November 5, 2014

The Princeton Planning Board is due to vote on the Institute for Advanced Study’s amended plan to build faculty housing on its land close to the Princeton Battlefield State Park when it meets this Thursday, November 6, at 7:30 p.m. in Witherspoon Hall.

The Planning Board had been expected to vote on the issue at a public hearing in September but the vote was postponed after hours of often contentious discussion by both supporters and opponents of the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) plans.

The Princeton Battlefield Society has vehemently opposed building on land which, they attest, is part of the historic battleground, the site of General George Washington’s counterattack against the British during the 1777 Battle of Princeton.

Lawyers for the IAS and the Battlefield Society have locked horns repeatedly on the issue, which has received much press coverage since members of the Princeton Planning Board unanimously approved the Institute’s building plan in March 2012.

The plans had then to be approved by the D&R Canal Commission, which came down against the proposal in January 2013, on the grounds of encroachment on a stream corridor.

Members of the Princeton community have written numerous letters to the editor on the subject. At the public hearing in September, Witherspoon Hall was filled almost to capacity with people sporting “I support IAS” buttons on one side and “Save the Princeton Battlefield” on the other.

The Planning Board’s October meeting was cancelled.

The IAS plans to build eight townhouses and seven single-family homes on a seven-acre parcel of its campus. Having amended its original plan after the Canal Commission review, it is now coming back to the Planning Board for approval of amendments that include slightly smaller lots that are a third of an acre further away from the stream.

According to the IAS, the plans now to be considered satisfy the Commission’s requirements.

According to the Princeton Battlefield Society, the changes constitute a new plan and should be reviewed as such. Battlefield Society attorney Bruce Afran has argued repeatedly for a new full-scale review of the IAS proposal.

Battlefield Society members have opposed the development from its inception and filed several lawsuits in support of its aims to stop the Institute from building.

 

October 29, 2014
FOR THE DALAI LAMA: To show his respect and support for His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Geshe Chogkhan Thubten Tandhar sported a placard in response to the protesters who had gathered outside Princeton University’s Jadwin Gym yesterday.(Photo by L. Arntzenius)

FOR THE DALAI LAMA: To show his respect and support for His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Geshe Chogkhan Thubten Tandhar sported a placard in response to the protesters who had gathered outside Princeton University’s Jadwin Gym yesterday. (Photo by L. Arntzenius)

Security was tight as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet visited Princeton University Tuesday.

According to University spokesperson Martin Mbugwa, some 4,200 people were in attendance at Jadwin Gymnasium to hear the Tibetan spiritual leader discuss the importance of compassion and kindness in academic life.

The venue began filling up around 8:30 a.m. with campus police and members of the Princeton Police Department on hand. Barriers had been erected to direct visitors as they entered the building. Inside, they were guided through airport-like security, asked to remove cellphones and metal objects, and pass through scanners.

Protesters and supporters of the Dalai Lama were separated and corralled by barriers into areas outside the gymnasium, which had been transformed into an auditorium for the occasion.

A gorgeously colored and richly embroidered silk hanging above the stage looked incongruous against the orange and black sports banners suspended from the domed roof of Jadwin Gym.

The Dalai Lama’s first appearance in Princeton was at the invitation of the University’s Office of Religious Life and The Kalmyk Three Jewels Foundation, which promotes Kalmyk tradition around the world. Originating in the Kalmyk Republic of Russia in the Northwest corner of the Caspian Sea area, the Kalmyks helped bring Tibetan Buddhism to the United States in 1951. There are members of the Kalmyk community in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

As the Tibetan leader came to the stage, shortly after 9:30 a.m., the entire audience, which had been waiting for the best part of an hour, rose to its feet. Dean of Religious Life Alison L. Boden accompanied the Dalai Lama, whose name is Tenzin Gyatso, and an interpreter to the stage.

The religious leader stood by the podium as Ms. Bowden introduced him and said that marshals would collect questions from the audience for His Holiness to answer. “We welcome the world’s most spiritual and compelling voice on a host of issues,” she said. “We are eager to receive his wisdom.”

Signaling his wish that the audience be seated, the Dalai Lama received immediate laughter and applause as he donned an orange Princeton baseball cap. Without an interpreter, he addressed the audience: “Brothers and sisters, I feel that it is a great opportunity to talk with many of you, students and faculty. Someone asked me if I had been to Princeton before. I told them no, I had never come because I had never been invited. I’m not here as a tourist, however, I am here as a Buddhist monk; my daily prayers, my body, speech, mind, is dedicated to serving others.”

