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Vol. LXV, No. 43
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
To the Editor:
We were quite surprised to see Jill Jachera claim on her website and in interviews that one of her major concerns for the Borough in the coming year will be preserving the historic nature of Princeton.
This is an amazing statement given her opposition to creating the Boroughs fifth historic district in a small area that includes her home. Since 2006, Ms. Jachera has consistently opposed a historic district that would follow exactly the same rules as the four very successful districts created in the 1980s in other parts of the Borough.
Most recently, in December 2009, a group of residents in her area signed a letter submitting a proposal for historic designation, along with a consultants research report. Ms. Jachera backed another group, unwilling to disclose their names, that hired a law firm to oppose historic designation. That firms September 2010 paper contained not so veiled threats to sue the Borough if designation were approved. At the October and November 2010 meetings of the Historic Preservation Review Committee (HPRC), Ms. Jachera again publicly stated her opposition to historic designation.
This August the Borough attorney found that the Historic Preservation Plan Element of the Community Master Plan needed to be updated, and that the HPRC would address this issue promptly before acting on our proposal.
Ms. Jacheras philosophy is clearly one of individual property rights over shared community values and streetscapes. This very basic negative philosophy of the role of government, and the striking inconsistency in Ms. Jacheras stated views, are two of the many reasons we will be voting for Yina Moore for mayor.
Wendy Benchley, Mellick Belshaw,
Austin Newton, Noriko Ohta, Ruth Sayer,
David Tolman, Dorothy Shepard,
John and Mary Heilner, Chris and Liza Rice
To the Editor,
I recently had the opportunity to meet Jill Jachera and to hear her speak. I am convinced that she is what Princeton Borough needs at this time:
She will bring much needed managerial skills to the borough.
She will build new bridges to the University for the betterment of our community.
She will be a strong voice as the consolidation moves forward.
After listening to her, I believe she has the personality and dynamism to get the job done.
I will vote for her and urge my fellow Borough voters to vote for her as well.
To the Editor:
Yesterday, I walked from Palmer Square to my home in Governors Lane. There was no way to know when my walk stopped being through the Borough and when it started being in the Township. The houses looked pretty much the same over the entire route, the people looked pretty much the same, and the sidewalks looked pretty much the same. It was simply not possible to differentiate one part of the community from the other.
Those who say that we are not already one community should take the walk I took and describe how one can tell when one leaves the Borough and enters the Township. I challenge anyone to define the difference in any meaningful way.
We are already one community. Uniting Princeton through consolidation would merely validate what already exists.
To the Editor:
We have lived in five homes in Princeton over the past 27 years two in the Township and three in the Borough. We currently own property in both municipalities. Our values and personalities are the same regardless of the municipality in which we live. We believe that when asked, most of us identify as Princetonians, not Borough or Township residents and our government should reflect that.
At the time Princeton Borough was established, boroughs were subordinate to townships, not autonomous. Princeton Borough was divided between West Windsor and Princeton Township. In 1853 West Windsor ceded its portion of the Borough to Princeton Township. In 1894 the Borough separated from the Township based on disagreements over school funding. Ironically, the school system is now united, eliminating the motivating reason for the divide.
Today the divide causes impediments to the safe, efficient delivery of our police and emergency services that can only be removed through consolidation. The extra time and effort it takes to coordinate both municipalities forces with each other and with that of Princeton University make delivery of these critical services more difficult and less timely than they would be with one police department. Combining the forces will make them more efficient and less expensive. Because of the necessity for a single chain of command, the police department is one area that cannot be integrated without consolidation.
Saving money will take the collective will of our elected officials. Voters are responsible for electing officials committed to making it happen and holding their feet to the fire. However, where else do we find any hope of savings? Consolidation offers opportunities for savings not available to the individual municipalities. The main complaint voiced in the anti-consolidation advertisements is that Borough residents wont save as much as Township residents might. The authors describe hypothetical scenarios wherein Borough residents might see their taxes increase, on average, $10 per month. No mention is made of the fact that all of the savings calculations that were presented as part of the Commissions report were done in a conservative manner and that the savings might be more. Why isnt the upside presented? Shall we pass up this opportunity for a likely savings or a possible $10 a month increase?
Right now we stand at a point where we can put back together a municipality that divided for reasons that are no longer relevant. Lets do it.
Candace and Marvin Preston
White Oak Drive
To the Editor:
In a few short days Princeton will decide the question of municipal consolidation. I am writing to urge to vote in favor of the ballot initiative. In the Summary Report, the Princeton Joint Consolidation/Shared Services Study Commission identified three crucial benefits of consolidation: 1) improved cost controls and savings from organizational efficiencies; 2) improved delivery of municipal services; and 3) more effective government.
