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Round Three in Councilmen's Dispute On Funding for Harrison Street Park

Borough Councilman
Prospect Avenue

Candidates for Township Committee State Their Cases for Stewardship

On Election Eve, Voters Cast Opinions On Candidates, Issues, Ballot Questions

League of Women Voters Reminds Us, "Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport

League of Women Voters
of the Princeton Area
Philip Drive

Round Three in Councilmen's Dispute On Funding for Harrison Street Park

To the Editor:

I thank my friend and Borough Council colleague, Andrew Koontz, for providing an opportunity to respond to the points he made in his recent letter (Town Topics, October 19) concerning the Council's plan to redesign Harrison Street Park.

Clearly, all Borough parks need attention. We can be grateful for Mr. Koontz's leadership in focusing our attention on Harrison Street Park. But Borough Hall's approach to the financing of the project is woefully inadequate. There are lessons here for Borough taxpayers to consider as we face an ever-increasing tax burden.

Financially speaking, the two main problems with the Harrison Street Park initiative are (a) the belief that the project is part of a considered budget, and (b) the assumption that the project costs the Borough taxpayer nothing because the funds come from the County. Neither is true.

There is no considered budget for the rehabilitation of Harrison Street Park. Mr. Koontz writes that the project "will likely carry a price tag of $250,000 or so." That's a good guess --- as good as $100,000 or $500,000, as Mayor and Council have not discussed a budget for the rehabilitation project. Shouldn't we do so before we spend $25,000 for Park redesign?

Also incorrect is the assumption that the Park's rehabilitation will be funded with County money. While the Borough did receive $375,000 from the County in Open Space funds (for which we can also thank Mr. Koontz), that money was obtained to redevelop the Plaza on Witherspoon Street, went into the Borough's general operating fund, and was allocated to avoid the loss that would otherwise have been reported for the downtown redevelopment project this year. (Absent that allocation of funds, the reported loss this year in the Borough's downtown redevelopment project would have been $338,380; with the County Open Space money allocated to the downtown project, the Borough was able to report that the project showed a gain of $36,620 in 2005.)

Now, we're going to use the same money, already allocated to the downtown redevelopment, a second time in the Harrison Street Park? Why not use the same $375,000 a third time to hire more police, or a fourth time to buy a fire truck?

No, the County will not be picking up the tab to rehabilitate Harrison Street Park. The Borough taxpayer will. That being the case, doesn't the Borough taxpayer deserve the opportunity to review a budget for the project?

I commend Mr. Koontz and the Parks Alliance that he has helped establish for directing attention to our Borough Parks. The community can be proud to have such energetic, dedicated persons looking out for our recreational needs.

We could also use a little help in approaching more carefully the budgeting and tax consequences of such initiatives. Initiatives that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars should be appropriately accounted for.

Borough Councilman
Prospect Avenue

Candidates for Township Committee State Their Cases for Stewardship

To the Editor:

If you live in Princeton Township, you deserve better. That's why Gordon Bryant and I are running for Princeton Township Committee.

Princeton Township is overtaxed and underserved. How?

1. Your local property taxes are up 50 percent in five years. That's triple the inflation rate. And they're projected to grow nearly 40 percent in the next two years. These unfair, runaway taxes are compounded further by the IRS' pernicious AMT, which now nullifies their deductibility!

2. Leaf pickups have been cut back, with residents now being ticketed for leaves in the street. That's outrageous.

3. The Township spent $11.3 million --- over $700 per resident --- for an over-the-top "Taj Mahal" town hall contrary to our understated community ideals. Meanwhile Valley Road Building, allegedly asbestos-ridden, is still being used, when it should be sold for revenue to reduce the Township debt.

4. Audited financial statements for 2004 have only now been issued, in October. They should have been out in April. Why so late? Because of a new CFO and a new auditing firm, we're told. Really? We don't let our banks or investment managers report to us six months late. Why thus the Township?

5. For 11 years there's been only one-party rule on Township Committee. A one-party Committee has voted unanimously for excessive budgets for several years now. No balance. No diversity. No new ideas. No solidarity with the townspeople.