He spoke about being almost 80-years-old. “At age 16, I lost my own freedom; at 24, I lost my own country through circumstances beyond my control.”

Addressing the importance of developing compassion and kindness, alongside the intellect, in an academic environment, he said: “The world has been made a lot easier because of science and technology, but along with progress has come problems, even here in America there is still a lot of poverty.”

AGAINST THE DALAI LAMA: Protesters, carrying placards against what some Tibetan Buddhists describe as the Dalai Lama’s persecution of religious groups, gathered outside Jadwin Gym yesterday during the visit of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet to Princeton University.(Photo by L. Arntzenius)

AGAINST THE DALAI LAMA: Protesters, carrying placards against what some Tibetan Buddhists describe as the Dalai Lama’s persecution of religious groups, gathered outside Jadwin Gym yesterday during the visit of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet to Princeton University. (Photo by L. Arntzenius)

Protesters

But while the affable scholar/monk shared his thoughts with the audience inside, protesters outside could be heard chanting “False Dalai Lama, Give Religious Freedom.”

Carrying banners that read “Dalai Lama Stop Lying,” the protestors claimed that the Dalai Lama discriminates against those who follow another form of Buddhism, as represented by Dorje Shugden.

Similar protests have accompanied appearances by the Dalai Lama in California and in Germany, so it was no surprise to the University or the municipality. The protestors had announced their intention beforehand.

Almost as many Tibetan supporters as protestors also made their feelings known by dancing, drumming and singing directly in front of the entrance to Jadwin Gym. One man Geshe Chogkhan Thubten Tandhar wore his support and respect for the Tibetan leader (see photograph) by way of a placard around his neck that read: “Long Live Dalai Lama, the Apostle of Compassion and The Soul of Tibet.”

The morning event was open to the University Community as well as members of the public with free tickets (two per applicant) made available in mid-September.

Later in the day, His Holiness met privately with a select group of students and faculty to discuss the meaning of service as expressed by the University’s informal motto, “In the Nation’s Service and in the Service of All Nations.” This event was by invitation only and was described as being an opportunity for “continued reflection.”

The event was covered extensively by some 30 media outlets and was simulcast to the Princeton community at the Princeton Public Library.

 

About 40 parents turned out Monday for a moderated Meet the Candidates panel discussion at John Witherspoon Middle School.

They had come to hear the four candidates, Justin Doran, Afsheen Shamsi, Fern Spruill, and Connie Witter, who are vying for three seats on the Board of Education, present their views and answer questions from the floor.

Only two of the four candidates showed, incumbent Ms. Shamsi and first time candidate Ms. Spruill. Mr. Doran had a business meeting and was unable to attend. He sent along his answers to a set of questions that had been distributed in advance of the meeting. Ms. Witter was a no show.

Ms. Shamsi is the only candidate already on the Board. She is seeking election for a second term. The two other vacancies stem from Dan Haughton and Tim Quinn, each of whom has served two full terms.

School Board Candidates’ Night has been sponsored by the the Princeton PTO Council and Special Education PTO for some 16 years.

Designed to offer the community a chance to listen to and ask questions of candidates before next week’s election, Tuesday, November 4, the event was moderated by former Board member Walter Bliss, who read Mr. Doran’s responses in his absence. After giving brief opening statements, each candidate read their responses to the pre-distributed questions and then took questions from the audience. Topics ranged from mainstreaming for special education students, Princeton’s achievement gap, the common core curriculum, to which Ms. Shamsi and Ms. Spruill read their previously written answers, and Mr. Bliss reading for Mr. Doran.

For Ms. Shamsi, one of the challenges facing the district is the pressure to get high grades and the effect that less than perfect grades have on students. . “We need to teach our children resiliency,” she said, citing a district study conducted by former Superintendent Judy Wilson showing that only 25 percent of students at PHS reported feeling happy with themselves.

Ms. Spruill spoke about inclusiveness and the need for electronic access for all students and their families.

The first question from parents concerned a perceived lack of communication between teachers and district administrators, found to be especially troubling given the current ongoing contract negotiations between the district and the Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA). Ms. Shamsi agreed that a better job could be done by the district in this regard and commended new Superintendent Steve Cochrane for his “listening tours.”

