July 1, 2020

Two Council Seats Up for Grabs in Primary; Freda Runs Unopposed for Mayor

By Donald Gilpin

With the July 7 Democratic primary election less than a week away, incumbents David Cohen and Leticia Fraga and challenger Dina Shaw are vying for two spots on the November ballot for Princeton Council. Mark Freda is running unopposed for a four-year term as Princeton mayor. No Republicans have filed for nomination in the Council and mayoral races.

The primary election is being conducted primarily by mail, in accordance with Gov. Phil Murphy’s May 15 executive order #144. A limited number of polling places will be available to voters on Election Day, with provisional paper ballots provided. Vote-by-mail ballots must be postmarked no later than 8 p.m. on July 7 or placed in one of five secure election ballot drop boxes located at the Princeton Municipal Building and four other locations throughout the county.

Town Topics has given the candidates the opportunity to briefly sum up their particular qualifications for the job, their view of top priorities going forward, and how the Council or mayor can best address those priorities. They all would have liked more space to explain their ideas. The three Council candidates were restricted to about 200 words.

David Cohen

The timetable for meeting our affordable housing obligation mandates over 700 new housing units, both affordable and market-rate, in the next five years. All the while, major institutions in town continue to thrive and grow, and the changing nature of commercial activity, shifting to online retail and telecommuting, puts pressure on our tax base and will change the face of our business districts. This pace of change will challenge our planning capacity. It will impact all aspects of municipal government – efforts to reduce and respond to climate change, transportation systems and infrastructure, practices to ensure equity for all our residents, and budgeting.

We need representatives on the governing body who have the knowledge and experience to help us through this change. I have been deeply involved with developing the Climate Action Plan; worked on alternative transportation in town for over a decade; served on the Planning Board for over six years; served
as Council liaison to the Historic Preservation Commission and on the Citizen’s Finance Advisory Committee for my entire term; and am the current liaison to the Flood and Stormwater Committee. Allow me to continue to push for Smart Growth, which will build a thriving local economy, embrace a sustainable future, and preserve the diversity that we all treasure.

Leticia Fraga

From the day that my parents brought our family to this country 50 years ago, I learned about the importance of helping others and the values instilled in me by my parents — that we should all make a significant and positive impact in our community.

In my career as a civil rights specialist, mediator, investigator, and volunteer, I gained skills that I put to use during the past 20 years that I have served our community. I have a proven track record of solving problems, building bridges, and creating consensus.

Our current health and economic crisis highlighted urgent needs that we must focus on.  We need to strengthen and expand the services we offer that help meet the basic needs and improve quality of life for all; and continue working to ensure that both our residents and business community can recover from the pandemic’s economic devastation.  Also, the tragic recent events have once again shined a spotlight on centuries of abuse and mistrust nationwide. We need to ensure we are continuously fostering a culture of trust and respect.

If re-elected, I will continue to work on seeking community-driven solutions that uphold our shared values, with a focus on equity, affordability, prosperity, and inclusion.

Dina Shaw

While running two successful businesses and selling one, I was president or co-president of two PTOs, Littlebrook and JW Middle School. I serve on Princeton’s Economic Development Committee; Friends of the Princeton Public Library; Moms Demand Action.  With each endeavor, I have been a change agent.  I build, I create, I get things done.

The most important issue facing Princeton will be rebuilding the economic vitality of our town after the pandemic. We can create an economic development plan that includes all businesses throughout Princeton, establishing an economic development office within the municipal government. Main Street USA has a base plan and roadmap for this type of function. This office would highlight the great parts of our town in a coordinated effort to advocate, market, and grow all small businesses, simultaneously, promoting Princeton to attract new businesses.  Rebuilding our economic base will provide jobs. Combined with the new affordable housing coming to Princeton, a plan of how our community will live and expand in these new economic times will be critical.  Establishment of free Wi-Fi throughout our community to help our businesses pivot to more online options and to help students access to town-wide Wi-Fi for online school is imperative.

Mark Freda

My entire adult life I have been committed to Princeton, I have always been involved in some mix of political, civic, volunteer and/or nonprofit work. I was born and raised here; I never left Princeton; I have institutional knowledge and perspectives that others may not. Having served 13 years on the former Borough Council and being the chair of the Transition Task Force that set the framework for the initial structure of the combined Princeton, I have extensive experience and knowledge on how the town should run.  Open and transparent government is not a campaign slogan to me; it is how I really feel. Involving our residents in the decision-making process is critical to me.

The top issue to me is communication. Ensuring the town continues to build on what has become excellent methods of communication in reaching out to our residents over these past few months addressing the COVID-19 situation needs to grow to be the norm on every issue. But the reverse is also critical, easily available ways for our residents to reach out to the “town” to voice concerns and share ideas. This will need to be an evolving effort as the rules of social engagement continue to change.

Serving as mayor of Princeton is about providing leadership. Leadership is about communicating, it is about truly listening to others, it is finding the balance between exploring an issue and then acting on that issue. I’m the first to admit that I am not an expert on every topic, and listening to people that know more than me is an important part of my leadership style. Residents that are frustrated or passionate about an issue may come on strongly, that is to be expected. Part of my role is to make sure that we all get to share our thoughts in a respectful atmosphere. We can disagree during a meeting or discussion and still be friendly afterwards. Neither I nor the town, can be all things to all people. We need to act in the best interest of the overall community. We do not have unlimited resources, so we have to use what we do have as wisely and effectively as possible. Being mayor is about representing Princeton and doing what is best for my community. I have lived here all my life and I’m fully invested in helping our community. I truly value speaking to all our residents.