Princeton Township needs responsibility on Township Committee. It needs new down-to-earth leadership based on economic reality and fiscal sanity, a Committee standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the taxpayers. Princeton Township should stay affordable to preserve its diversity, rather than driving out current residents and creating a hollow Golden Ghetto. Princeton Township needs a bipartisan Committee that is balanced, functioning, transparent, constructive, and responsive.

Gordon Bryant and I will protect the Township's future. We're seasoned executives with extensive backgrounds in finance, not-for-profit institutions, and education. We're in touch and in tune with Princeton Township's condition, character, and concerns. We're unencumbered independent citizen servants, not party regulars. We'll take tough stands on behalf of the Township's best long-term interests. We won't take the voters for granted.

We'll restore responsible budget management. How?

1. We'll keep taxes in line with real living costs.

2. We'll restore basic services --- no more police ticketing of citizens for leaves in the street.

3. We'll stop excessive pet projects and manage expenditures fairly but firmly.

4. We'll stop the runaway borrowing, and we'll restructure the debt to reduce the tax burden.

5. We'll ensure complete and timely accountability, with audited statements on time and on the Web, stated with simple, sensible management metrics.

Whether Republican, Democrat, Green, or Independent, if you believe that soaring taxes, excessive spending, one-party rule, and insufficient accountability are threatening Princeton's affordability, character, integrity, and fairness, we invite you to support us. Visit our website, at www.gordonandtom.com.

Vote for a change. Gordon Bryant and I are new voices for a new beginning for Princeton Township, because you deserve better.

Republican Candidate
for Princeton Township Committee

To the Editor:

Since the beginning of this political season the Republican candidates for Princeton Township Committee and their friends at the Princeton Taxpayers' Association have conducted a well-coordinated advertising campaign of misinformation about Princeton Township finances. As the Democratic incumbent candidate for Princeton Township Committee, I want to set the record straight.

First, let's examine the Republican candidates slogan, "Because You're Overtaxed and Underserved." Throughout this campaign, I have waited in vain for the two Republicans to come forward with concrete examples of how they would reduce Township property taxes. I've yet to hear them speak out in public on what areas of our budget they would cut. Where specifically are we overtaxed? Would they reduce spending for the Library, Corner House, parks, road repair, the Board of Health? On the other hand, if Princeton taxpayers are underserved, what specific services would they increase or add? How exactly would they propose to pay for them without increasing the burden on our already "overtaxed" residents? Frankly, I believe that their bold slogan has a hollow ring.

The Taxpayers' Association seems to be playing the role of the Swift Boat veterans for the Princeton Township Republican candidates. While claiming to be non-partisan, they too have put out misinformation about Township finances and budget in an effort to frighten voters. Princeton Township, like any well-run government, routinely uses forecasting tools to examine alternative scenarios for the future. The Taxpayers' Association has deliberately shown some of the results of these forecasts as scheduled tax increases or planned expenditures. We use forecasts to identify potential problems and are working to mitigate them. Their claim that salaries of Township employees have increased at twice the rate of inflation is wrong. Inflation is currently over 3.6 percent. In 2005, the increase for all non-union employees was 3 percent (4 percent for police under their PBA contract). The recent effort to compare Princeton Township with nearby communities solely on the basis of municipal tax rates is misleading. Each of these municipalities is in a different stage of development with differing needs. One may need new schools to accommodate a growing population, while another may need new roads and sewers. One may value parks and open space while another may fill open space with office parks and big box stores. The only useful financial comparison is to look at the total tax rate including schools, the county, and the municipality. This is the number that determines the tax that you pay. Compared on this basis, Princeton Township has the lowest tax rate of all municipalities in Mercer County.

I moved to Princeton Township nearly 50 years ago and continue to live here because this wonderful community embodies the values that I share. Vicky Bergman and I have worked for many years in the civic life of this community. If you believe as we do that experience matters, we ask that you reject the negativism and misleading claims of the Republicans and their Taxpayers' Association chorus, and vote for us on November 8.