Of these three benefits, I believe that improved governance is the most critical. For it is only by removing the impediments of the status quo arrangement, two governments trying to serve one community, that we can achieve the other benefits, cost savings, and improved services. Our elected officials will need to make difficult choices in the coming years. As described in the report, the Princeton community should plan for an extended period of fiscal pressures due to rising costs, unfunded mandates, and constrained revenues due to caps on property tax increases. We cannot afford to have our representatives distracted by time consuming, yet unproductive activities such as managing inter-governmental affairs. They need to be solely focused on preserving the viability of the Princeton community.
Vote Yes on November 8.
To the Editor:
The most prudent choice for Princeton Borough residents during this mayoral election cycle is Yina Moore. While her opponents levels of experience and community involvement seem relatively pleasant, Candidate Moores experience and credentials are far superior. She has illustrated extensive academic accomplishment as a graduate of the Princeton Regional School District, Princeton University, and MIT, respectively. Candidate Moore has also demonstrated substantial public and private sector professional experience within the realms of planning, economic development, and multimodal transportation. After careful review of professional and academic accomplishments, length and depth of community service contributions, as well as experience; I have concluded that a vote for someone other than Candidate Moore would represent a vote for unproven vision and amateur levels of experience that Princeton Borough residents cannot afford. I unequivocally recommend Yina Moore for Mayor of Princeton Borough. She has the proven character attributes and professional experience that are required to advance the Princeton community for many years to come.
Dana Michael Bruce, MPA
To the Editor:
The Consolidation Commission is composed of intelligent, well-meaning, hard-working people. So why did the Commission reach the wrong conclusion about the benefits of consolidation? Why did it recommend consolidation, even though consolidation will greatly disadvantage Borough residents and will provide little or no benefit to Township residents? Here are some of the reasons:
The majority of the Commission members were already pro-consolidation when they were appointed to the Commission.
Group dynamics pushed the few undecided Commission members towards supporting consolidation. (As a sociologist, I saw this happening during Commission meetings.)
Commission members seem to favor consolidation for emotional reasons. They ignore the hard economic facts. They seem determined to consolidate, no matter what the cost and no matter what the negative effects.
Commission members dismissed major disadvantages of consolidation (for example, Borough disenfranchisement: The 2:1 ratio of Township to Borough voters and all the at-large seats on the new Council would result in most seats being filled by Township residents).
The initial goal of consolidation was a large decrease in property taxes. But when the Commission projected negligible savings (a few hundred dollars a year), the Commission switched to vague goals that cannot be measured, such as efficiencies and effectiveness.
The Commission is overoptimistic about even the few hundred dollars per year, because the new government would probably find it difficult to implement all the layoffs required to achieve these savings.
The Commission was hoping to get reimbursement from the state for $1.7 million in expenses for the transition to consolidation. But recently the state said it would reimburse no more than 20 percent of the expenses.
The Commissions recommendation ignored the large upcoming additions to the Borough tax base in Palmer Square and the hospital site, and the comparatively few additions likely in the Township. If we do not consolidate, Borough taxpayers get 100 percent of the municipal benefit from additions to the Borough tax base. If we do consolidate, Borough taxpayers get only approximately 1/3 of the tax benefit.
Commission members are so committed to consolidation that they ignored a better option shared services. Merging the police departments would, by the Commissions own calculations, save 2/3 of the savings they calculate from consolidation. Shared services are superior to consolidation. They would not disenfranchise Borough residents. They would not require $1.7 million in transition costs. They would not demand changes in ordinances and governance.
It is not surprising that Commission members who favored consolidation at the beginning would decide to recommend consolidation at the end. What is surprising is that we, the public, are expected to accept the Commissions incorrect recommendation. It is even more surprising that Borough residents are expected to vote in favor of losing their representation and most of their tax benefit from Palmer Square and the hospital site.
Fortunately, most of us are wise enough to recognize that the Commissions recommendation is wrong. On November 8, we will vote against consolidation.
To the Editor:
Recent letters have stated that public works services in the Borough will be decreased in a consolidated Princeton to the same levels now provided in the Township. We write to correct that misconception. The Department of Public Works will continue to collect leaves and brush from neighborhoods at current frequencies. The Commissions recommendations recognize that residents want to maintain their current levels of service and that conditions in differing areas of the community require differing levels of service. Currently, the Borough Department of Public Works adjusts its maintenance schedules to the needs of specific neighborhoods, and this need-specific service will continue in a unified Princeton.
