Six Candidates Vie For Two Council Seats In June Primary
By Donald Gilpin
With two open seats on Princeton Council — Heather Howard and Lance Liverman stepping down at the end of the year — six candidates, all Democrats, have been gearing up for the June 5 primary that will most likely determine the winners in the November election.
Adam Bierman, Michelle Pirone Lambros, Alvin McGowen, Eve Niedergang, Surinder Sharma, and Dwaine Williamson are all vying for the two available spots. Niedergang received the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) endorsement for Council, and Williamson received the PCDO’s support for Council. They both also won the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee (PDMC) vote to determine recommended ballot placement.
The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area and Princeton Community TV are co-sponsoring a forum for council candidates on Tuesday, May 1, 7-9 p.m., in the Municipal Building at 400 Witherspoon Street. The deadline to register to vote in the June primary is May 15.
The candidates discuss their backgrounds, qualifications, and priorities below.
“My background, ideas, analytical ability, open mind, and flexible work schedule prepare me for work on Council. I would: legalize ‘mother-in-law’ [one-room] apartments; use regulatory and monetary incentives to reduce ‘tear-downs’ and/or the size of new homes being built; provide incentives to businesses whose workers ride the bus or bike to work; leverage our assets; monitor the proposed building of a 5/6 school on the old Valley Road School site — and make sure your money is spent wisely; meet with neighborhood groups at least monthly to ensure local government transparency; gather a volunteer team of local experts to shepherd short-term projects to successful completion; encourage more voter participation/candidates, and consider non-partisan local elections.”
Bierman has served on the PCDO executive board and as treasurer for the Mercer County Democratic Municipal Committee. He works at a state-run school for teenaged mothers in Trenton where he is Communications Workers of America shop steward, organizing and protecting workers’ rights.
Michelle Pirone Lambros
“I am proud of the long history my family has in the community, and I look forward to giving back to our historic, progressive town through public service. Having spent nearly half of my 25-year career overseas managing multiple small businesses, I am ready to make the transition from private enterprise to public service, bringing fresh eyes, and a global perspective, to the critical issues facing Princeton.
“My platform includes four main pillars: 1) maintain socio-economic diversity; 2) support the small business community; 3) preserve our historic character; and 4) promote greater sustainability. The next few years will shape how our neighborhoods will look in the future. We need to implement zoning that better manages the way we build new homes, hold taxes down to stop the outmigration of the middle class, develop a plan for greater residential density and affordable housing, and execute our Climate Action Plan.
“Having been a small business owner, I know that small business is the backbone of our local economy. Collaboration between the business community, the University, and the town, is imperative for a ‘Shop Local’ strategy, enhanced mobility, increased retail foot traffic, and attracting new business investment. If elected, I will apply my entrepreneurial skills to sourcing more non-tax revenue for Princeton, and foster greater coordination with the business community and other civic groups.
“There are challenging decisions ahead for the Council. My progressive ideals, business and leadership skills, and appreciation for our town’s socioeconomic diversity can make a difference in positively shaping the future of Princeton.”
“Beginning in childhood when my father was an associate pastor and subsequently pastor at First Baptist Church on Green Street in Princeton, I have been involved in public service, having a career in the prosecutor’s office and more than 20 years involved with affordable housing in Princeton.
“As a member of the Princeton Council, I would help implement the municipality’s affordable housing obligation. Related to affordable housing, I would also work to implement the parking study and smart growth.”
McGowen has served as assistant prosecutor in the Mercer County prosecutor’s office, chairman of the Princeton Affordable Housing Board, commissioner of the Princeton Housing Authority, board member of Princeton Nursery School, and an active participant in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood.
“I think I have two particular qualifications for becoming a council member. I have a history of involvement over 25 years in this community, volunteering for numerous community organizations including the Riverside PTO, the Friends of the Princeton Public Library, the PCDO, and the PDMC, among others. In those organizations, as well as in my current job as the volunteer coordinator at the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association, I bring people together to work towards common goals.
“Princeton is facing some difficult issues — affordability, development, the siting of affordable housing, the climate for small business and retail in town — and I think it’s crucial that all voices be heard and weigh in on the decisions that need to be made over the next few years. My campaign slogan, “Building Community Together,” really comes from the heart. We all need to work together to solve the issues that we are facing as a community, and that’s my number one priority.”
“During my 23 years as a resident of Princeton, my time spent on Princeton government committees, and at Friends of Princeton Public Library, I have gained an understanding of the complexities and inner workings of Princeton government. Our community deserves independent-minded council members with demonstrated knowledge, experience, technical/management skills, commitment to social justice, and community service with compassion.
“I am passionate about preserving the vibrancy, diversity, and safety in Princeton. My experience in engineering, project management, and business operations in the aerospace and defense industry and my service in financial institutions have given me the competencies that can help to achieve greatness for Princeton. My recent PhD research in U.S. government program management of major satellite programs has strengthened the analytical and quantitative expertise that will help me to work with the Council in managing priorities, making evidence-based decisions, and implementation of next-generation technologies and solutions for Princeton’s growth.
“As a candidate, my goals are clear: social justice and improved quality of life for Princeton residents by lowering taxes; raising revenue; retaining local businesses; fostering science, technology, and innovations; keeping neighborhoods safe, diverse, affordable, and equitable. I shall strive to keep Princeton a vibrant, engaged, sustaining, socially responsible, and welcoming community.”
“As an immigrant, I can relate to those struggling to advance and to feel included. As a parent, I’ve experienced the economic challenges of raising children in Princeton in a middle income household. As a member of the Planning Board on the front lines of working to preserve neighborhood character while facilitating smart environmentally and economically responsible municipal growth, I understand that affordability and diversity intersect in decisions about land use. As chair of ZARC (Zoning Amendment Review Committee), I’ve been involved on the front lines of the fight for neighborhood character. As an attorney with a background in finance, I would bring both financial and legal skills to my work on Council. Most importantly, as a person, I am a patient listener, compassionate, collegial, humble, and honored to be running for Princeton Council.”
Williamson, who has lived with his family in Princeton for the last 20 years, added, “I pledge to remain accessible to you so that together we can create a community that reflects our vision and values. That is a Princeton that is sustainable, affordable, and inclusive, while remaining an exceptional place to live, work, raise our children, worship, play, and age in place.”