Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 29
 
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
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Final 2010 Tax Bill Amazing, Disconcerting, Budget Summary “Incompatible” With Bill

Roger Nelson
Valley Road

Smoyer Park Jogger Wonders Why 10-Foot Snake Evaded Capture After Four Sightings

William Stephenson
Governors Lane

Interfaith Peace Delegate Responds to Letter Protesting “One-Sided View”

Yeou-Shiuh Hsu
Hornor Lane

Proposed Recreation Department Changes in Pool Complex “Too High a Price to Pay”

Walter Frank
Riverside Drive

Congratulations to Princeton Engine Company #1 Volunteers for Long Years of Community Service

Kate Warren
Jefferson Road

Princeton Community Thanked for Thoughtful Outpouring in Memory of Alice May Satterfield

Shirley A. Satterfield and family
Quarry Street


Final 2010 Tax Bill Amazing, Disconcerting, Budget Summary “Incompatible” With Bill

To the Editor:

Today we received our 2010 Final Tax bill and the 2010 Princeton Township Budget Summary. The first is amazing and disconcerting, and the second is wholly incompatible with what is documented in the first. Let me explain. My wife and I, senior citizens, have lived since 1982 in a tiny, well kept, but plain house on Valley Road. Our taxes have just been raised by 37.9 percent! Yes, that much. And it is, I will argue, completely out of line, unfair, utterly egregious, given the accompanying materials. We are not alone. One neighbor I spoke with said their increase is 40 percent, and many others — in our neighborhood — have received similar news. But this isn’t general in Princeton Township. The Citizens’ Finance Advisory Committee, in the Budget Summary, explains that the Township tax rate increase is 1.7 percent and that this translates into an increase in the average tax bill of $65.32 per year. In the section called Revaluation in Perspective, it’s shown that the average house assessment times the tax rate yielded a result in 2009 of $387,658 and in 2010, $394,392, an increase of $6734, the modest 1.7 percent mentioned earlier. The Budget Summary also provides information that shows the average tax bill increases by just 2.8 percent (it isn’t clear why this differs from the 1.7 percent given elsewhere). In any case, the comparison of either 1.7 percent or 2.8 percent with the 37.8 percent that we see in our 2010 tax bill is the point of importance.

That cannot be fair or reasonable. There is something wrong with what is happening in our township government and management if such a discrepancy is to stand. I should add that I went the full route of protesting the extraordinary assessment of our property to the firm hired to do it, pointing out errors they acknowledged, reducing my assessment by about 1 percent, and then, still concerned, I made the pro forma appeal to Mercer County. I have not had any response to the appeal, and at this point do not expect much. This letter constitutes an appeal of sorts to the people who run Princeton Township. I know I’m not alone in feeling I’ve been had, in a process that the numbers above must identify as unfair, and it was a process imposed by our leadership. The Citizens’ Finance Advisory Committee report declares “Princeton Township: A Great Place to Be.” But ordinary citizens can’t afford it any more. What will the Township do about this cleverly executed downward shift of the tax burden that pays for this “Great Place” from those who can afford it to those with ordinary jobs and modest incomes? Why should we accept responses to questions posed during the assessments that this was an “unavoidable consequence” of housing market forces pushing down prices for expensive homes — the grand and genteel properties of the wealthy?

Roger Nelson
Valley Road

Smoyer Park Jogger Wonders Why 10-Foot Snake Evaded Capture After Four Sightings

To the Editor:

Since I often use the path through Smoyer Park as a jogging trail, it was of more than academic interest to note that someone had illegally turned a 10-foot-long snake of the python, boa constrictor family loose in the park (Town Topics July 14).

Your article stated that the snake had been spotted by the animal control officer on four separate occasions. While it is certainly possible to underestimate the difficulty of capturing a 10-foot-long snake, it does seem that at least by the third or fourth sighting, the opportunity would have presented itself to find a new home for old Monty the Python.

With any luck, he may have become disenchanted with the menu in Smoyers Park, and caught the bus to New Brunswick.

William Stephenson
Governors Lane

Interfaith Peace Delegate Responds to Letter Protesting “One-Sided View”

To the Editor:

In Jacques R. Fresco’s letter to the editor (Town Topics, July 14, 2010) about the article, “Interfaith Peace Builders’ Delegate Visits Area, Shares Thoughts on Palestinian-Israeli Strife” (Town Topics, 7 July 2010), he conflates the plight of the Palestinians with the wars of 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973. Palestinians refer to Arabs, Bedouins, and Druze living in the Israel border of 1948, in the occupied Palestinian Territories (oPT), and in the refugee diaspora. The war of 1948 is unique because it was a civil war in the wake of the UN vote on the General Assembly Partition Resolution of November 29, 1947. Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi observes that Palestinians could not fathom why 37 percent of the population had been given 55 percent of the land (of which they owned only 7 percent); and “they [Palestinians] failed to see why it was not fair for the Jews to be a minority in a unitary Palestinian state, while it was fair for almost half of the Palestinian population — the indigenous majority on its own ancestral soil — to be converted overnight into a minority under alien rule.” The war of 1956 was complicated by many actors — among them Britain, France, and Russia — but along with the wars of 1967 and 1973, it defies broad strokes to paint it as a conflict of Israel against Arabs. The myth that “they [Palestinian and their Arab allies] chose war” has been debunked by the Israel State Archives and the Israel Defense Force Archive.

