Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 11
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
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Borough Council Hears Arts Council Report, Polling Place Request

Dilshanie Perera

In an effort to encourage more University students to vote in non-presidential election years, Princeton junior David Christie petitioned Borough Council last Tuesday to consider moving the location of the District One polling place to somewhere on campus. While a formal plea has yet to be made, primarily because a site on campus still needs to be approved, Council responded to Mr. Christie’s suggestions. In other business, Executive Director Jeff Nathanson gave the annual report on the Arts Council of Princeton.

Noting that 90 percent of the voters from District One are students at the University, five percent are University employees, and the remaining five percent are unaffiliated with the school, Mr. Christie suggested that more of the 1,587 people registered in the district would vote in non-presidential years if the polling place were on campus.

While he and other students had considered the Frist Campus Center on Washington Road as a potential alternative to Trinity Church, which is the current polling location for District One, the site could not provide the required minimum of two handicapped parking spaces and six regular spaces.

“The detail about Frist that never completed the loop was parking,” said University Director of Community and Regional Affairs Kristin Appelget, noting that the area had to remain open for emergency vehicles to access the McCosh health center, and thus couldn’t accommodate the parking requirements.

Nonetheless, Ms. Appelget remarked that the University is “always excited to see students interested in participating in the electoral process, and being engaged in it.”

Mr. Christie had been informed earlier in the day that the Frist center was no longer an option for a polling place relocation, and thus had to appear before the Borough with a slightly different agenda. He asked members of Council their opinions on moving the polling place.

Saying that he has a “number of concerns about the proposal,” Council President Andrew Koontz noted that the University schedule doesn’t facilitate a large turnout for the June primary election as school is already out of session for the summer.

He also noted that some of the students on campus vote in District One, and others in District Seven, which has its polling place at the Suzanne Patterson Center, right across the street from Trinity Church, so if students accidentally went to the wrong center on election day, they could fairly easily be redirected to the appropriate location.

“It’s hard for me to see why either Trinity Church or Frist is better than the other geographically,” Mr. Koontz said, adding that “the walking distance seems about equal, except for residents, for which Frist would be a hardship.”

Borough Council member David Goldfarb said that he was “not opposed to the concept,” but suggested something closer to University Place.

Poll worker Joshua Liensdorf said that the pros and cons of each location are equal with respect to working the venue. “Parking is an issue at Trinity too, and inadequate parking seems pretty common,” he commented, adding that “you never get more than a dozen votes in the primary in District One, but you spend a thousand dollars at least on poll workers. This is unconscionable in the current economic climate we’ve got.”

Characterizing the group of 900 students who voted in the district during the last election as too much to handle in a single district, Mr. Liensdorf advocated finding a better location.

The Mercer County Board of elections requires the Borough to submit polling place location suggestions each year. The locations are due to the County by April 1, according to Borough Clerk Andrea Quinty.

Mr. Christie assured Council that he would continue looking for potential sites for relocation.

Arts Council

In his report, Director Jeff Nathanson elaborated on the community programs and free events sponsored by the Arts Council, during his annual report. Besides offering classes, and innovative gallery exhibits, the institution provides numerous other programs including the hometown Halloween parade, a Día de los Muertos celebration for children, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day activities.

A new series made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts allows internationally and nationally-renowned musicians to provide free workshops for local youth, Mr. Nathanson reported.

Additionally, weekly programs like Art Reach serve local children for free. The Arts Council teams up with organizations like Princeton Young Achievers, Home Front and area schools to offer programs that are creative and educational.

Mr. Nathanson observed that Communiversity has expanded exponentially in scale. “Three years ago, we had about 15,000 people attend, but 30,000 to 35,000 people were estimated last year by the Princeton Police.”

As for the current economic climate, Mr. Nathanson acknowledged that it is putting pressure on the Arts Council. “We’ve had to make budget cuts like every organization around the country. The foundation that typically gives us $10,000 for our scholarship fund has cut us back to $2,500” he said, adding that “we’re trying to tighten our belts and do everything we can to keep our expenses in check.” They plan to “aggressively fundraise” and “write new grants” in this difficult budget year.

“It’s a struggle, but we’re committed to community programming,” said Mr. Nathanson.

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