Council, BOE Candidates Head to Finish Line
By Donald Gilpin
With just six days to go until the November 6 election, three candidates for two spots on Princeton Council and five candidates for three positions on the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education (BOE) are looking to the culmination of a vigorous campaign.
For Council, Eve Niedergang and Dwaine Williamson are running a joint campaign on the Democratic ticket against Republican candidate Lisa Wu. The candidates for BOE include Betsy Kalber Baglio, Mary Clurman, Daniel J. Dart, Dafna Kendal, and Brian McDonald.
Through media, public forums, lawn signs, and elsewhere, the candidates have all presented their views over the past few months, but each candidate was given the opportunity to state briefly once more “why Princeton residents should vote for you.”
Niedergang and Williamson wrote, “We care deeply about Princeton, and our goal in creating ‘A Princeton for All’ represents a steadfast commitment to ensure that our town is welcoming and inclusive — and that our municipal government is fiscally responsible, committed to affordability, and dedicated to sustainable growth.
“We will prioritize growing concerns about property taxes and commit to holding the line on municipal taxes (22 percent of our property taxes) by scrutinizing local government spending. All programs must be reviewed, and we will insist on a transparent budget process with maximum public participation. We will explore opportunities for low-impact commercial development to build our tax base, and pursue shared service agreements with public and private partners. We must also work to maintain cost-effective social, recreational, and environmental programs.
“We are committed to making Princeton more affordable for middle-class families. We will support zoning changes that encourage the building of ‘missing middle’ homes which diversify our housing stock while preserving the unique character of our town. Above all, we value and will work to maintain the vibrant diversity in our town and to ensure that our community’s advantages are available to all Princetonians.”
Lisa Wu stated, “I want to salute my opponents for maintaining an attitude of civility often lacking in today’s political climate. I propose a different approach to Princeton politics as usual. My campaign has convinced me that the biggest concern of most residents is their property taxes. Taxes are becoming a serious problem for residents of modest means. I am distressed that our local elected officials are not doing anything about it and they won’t until they realize that there are political consequences for inaction. I want Council
to judge every action it contemplates with tax consequences in mind.”
Baglio, an incumbent running for her second term, wrote, “Throughout my first term on the Board of Education, I have proven that I am focused on the needs of students, I am committed to this work, and I am willing to put in the time to do it well. I pledge to continue our efforts in the areas of equity and student wellness, and I will work to improve communication to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice. My perspective as an educator is one that our Board needs, and the Board would benefit from continuity of leadership. I would like to continue the work that I’ve started.”
Clurman did not write a final statement, but she does have a letter in this week’s Mailbox. Throughout the campaign, Clurman expressed concern about the high price of the original referendum bond proposals, calling for more planning and more community input in the process. “Before we decide how money is spent, let’s change the process by changing the BOE,” she wrote in her letter. “Let’s get the Board to represent the whole community.”
Dart wrote, “The School Board tried to borrow $130M for a wasteful facilities plan based on unsubstantiated numbers and without community input. Fortunately, we successfully reduced this to $27M for critical facilities needs. Without new leadership, the School Board will seek an additional $103M next year. The Board also oversees an annual $100M budget. We must spend thoughtfully and wisely to keep great schools. I bring leadership, financial, and collaborative skills as a former COO of Merrill Lynch investment Managers (ret.); investments chair of Corner House Foundation; former trustee/treasurer, The Watershed; and finance committee, Trinity Church.
Kendal, an incumbent seeking her second term on the BOE, wrote, “If re-elected, I will continue to be an independent voice representing the entire community. I will continue to ask the hard questions to improve the experience for all students in Princeton Public Schools (PPS). During my first term, I renegotiated union contracts, focused on student wellness and equity, negotiated voluntary payments from non-public institutions that send students to PPS, and worked to limit budget increases. During a second term I will continue to work on student wellness, equity, and financial responsibility.”
McDonald stated, “I am committed to serving our community and welcome the opportunity to serve on our town’s Board of Education. My experience in public finance, fundraising, oversight of facilities projects, reining in taxes, consensus-building, and strategic, collaborative leadership will enhance the Board’s collective expertise and strengthen the Board’s work at this pivotal time for our schools. Of utmost importance, I understand that budgets and buildings support a larger purpose: ensuring excellent educational experiences for every child, every day. If elected, I will always place the best interests of our community’s children — of all backgrounds and abilities — first and foremost in my decisions.”