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Vol. LXV, No. 46
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
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Volunteers for Consolidation Endured Rough and Tumble of Public Debate

Ralph Widner
Elm Road

ACP’s Dining by Design Fundraiser a Success Thanks to Hard Work, Dedication, Creativity

The Staff of the Arts Council of Princeton

Congratulations, Special Thanks Are in Order To Voters, Members of Consolidation Commission

Sandra Persichetti
Trewbridge Court

Frequent Power Outages Could Be Stopped, Jobs Created, With Underground Utility Lines

Grace Sinden
Ridgeview Circle

Post-Consolidation/Election Messages From Both Winners and Well-Wishers

Heather Howard
Aiken Avenue

Sallie Willis Jesser
Prospect Avenue

“The School Was Our Other Family”: Recalling 50th Anniversary Tour of PHS

William Roufberg
Kendall Park

Fifth Graders Enjoy Chemistry Day At University’s Frick Chemistry Lab

5th Graders (Mrs. Barbara Osburn’s class)
Millstone River Elementary School
Grover Mills Road, Plainsboro

Decomposition Is Partner of Composition In Dealing With Leaves and Yard Waste

Steve Hiltner
North Harrison Street

Shifting the Property Tax Burden: Rich Get Richer

Jim Firestone
Vandeventer Avenue

Members of Both Police Departments Should Vote for Their New Chief of Police

Ethan C. Finley
Princeton Community Village


Volunteers for Consolidation Endured Rough and Tumble of Public Debate

To the Editor:

The Princeton community owes an enormous debt to Anton Lahnston, Ryan Lilienthal, Patrick Simon, Alice Small, Valerie Haynes, William Metro, and Carol Golden — citizens who labored long and hard for a year on the Consolidation and Shared Services Study Commission. Their work is a credit to them and to the community. These citizen volunteers probably did not anticipate fully the sometimes personal rough and tumble of public debate that would greet their findings and recommendations. Elected officials may be inured to this aspect of our democracy, volunteers less so.

The leadership of our two mayors and governing boards deserve praise as well. They certainly met the test for enlightened leadership when a constituency is so divided.

For ten years, I monitored and evaluated dozens of municipal and school consolidation efforts all across the country as president of a policy center operated by the nation’s top state and local officials. The report of Princeton’s Study Commission stands out as one of the most clear-headed, competent, and practical among all the analyses I have reviewed.

Consolidations often lose their way during transition. Fortunately, the Study Commission has provided us with a very good road map to get through the thicket of decisions that now must be made. If we stick to the path it has charted, we will inherit a more effective, efficient, and accountable government that is likely to please even those who opposed the commission’s recommendations this year.

Ralph Widner
Elm Road

ACP’s Dining by Design Fundraiser a Success Thanks to Hard Work, Dedication, Creativity

To the editor:

Our Annual Dining by Design Fundraiser, held on November 5, was an extremely successful event. We would like to thank our event sponsors, dinner hosts, guest artist presenters, auction donors, and our event committee, especially our talented co-chairs Jennifer Figge, Kristin Gray, Dana Molina, and Gabrielle Shamsey. We could not have done it without everyone’s hard work, creativity, generosity, and dedication.

ACP’s Dining by Design event is critical to the continuance of several mission-related activities. We have achieved our fundraising goals and are proud that we can continue to support our Outreach Programs including: Arts Exchange, Art Reach, Kids at Work: Discovery through Art, Arts Programming for Seniors and Caregivers, Under Age, and Scholarships. These free programs make the arts accessible to at-risk youth, seniors, and people from all backgrounds. For more information about these and other Arts Council of Princeton programs we invite you to visit our website www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

Thank you again to everyone for your continuing support in helping to achieve our mission of “building community through the arts.”

The Staff of the Arts Council of Princeton

Congratulations, Special Thanks Are in Order To Voters, Members of Consolidation Commission

To the Editor:

Congratulations are in order for the people of Princeton who finally voted to become one town! But, most importantly, my heartfelt respect and gratitude go to the Consolidation Commission and to Anton Lahnston in particular. The time and energy that each member of the Commission devoted to their work was extraordinary. It has been difficult to watch these committed volunteers be subjected to unnecessary attacks from a minority of angry people opposing consolidation. To their credit, they never lost their poise or dignity. In my opinion, the Commission members truly performed a civic duty for the greater good — a concept that is often forgotten by our elected officials. I wish them all the well-earned feeling of satisfaction for a job well done. I hope they — and the families who supported their efforts over all these months — take a much needed rest as they enjoy the fruit of their accomplishment.