Democratic Candidate
for Princeton Township Committee

To the Editor:

At a recent neighborhood coffee I was asked why I am running for Township Committee. My answer: because I live the belief that I have a responsibility to help make this special community the best it can be.

"Best" means that the services and programs that local government provides are those that maintain Princeton as a desirable place to live. It means that our community is diverse in income, age, and ethnicity.

Knowledgeable residents know that the money Princeton Township has to spend is finite, and that there are many competing needs and interests. How do we decide on allocation of tax receipts, while recognizing the legitimacy of diverse interests, and that governing bodies can't please everyone?

What matters is whether residents believe decisions are considered carefully and rendered fairly. What matters is that good schools, access to open space and recreational facilities for all ages, equal housing opportunities, well-maintained roads, and other attributes of quality communal life are weighed in balance with their costs.

To make decisions that are fair, and take into consideration the strength, history, and future of our community, experience counts. Being woven into the fabric of community through service evidences a broad and deep knowledge of what really matters to fellow citizens.

My decades of community service in many Princeton organizations are a good indicator that I know our beloved community and am connected to a wide variety of people. The length of time it takes me to grocery shop at McCaffrey's is another indicator of my connectedness. There are lots of well-wishers, and people who want me to know what their concerns are.

My running mate, Bernie Miller, and I understand and respect the complexity of local issues, and the many viewpoints that come to play in making decisions that affect the whole community.

We are not one-note candidates. We know there are costs of maintaining a quality community. Thoughtful residents know we can't have a high-quality community without paying for it.

The question of "what is quality?" is very subjective. For residents with kids, schools, safe streets and sidewalks, and recreation are likely to be paramount. For those on fixed incomes or who have suffered economic setbacks, costs of living, including property and other taxes, and the availability of jobs are high priority interests.

What do we need to do to ensure the quality of life we have in Princeton? In this election season, we are focused on who will serve us as elected officials. We'll want to trust that our neighbors who are elected, and those who are appointed to the many community boards and commissions that oversee our basics --- sewers, roads, open space --- are experienced, fair, open-minded, and consider the best interests of the whole community.

Our elected and appointed officials need to be trustworthy, fair, able to deal with complexity, and understand what is important to residents. Bernie and I possess these attributes. Please vote for us on November 8.

Democratic Candidate
for Princeton Township Committee

On Election Eve, Voters Cast Opinions On Candidates, Issues, Ballot Questions

To the Editor:

I was born in Princeton Township and have lived here all my life. My family has been here since the 1920s. I have been a lifelong registered Democrat and have usually voted for Democrat candidates in all elections, at all levels of government.

However, Princeton Township, in its Committee governance, has had 12 consecutive years in office as one-party rule, and the results speak for themselves --- outrageous property taxes which threaten my future ability to remain in my home, along with the very obvious reduction of services manifested in poor roads and slow or no leaf and brush collection, to name just a few. It is unthinkable to me that the intelligent voters of this special community would re-elect the same mismanaging spend-thrifts to continue their irresponsible style of government.

There are two candidates running in opposition to the status quo who have the energy and financial expertise to make the necessary changes in the Township government, to stop the slide towards even higher property taxes and less services. They are Tom Pyle and Gordon Bryant, candidates for change. Therefore, this year, I and many of my Democratic friends and neighbors are going to change our votes. We are going to vote for Bryant and Pyle and I urge all my fellow Democrats in the Township to follow suit. Princeton Township can truly not afford, literally, continuing the current Democratic Committee incumbency.

Ewing Street

To the Editor:

In their ad in Town Topics on October 19, the Princeton Taxpayers' Association, a thinly disguised stalking horse for the Republican candidates for Princeton Township Committee, suggests the Draconian step of reducing Princeton Township budget by $6.7 million or 22 percent. They then ask the rhetorical question, "What effect do you think that would have on property taxes?" Like any political organization with a special interest axe to grind, they neglect to present all of the facts.