It is true that Palestinian Arabs live today within the Israel borders of 1948; however, well into the 1960s, Israel placed Palestinian villages under military rule. In theory the Palestinian Arabs with Israeli citizenships have equal rights, but in reality numerous restrictions have prevented their access to services and opportunities. Planned construction for a development in the Ajami neighborhood precludes Palestinian Arab and Israeli Jewish residents by designating it as only for religious Zionist Jews. Per-pupil educational spending budgeted for Jews is 4,500 NIS (approximately 1,170 USD), while for non-Jews is 300 NIS (approximately 80 USD). Israeli water companies’ inequitable water distribution scheme for residents of the oPT has made it necessary for Palestinians to have black water cisterns on the roofs of their homes in the event of water service suspensions; in Nazareth, which is in Israel, black water cisterns on the roofs of Palestinian homes are ubiquitous. These are but a few examples of Israel’s discriminatory domestic policy toward non-Jewish Israeli citizens.

I struggle to understand where Mr. Fresco managed to find “the arid state of the Palestinian areas in Gaza and the West Bank” mentioned in the article. Since water resources in Palestine have always been precious though, the “arid state” is only the natural state of the region. In spite of the Israeli occupation apparatus, which places restrictions on Palestinian movement of goods, persons, and free thinking, and none of the same restrictions on the Israeli Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Palestinians living in the oPT manage to develop a vibrant society and economy.

The desire to live side-by-side in peace is one expressed by both Israeli and Palestinian voices that we heard on our trip to Israel and the occupied Territories, and on that, we can all agree.

Yeou-Shiuh Hsu
Hornor Lane

Proposed Recreation Department Changes in Pool Complex “Too High a Price to Pay”

To the Editor:

The Princeton Township Committee is to be commended for Monday’s decision to table the vote on the funding for the Princeton Community Pool Complex until its next monthly meeting on August 16. Each Committee member listened patiently and intently to the many spirited comments. The tone was civil on all sides and really an occasion for pride in local governance.

Now it is up to the community to do its part. The Recreation Department should soon have on its web site information and drawings, including floor plans and building elevations, allowing for a meaningful comparison between the proposed plan and the complex as presently configured. They will also be on display at the Pool Complex. Look at the web site. Draw your own conclusions. Come to the public meeting that will be scheduled to discuss the project with the Recreation Department.

The original proposal for the pool complex would have turned it into a theme park. That is no longer the case and it is a tribute to Jack Roberts and his staff that a broad consensus on the basic layout for the pools seems to have emerged. These changes will themselves make for an exciting, reinvigorated facility.

A key difference remains, however, respecting what the rest of the pool complex should look like. This difference will also affect the cost of the project. It is the additional changes that many of us are concerned with because they seem to alter the basic character of the complex. The proposed design envisions, among other things, a relocation of the womens’ changing room to the same side as the mens’ changing area, a major shrinkage in the size of both areas and bringing both of them inside a stone structure so that they will no longer have the same access to light and air, the introduction of a stone bridge in the middle of the complex, and the loss of trees for parking spaces. I believe that these changes are simply are too high a price to pay for some of the Recreation Department’s other goals, such as an approximately 600-square-foot air-conditioned meeting room and the ability to conduct events at night during October.

In the next few weeks, some spirited discussions will take place. I would ask each of the Recreation Board members to consider whether these additional changes are really necessary at a time of such great stress on Princeton taxpayers. A simpler design also has the merit of reducing the risk of cost overruns. At the end of the day, it will be up to the Township Committee to decide on the appropriate course of action. Right now, however, the ball is in our court, we the Princeton community. We owe it to ourselves and future generations of pool users to take advantage of the additional time the Township Committee has given us.

Walter Frank
Riverside Drive

Congratulations to Princeton Engine Company #1 Volunteers for Long Years of Community Service

To The Editor:

The 126th Annual Inspection of the Princeton Fire Department was held on Friday, June 25th — a tradition going back to July 1884. I’d like to offer my gratitude and kudos to all our volunteer firefighters for their community service.

In particular, I’d like to recognize and congratulate Princeton Engine Company #1 members John Procaccino, 25 years of service; Mike Zorachin, 30 years of service; Terry Davison, 40 years of service; Tony Krystaponis, 40 years of service; Tom Murray, 45 years of service; and Jack Petrone, 50 years of service!

Kate Warren
Jefferson Road

Princeton Community Thanked for Thoughtful Outpouring in Memory of Alice May Satterfield

To the Editor:

This is an open letter to the residents of the Princeton community who sent a card, called, visited, paid their respects and extended many acts of kindness for my mother, Alice May Satterfield,

Whether it was a telephone conversation, a warm hug, a friendly wave, a smile along the way, greetings in the aisles at McCaffrey’s, or a welcoming, firm handshake, Alice touched so many!

A sincere “Thank You” to those who contributed to the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church’s Paul Robeson House in Alice’s name. Alice’s mother was Paul’s primary teacher at the Witherspoon School for Colored Children and his father, Reverend William Drew Robeson, was the pastor at Witherspoon for 20 years. Your contribution to the Robeson House will assist in paying tribute to Paul Robeson and establishing a cultural center in the Witherspoon-Jackson community for Princeton residents and visitors.

To the Town Topics staff, we appreciate your recognition of Alice by acknowledging her on the front page of the newspaper.

We are grateful for your tributes to Alice May Satterfield.

Shirley A. Satterfield and family
Quarry Street

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