Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 18
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
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Pimley, Trotman Square Off in First Debate

Matthew Hersh

Setting the scene for what appears to be a civilized contest for Princeton Borough mayor, candidates Kim Pimley and incumbent Mayor Mildred Trotman met last week in the first formal head-to-head of this short primary season.

The debate last Wednesday on the Princeton University campus provided a venue where the two candidates could define themselves, but revealed little in the way of new strategies in dealing with the University itself, whose student group, the Princeton University College Democrats, sponsored the event. Instead, Ms. Trotman and Ms. Pimley laid the groundwork for a Democratic primary campaign that will effectively determine the next mayor of Princeton Borough when the race comes to a close on June 5.

"Local politics do matter to me, and I think the Borough needs the kind of representation that will recognize leadership that reflects good, quality services," Ms. Trotman said in her opening statement, adding that some of her primary goals when it comes to the University are to maintain a viable downtown, keeping open lines of communication, as well as brokering a new financial deal with the school once the current three-year, roughly $3 million payment-in lieu-of taxes deal that the University offers the Borough expires in January 2009.

Ms. Pimley emphasized a desire to "pop the Princeton bubble" by urging students to take a more prominent role in local community and political circles through volunteerism and internships. "Local politics do matter in our community, and they frame the very fabric of our lives," Ms. Pimley said.

The debate, moderated by Woodrow Wilson School Professor Stan Katz, featured little of the tension evident in the last contested mayoral primary election in the Borough, when then-Councilman Joe O'Neill defeated Assemblyman Reed Gusciora. Rather, the format served as a means for the candidates to speak openly about prominent issues facing the Borough and University, including the planned arts neighborhood along University Place and Alexander Street, which will likely spell major infrastructural changes in that part of town.

Both candidates stopped short of endorsing or rejecting the plan, pointing out that the project was still in the planning stages. However, both did emphasize a desire for the municipality to work closely with the University as plans become more realized.

"There are lots of things being thrown at us at once, and right now, I think there are many components of the proposal that need to be worked out," Ms. Trotman said, specifically pointing to the University's proposal to move the Dinky station approximately 500 feet: a move that has caused some concern among members of the Regional Planning Board of Princeton.

However, Ms. Trotman, herself a Planning Board member, said she was encouraged by the school's most recent presentation last month that offered a clearer view into the planning related to the arts neighborhood.

Planning for the project, Ms. Pimley said, could result in a springboard for a community jitney. "If this is done correctly, it would be an amazing transportation hub for a shuttle system," she said, adding that the project could also mean a windfall for the Borough in the way of taxable property. "We always like to have more tax dollars," she said, "but this needs to be planned properly."

The perennial question of consolidation produced few surprises, as each candidate approached the subject carefully, calling for more information on the matter. Since a consolidation proposal was last defeated in 1996, governmental interest for consolidation in both the Borough and Township has waned, though the subject was on the minds of the two candidates. "I did not support consolidation last time," Ms. Trotman said, "but we already share 16 agencies, and even if you don't consolidate, sooner or later, you are going to backdoor into it."

Ms. Pimley offered a mild objection to Ms. Trotman's assertion that the Borough and Township would blend over time, but said that more information was needed regarding finances before a decision could be made. "People would need to understand how much money we would save," she said.

Ms. Pimley urged completion of the downtown development project, as well as the PU arts neighborhood, the planned redevelopment of the University Medical Center at Princeton, the Merwick Care Center, and Palmer Square housing along Paul Robeson Place. "We need to complete the buildings in a timely manner so we can enjoy the new ratables, keeping taxes down," she said.

Ms. Trotman said the Borough has tried to "eliminate waste" in the municipal budget, but that essential expenditures will likely preclude any major budgetary reductions. "It's impossible to keep the taxes stagnant, but we do work very hard to keep them as low as possible."

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