January 30, 2013

Final Session on Setting Priorities Is Focus of Princeton Council Meeting

The results of a three-week survey to determine which issues members of local government, staff, and the public would like to see on the Princeton Council’s radar were the topic of a three-hour session at the Council’s regular meeting on Monday night. At the presentation by Joseph Stefko of CGR, the company that helped guide Princeton through consolidation, the Council looked at more than 200 issues and discussed how to prioritize them. This was the last of three meetings with CGR on how to set goals in the newly consolidated community.

Mayor Liz Lempert led the Council through each category of the survey. Mr. Stefko said that more than 400 issues were submitted. Among the many listed as priorities were renovations to the police department, relocation of Corner House, collective bargaining agreements in the category of personnel and labor, and several in the areas of legal, budget, taxes, consolidation costs, and governance.

Asked after the presentation whether he was expecting so many submissions from the public, Mr. Stefko said, “I have long since learned to never be surprised at the level of engagement in this community. This whole process is good evidence that the Council, the staff, and the public want there to be a dialogue about how things go forward.”

Mr. Stefko said he will memorialize the findings of the survey and put them on the municipality’s website.

Transparency in government was a central topic of discussion at the meeting. The Council debated the value of consent agendas, which are lists of routine items, such as bill approvals, that officials vote on as a package rather than individually. During the public comment portion, resident Joe Small urged the Council to be careful about which items are placed on consent agendas, because they hide individual votes. Ms. Lempert reiterated that anything anyone wants removed from a consent agenda can be removed.

Council member Lance Liverman said he was in favor of keeping consent agendas. “For me, it has always been an efficient way to do things, and it is transparent,” he said. Council member Jo Butler questioned whether they were appropriate. “With an increasing demand for transparency and accountability, people are getting away from them,” she said. The Council agreed to keep consent agendas as part of their process for the next few months to see if they are effective.

The Council approved an ordinance introduced at the last meeting, setting a fee of $65 to take part in the town’s curbside organic waste pickup program. Another ordinance was introduced to charge $107.60 an hour to pay police officers for extra duty at school events, parties, and other functions. The money would not be paid for by taxpayers. A public hearing on the ordinance will take place at the February 11 Council meeting.