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Vol. LXV, No. 39
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
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Mayoral Hopefuls Reflect On Last Week’s Debate And Comment Further

Anne Levin

One week after their public debate, Borough mayoral candidates Yina Moore and Jill Jachera said they were encouraged by the high turnout and the level of interest in the upcoming election. Some 150 people attended the event at the Jewish Center of Princeton on September 20, asking Ms. Moore, a Democrat, and Ms. Jachera, the first Republican to run for the office in 12 years, how they felt about such issues as consolidation, Princeton University’s role in the Borough, moving the Dinky, economic diversity, and improving communications during emergencies such as Hurricane Irene.

Ms. Jachera said she would like to have an opportunity to debate these questions further. She may have the chance. Leslie Burger, director of the Princeton Public Library, has expressed willingness to hold another debate there should the candidates express interest in a timely manner. The election will be held November 8.

A debate was first planned for the YWCA of Princeton, but Ms. Moore declined because Ms. Jachera is a member of the organization. The library then offered to sponsor a debate, and Ms. Jachera agreed to participate. Ms. Moore had yet to respond when a few days later, the event was cancelled because of multiple demands for use of the library’s Community Room.

Ms. Burger has decided to extend the offer once more. “The library is willing to rearrange its schedule to accommodate a debate if we hear from both candidates in the next few days that they are interested so that we can properly advertise and find a neutral moderator who is agreeable to both parties,” Mr. Burger said Tuesday, September 27. “We must have an expression of interest from both of them in order to schedule this debate.”

If another debate is arranged, much of the focus is likely to be on the issue of consolidation, which will be on the ballot November 8. Both candidates said they were interested in the idea but stopped short of endorsing or opposing the proposed merger of the Township and Borough. Each brought up the topic this week when asked which issues they felt were the most important during the recent debate.

“Consolidation is a very serious decision, so it’s not as simple as a yes or no answer,” said Ms. Jachera. “It is my desire to have consolidation, but I want to make sure to do it right. Because if it does go through, we will be an example for the entire state. Doing it right means we have the right team in place and are using the right process in order to effectuate those cost savings. But it’s a very personal decision for people, and it’s not only about cost.”

Ms. Moore said the topic is brought up to her on a regular basis. “It is not within my power, if I am elected mayor, to make that decision,” she said. “It is every voter’s right. They need to analyze the facts, using not only their hearts but their minds. In my opinion, not all the facts are there. And the savings that could be incurred are minimal. But each person really has to decide from the standpoint of their own feelings.”

Ms. Moore said that if consolidation is passed and she is elected mayor, she will work for the benefit of the Borough during the transition. “The issues that will face Borough Council, such as taxes, zoning, and infrastructure, will still be a concern,” she said. “Those things still have to be managed for the benefit of the current Borough residents.”

Ms. Jachera reiterated her proposal for a zero-based budget should consolidation be passed. “I asked the Consolidation Commission to get some assurance that we weren’t just going to throw the two budgets together,” she said. “A zero-based budget reverses the traditional process of budgeting.” With a new budget, different departments can set priorities “based on what they’ll be delivering,” she added, “not just assuming that what we’ve always been doing is correct.”

Ms. Moore grew up in Princeton and graduated from Princeton University. She has been a member of the Regional Planning Board for 10 years. While she says the debate process is useful and brings up important issues, she prefers being out in the field. “I’m kind of busy out there addressing those issues on a daily basis,” she said. “So just talking about them for me isn’t the most productive use of my time. I thought it was a good opportunity for people to hear my positions and identify where we stand, but I’m kind of glad to be in that mode as much as being able to tell people about it.”

Ms. Jachera grew up in New Jersey and moved to Princeton 17 years ago. She is a former employment lawyer and currently works as a consultant.

“When deciding who should be mayor, folks should be looking at who has the best experience and leadership experience in order to take us through consolidation should it be passed,” she said. “I have gone through the kind of strategic planning that consolidation would involve. Doing reductions in the work force, which is what consolidation is, is a big part of my practice. Nobody likes to think about people losing their jobs, but that is inherent in a consolidation decision. You have to do it right. You don’t want to subject the Borough to lawsuits. It must be done in the proper way so that it’s fair to the employees and protects the community. I’d like to bring that to the table.”

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