The Commissions overall public works recommendation is that the two departments of public works, the joint sewer operating committee and the park maintenance staff of the joint recreation commission, be reorganized into one unified department under the supervision of a single engineering department. This will result in annual savings of $442,000, but equally important as the dollar savings will be the improved flexibility and responsiveness gained by the ability to deploy staff as needed to respond to the demands of the season or to emergency conditions. Staff reductions are not proposed, but rather realignment and fewer top managers. There will be an Assistant Superintendent for the Downtown dedicated to the specific maintenance and parking needs of the Central Business District.
We found that the high level of services residents currently enjoy is achieved in spite of the facilities we provide for our staff. Modest facility expenditures will improve working conditions and operations and save money. Both governing bodies have recognized this for at least fifteen years, but have been unable to address it individually. Combining the public works departments will allow the community to address the currently unmet facilities needs in a cost effective way that benefits existing neighborhoods. Today, all Borough public works operations are housed at the yard on Harrison Street. Township operations are conducted from a site in the Witherspoon Jackson neighborhood and a site on Valley Road. The Commission recommends a phased reduction in activities at these sites and incremental construction of facilities on municipal property on River Road. The Harrison Street site will remain available as a quick response location for the downtown, but other work now performed there will move to River Road, reducing the impact on the residential neighbors. The John Street site would be repurposed for a public use or returned to the tax rolls.
The estimated $442,000 annual savings is conservative and represents only those amounts that can be quantified using currently available data. But there are costs we now incur that can be minimized or avoided. Today, expensive public works equipment sits outdoors we can prolong its life by providing a storage barn on River Road. Going forward, the ability to maximize the use of equipment throughout the town will reduce the need for overlapping purchases.
Consolidation will achieve improved services for all at less cost. It is a win for all Princeton residents.
Valerie W. Haynes (Township), Alice K. Small (Borough)
Members of the Public Works Subcommittee, Princeton Joint Consolidation/Shared Services Study Commission
To the Editor:
On behalf of the John Witherspoon PTO and the Super Saturday Carnival Committee, we would like to thank everyone in our community who attended our largest fundraiser of the year. Even though we had to use our rain date we had a very successful indoor carnival on October 1. The funds raised benefit JWMS students directly. A special thank-you to all our donors: Pepsi Cola, Alfonsos Pizza, Joe Canals, McCafferys, Wegmans, ShopRite, and Michelle Warren-Williams. We would also like to extend a warm thank you to all the teachers, parents, and students who came out to volunteer their time, as well as our community supporters: Fund :101, HiTops, Princeton Township Police, Corner House, and PEF. This is a great community event and we look forward to seeing everyone at the JWMS Super Saturday next Fall.
Roxanne List, Bonnie Itkoff, Co-Chairs
JWMS Super Saturday Carnival
To the Editor:
The decision on consolidation for me boils down to two questions. Both questions are raised by the relatively minimal tax savings from staff cuts and a hoped-for elimination of redundancies projected by our Consolidation Commission.
The first question is: Presented with a choice between saving $1 a day (not counting weekends and holidays) and depriving 17 of my neighbors and fellow citizens of good, secure jobs, which do I choose?
For me it is a no-brainer: I choose to save their jobs rather than my $1, which wont even buy a cup of coffee at Small World.
The second question is: What is all this about, really? Who gains and who loses from consolidation overall?
The promised savings are not only relatively minimal; they are also not guaranteed even if we fire 17 people, sell Borough Hall and close the Suzanne Patterson Center. And there are many expenses not included in the Commissions projections, which leave me convinced by those who say that costs seem as likely to go up as down.
Moreover, the two entities have already shown that they know how to work together (13 joint agencies and all that). If we can cooperate without consolidating, why consolidate? Why not just continue to do what we have been doing, only do it better?
The answer may be that the clear winners under consolidation are the larger (and consolidating!) institutions in town, like Princeton University, which no doubt finds it exasperating (and more expensive) to deal with two heads rather than one.
A consolidated Princeton will surely enable them to implement any growth plans more easily and cheaply than the current structure. This is elementary rational choice economics. The expected opportunity cost to Borough residents of changes to the downtown is greater than it is to residents of the town as a whole. Eliminate the Boroughs separate voice and the expected costs go down. Guaranteed.
For me, then, consolidation is about making it easier to develop the downtown. I support development of the downtown. But I also support making sure that all those affected by such development have a say in the conditions that affect them that is proportionate to their stake in the outcome.
Therefore I do not support consolidation.
