Compete for Seats on Borough Council
The 2003 Borough Council election is quickly approaching,
with four candidates competing for a possible two seats. Incumbents
Wendy Benchley, Democrat, and Peggy Karcher, Democrat, will be
running to keep their seats on the Borough, while Alan Hegedus,
Republican, and Mark Alexandridis, unaffiliated, will run on the
Princeton Party ticket.
Also Mayor Marvin Reed's retirement
at the end of his term has spurred two candidates to run as his
replacement. Two-year Borough Council member Joseph O'Neill, Democrat,
and Steven Syrek, Green Party, will compete for the traditionally
Democratic seat on Council. If Mr. O'Neill wins the election,
it will open up a third seat on the Council, giving an additional
candidate the opportunity to serve for the Borough.
Firestone, Democrat, recently dropped out of the race as a possible
candidate for Borough Council due to personal and family responsibilities.
three Democratic incumbents running and three others that are
neither running as Democrat or Republican, the Council may have
a switch out of its historically Democratic governance.
There are many issues on the forefront
for the Borough, with the redevelopment project as the key issue
where the candidates are divided. With the building of the underground
garage downtown, many have questioned if the Borough is trying
to become more like a city, and less like a suburb. Some candidates
feel the Borough should move ahead with redevelopment, while other
candidates want to undo what the Council has done, and keep Princeton's
Mr. O'Neill, Ms. Karcher and Ms. Benchley,
the three incumbent candidates, said they feel the new downtown
garage will not bring more traffic into town, but alleviate the
current back-ups drivers experience during rush hour.
traffic will come, whether we plan for it or not," said Ms.
Karcher. "The one aspect of traffic we can control is the
circulating traffic caused by drivers looking for parking spaces.
The garage will alleviate this."
Ms. Benchley said
that in addition to the new garage, she is investigating other
solutions to traffic. "I have been working with the Borough
to institute plans to park employees in [Princeton] University
lots during the weekends so that citizens can have more on-street
Mr. Syrek, however, says he was
against the garage from the start, and believes it will cause
more problems than solutions. "At this point, I think the
closing of unnecessary streets would do much to both add to our
quality of life and at least discourage through-traffic."
Hegedus says he was also against the garage. "The garage
was to be the solution, but has become the problem," he said.
He said he believes the answer lies within creating a relationship
between the Borough and Princeton University.
agreed. "Change the zoning standards and quell the agenda
to urbanize our charming community," he said. "Development
will only beget more congestion."
in rental units in the Borough has led to many problems in town,
such as excess garbage on certain streets, high noise levels,
and sidewalks and parking areas littered with bicycles. Each candidate
has their own solution on how to alleviate this problem.
is the result of a number of societal factors, many of which are
too big to address on a municipal level," said Mr. Syrek.
"What we can do is try to ease the burden for both landlords
and renters with a more reasonable tax structure and more housing
Ms. Benchley, incumbent, said she believes
the Relocation Assistance Act could be used to prosecute landlords.
"The landlord's court and tenant relocation costs would be
high enough so that there would be little profit in continuing
the practice of allowing overcrowded rental units," she said.
Hegedus said that a plan of action will give the Borough better
results. "Perhaps a start would be to not construct even
more downtown residential townhouses at taxpayers' expense and
with tax exemption to the developer," he said. "Some
of our solutions are self-evident, but require the courage of
conviction now absent from our Council members."
Karcher, councilwoman incumbent, said, "There should be strict
enforcement of the 'quality of life' ordinances coupled with notification
to the landlords that they are in violation of the law and subsequent
enforcement of the law."
Mr. O'Neill said that a "human
approach" needs to be taken for overcrowding. "I think
the first issue that needs to be addressed is the clean up of
garbage and parking. Then we need to deal with the human issue,"
Mr. Alexandridis declined to comment without enough
objective information on the issue.
Meet the Candidates
Mayoral candidate Joseph
O'Neill is a 16-year member of the Princeton Regional Planning
Board. He is a retired researcher for Educational Testing Service,
the Princeton-based company behind standardized achievement tests
(SATs). He was also founding president of Hudson County Community
College and acting university chaplain and lecturer in ethics
at Georgetown University.
Mr. O'Neill defeated State Assemblyman
Reed Gusciora in the Democratic primary in June, with 411 votes
to Mr. Gusciora's 328 votes.
Mr. O'Neill said he intends
to move forward with the current plans for the Borough. He voted
for the downtown redevelopment project, and wants to see it through.
"Even though under New Jersey law the Borough of Princeton
is known for having a weak mayor and a strong Council, the mayor
still sets the agenda, and we have a lot of things that need to
get done," he said.
