Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 42
 
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
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Whose Interests Are Served, Resident Asks, in Downtown Developer Negotiations?

MARK G. ALEXANDRIDIS
Princeton Avenue

Keeping “Final Offer” Behind Closed Doors Only Leaves the Community in the Dark

ROGER MARTINDELL
Member, Princeton Borough Council
Prospect Avenue

Clean Elections Project Participants Include Six 14th District Candidates

PETER COCOZIELLO
Oldwick, N.J.
Chair, Platform For Progress
New Jersey Chamber of Commerce

Route 206-Cherry Valley Road Traffic Pattern Creates “More Headaches” for This Motorist

ASHA GURUNATAHN
William Patterson Court

Breast Cancer Awareness Done in Style, Thanks to a Whole Cast of Supporters

KARA STEPHENSON
Director, Breast Cancer Resource Center
YWCA Princeton


Whose Interests Are Served, Resident Asks, in Downtown Developer Negotiations?

To the Editor:

It is painfully apparent that Princeton Borough’s governing body is negotiating an agreement for Phase 2 of the downtown development without serious regard to its responsibility as a fiduciary for Borough taxpayers.

Last spring, when the development was stalled, once again, because the Borough’s developer refused to proceed, members of the public requested information from the Borough. Mayor and Council promised, in public session, to respond to the queries but, to date, have steadfastly refused to honor that commitment. Yet another covenant — in addition to revenue neutrality and free library parking — blithely flouted.

On October 4, a leading member of the governing body said that the information would not be provided until the Borough’s negotiations NHKT had been concluded. That member clearly indicated that Mayor and Council would conclude its negotiation with the developer regardless of any public comment and/or input. This disturbing pattern of smoky room dealing has become standard operating procedure for consequential issues (e.g., library parking, annual payments by the University).

Also last spring, Mayor and Council declined to consult other developers for alternatives, despite published suggestions that this would be the commercially responsible course of action. And they spurned offers by local development experts who had volunteered to assist the Borough in the negotiating process.

Then, in August, Mayor and Council delivered what they described as their “final offer” to the developer, but refused to disclose its terms to the public. When the developer rejected the Borough’s “final offer”, Mayor and Council returned into closed session to discuss, no doubt, how the Borough might concede gracefully to all of the developer’s demands. The “second final offer” has not been disclosed.

From the foregoing, the Borough taxpayer might reasonably ask:

Why has the Borough failed and refused to oblige the developer to adhere to the terms and conditions of the existing, extensive agreement, leaving the impression that it is not in control of the project or the process?

Why has the Borough failed and refused to publicly reveal its goals in connection with the stalled downtown project, leaving the impression it has no articulated goals other than concluding this project at any cost?

Why has the Borough deliberately failed and refused to seek expert advice in adopting bargaining goals or methods, leaving the impression that it does not understand that negotiating a multi-million dollar development might not best be left to part-time politicians with no experience in real estate development and/or finance?

Why did the Borough fail and refuse to have two newspapers publish the announcement — only the Trenton Times carried the notice —of the hastily organized October 4 closed session (the customary, but not obligatory, procedure under the Open Public Meetings Act), confirming the impression that transparency and public participation are not high priorities at Borough Hall?

Whose interests are being served here?

MARK G. ALEXANDRIDIS
Princeton Avenue

Keeping “Final Offer” Behind Closed Doors Only Leaves the Community in the Dark

Princeton Borough’s decision not to make public what it had previously described as the Borough’s “final offer” to the downtown developer, Nasasu HKT, has at least two consequences about which the community should be concerned. The first is lack of transparency, and the second is loss of credibility in the Borough’s negotiating ability.

As former Borough Council President Mark Freda says, Nassau HKT already knows what the Borough offered to the developer as the Borough’s “final offer”. Thus, the only apparent purpose in now not publicly revealing that offer is to keep the community in the dark. While one can speculate as to the motive some may have in keeping the public in the dark, it would be most productive to look at the consequences of that decision. They are not good.

The most serious consequence is lack of public input into any decision to proceed with Phase 2 of the downtown development and whether proceeding remains in the best interest of the Borough taxpayer. The public cannot participate in the decision-making if the facts of the matter are kept secret. While as a general rule public awareness of municipal negotiations with a developer may be appropriately constrained to facilitate negotiations, complete exclusion of the public from having its say on a project that is now substantially behind schedule (two years) and off budget (by hundreds of thousands of dollars) is bad policy and bad politics.

Further, in failing to reveal the terms of its “final offer”, Borough Hall also demonstrates a lack of negotiating acumen. That should concern Borough residents because millions of their tax dollars are at stake.

A “final offer” amounts to what practiced negotiators call the “best alternative to a negotiated agreement”. Primers on negotiation instruct that, before negotiations begin, each party should know at what point he or she is willing to pull the plug on the negotiations and walk away. Without that base-line decision, a negotiation has no integrity or purpose and no objective measure of success or accountability.

When the Borough declared its “final offer” on August 7, it essentially stated its best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Now, having failed to win acceptance of its “final offer” by NHKT, the Borough’s decision to continue negotiations indicates that the Borough is back-pedaling to find a “final offer” more acceptable to the developer. In doing so, the Borough has lost leverage at the bargaining table. The Borough is now negotiating against itself. In continuing closed-door discussions with NHKT, the Borough puts at risk the integrity of the negotiations and ability of the taxpayer to objectively measure their success.

Finally, most troubling is the intersection of these issues. The damage to the integrity of the negotiations and their lack of transparency have created doubt concerning whose interests are being served by the Borough’s refusal to conduct the public’s business in public.