First, Princeton Township's municipal budget is only 21 percent of the total property taxes you pay. The remaining 79 percent is collected by Princeton Township for Princeton Regional Schools and Mercer County.

Second, my math says that a 22 percent reduction in Princeton Township's budget results in less than a five percent reduction in your total tax bill. I am not saying that we would not welcome this saving, but at what cost to the quality of life in our community? Under Bernie Miller's leadership, Township Committee has thoroughly reviewed each department's budget, line by line. Reductions beyond those already made means cutting more staff and services. What would the Taxpayers Association cut from the budget? Parks? Recreation? The Library? Sewer repairs? Road repaving? Police? Putting off repairing sewers and roads for short term savings would result in major reconstruction at a higher cost at a later date.

Third, consider who gets the most benefit from the five percent reduction in property taxes. Not the middle income people in our community who live in moderate priced homes. Not the elderly who live on fixed incomes. Not the young people in starter homes. Like the George Bush tax cut, the largest benefits will go to those who own the most expensive properties. Are these the members of the Princeton Taxpayers' Association?

Princeton Township Committee has worked hard to provide the many needs of our community in a balanced, cost effective manner. The Democratic candidates are well qualified to continue this responsible financial management. A vote for Bernie Miller and Vicky Bergman on November 8 will keep Princeton Township on the right track.

Herrontown Lane

To the Editor:

We urge a "Yes" vote on Question No. 2 on the ballot on Election Day, November 8, for a clean air measure that will reduce diesel emissions in public motor vehicles such as school buses, New Jersey Transit and commuter buses, and garbage trucks.

The goal is to reduce these emissions over a ten-year period by 400 to 500 tons per year or about 90 percent of diesel particulate (soot) pollution, by 1) retrofitting all public diesel-powered vehicles with low-emission equipment, including better exhaust filtration; 2) using ultra-low diesel fuel; and 3) better engine idling enforcement.

This statewide law will mitigate an increasingly serious air quality and environmental health problem especially for children who are most frequently exposed to diesel fumes inside and outside of school buses. Asthma has been an increasing problem among children. As particulate pollution (which carries toxins) rises, so does risk.

This measure will not require a new tax but will reallocate some of the existing environmental funds that the voters approved in 1996 from within the corporate business tax, thus requiring citizen approval. It resulted from mounting evidence that diesel air pollution is an increasingly serious problem, especially in New Jersey with its high density of people and motor vehicles. Further information may be in the ballot.

For improved air quality, vote "Yes" on Question No. 2.

Princeton Environmental Commission

To the Editor:

The untimely death of Mayor Joe O'Neill and the imminent elevation of Council President Mildred Trotman to the Mayor's post means that a vote for Ms. Trotman in next week's election is a vote for a Council vacancy that will be filled by appointment after the election.

Princeton Borough voters are fortunate to have the choice of electing Joshua Leinsdorf, an experienced member of the Princeton Regional School Board, to the seat that will be vacated by Ms. Trotman. Public officials should be elected by the voters, not selected by political party officials.

Ironically, Mayor O'Neill's death means that on Election Day, Princeton Borough residents who vote Democratic will be voting for unknown candidates in both the Council and the U.S. Senate races. If Ms. Trotman wins, her vacant seat will be filled by appointment. If Jon Corzine is elected Governor, he will appoint his own successor to the United States Senate.

Voters should understand the consequences of their actions. Elections in New Jersey are becoming a little like taking a gambling trip to a casino in Atlantic City. Voting for Mildred Trotman and Jon Corzine means we don't know who will represent us on the Council and in the U.S. Senate.

John Street

To the Editor:

Let us not confuse the candidates for Mercer County Clerk when we vote on Election Day.

The Mercer County Clerk's Office is charged with the responsibility of serving residents efficiently.

Imagine my dismay when I was told that during those forgotten days of last summer, there were vital documents with crucial personal information about Mercer County residents that were "accidentally" thrown in the trash. The cleaning crew got blamed! How did our personal documents locate themselves so close to the trash that the "cleaning crew" could confuse them with the trash? Were our documents collecting dust while we were waiting for them to be processed?