Mr. O'Neill cited his primary concern
as the possible moving of Princeton Medical Center out of the
Borough. "The hospital is a major institute, and anything
that happens to it concerns both the Township and Borough,"
Green Party Candidate
Steven Syrek, Borough Council
candidate for mayor, is running again in this election after a
defeat in his run for Council in 1999. Mr. Syrek is a 2000 graduate
of Rutgers University, where he majored in English, History, and
the Classics. He is currently a graduate student and teaching
assistant at Rutgers, working toward a Ph.D. in English.
as a Green Party candidate, Mr. Syrek said he intends to retain
the small-town feel of Princeton if he is elected. "I am
running for mayor because I do not like the current trend of development,"
he said in his campaign brochure. "This is a remarkable place
full of remarkable people, and I intend to do everything I can
to preserve the small-town lifestyle I have grown to love."
Syrek's key platform issues are to stop overdevelopment, break
the democratic monopoly in the Borough, support a small-town economy,
and work towards a sustainable future in the Borough by limiting
consumption and waste.
Dem. Council Candidate
Wendy Benchley, who has served one year of an unexpired term as
well as a four-year term, will be running again in this year's
Ms. Benchley, a former member of the Princeton
Regional Planning Board, said she feels her experience thus far
on the Council can serve as a good background for continuing in
her position. "My five years of work with citizens and Mayor
and Council has given me a good grounding in the complexity of
the issues facing the Borough and it has honed my skills in creating
solutions," she said. "I want to continue to use my
experience and skills to keep Princeton's diversity and vitality
The councilwoman has developed two award-winning
advocacy programs, "Home Safe Home" and "The Environmental
Shoppers Campaign," a campaign against the Mercer County
Ms. Benchley, a Democrat, voted in favor of
the downtown development project. However, she says there is no
one issue at the forefront of her agenda if she is reelected.
"The health of our Borough and its citizens depends upon
the success of a myriad of programs in human services, public
works, transportation and parking, land use planning, agreements
with the University and many other areas to numerous to list."
Dem. Council Candidate
Peggy Karcher is also running for a second term on Borough Council.
Ms. Karcher's family is rather involved with politics, as her
husband served in the New Jersey State Assembly for 17 years,
and her daughter, Ellen, is currently running for State Senate
in the 12th District.
Ms. Karcher is a volunteer for Habitat
for Humanity, a former member of the Board of Trent House Association,
and the corresponding secretary of the Princeton Community Democratic
Organization. She said she would like to continue in her Council
position because she enjoys serving the community. "I offer
Princeton the benefit of my thoughtful, careful analysis of problems
and my willingness to work with all interested parties to reach
solutions," she said.
Ms. Karcher, a Democrat, says
she feels that the underage drinking is on the forefront of the
issues she wishes to address if she is reelected. "Underage
drinking, both in the Borough and on the campus, is a serious
problem that will require the concerted efforts of both the University
and the Borough to control."
Candidate for Council
Competing against the
incumbent candidates is the Princeton Party, represented by Mark
Alexandridis, unaffiliated party, and Alan Hegedus, Republican.
Hegedus ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate for Borough
Council in 1991. He says, however, that he wants to institute
a non-partisan government in the Borough. As chairman of the Finance
Committee on the Princeton Regional School Board for three years,
he said he feels the non-partisan government works well for the
Board and the community.
"The Council needs financial
experience in decision-making," he said. "Debt loads
are unsustainable. These trends must be reversed and I can make
that happen." Mr. Hegedus said the biggest issue in the Borough
that needs to be resolved is the tax-exempt areas of town. He
said that more help is needed from places such as Princeton University.
"I will bring [Princeton University] into the financial role,"
he said. "My goal is to initiate a dialog and find a solution."
Hegedus said he, as well as Mr. Alexandridis, hope to bring a
change to the Council as part of the Princeton Party. He referred
to a petition against the downtown development project that was
signed by 1,100 Borough citizens, which he said the Borough ignored.
If elected, he said he will make sure the residents' vote counts.
"We should rise above party partisans," he said.
Candidate for Council
Running with Mr.
Hegedus on the Princeton Party ticket is Mark Alexandridis. The
six-year Princeton resident, who says he has almost always lived
in an academic community, is an investment banker in New York
City. He said that along with Alan Hegedus, he feels it's time
for a change in the Borough. He said that after observing several
Council meetings over the last 18 months, he feels a governing
change is needed.
"I became somewhat troubled by the
quality and diversity of the discourse on most issues," he
said. "There seems to be a uniform agenda with little or
no dialogue. There are good politics, but they are not particularly
conducive to good governance."
Mr. Alexandridis said
that on the forefront of his issues is engaging tax-exempt institutions
financially in the Borough, as well as elevating the zoning standards
in town to preclude development over the last few years. "The
council needs to change if it is to serve the needs of all Princetonians,"