January 11, 2012

Politicians Turn Out For Final Reorganization Of Borough Council

In front of a packed house of local politicians and special guests, Princeton Borough Council held its last annual reorganization meeting as an independent municipality on Tuesday, January 3. U.S. Representative Rush Holt, Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, and several county freeholders were on hand to witness the swearing in of new Mayor Yina Moore, new Council President Barbara Trelstad, and new Council member Heather Howard. Outgoing Mayor Mildred Trotman delivered a farewell speech, as did outgoing Councilman David Goldfarb, who did not mince words in his criticism of Princeton University.

After praising Princeton Theological Seminary for its community values, Mr. Goldfarb said the University would be wise to learn from that example.

“With financial resources that dwarf those of virtually all other colleges and universities in the world, Princeton University still demands that the residents of our town subsidize it,” he said. “On top of that, its president threatened to reduce its inadequate contribution in lieu of taxes if the town didn’t comply with the University’s wishes. When President Tilghman presented us with her ultimatum last year, we should have called her bluff. Instead, the leaders of our town capitulated, emboldening the University to make similar threats in the future.”

Mr. Goldfarb concluded by saying he hopes the town and the University “will work together to restore the mutually respectful relationship that we enjoyed under prior University administrations,” suggesting that leaving the Dinky in place instead of moving it 460 feet south would be “an excellent place to start.”

Ms. Trotman spoke of 2011 as a productive year for Princeton Borough, citing a zero percent tax rate increase for the third year in a row, the on-schedule renovation of the Community Pool, and passage of the ordinance to create an arts and transit neighborhood despite unanimous support for leaving the Dinky station in place. She also paid tribute to Michael Kenwood, the Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad EMT/Rescue Technician who died while attempting a rescue during Hurricane Irene.

In her speech, new Mayor Yina Moore said she will be proposing new initiatives to create a Downtown Neighborhoods Commission and an Institutional Relations Committee. The Neighborhoods Commission will include representatives of businesses and neighborhoods in the downtown business district. “It will be charged with elevating common and disparate concerns to better address these issues through our shared community values,” she said. “The Institutional Relations Committee, made up of citizens, elected officials, and a cross section of the Princeton University community, including students, faculty, alumni and administrators, is intended to create a new conversation amongst all parties in a new forum to identify, discuss, and address our mutual concerns.”

Ms. Moore also said she will be asking the Affordable Housing Committee to expand its vision to look beyond its role in administering the former Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) program and policies.

Later in the week, Ms. Trelstad, who replaces Councilman Kevin Wilkes as Council President, spoke of her new challenges. “The biggest one is to, hopefully, enable us to all work together toward consolidation,” she said. “The road map has been laid out, but we need to do it right. And by that, I mean we need to do it collegially and set an example. Because I think New Jersey needs to think about doing more of this. If we can do it, and do it in the time frame laid out, more or less, and do it well, that’s good.”

Ms. Trelstad added that the Memorandum of Understanding between the municipalities and Princeton University needs work. She also hopes to help Ms. Moore as she transitions into her new post. “I’ve had six or seven years on Council, so I hope I can make it easier for her,” Ms. Trelstad said. “I want to make sure we all work together, because that will help her.”