You and I can sweep the Mercer County Clerk's Office clean by not confusing the candidates. Vote for Paula Sollami-Covello.


To the Editor:

It is time for some changes to be made in local governments, especially Princeton Township. We have people who have absolutely no regard for the taxpayers. They seem to have the attitude that there is an endless supply of money available from the taxpayers. Of course there are a few independently wealthy but I am not one of them. I spent most of my life in Princeton and Princeton Township and now I cannot spend my retirement years here and must sell out.

We must get new people such as Tom Pyle and Gordon Bryant to start making some changes. I am neither a Republican or Democrat. I just know that the Democrats are forcing me out of my home.

Mount Lucas Road

To the Editor:

In a time of troubling political discord on a national level we are fortunate here In Princeton to have both Bernie Miller and Vicky Bergman running for Township Committee. They have proven their concern for and commitment to the Township through years of productive hard work. They are a talented pair with varied but complementary backgrounds in the public and private sectors.

Mr. Miller, who is seeking re-election, has been a strong advocate for fiscal responsibility and community consensus on Township Committee. His history of service to our community includes the Township Housing Board, chairing the Cable TV Committee, leading the team that negotiated our current cable TV franchise with Patriot Media, and serving as treasurer of the Friends of the Princeton Public Library.

Ms. Bergman has chaired both the Regional Planning Board and the Township Zoning Board, and has served on the boards of a number of non-governmental community organizations.

We like the pair's view of Princeton Township as a community that can build on its strengths. We support their commitment to diversity and their understanding that the needs and interests of all residents must be considered in making decisions that will affect the vitality of our community for now and for later as well. We appreciate their concern for careful and responsible development and their determination to find ways for both young families and seniors to remain in town.

We plan to vote for Bernie Miller and Vicky Bergman on November 8 and we urge concerned Township residents to do the same.

Prospect Avenue

To the Editor:

It's time for a change.

I am a registered Democrat. But this year I will vote for Gordon Bryant and Tom Pyle for Princeton Township Committee. The ever-increasing property tax in Princeton Township and Borough seems to point out a lack of fiscal responsibility and discipline on the part of the incumbents.

Borough Councilman Andrew Koontz, for instance, wrote a letter to the newspapers stating, "Taxpayers need not worry about the $250,000 for the Harrison Street Park improvement. Princeton Borough received a grant of $375,000 from Mercer County." Mr. Koontz, from whom do you think Mercer County gets its money? From us, the taxpayers, one way or another.

It's time for a change.

One-party government rarely serves its constituency well; that includes Washington, D.C. and Princeton. Loyal opposition and competition is good in government as well as in business.

Princeton voters, please come out and do yourself a favor and vote for fiscal responsibility and discipline. Ten years or more of one-party government have not been very beneficial for Princeton taxpayers, especially those on a fixed income or looking forward to college tuition.

It's time for a change.

"Experience counts," say the Democratic candidates. Princeton voters have a choice to continue the experience of ever-increasing taxes or to vote for the financial background and experience of Gordon Bryant and Tom Pyle for Township Committee.

It's time for a change.

Overbrook Drive

To the Editor:

We are writing in support of the election of Vicky Bergman and Bernie Miller, the Democratic candidates for Princeton Township Committee. We have known Bernie Miller for more than 40 years as a respected colleague at RCA and as a friend. As residents of Princeton for 44 years, we are well aware of Vicky's dedication and service to Princeton Township.

Both of these talented and dedicated individuals are longtime residents of the Township with a proven record of leadership and accomplishment in the private and public sectors.

At RCA, Mr. Miller managed the Ranger project that took the first close-up pictures of the moon as a precursor to the Apollo lunar landings. Mr. Miller, who currently is Deputy Mayor, has also served on the Township Housing Board and chaired the Cable TV Committee that negotiated the current franchise with Patriot Media.

