To the Editor:
After attending several Township meetings lately, it strikes me that the average Township resident is basically a pawn in the machinations taking place in our local government. The September 27 meeting is a case in point. The entire scene was obviously orchestrated by the powers that be.
I've lived on Snowden Lane for more than 30 years. I chose to build my house there because it was close to schools, close to town, and yet retained a lovely rural character. The beautiful foliage canopy over the lane was truly inviting.
The Township's plan to reconstruct this street has been in the hopper for two years. The residents, at that time, voiced their disapproval to our Township Engineer. A unanimous petition was signed and submitted. The project stayed on the back burner until last month.
The September 27 Township Committee meeting was an eye-opening display of "democracy in action." One walked away from that gathering with the distinct feeling that this was a "done deal." Representatives from the Police Department, the Shade Tree Commission, and the Regional School Board, as well as other "concerned" Township residents, all spoke of the need for a sidewalk to be included in the project. The whole show appeared rehearsed.
I would now like to present my analysis of this dispute.
Where is the safety issue? There is no record of any vehicular accident involving a pedestrian. Not one resident feels that the absence of a sidewalk poses a danger. School children do not walk on that segment of Snowden Lane. The Police admit that there will be a problem with enforcing the speed limit on this newly paved thoroughfare. A sidewalk would make no difference either way.
Since Snowden Lane belongs to the Township, are our scarce tax dollars going to pay for improvements in the Borough? How will the Borough residents be assessed for this proposed sidewalk?
Snowden Lane was designated as a minor connector in the 1996 Master Plan and 2001 Reexamination Report. There was no mention of a sidewalk. In fact, it was stressed that every effort should be made to preserve the rural character that we presently enjoy.
Removal of all the trees on the west side of Snowden Lane will totally destroy the bucolic atmosphere which we have enjoyed over the years. Snowden Lane will then have the appearance of a freeway. The Police admit that traffic speed will increase and that enforcement will be a problem. The heavy earth moving equipment will also destroy mature street plantings. Adjacent plantings are also endangered.
All of this distills down to a few simple questions. Isn't it strange that no official decision will be forthcoming until after November 2? Do our duly elected representatives truly represent the needs and wishes of the community they serve? How much politics is involved?
It is truly disappointing to see this imposition of authority foisted on a group of taxpayers and voters with little power to do anything about this except through the courts.
To the Editor:
This appeal is addressed to my fellow citizens of Princeton.
We have an important opportunity at hand to celebrate the memory of Barbara Boggs Sigmund, our former Mayor of Princeton Borough, and to improve the park dedicated to her memory on Hamilton Avenue. We can also capture and preserve the innovative spirit of volunteerism and civic celebration that the Writers Block teams have shown us this summer and fall.
The delightful, whimsical structures in Writers Block have added greatly to the town's sense of community. They are proof that Princeton is uniquely gifted with artists who love their community. The various follies of Writers Block have collectively become a meeting place, a celebratory space, a contemplative space, and a destination for all of our families to enjoy. This is exactly the spirit personified by Barbara Boggs Sigmund.
Three years ago I adopted the Sigmund Garden as the caretaker, and with the help of many volunteers we have organized seasonal cleanup and planting days. The garden is entirely dependent on donations including plants, money, and volunteer labor.
The Hands Together Folly, the beautiful cedar structure that reaches toward the sky with clear panels that direct your eye heavenward, was created by the local team of Paul Sigmund and John James Rivera. It is my hope that a group of residents would band together and bid at the upcoming Writers Block auction on Saturday, October 30, to purchase this beautiful sculpture for reinstallation at the Barbara Boggs Sigmund Park and dedicate it to her memory. If you are willing to assist in this effort to improve our Park and keep Barbara's memory alive, as well as keeping at least one piece of Writers Block in the public realm, please call me at (609) 924-0408. I need your help to fund this important project for our town.
To the Editor:
The Princeton Joint Recreation Board and Recreation Department staff would like to recognize the significant volunteer contribution of Princeton's Rotary Club. This year, the Club undertook a major project by building roof structures for the four remaining dugouts at the Grover Park Little League complex. Bob Wells, John Powell, Ahmed Azmy, and the rest of the volunteers deserve high praise for their patience and hard work. Now, all the fields are equipped with sheltered dugouts. The design is simple, consistent, and tasteful.
We salute the Rotary Club for their efforts and for their continued commitment to the community.
To the Editor:
For the last two years we have heard a lot about the need for a new or an expanded Princeton HealthCare System. But we have heard very little about the mission of such a facility.
What population is to be served? Is it mainly Princeton Township, Princeton Borough, Princeton University? Who else is to be considered? In case of an emergency (accident, child birth, etc.), should the local population at rush hour be required to cross or travel along U.S. 1, Route 27, or Route 206?
What services are to be provided by the facility? From the Emergency Room, to "normal" procedures, to "regular" surgery, to what else? Most likely it is not to perform organ transplants; nor might it contain a Burn Unit. But what is to be considered in between?