By the way, my decision has nothing to do with presumed cultural or lifestyle differences between Borough and Township. Where I come from (Idaho), and from the perspective of those with whom I now work (New York City construction apprentices and teachers aides), all Princetonians are pretty much the same and lucky to live in such a fine community. If there is a difference, it boils down to the old real estate adage and nothing more: location, location, location.
I urge our elected officials to continue to work together to find ways in which the two municipalities can cooperate to preserve Princeton as the livable, lovable town it is. And I encourage all residents to vote yes for jobs, yes for cooperation, and No on consolidation.
To the Editor:
Reject Consolidation. Support de-de-consolidation. I have received overwhelming support for my proposal for de-consolidation, but many people have mentioned that I set my sights too low. We need to not only de-consolidate the Borough and Township, but further de-consolidate the Borough.
Acting as an un-elected, un-appointed, un-named (and perhaps un-wanted) representative of the Tree Streets, I am starting an initiative to create a new municipality. This will be the hole in the hole in the doughnut. Its geographical boundaries will be Chestnut Street, Nassau Street, Harrison St., and Hamilton Avenue. To avoid confusing people about the municipality in which they are driving, the portion of Hamilton Avenue that runs through the new municipality will be re-named.
The municipality will be named based on a vote by residents. It must be noted that Princeton Walk, Princeton Cove, Princeton Village, Princeton Borough, Princeton Run, Princeton Ridge, Princeton Commons, Princeton Junction, Princeton Heights, Princeton Glen, Princeton Meadows, Princeton Township, Princeton Path, Princeton Mews, and Princeton Landing have all been used by developers in neighboring towns.
The new municipality, lets call it Princeton Arbor for now to underscore the Tree Streets that it encompasses, will be a coveted location. In its 1/25 square mile it has a coffee shop, two Chinese restaurants, a fish store, a renowned sub shop, a local watering hole, a liquor store, and a quirky book store. University studies have shown that these are the primary requirements for a vibrant community. Local residents will delight in the Spruce Street Park with Maggies Playground, which will give The Arbor more parkland per square mile than any other municipality in New Jersey. And seniors will be well represented and cared for in our local Senior Center.
Small details remain. The Arbor needs a police force, an elected leader, a governing body, a zoning board, a municipal building, a town clerk, a dog catcher, service sharing agreements with the Borough and Township, and a legal staff of three to negotiate and litigate with the Borough and Township and to fight for PILOT payments from the University. Since the concept of economies of scale has been widely discredited, its foreseen that the creation of the Arbor will have little to no impact on residents taxes.
Most importantly, each resident will have a voice. With a population estimated in the mid-to-high three figures, each Arbor resident will have important civic responsibilities. It will be required that all legislation be posted on the Arbors Facebook page, and each resident will have the opportunity to assess the legislation and a responsibility to vote on it. No longer will people from such far off places as Moran Avenue and Hawthorne Avenue be able to dictate how we will live our lives.
My fellow Tree Street residents, I urge you to reject consolidation. Rather, take up your pens and write the word de-de-consolidation on your ballot. Consolidation will be defeated, and our collective dream of a place of our own will be one step closer to reality.
To The Editor:
The Princeton International Academy Charter Schools current lawsuit to block the affected school districts from spending time or money to impede the opening of the school is a deliberate attempt to prevent these school boards (Princeton Regional, West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional, and South Brunswick) from engaging in their primary role: ensuring the safety and effective education of all students. As a concerned parent, I have closely watched PIACS attempt to open a specialized school over the past two years. In numerous public meetings, PIACS has clearly displayed disregard for fundamental safety and accessibility issues such as traffic, ADA compliance, fire safety, and emergency egress issues. In addition, PIACS has made it clear that their objective is to serve a specialized population with a boutique-style education experience, with no plans or attempts to serve the general student population.
Evidence of PIACSs inability to safely and effectively serve our children has been publicly evidenced at several South Brunswick Zoning Board hearings. For example, at the hearing on June 2, 2011, after being told at an April meeting that the Board was concerned with the schools traffic safety, PIACS failed to have a traffic engineer appear to discuss their ability to manage car, bus, and pedestrian safety issues. Also at that same meeting, it was clear from questioning and testimony that PIACS had no articulated plans to fully serve or fully accommodate all students, failing to address basic needs of children with disabilities or those from economically challenged backgrounds.
As a taxpayer, voter and parent, I fully expect my School Board to protect the safety and wellbeing of all its students. If, in pursuing this mandate, the School Board finds it necessary to use public funds to protect the children it serves from the ineptitudes of an inexperienced, unprepared group, then that is an entirely appropriate use of the Boards time and resources. PIACS should stop with its frivolous suits and instead spend time proving that it is prepared to competently manage the safety and well being of its students. As it stands now, this lawsuit is just a means of obscuring Princeton International Academy Charter Schools inability to plan to meet all the needs of our children.
