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Vol. LXIV, No. 26
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
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Borough Republicans on Ballot in November Seek to Broaden Spectrum of Opinion on Council

Dilshanie Perera

Gaining 57 and 56 votes respectively at the primary election, Roland Foster Miller and Peter Marks have obtained more than the requisite number of votes for a place on the ballot for Borough Council in November.

As Republicans, they seek to challenge incumbent Roger Martindell and newcomer Jo Butler, who are both Democrats, for the two available seats on Council.

“It seems to me that there aren’t enough voices heard here in Princeton,” said Mr. Miller, referring to the representation on Council vis-a-vis the overall spectrum of opinion and experience in town.

As an editor and writer for the New York Times for 34 years, as well as an instructor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism for over 20 years, Mr. Miller noted that he will employ the “objectivity and fairness” gained from his career to “make sure that all Princetonians can share in fairness.” He characterizes himself as a “Lincoln Republican.”

Taxes are a source of concern for Mr. Miller, who wondered, “Is anyone trying to control runaway spending?”

Decisions regarding taxes made now “will affect us, and will continue to affect Princeton residents for years to come,” he remarked. The fact that many public employees and workers in local shops and businesses live outside of Princeton owing to affordability was one symptom exemplifying Mr. Miller’s problem with high taxes.

On Princeton University’s payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT), or voluntary contribution to the Borough every year, Mr. Miller suggested that they could “do a little better,” citing the larger contribution that Yale grants to New Haven and that Harvard gives Cambridge and Boston.

Streamlining transportation and parking in town are other issues that Mr. Miller finds essential to the smooth operation of the Borough. “I’m still a Dinky fan,” he said of the commuter rail line running between the University campus and Princeton Junction. “We need to make sure it runs more efficiently.”

Regarding consolidation, Mr. Miller said that “we need to see if we really save money. I don’t think we need to hire any more consultants.”

For now, his plan is to “wear out some shoe leather” by going door-to-door in the Borough, meeting neighbors and finding out what are the foremost concerns on people’s minds. “We need to account for everybody. I don’t want just Republicans to vote for me, I want to get the Independent voice, and some fans from the Democrats.”

Mr. Marks also plans to begin canvassing at the end of the summer to find out what constituents want and to “let them know who I am and what I represent.”

Having grown up in Princeton and graduated from Princeton High School in 1972, Mr. Marks has been involved in public finance, healthcare finance, interest rate swaps, and municipal lending in his professional life before moving on to real estate investments. “I am interested in land use, design, and having good results for the owners, tenants, and communities we’re a part of,” he said.

The “number one challenge” for the Borough is to “rein in spending,” Mr. Marks reasoned, adding that “the town needs to be much firmer in its demands, particularly now that we have a governor willing to assist municipalities like Princeton” in curtailing expenditures.

“The problem is not a revenue problem. The issue is to trim spending and to trim it meaningfully,” he noted, saying that having a “modestly-sized municipal operation” would assist with the scaling back.

Reducing the power of the public sector unions was one of Mr. Marks’s suggestions for trimming municipal spending. “When we get to the point where we have lavish contracts, the cost drivers continue unabated,” he said, adding that “in 2010 it’s ludicrous to have defined benefit pension plans.”

Mr. Marks says that the role of Council should involve “making it easy for people to live, do business, and work in the Borough, not to erect more hardships.” To do so involves “respect for the people who live and work here.”

“I don’t like to see the parking charges driven higher and higher. That seems to be a wrongheaded pursuit of revenue,” he added.

As for the relationship between Princeton University and the town, Mr. Marks reported that his father “spent his career as a professor at Princeton. I have great respect for the University.” Simultaneously, he feels that the PILOT is “like a token contribution. I think the University could be more generous,” he said, listing some areas like Washington Road and the site of the Dinky Station where there “might be opportunities for negotiated settlements.”

“I am very strongly, vehemently opposed to consolidation. I think the inevitable result of consolidation would be to turn the Borough into a commercial hub, which would involve relentless pressure for more structured parking downtown,” loosened height restrictions, and a dense core in the center of town, Mr. Marks said. “I like the Borough and I like it as a small town.”

For Mr. Marks, the guiding principle is “simple respect for the people who make up the town …. The Council members are there to facilitate, not to subjugate.”

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