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Vol. LXI, No. 43
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
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Youth Outreach, Recreation, and Consolidation on Liverman’s Agenda for a “Safe, Warm” Town

Matthew Hersh

Lance Liverman lives on the edge — literally, the edge of Princeton Township proper. On a clear day from his Witherspoon Street front door, you can see Princeton Borough, and have no idea that there is a municipal line in between.

The house is also where Mr. Liverman grew up, and is now where he and his family live. When he was the same age as his three young children, he had no concept of how definitive that line is — a fact of life he learned when he became involved in public service.

Now, when he considers the Princeton community as a whole, he’s come to the realization that “the only way consolidation works, is if the community wants it — it’s up to us to make it work.

“I would love to consolidate, but there are a lot of things to be worked out. The Borough and Township are two different amazing beasts, from the way we budget to the way we finance and collect. Different from the way we run our police and public works departments to the way we do trash pick-up,” Mr. Liverman said, adding that while the two towns are side by side and share more municipal services than any doughnut hole municipal formation in the state, the governments are “night and day.”

Mr. Liverman, 45, is seeking election to a second term on the Township’s governing body, and while he says there is important dialogue to be found in consolidation discussions, his purview often takes in areas where municipal lines blur, and the community ties become a factor. As a former trustee of Princeton Community Housing and the current chairman of the board of the First Baptist Church whose departmental assignments on Committee include seats on the Princeton Alcohol & Drug Alliance, and Corner House boards, Mr. Liverman has spent much of his first term, and much time before that, on issues related to what he terms as “youth at risk.

“Kids need tutoring, places to meet in the evening, and we’ve worked hard at increasing the level of positive activities for them,” he said.

The youth issue is one that Mr. Liverman often addresses, largely because he’s made it the centerpiece of his first term with the Corner House Princeton Youth Project, where a full-time outreach coordinator was hired, with the Borough and Township sharing the cost of the salary. The idea was to have that person bond with youth, “and help instill trust in them and point them in the right directions.”

That initiative resulted in the hiring of Jay Curtis, a Princeton native himself; the program has been in effect for the past two years.

Mr. Liverman also points to the Princeton Recreation Department as a focus area during his time on Committee. Currently reviewing its own master plan, the Recreation Department is responsible for the community amenities that, Mr. Liverman said, help keep kids out of trouble.

As the municipal liaison to the Board of Education, Mr. Liverman said he felt the Borough and Township did a “good job” in coming together to refine a budget that had been defeated in the April election. “I think we adopted a safe and sound package for the board of education,” he said, having been able to help fill minority achievement gaps through his role as liaison. “Are the kids getting enough help? What if there’s a parent at home that’s never finished high school, and the student is putting work in front of them that they’ve never seen.

“We need to look at all these things in regard to educating our youth,” said Mr. Liverman, who runs the real estate investment outfit, Liverman Associates, by day. A student council liaison to the school board while at PHS, he grinned when he said he “started early on, and never really stopped.”

He credits his involvement with First Baptist as the mechanism that taught him that “you really do something and be involved. As a young kid, I always believed that was my mission.

“It’s different obviously … but I guess it’s all hand-in-hand: what I do during the day, and being able to do it locally, allows me to raise a family and serve in this capacity.”

It also allows the candidate to deal with the often-contentious atmosphere between the Borough and Township governments. “When you have negative statements coming from political leaders in regard to how one town treats the other, I don’t think that helps any kind of discussion. We have to be more understanding and more willing to communicate with each other in a positive light.”

That sentiment immediately segued into a discussion of the planned relocation of the University Medical Center at Princeton to Plainsboro. The 12-acre site at 253 Witherspoon Street, just up the street from Mr. Liverman’s house, straddles the Borough-Township municipal line, impacting both Princetons, as well as the region. Mr. Liverman said he hopes to see the property redeveloped in a way that fits the surrounding community, and that he supports the hospital’s moving, particularly with the transportation condition built in to the state’s approval of the relocation plan submitted by Princeton HealthCare System, the hospital’s corporate parent.

The transportation, Mr. Liverman said, is just another example of the ties that bind community: “I’ve loved Princeton from day one — from being bussed to Littlebrook, going through John Witherspoon, and Princeton High School. I also love the fact that this is a safe, warm community, and my idea, with three kids, is to keep it that way.”

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