To the Editor:
We are writing to express our disappointment at Town Topics coverage of the lawsuit filed by Princeton International Academy Charter School (PIACS) against the Princeton, South Brunswick, and West-Windsor/Plainsboro school districts (No Decision Yet in PIACS Suit Against Districts, Oct. 19). Your coverage of this issue has not reflected the balanced approach that we have come to expect from your newspaper.
Your most recent stories (Oct. 19 and Aug. 17) provided a disproportionate amount of space to PIACS litigant Parker Block and accepted his framing of this issue as a fight between the school boards and PIACS. Neither recent story mentions, for example, that the school boards are reflecting the broad-based opposition to PIACS within all the sending communities (Princeton, West Windsor-Plainsboro, and South Brunswick), as demonstrated by the hundreds of residents who turned out to the zoning board meetings and the more than 1,200 residents who signed a petition asking the Commissioner of Education not to approve an additional planning year for the school.
We also take issue with Mr. Blocks mischaracterization of Save Our Schools NJ in the October 19 story. We are among the hundreds of Princeton members of Save Our Schools NJ a completely independent, grassroots, all-volunteer organization dedicated to ensuring that every child has access to a high quality public school education. Save Our Schools NJ formed last year when a group of parents met in a Princeton living room to discuss how best to protect public education. The organization now has thousands of members across the state, working to reform New Jerseys broken charter school law, stop vouchers and the use of for-profit school management companies, and ensure that public schools are fully funded. Save Our Schools NJ should have been provided an opportunity to respond to the mistaken claims made by Mr. Block in the October 19 article.
We believe that the PIACS lawsuit demonstrates some of the many problems with our States current charter school law. At a recent NJ Senate education committee hearing, Save Our Schools NJ members and charter school advocates all agreed that this law needs revising.
In the spirit of community reconciliation, we invite Town Topics to co-sponsor a town hall with Save Our Schools NJ at the Princeton Public Library to generate a range of ideas for reforming this dysfunctional law, so that it can stop tearing apart our communities.
Jean Y. Durbin, Wendy Kaczerski,
Liz Lempert, Julia Sass Rubin,
Dina Lewisohn Shaw, Julie Zimmerman
To the Editor:
As a Princeton Democrat, I support Yina Moore for Mayor of Princeton Borough. I also support uniting Princeton to build a better future for our community.
Some say political party should not matter in local elections. Candidates who agree have the option of running as independents. Yet both candidates for mayor chose to run as partisans. Voters – and reporters – should ask why? What does each candidates party and track record tell us?
Neither has held office in Princeton before. But each has a professional, volunteer and political history that rounds out the meaning of the D or R by her name. Their websites provide many details. In short, Yina Moores record demonstrates a highly qualified, progressive Democrat who will ably represent 100 percent of the residents of Princeton Borough, with special care toward those most in need.
Jill Jacheras website lists many activities. Her work with the YWCA is appealing across the political spectrum. Her professional and political involvement, however, should give progressive voters pause. As a lawyer at Morgan, Lewis, Bockius, she was devoted to the representation of management in employment matters. In practice, that meant defending corporations against employee claims of discrimination, and against consumer claims of violations of financial disclosure laws. In these times especially, does Princeton Borough really want a mayor who has been fighting on the side of corporate power?
Ms. Jacheras political history appears limited. But Federal Election Commission records show that she donated the maximum possible ($4,800) to Scott Sipprelles effort to defeat Rush Holt last year, which would have added to the conservative takeover of the U.S. Congress. Since the Supreme Court equates money with speech, I think that speaks louder than any lyrics to a silly song offered in jest.
If consolidation passes, the mayor will play a critical role in making sure the transition is fair to all Borough constituents. Its a no-brainer that combined police, public works, and government bodies can be more efficient, and that joint agencies that now report to two masters can be made more accountable. Progressive voters will want to choose a mayor who makes sure that financial savings dont come at the expense of those who can least afford to lose services.
While saving money will be welcome, Im for consolidation mainly for the human benefits. Good government is a government we can understand. After 20 years in Princeton, I still cant make sense of our mess of overlapping jurisdictions. Every community concern Ive seen cuts across the arbitrary Borough-Township boundary. Precious volunteer effort is wasted bouncing back and forth between elected bodies. A single government that represents all of us will be more accessible, accountable and responsive to the community.
Whether the next mayor serves one year or four years, I believe that Yina Moore will best serve the interests of all Borough residents.
President, Princeton Community Democratic Organization
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