What economic impact is to be considered? The present facility provides employment to many area residents, from service personnel to nurses to physicians and surgeons. Does the facility have a moral responsibility to these people who served for all these years? The present employees bring income to restaurants and merchants along Witherspoon Street, Nassau Street, the Princeton Shopping Center, and others in the vicinity.
Once we agree to the answers to these questions, the selection of a preferred alternative change the present facility or move to another area will become much easier. It will also bring a much better solution.
To the Editor:
Property taxes are uppermost in the minds of Princeton Borough residents, and for good reason. For years they have been rising at many times the rate of inflation, and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.
The causes are known and include:
Half the real property in the Borough is tax-exempt;
Municipal salaries continue to rise significantly, due in large part to state statutes favoring police compensation;
Health insurance costs are rising even faster;
The Borough's ambitious capital program is driving up debt service;
Borough residents continue to demand a great deal of service e.g., a high ratio of police officers to Borough residents.
Cutting Borough expenses is not a viable strategy in providing meaningful tax relief. The level of cuts necessary to achieve such relief would require such a draconian reduction in service that residents would not stand for it.
The Borough can best reduce taxes by increasing non-tax revenues. Non-tax revenues include parking fees, contributions by non-profit institutions to the annual operating budget, and merging services with the Township. Mayor and Council have been slow to pursue these and many other non-tax revenue options.
A recent case in point: the pending Borough ordinance to permit Palmer Square to engage in "stacked parking" in its three downtown garages. Stacked parking would allow two or more cars in one parking slot, one behind the other.
The Borough agreed in principle to enact such an ordinance when it recently entered into a settlement with Palmer Square concerning Palmer Square's long-languishing redevelopment between Hulfish Street and Paul Robeson Place. But, in entering into that agreement, the Borough did not agree to forego participating in any increase in income that Palmer Square would achieve by stacked parking.
Why, then, have Mayor and Council introduced a stacked parking ordinance authorizing Palmer Square to stack parking at any of its more than 900 garage spaces without paying more than a $300 application fee to the Borough? Under the ordinance as introduced, Palmer Square, which charges about $155 per month for a parking space in its garages, could achieve a significant increase in its parking revenues, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars monthly, simply by doubling up cars at spaces it already owns. The Borough would get $300.
There is nothing wrong with Palmer Square making a buck. Nor is there anything wrong with the Borough participating in Palmer Square's good fortune.
The stacked parking ordinance should not be approved on final reading unless the Borough finds a way to participate more substantially in the income it yields to Palmer Square. I urge Borough residents to contact their local representatives to raise the issue directly.
Let's redouble our efforts to explore opportunities for more non-tax revenues. Every non-tax dollar received by the Borough results in a reduction in our property tax bills.
To the Editor:
I have, on more than one occasion, heard friends express concern about our new Public Library, and the costs in tax dollars for the new building and its operation. There appears to be some confusion which this letter will try to address.
Our new Princeton Public Library is state of the art, wonderful, and offers something of value to almost everyone. It cost $18 million to build, and if started now, probably would cost more than $22 million. It is reported that over 23,000 library cards are extant, an extraordinary indication of interest in a community of 25,000 people. On average, 2,300 visitors enter the new library daily, up from 1,500 at the Shopping Center and 1,100 at the old library.
Of the $18 million of construction funds, $6 million was paid by Princeton Borough and Township; almost $10 million was from donations from private citizens and non-government institutions. An additional $2.3 million came from state and federal grants. And private donations have laid the groundwork for an endowment fund, now approaching $3.5 million and targeted for $10 million, which paid for most of the art decorating the library, worth nearly $350,000. Tax dollars were important, but many of us made even more essential contributions for which the library repeatedly has expressed its gratitude.
However, the operating budget, established annually by the trustees, is funded only to 83 percent by tax dollars. Every year, the library will need private help to bridge this gap, or services and collections will suffer. Two non-profit organizations have been established to help meet this need, The Princeton Library Foundation, dedicated to raising an endowment, and the Friends, committed to helping raise the 17 percent of funds needed to make our magnificent facility truly fulfill its potential each year.
Let's all remember that our library will be as good as we are willing to make it. Tax dollars will only go so far, and the pressure on them is rising relentlessly.
To the Editor:
The Auxiliary of University Medical Center at Princeton is extremely grateful to the entire community for its support of our 86th Annual White Elephant Rummage Sale. The event was a wonderful success with donations of a wide variety of art, books, clothing, furniture, and household treasures that found new owners and raised a significant amount of money for the Breast Health Center. Princeton Airport generously shared its sunny skies and airplane hangars for our sale, and we are very thankful for its partnership.
We could not continue this 86-year tradition without the amazing dedication of those volunteers who spend hundreds of hours organizing the sale. A special thank you to Auxilians Rosemarie Hunninghake and Deborah Nosko, who stepped forward to lead our team of volunteers to another terrific White Elephant Rummage Sale.
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