May 1, 2013

Kiosk Plan Benefits Private Group Rather Than Taxpayers of Princeton

To The Editor:

I would urge the Princeton Town Council to drop the current kiosk plan. Yes, the current kiosks are a bit messy, but so is democracy. In both cases, the alternatives are worse. The kiosks are a free venue that allows all Princeton residents to post flyers. They should not be replaced or diminished by a plan to allow for-profit private businesses to post advertising. A private business has many advertising alternatives. Princeton citizens only have these kiosks.

I am particularly concerned by the plan’s details. Under it, the Council will be leasing the kiosks to a private group for $1 a year. While the Chamber of Commerce will be able to sell advertising (or equivalently, provide advertising to its members who pay their membership fee), the town of Princeton will not receive any financial benefit. Why would the Council allow a private group, and not the taxpayers of Princeton, to financially benefit from using public space? If the goal is to raise revenue, there should be a formal Request for Proposals that would be open to all groups to ensure the town receives the greatest financial benefit. If the goal is to support Princeton’s local downtown businesses, the plan should restrict the advertising to locally owned businesses located in the downtown. Companies such as Verizon, PSE&G, and Bank of America (all members of the Chamber of Commerce) should not be allowed to advertise, as the current plan would allow.

I am also concerned by the relationship between the plan’s supporters and consolidation. While we were told that consolidation would not affect the character of either the Borough or Township, this plan would change the downtown’s character. I am troubled that the Council’s vote to introduce the kiosk was approved by a 3-2 vote, with the three votes in favor coming from former representatives of the Township, and the two votes against coming from former representatives of the Borough. Also, Mayor Lempert, former Township deputy mayor, broke a tie on a previous kiosk proposal by voting in favor of the plan. While I think all the Council members are working for the best interests of Princeton, I would ask those from the former Township to listen more carefully to the concerns of their Borough colleagues.

Tom Hagedorn

Chestnut Street