Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 44
 
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
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Issues for Borough Council Candidates Include Property Taxes, Consolidation

Dilshanie Perera

While addressing property taxes, the budget, and the possibility of consolidating services with the Township are key issues for all of the candidates running in the 2008 Borough Council election, their individual visions differ. David Goldfarb and Barbara Trelstad are running unopposed for reelection to Borough Council, while incumbent Kevin Wilkes and Dudley Sipprelle are vying to fill the year-long remainder of former Borough Council member Wendy Benchley’s term.

Reducing property taxes is the central element of Mr. Sipprelle’s platform. “Property taxes go up and up in Princeton, and the budget is routinely rubber stamped,” he said, adding that “this has got to stop, because it is driving people out of the community.”

“The very diversity that people are always talking about in our community is being destroyed by high property taxes” Mr. Sipprelle lamented, saying “The historic African American community, which has been here for centuries, has declined by half.”

“One Council member has said that we can’t deal with the public looking over our shoulder all the time, and to me this is completely contrary to what good government is all about,” Mr. Sipprelle said, adding, “The total lack of transparency is just pathetic, and is a really serious problem.”

Mentioning the “one party machine in this town,” Mr. Sipprelle who is a Republican, noted that democratic elections are “an important process,” suggesting that “for too long [the Borough] hasn’t had elections” and candidates have run uncontested.

Describing most concerns of Borough residents as “not partisan issues” but instead as “local community issues,” Mr. Sipprelle pointed out the need for “presenting different points of view” and letting “ideas vie against each other in the voter marketplace.”

As a former diplomat and member of the Foreign Service, Mr. Sipprelle said that he was “very much motivated by John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address” and that he “spent a lifetime in government service so that my fellow citizens could sleep soundly at night.” Once he retired, “good citizenship called for giving back to the community” and he thought “there needed to be another voice” in the Borough’s political sphere.

Mr. Wilkes’s political beginnings follow a slightly different path, and while he was “interested in politics as a teenager and young adult” he focused on architecture for a number of years. As the managing director of Princeton Design Guild, Mr. Wilkes gained newfound inspiration for local political action in working on the Writer’s Block project four years ago. “It dawned on me that there is a lot of interest in this town to make collective improvement projects happen, and while it was challenging, hard work, and complicated, it was not impossible to convince the town body politic and artists to come together and produce something unique.”

Hoping to “hone that skill” of bringing various groups and individuals together to “take the Borough to where it should be,” Mr. Wilkes said that his central concerns as a Democratic candidate for Borough Council are “keeping services for the Borough intact, keeping the Dinky where it is, and developing a plan for the improvement of downtown,” in addition to “controlling Borough expenditures,” and “increasing collaboration” with the Township.

“By merging our construction department, and public works, we would realize some cost savings,” Mr. Wilkes suggested, admitting that the change would perhaps not be felt immediately but certainly would be in future years. He wants to see the Borough “iron out the remaining differences with the Township over billing practices,” as well as provide “new improvements in joint services.”

Regarding what would be “the third move of the train away from Nassau Street,” Mr. Wilkes said that he is hoping to stop the Dinky’s move, which was proposed by Princeton University in its Arts and Transit Neighborhood plans, he also noted that he is developing alternative designs for the area.

“Another area we need to continue to press very heard is convincing the University that expansion plans do present certain frictions along the edges of the community, and cost us in terms of convenience, dollars, and capital infrastructure maintenance on roads,” Mr. Wilkes said, adding “my hope is that the University will see the case, understand it, and act accordingly” and that the Princeton Community Democratic Organization would work to “bring the issue to the forefront.”

His attitude toward Princeton University focused on its tax-exempt status, Mr. Sipprelle pointed out that only 46 percent of Borough land is taxable. As a “multibillion dollar educational corporation,” he suggested that the University could “afford to do more” regarding defraying Borough costs.

“I don’t fault the University for this, since they have tax-exempt status, and are paying property taxes on some housing they own; I fault the Borough Council for not standing up more for taxpayer interests,” Mr. Sipprelle declared. Despite that, he said that “it’s time for the University in the Borough’s hour of need and taxpayer’s time of need, to step up and do more for the Borough.”

 

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