Sandra Persichetti
Trewbridge Court

Frequent Power Outages Could Be Stopped, Jobs Created, With Underground Utility Lines

To the Editor:

Recent severe storms and lesser factors have repeatedly cut off electricity to large areas of the northeast including New Jersey and Princeton. This has caused homeowners and businesses not only physical discomfort, but high costs in lost business, food spoilage as well as threats to public safety and health. Homeowners should not have to buy expensive generators in order to protect their families. In addition to the high cost, there are safety issues and increased air pollution with generators.

The time has come for New Jersey to upgrade our ancient overhead wire structure and place utility lines underground. This has already occured in many new developments and should be extended to other areas.

New Jersey’s population has grown from four million in 1940 to about 10 million, yet we have the same old infrastructure where exposed utility wires are vulnerable and are frequently brought down by high winds, fallen trees, and the weight of ice and snow.

With unemployment a serious issue, many jobs could be created to fix this problem and bring our electrical and other utility infrastructure into the 21st century. This would be a worthy investment in our security and future economic well being.

Since such an undertaking would take several years, residents and businesses should tell Governor Christie, our state BPU (Board of Public Utilities), and our state legislators that they must move ahead now on this critical issue before more serious consequences occur. Contact information can be found online.

Grace Sinden
Ridgeview Circle

Post-Consolidation/Election Messages From Both Winners and Well-Wishers

I would like to thank all the residents of Princeton Borough who voted on November 8. I am honored to have received the support of many residents, and look forward to working with you during the upcoming year to fulfill my commitment to ensuring a vibrant and welcoming community for all residents. The transition to a united community provides a unique opportunity to make our government more effective and efficient in dealing with the daunting fiscal and social issues ahead.

Heather Howard
Aiken Avenue

To the Editor:

I want to thank all of you who came out to vote in the election last week and thank you for your vote of confidence in me. I especially want to thank the Consolidation Commission one and all, and especially its chair, Anton Lahnston, for their arduous and thoughtful work over the past many months: they are the true heroes of this election. Their commitment to a process that involved research, study, and communication of their findings was simply outstanding. It is now up to all of us to work together as we build a new and better Princeton.

Barbara Trelstad

Westcott Road

To the Editor:

Having been born and raised in Princeton Borough and lived, raised, and educated my own children in the Township for the past 40 or so years, I am thrilled to see my town now one town. I feel the need to celebrate. Why not make the theme of Communiversity “Princeton — One Town.”

Sallie Willis Jesser
Prospect Avenue

“The School Was Our Other Family”: Recalling 50th Anniversary Tour of PHS

To the Editor:

On Saturday, November 12, at 11 a.m., a large group of men and women, class of 1961, gathered at Princeton High School to celebrate their 50th anniversary with a reunion tour of the school’s interior architectural renovation. All were amazed at the new library, gym, auditorium, stage, lunchroom, and centers for art, music, and computers. I was one of four retired teachers (history teacher 1958-1992) present and we too marveled at the changes. All exchanged fond memories. The school was our other family.

William Roufberg
Kendall Park

Fifth Graders Enjoy Chemistry Day At University’s Frick Chemistry Lab

To the Editor:

On the evening of October 25 our family went to the National Chemistry Day event in Frick Chemistry Lab at Princeton University. This year’s theme was “Chemistry — Our Health, Our Future!” Hundreds of kids and their parents showed up for the event. There were many exhibits including Buckyball, More Vitamin C, Antacid Action, See a Part per Million, Light Spectrums with LEDS, Measure your hair width with a laser, and Moving Milk. We learned that you can see 1/1,000,000 with the naked eye, food coloring sticks to fat, and how to make slime.

We enjoyed the event and would like to thank Princeton University for giving us the opportunity to learn more about science.

Andrew Zhong, Brian Zhong

5th Graders (Mrs. Barbara Osburn’s class)
Millstone River Elementary School
Grover Mills Road, Plainsboro

Decomposition Is Partner of Composition In Dealing With Leaves and Yard Waste

To the Editor:

Over the weekend, I introduced my youngest daughter to the joy of jumping in leaves. We raked the crisp, dry leaves in the front yard onto a tarp, and I carried the cargo of fluff like Santa Claus to the backyard, where a kid-worthy pile took shape. She jumped in and covered herself like a kid might do at the beach. It’s a fun way to end up with a clean front yard on a bright, cool autumn day. Eventually, the pile will be moved behind some shrubs in a back corner, or spread over the fenced-in vegetable garden where it will protect and feed the soil. 

To find delight and utility in leaves seems a rare thing in Princeton, where the custom is to deposit all dead plant matter on the streets. Over the past year in the Borough, the dumping of yard waste at the curb has become non-stop, making it impossible to ever take a walk down a clean street. Storms have contributed periodically to the quantity, but habit seems the primary driver. 

