January 9, 2013

New Council Convenes To Hear Citizens’ Concerns And Advice From CGR

At a January 3 meeting devoted to goal-setting and prioritizing, the new Princeton Council heard from residents about their concerns for consolidated Princeton after listening to a talk about how best to go about addressing them.

Joe Stefko of CGR, the company that helped guide the merger of Princeton Township and Princeton Borough into one municipality, delivered a power point presentation designed to “start a dialogue,” he told the Council. “Recognize that you are still very much in a transition process. Navigating it is really going to be critical.”

During the hour-long presentation of charts and data, Mr. Stefko used the analogy of a hospital emergency room. He urged Council members to avoid the “tyranny of the urgent,” which can put certain, less crucial-seeming policy matters at risk of being ignored. Mr. Stefko displayed a “word cloud” on the screen, incorporating results of a survey that asked department heads and others to identify the most crucial issues facing Princeton. Not surprisingly, the hospital site on Witherspoon Street and parking issues were printed in the largest type.

Among the smaller typed issues were recycling, teamwork, cost savings, and historic preservation. But the latter was one of the first topics to be addressed during the public comment portion of the meeting. John Heilner, a proponent of the Morven Tract Historic District, urged the Council to decide whether to make a 51-home section of Princeton’s western section a historic district. “This is unfinished business which was only held up by a sly 11th hour legal maneuver by opponents of the historic district who requested an injunction to prevent the Borough Council from finalizing its earlier draft ordinance,” he said, referring to action at the last Borough Council meeting.

Resident Mary Blair asked the new Council to make leaf and brush collection a priority. “We have a once-in-a-lifetime moment to get this program right,” she said, noting that the Borough and Township had two very different programs which made the system confusing. Another resident urged the Council to look into the issue of power losses. “In 2012, aside from Hurricane Sandy, we had four days when the power went out with no storms,” she said. “Why do the lights keep going out in Princeton?”

Repeating concerns she has addressed to the former Borough Council, resident Leslie Vieland asked the new Council to take on the issue of a cell tower on Snowden Lane. Citing health issues and the possibility of dropping real estate values, Ms. Vieland said she has come up with alternative sites for the cell tower, which are not near any residences.

Resident Pam Machold urged the Council to have a representative attend meetings of the Shade Tree Commission, and to take care of Princeton’s parks. Henry Singer said to the Council, “I hope that you educate yourselves and commit the new Princeton to open government.”

Mr. Stefko said that the Transition Task Force website www.cgr.org/princeton/transition/ will remain active as the Council sets its goals so that members of the public can offer suggestions on priorities. A second meeting devoted to goal-setting will be held at a date in later January to be announced.