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Vol. LXV, No. 44
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
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The Four Borough Council Candidates Describe Their Views and Qualifications

Anne Levin

Four candidates are vying for seats on Borough Council in the November 8 election. Democrat Barbara Trelstad is up for re-election. Fellow Democrat Heather Howard is running, as are Republicans Peter Marks and Dudley Sipprelle. Each shared some of their views about the issues they see as most important.

“I certainly hope that all the voters will consider consolidation. I support it strongly and have for a very long time,” said Ms. Trelstad. “It makes sense, and it’s the right time to do it.”

A Council member for the past six years, Ms.Trelstad said she looks forward to a new term of working with Princeton University to improve town and gown relations. She is also hopeful that the recent passage of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) “will bring in folks with genuine experience and background and produce useful information that will help us move forward in seeing the arts center completed,” she said. “I certainly oppose moving the Dinky, but let’s get the MOU signed and get some real experts in to begin advising us and see if we can make the best out of this thing for the whole town.”

Mr. Marks, who ran for Borough Council unsuccessfully last year, has been asked by fellow residents to try again. “I agreed, partly because I thought it was a way in having a stronger voice in what I’ll call the conversation, and in making people aware of issues they might have ignored,” he said “If they want to support me, I’m delighted and will do everything I can to represent people fairly. I’m their representative, in office to do not what I want, but what the town wants. I see the job as a way to inform people so they know what the issues are.”

Mr. Marks feels people who believe that new ratables are a source of tax relief are mistaken. Referring to the impending conversion of the Princeton Hospital site into 230 apartments, and Princeton University’s proposal to turn the Stanworth and Merwick sites into housing, he said, “I’m not sure that most people are aware that all of this is happening. Fewer are aware of the likely consequences.”

Mr. Marks grew up in Princeton “as a village,” he said. “I like the town we have right now. I’m not going to argue that some of the new development or changes weren’t good, because they were. But I think there is a possibility that people don’t realize the existing trend could gain momentum, and the downtown could be transformed in a shockingly short period of time.”

Republican Dudley Sipprelle is running for Borough Council “because I want to restore municipal finances to sanity,” he writes in a letter to the editor. “Spending more than comes in is unsustainable. We are becoming Greece on the banks of the Stony Brook.”

Mr. Sipprelle lists his priorities in his letter. First, he would work to reduce property taxes. “Cutting the Borough budget by 1 percent would save each taxpayer $125 annually,” he writes. Second on his list would be the implementation of measures to reduce vehicular gridlock on major thoroughfares. Mr. Sipprelle’s third priority would be to “Turn the dysfunctional relationship with Princeton University into one of mutual benefit. 

“The Consolidation Commission shortchanged Princeton by sticking with the antiquated and inefficient Borough form of government which limits citizen participation,” he writes. “I will continue to advocate for non-partisan elections, a mixed ward/at-large system of representation and a ‘strong’ mayor who is the municipal chief executive and directly accountable to the voters. ‘Experience’ and election outcomes based on “party loyalty” have produced only office holder arrogance and disregard for the taxpayer.

In conclusion, Mr. Sipprelle writes, “A vote for Dudley Sipprelle will put a charge into the current passive style of Borough governance.”

Democratic candidate Heather Howard says her combination of experience in government and as the mother of a third-grader attending a Princeton public school make her uniquely qualified for a position on Borough Council. The vice-president of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO), she has served as New Jersey Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, as Chief of Staff to Senator John Corzine, and as a Senior Policy Advisor for Hillary Clinton.

“I’m also a Riverside School mom,” she said. “I want to make sure Princeton remains the welcoming place it was to us when we moved here. I really think we’re at a critical juncture, facing unprecedented fiscal pressures. We have to make some tough decisions to make sure we maintain our levels of services and keep property taxes in check.”

A supporter of consolidation, Ms. Howard feels that property taxes are the most important issue of the day. “The burden threatens the diversity that makes our community so special,” she says. Her experience working in government includes managing a staff of 1,700 people and a budget of $3.5 billion. “I think I can bring that experience into helping to create a more efficient Borough government,” she says. “I would bring in a fresh perspective as to how governments work.”

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