Mayor and Council can hope to reclaim taxpayer confidence in the negotiations with the downtown developer by making the negotiations more open to public review.

ROGER MARTINDELL
Member, Princeton Borough Council
Prospect Avenue

Clean Elections Project Participants Include Six 14th District Candidates

To the Editor:

With so much corruption associated with New Jersey elected officials, our state needs to change business as usual by removing money from politics and changing our election process.

On November 6, when voters in the 14th, 24th, and 37th legislative districts select their representatives for the State Senate and General Assembly, they could have the opportunity to vote for candidates that did not receive substantial campaign contributions from unions, corporations, political parties, or individual donors.

In the 14th legislative district, which includes West Windsor, Plainsboro, Cranbury, and Hamilton, local Senate candidates Bill Baroni and Seema Singh, and Assembly candidates Adam Bushman, Wayne DeAngelo, Thomas Goodwin, and Linda Greenstein are all participating in the second Clean Elections Pilot Project as certified Clean Elections candidates.

Under this voluntary program, qualified candidates who collect 400 to 800 $10 contributions from voters in their district and agree to forgo private campaign cash, receive public funding grants to run for office. The Clean Elections program is backed by a diverse group of concerned organizations, including the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics, Citizen Action, and the League of Women Voters, who will help to promote the program to voters in the pilot districts.

Although we will unfortunately continue to hear the negative stories associated with Jersey politics, we should take notice of the pilot program in the 14th, 24th, and 37th legislative districts. Once this election cycle is over, our wish is for clean elections to come to all New Jersey legislative districts.

PETER COCOZIELLO
Oldwick, N.J.
Chair, Platform For Progress
New Jersey Chamber of Commerce

Route 206-Cherry Valley Road Traffic Pattern Creates ‘More Headaches’ for This Motorist

To the Editor:

I’m looking for answers to the decision to block left hand turns from Hillside Avenue onto Cherry Valley Road. Since the new traffic pattern was implemented, instead of eliminating the traffic clogs in the intersection of Route 206 and Cherry Valley Road, it has only created more headaches for the drivers traveling on Cherry Valley Road. This road is now severely congested as all right and left turns onto Hillside Avenue have been blocked.

There is no doubt there are lot of traffic patrol cars waiting to give tickets to the drivers who seem to go nowhere from this mess. Everybody has to pay the price for the four new developments which have been built on Cherry Valley Road, but the condition of the Cherry Valley Road-Route 206 intersection, small to begin with, is dangerous in terms of lack of lighting at the exit and entrance to the jug handles adding to the difficulty in making these adjustments.

We do not understand that in order to make peace with a dozen or so households who live in Hillside Avenue, so much money and deviation of traffic and congestion has to be endured by so many drivers.

If Princeton Township has decided to ban all left turns on Route 206 to facilitate flow of traffic, they have to enforce it on the entire Route 206 stretch all the way to Nassau Street. When the Griggs Farm development was built, Princeton Township did not allow for a Route 206 entrance or exit.

We expect Montgomery Township and Princeton Township to come up with the plan to fix the problems they have created. It seems unbelievable that we did not foresee all the potential problems caused by the new feeder roads.

I look forward to seeing immediate action or a response.

ASHA GURUNATAHN
William Patterson Court

Breast Cancer Awareness Done in Style, Thanks to a Whole Cast of Supporters

To the Editor:

On September 28, Breast Cancer Awareness Month was launched in style at the 3rd annual “In the Pink” Fashion Show and Silent Auction! More than 300 guests watched as breast cancer survivors, along with their husbands, children, doctors, nurses, and social workers modeled stunning fall fashions from local retailers including Aerosoles, Chico’s, Eastern Mountain Sports, Incredible Me, J. McLaughlin, LympheDIVAs, Talbots, and The Dandeline Shop.

Guests bid generously on auction items and helped raise $25,000 to benefit the YWCA Princeton Breast Cancer Resource Center, which is dedicated to providing information and support to women and families affected by breast cancer, and to increasing awareness of the disease in the community.

We extend heartfelt thanks to all those individual donors, too many to list in this letter who made this inspirational evening possible. We are very grateful to our sponsors — University Medical Center at Princeton Breast Health Center; Capital Health System; Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, LLC; Mercer County Woman; and Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor Matthew McCarville — and to our in-kind contributors Anne Lumberger/Rita Marie Bohlumbohm/Mercer County Community College Hospitality Club, Bloomers ‘N Things, Jen King Design, Mastergraphx, McCaffery’s West Windsor, Media Matrix, Metropolis Spa and Salon, and Triangle Copy (East Windsor); gift bag sponsors Body Quest Massage, J. McLaughlin, LympheDIVAs, Mary Phillips Designs, Omni Media and University Medical Center at Princeton Breast Health Center; live auction donors Trump National Golf Club, Hamilton Jewelers, and Princeton Garden Theatre; and all the silent auction donors, for their generosity and support. To our Mistress of Ceremonies Karen Jezierny, DJ Eric Santini, Auctioneer Jim D’Ovidio, Fashion Show Coordinator Gaby Kline, and our many volunteers: thank you for keeping the evening running smoothly. And to our 27 models: thank you for your energy, enthusiasm, and inspiration!

A special note of appreciation should be given to breast cancer survivor Doreleena Sammons-Posey for her inspirational musical interlude, and to Princeton Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand for presiding over the ribbon-cutting ceremony to launch Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The support of all participants and guests made this event a true celebration of the beauty, strength, and courage of breast cancer survivors and their supporters.

KARA STEPHENSON
Director, Breast Cancer Resource Center
YWCA Princeton

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