During the mayoral campaign, one of the candidates decried the trash on downtown streets. But if Borough street crews are being run ragged year-round, picking up little blobs of yard waste with the giant “Claw” in residential neighborhoods, there’s no time to keep downtown clean. It may feel good as taxpayers to be able to toss yard waste onto asphalt without a second thought, but it doesn’t make for a clean town. That which we reject becomes, ironically, a constant, dominating visual element on our streets. 

The abuse of the current service suggests some sort of reform is needed. In the meantime, if there were one thing people could do to get back in sync with nature, it would be to view the fallen leaves and garden trimmings not as an end but as the beginning of a journey back to soil. Decomposition is the partner of composition, and it need not be relegated to a distant “finishing school” for compost.

Watching the massive flooding in Thailand, my daughter asked why they couldn’t make giant sponges to soak up all the water. It sounds whimsical, but it’s conceivable that Princeton’s flooding — whether by swollen rivers or streets “flooded” with leaves — could be reduced if homeowners dedicated some small space in the yard to allowing all that absorbent organic matter a chance to decompose and thereby feed new life. With such a change in habit, we mend the circle that is nature’s endless cycling of nutrients, make our public spaces cleaner, and give kids a bit of joy on the way.

Steve Hiltner
North Harrison Street

Shifting the Property Tax Burden: Rich Get Richer,

Poor and Middle Class Are Asked to Leave

To the Editor:

On the national level in America during the last thirty years, the tax codes have been rewritten in favor of bigger loop holes for the wealthy. Inheritance taxes have been severely curtailed and income taxes decreased disproportionately.

On our local level, in Princeton, an unfair property tax reassessment was implemented It discriminated against owners of small, older homes in favor of larger or newer homes. The property tax burden was shifted, and no one really understood why.

Do any of the wealthy in Princeton question why their taxes went down? No, they don’t. Nor do their elected officials. Would they consider returning the approximately $3,000,000 per year that was gained by them as reductions in taxes, and which was left for the poor and middle class to pay? No, they won’t. This burden fell hardest on those who could least afford it, those in the Witherspoon Jackson neighborhood and similarly in the Ewing Street area, with an average tax increase of 55 and 26 percent. The wealthy should turn it around and imagine if that happened to them. Would they be so silent?

When the poor people have trouble paying the increased burden of these taxes nationally and locally, sheriff sales occur and certain developers and speculators come into play. They bid cash on these properties at very low values. These citizens don’t have other assets like the wealthy have stocks. There is no cushion. Many of the citizens there lose both their life’s and family’s savings to foreclosure. Foreclosure occurs here six times more than in any other neighborhood in Princeton.

I ask with whose blessings does this occur, this de facto discrimination? Who benefits most by cleaning up the area of least affordable homes in our community? Some ask “How can we stop those Latinos from sitting on the front porches and steps of Witherspoon Street?” The immediate answer as to who benefits is the builders and developers and, then, there are those who claim they want to be “good neighbors” where their new projected graduate housing will be built on the Merwick tract next door and on the Stanworth plot.

Was this unequal property tax treatment intentional? No one will ever know. Is it a conspiracy to discriminate? Well, not exactly, that is if you see it as just applying pressure indirectly to move. In the not too distant past this was done in our town by packing the planning and zoning boards with user friendly citizens to get what they wanted. It was the case of Griggs vs. the Borough of Princeton. It all appeared legal until the Supreme Court ruled otherwise. But, that was after the fact of the loss of the lands just as in the Concerned Citizen movement; “blight” wasn’t overturned until the project was built.

And, so it goes still: the rich get richer while the poor and middle class are asked to leave even in a town like Princeton where a great University prides itself on being “in the nation’s service.” To me they’re sure not in the town’s service. They and the trustees don’t know we exist.

Jim Firestone
Vandeventer Avenue

Members of Both Police Departments Should Vote for Their New Chief of Police

To the Editor:

I have lived in Princeton since June of 1976. In 1979 I lived in Princeton Borough, when the voters of Princeton Borough rejected consolidation of the two Princetons into one municipality by 47 votes. I am very happy and I am thrilled that the voters of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township overwhelmingly approved the issue of consolidating the Princetons into one municipality.

There is no doubt in my mind that elected officials from Princeton Borough and Princeton Township read editorials submitted to the Town Topics. I have a great idea and I hope that the elected officials of both Princetons will give my idea earnest consideration. I think there should be an election where the rank and file of both police departments vote for the new Chief of Police.

In my opinion Princeton is a first class community, and my idea of how to determine who will be the new Chief of Police is a first class idea.

Ethan C. Finley
Princeton Community Village

For information on how to submit Letters to the Editor, click here.

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