Vicky Bergman has served as chair of the both the Joint Planning Board and the Township Zoning Board, and is a co-founder of Community Without Walls, a local seniors' organization that supports aging in place.

We are confident that Mr. Miller and Ms. Bergman will serve Township residents with great distinction.

Ewing Street

To the Editor:

With the upcoming Princeton Township Committee election, the electorate faces a critical choice. We are lucky to have four excellent candidates who are sincere, hard working people sharing the same deep love for Princeton that I do. However, there is a difference. One side represents a clubby "we are all friends" approach to the Township financial situation. The other side represents change. It will bring professional rigor, accountability, and sound financial resolve needed to reel in years of escalating real estate tax increases.

Those tax increases threaten the future of Princeton Township as we know it. Residents constrained by fixed incomes or fighting to stay even professionally will be forced to leave in the coming years as projected local real estate tax increases, far in excess of inflation, continue unabated. Residents expect the same financial discipline from local government that they impose on themselves. Now is the time for the Township to critically address the growing real estate tax problem while acceptable choices are still available. These are not easy issues, and confronting them is a challenge.

I respect the work that has been performed by all the Township Committee members. They are conscientious and dedicated people. The problem comes with an unhealthy and entrenched one-party rule that promotes a consensus approach. Not once in the last six years has there been a "nay" vote on the budget. More challenge and different viewpoints are healthy and needed. They will promote serious debate, force beneficial compromise, and achieve better results. I believe that we need to change the "business as usual" approach on the Township Committee.

Let me add that this election has nothing to do with red or blue political views. The election is simply about which team provides the best vision for the Township coupled with an economic discipline and the financial restraint needed to achieve it. To me, the choice is clear. Gordon Bryant and Tom Pyle will ask hard questions and demand common sense but balanced choices to the Township finances. They have my vote.

Randall Road

To The Editor:

We are registered Democrats in Princeton Township; however we are independent thinkers, and we vote for the candidates we feel are the best qualified to do the job.

In view of the steep increase in municipal taxes this year and the double digit additional increases projected for the next two years, it appears that the present Township Committee needs help in controlling run-away expenditures.

Township residents are most fortunate to have two candidates for Township Committee this year, Gordon Bryant and Tom Pyle, who have excellent credentials and experience in business and finance. Township Committee needs diversity and people with new ideas and viewpoints --- people with fiscal experience who will question and evaluate all Township expenditures.

If you are affected by the high real estate taxes and are concerned about the future of Princeton Township and perhaps even your ability to continue living here, then we urge you to vote for Gordon Bryant and Tom Pyle on November 8.

Russell Road
Russell Road
Terhune Road

To the Editor:

In their ad in Town Topics (October 12), the Republican candidates for Princeton Township Committee claimed that Princeton Township residents are "overtaxed and underserved," quite a catchy phrase.

Our question is: if we cut taxes, exactly what services will be eliminated? Will it be Community Park Pool, the soccer leagues, Pettoranello Garden Park, Corner House, the joint Health Department, road repaving, our contribution to the Library, or perhaps our Environmental Commission? On the other hand, if Princeton Township is "underserved," exactly what services do you propose to add, and how do you expect this "overtaxed" community to pay for them?

Our unique community exists because our citizens have, over the years, added these multifaceted community services with the understanding that we must also support the infrastructure.

Clover Lane

League of Women Voters Reminds Us, "Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport

To the Editor:

The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area would like to remind Town Topics readers to plan on voting in the general election on Tuesday, November 8. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Voters are asked to study the sample ballots for both candidates and the two ballot questions. Your sample ballots will also tell you where to vote. If you were registered and did not receive a sample ballot, you may call the Mercer County Commissioner of Registration at (609) 989-6750. A survey of gubernatorial candidates and information about the ballot propositions is available on our website at www.princetonol.com/groups/lwv. If you need an absentee ballot, you have until November 7 at 3 p.m. to obtain an absentee ballot application in person at the County Clerk's office.

Exercise your right to vote. Democracy is not a spectator sport.

League of Women Voters
of the Princeton Area
Philip Drive

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