Vol. LXIII, No. 43
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Three candidates are vying for two seats on Borough Council, with the election set for next Tuesday, November 3.
Democrat Jenny Crumiller, Republican Linda Sipprelle, and Democratic incumbent Kevin Wilkes all reflected on key concerns facing Princeton Borough in separate telephone interviews.
Of next years budget process, Ms. Crumiller said that implementing a policy of zero salary increases would be effective, since salaries are the main cost in the budget. She would also like to take a closer look at health benefits to see if more competitive bids are available.
Ms. Sipprelle felt that the Borough is living beyond its means, and would like to cut expenses. Certain decisions could be made inhouse, instead of hiring a consultant, she said, adding that there are many people in the community who have financial expertise who would be delighted to help out Council members.
Id like to repeat our performance from last year, Mr. Wilkes said regarding the 2010 budget, suggesting that the same goal of not raising municipal taxes should be applied. He predicted that achieving that goal would be harder than last year, but that a zero-tax increase should always be the default, even in good economic times.
All three candidates are interested in municipal consolidation. Ms. Crumiller would like to see the consolidation study move forward, and said if it demonstrates a cost-savings for the Borough and Township, I plan on being a champion for that process. She urged simultaneously considering shared services.
Ms. Sipprelle found the States recommendations regarding consolidation both commendable and attractive. She would like to see a consolidation study commission involve both local officials and residents. I think Borough residents should decide this issue, she said, adding that the municipal police and public works departments should be consolidated immediately.
Mr. Wilkes encouraged the unification of the police departments as soon as possible, saying the issue didnt have to wait for full municipal consolidation. From my standpoint, police [consolidation] is a no-brainer. It is good for the police department...and itll be more interesting for the police officers.
As for future development in the Borough, Ms. Crumiller said she is inclined to resist more development in the Borough, adding that we have had a burst of development, which has added some nice buildings and spaces in the downtown, but we need a respite from the building.
Regarding Princeton University expansion, Ms. Crumiller noted that in general the University adds beautiful buildings and architecture to our town, and that she looks forward to considering new plans as they come before Council, but that they need to reconfigure the plan for the Arts [and Transit] Neighborhood, so they dont move the Dinky.
As a member of the Affordable Housing Board, Ms. Sipprelle said she is concerned about the relative dearth of affordable housing. Some new development will bring in ratables, which will be good for the Borough, but there should be a little more openness, a little more transparency with all of the negotiations.
The University does give back a lot to the community; they cant be blamed for all the Boroughs problems, Ms. Sipprelle admitted, but noted that University-related construction would increase traffic. Development must be addressed more fully with respect to the community, she said.
Mr. Wilkes said that a new strategy to manage parking downtown is needed. He envisioned collected parking on a small scale, which would allow for neighborhood parking and neighborhood-scale development. Regarding new development, he noted that there is the need for a growing ratable base, but that it is something we need to work on.
As an overall approach, the University has taken a very intelligent and thoughtful strategy toward their growth, Mr. Wilkes acknowledged, though its hard to add 1.5 million square feet and not have any impact on anything. While he endorsed the proposed Arts development, he found the transit component a little awkwardly composed. A proponent of smart growth, Mr. Wilkes wondered whether a unified Borough and Township would make coordinating solutions easier.
The three candidates agreed that Princeton University should contribute more to alleviate the Boroughs property tax burden.
Regarding challenges that need to be addressed, easier access to information and improved technology, a community center for local youth, and improving the social services network to the Latino community, were brought up by Ms. Crumiller, Ms. Sipprelle, and Mr. Wilkes, respectively.
Ms. Crumiller called for a more user-friendly website for the Borough, with access to records online, as well as updated technology and posting e-mail addresses to make officials more accessible.
We really need more recreation facilities, Ms. Sipprelle said, noting that the community pool will be the major project of the Recreation Department in the coming months. A community center for youth and young adults is important as well, she said.
Social services in a time of need are even more critical than in flush times, Mr. Wilkes said, urging greater outreach to the Latino community. Other considerations include increased enforcement of truck regulations and better planning for what would occur at the hospital site once the University Medical Center of Princeton moves, he said.
Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on November 3.
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