehicles making left turns are the most deadly. An action as simple as adding rubber bumps along center lines forces vehicles to slow down because they have to make a sharper left turn. Installing flashing yellow lights when vehicles are permitted to make a left turn on green has also proved effective.

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Action Committee for Transit endorses Team Rockville

Montgomery County’s Advocates for Better Transportation

Team Rockville cares about expanding transit options, reducing traffic, and protecting neighborhoods from harmful development so we’re pleased our hard work in this area has been recognized by the Action Committee for Transit with this endorsement:

The Action Committee for Transit endorses the Team Rockville slate for Rockville City Council. Team Rockville is committed to stopping the destructive plan to widen I-270, to making lively, walkable mixed-use neighborhoods flourish around the city’s Metro stations, and to increasing the supply of affordable housing for Rockville tenants.

The two current council members on the slate have shown their commitment to a better Rockville. Town center resident Virginia Onley, the slate’s mayoral candidate, has worked hard to make downtown Rockville thrive. Mark Pierzchala initiated the citizen movement against the I-270 widening. They are joined by three first-time candidates: James Hendrick, who has a particularly far-seeing urbanist vision, Cynthia Cotte Griffiths, and David Myles.

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Mark Pierzchala on the Impact of I-270 Widening on Rockville

Detail of Rockville from the interactive map of the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study.

Gov. Hogan’s plans to add lanes to I-270 are now two years old and as controversial as ever, in part because residents still don’t know what to expect. I have fought against this plan from the start, and if it continues to go forward, I will work tirelessly to minimize the impact.

Options have narrowed, and the state seems to prefer those with two managed (toll) lanes in each direction because of the revenue they would provide. With these, the interstate would expand from 12 to 16 lanes through Rockville.

Under current plans, it’s unclear whether—and how many—backyards would shrink. Whatever happens, our City will see disruption for some number of years.

Some or all of the bridges over the highway may have to be rebuilt. The Gude Drive overpass will be used to provide ramps for the managed lanes. This will cause changes in traffic patterns for Woodley Gardens, King Farm, College Gardens, West End, Rockshire, Fallsmead, and nearby neighborhoods. Streets likely affected: Nelson Street, College Parkway, Gude Drive, Wootton Parkway, Watts Branch Parkway, Research Boulevard, and Piccard Drive to name just some of them. Gude Drive’s bridge is slated to have perpendicular ramps to the toll lanes. The Wootton Parkway bridge was also mentioned in one of the meetings, though the use of this bridge does not appear as likely.

Phase 1 of the state’s plans goes from just south of I-370 down to the Beltway. So far, plans do not address (1) the area north of I-370, (2) the Beltway, or (3) the American Legion Bridge.

At present, Phase II covers I-270 north of I-370. Frederick and Gaithersburg are so-called “participating agencies” for Phase II. But Rockville is not a participating agency for Phase I. Why not? We should be.

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Coalition of Asian Pacific American Democrats Endorses Team Rockville

Yesterday, the Coalition of Asian Pacific American Democrats of Maryland (CAPAD-MD) and its regional organization, Coalition of Asian Pacific American Democrats of Montgomery County (CAPAD-MC), endorsed the members of Team Rockville in the Rockville Municipal election:

In their endorsement, CAPAD-MD and CAPAD-MC stated that they recognized our

commitment and proactive stance to promote diversity and fairness, recognize the special needs of multi-cultural communities, and support economic empowerment for minority communities and the community at large.  CAPAD-MD and CAPAD-MC also believe that your vision and actions would help improve Montgomery County’s and Rockville’s economic position, address and integrate the special needs of our immigrant communities, support minority small businesses, and continue to make Maryland, Montgomery County and Rockville one of the best places to live for working families. Once again congratulations.

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David Myles on the Rise of Opioid Deaths in Children

Dr. David Myles, pediatrician and candidate for Rockville City Council

When children die from opioid use, few seem to care.

A recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) documented a three-fold increase in opioid deaths among people 19 years of age and younger from 1999-2016.  I work as a pediatrician in an emergency department in rural Maryland and have treated children who overdose on opioids.  As shocked as I was to learn of this sobering statistic, I was more concerned about the lack of coverage that this information generated among mainstream media outlets.

I have generally applauded the response many segments of society (including the media, governmental bodies, law enforcement, etc.) mounted in response to this opioid epidemic.  Learning from the wrong-headed approach to the war on drugs of the 1980s in which people who used drugs often bore the brunt of the negative vitriol and related consequences, current approaches have viewed drug use as more of a health condition.  Instead of criminalizing drug use, many jurisdictions have set up “drug courts” to help people with drug use disorders get treatment and keep them out of the criminal justice system.  Even with this more well-informed approach, shortcomings exist—particularly as it is related to addressing opioid misuse for minors.  More specifically, many of the modalities used to treat opioid misuse (medications, treatment centers, etc.) are difficult for minors to access.  

When minors are discussed with regard to the opioid epidemic, the focus is often on prevention and awareness.  While laudable, such efforts do not address the needs of minors who are already misusing opioids and need treatment.

The federal government and some municipalities have made great strides in their financial support to expand centers where people with a history of opioid misuse can get help.  However, there are very few centers throughout this region and country that will treat minors who misuse opioids.  There are also medications that help people wean off of opioids (e.g. suboxone) but very few providers are certified to provide this medication for people less than 18 years of age.

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James Hedrick on the Future and Opportunity

Council candidate James Hedrick and his daughter during the first week of school.

My daughter started kindergarten.

Last Tuesday, my family and I participated in a time-honored educational tradition: the first day of school. We dragged our kids out of bed, made a giant breakfast, put them in their newest clothes, and took about a hundred pictures. Thing 1* participated with good grace, smiling for the camera and teaching her little sister how to say “kindergarten”. Then she walked with my wife and I (and some neighbors we met along the way) to her new elementary school, chatting the whole time about the reading area, her teacher, and which playground she liked best. 

Even apart from my obvious bias, Thing 1 is just about the kindest, funniest, sweetest kid in the world. She’s a great artist and a wonderful big sister who loves nothing more than rainbows, unicorns, and dancing. This morning, she was thinking about recess, the lunch she packed herself, and learning to read. Unfortunately, as her dad, I need to think beyond that (although I also packed my own lunch).

Thing 1 is just about the kindest, funniest, sweetest kid in the world.

If parenthood does anything, it changes your perspective on time. You must think five, ten, twenty years down the road. You have to think about summer camps, planning family holidays, and college savings funds. When should they get their own room? Their own cell phone? A car? 

When I started this campaign, I said I got into this race to create the best hometown for my kids that I could. When I say this campaign is about our children, I don’t mean it as a cliche; I mean something concrete for my family and yours. What kind of future are we building for the next generation in Rockville?

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