One parent who had attended two recent meetings, asked why Board members seemed to ignore the people in the room. Ms. Shamsi, as the only member among the candidates, responded that the Board is “listening” and while she was unable to comment on current negotiations she reiterated budget constraints and a $1.6 million short fall.

This prompted a conversation on rising enrollment because of new construction in Princeton and the impact this might have on class sizes.

Malachi Wood, a teacher himself, asked Ms. Shamsi about her reported interest in raising funds for the district from public/private partnerships, which brought up the stellar work done by the Princeton Education Forum in raising hundreds of thousands for Princeton’s schools.

Parental frustration with the school Board over the recent contract negotiations was a constant undercurrent, which one parent expressed thus: “We have to settle this now and give teachers what they are asking for; as a board member it’s your job to get creative and find the money, whether through public/private partnership of whatever.”

The Candidates

An Institutional Equity Trader with the Royal Bank of Canada, Mr Doran has five children in the district. He describes himself as a sports enthusiast and was an active member on the Board of Princeton Little League for many years.

Ms. Shamsi, who has served on the Board of Education since May 2011, has a son at Princeton High School and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in strategic communications at Columbia University. She serves on several board committees including external affairs, personnel, facilities, and student achievement, and has helped develop the district’s communications plan and update its crisis communications plan.

Ms. Spruill, who has worked and volunteered in Princeton for many years, describes herself as a community volunteer. Her family has lived in the town for generations and she has served as chair and vice-chair of the district’s Minority Education Committee, from 2007-2011. “I have seen the schools evolve and I understand the district’s strengths and its weaknesses,” she said.

Ms. Witter, a mortgage underwriter working with first time homebuyers, has three children in the district.

For a Q&A with each of the candidates by the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area, visit: www.lwvprinceton.org/voters-guides/archives/princeton-school-board-candidates-2014.

 

A serenade by an a cappella group and individual tributes from members of Princeton Council marked the final meeting that Bob Bruschi, longtime municipal administrator, attended before his last day of work this Friday. Mr. Bruschi is retiring after 15 years serving first Princeton Borough and most recently the consolidated Princeton.

Mr. Bruschi and new administrator Marc D. Dashield sat next to each other at Monday’s meeting. With such a lengthy agenda, Mr. Bruschi clearly had his work cut out for him. But first, there was a surprise performance by the coed a cappella group “Around Eight” from Princeton High School, doing an energetic version of the Pharrell Williams song “Happy” with lyrics specific to Mr. Bruschi and his career.

Following the song, Mayor Lempert and members of Council took turns expressing their wishes to the departing administrator. “I very much appreciate your dedication and professionalism as well as the heart you brought to the job,” said Patrick Simon. Jo Butler echoed Mr. Simon, adding, “particularly the incredible hours you dedicated during the transition to consolidation.” Lance Liverman commented to Mr. Bruschi, “A lot of the success of Princeton today has to do with you.” Jenny Crumiller said, “I’ve always admired your Council-wrangling skills. They’re supreme.”

Mr. Bruschi thanked them, adding, “It really has been a joy working with you. We all have our differences of opinion, but that’s what makes Princeton a great place.” He gave particular praise to the municipal staff.

Then it was down to business. Among the topics on the agenda was a new policy for events held in Princeton on Sundays, something that leaders of local clergy have voiced concerns about, particularly in relation to the annual Communiversity each April. The event was traditionally held on Saturdays but was switched to Sundays last year after a request from local merchants.

Mr. Bruschi said he has met with church leaders and the Arts Council of Princeton, which sponsors the event. Speaking for municipal staff, he said, “We preferred the Sunday date. It’s easier for staff to work and to get volunteers on Sundays, because there are so many other activities on Saturdays.” Since Communiversity is held late enough on Sundays to not affect church attendance and parking, clergy members are “on board” with holding the event on Sundays, he said.

Members of Council voiced concerns about the size of Communiversity and the crowds and traffic it produces. The event has been drawing about 40,000 each year. Arts Council director Jeff Nathanson said no one wants the event to grow bigger. Last year, clergy leaders and their members were frustrated with traffic and parking because of a breakdown in communications, he said, but this year an effort will be made to alert churchgoers a month ahead of the event.

Regarding other Sunday events such as the half-marathon sponsored by Hi-Tops, Mr. Bruschi recommended urging the organization to find a different route from the one that currently circuits through Princeton. “It’s very difficult for us to manage,” he said. “The problem is several crossings that come into the middle of town.” A route crossing over Route One into West Windsor, or to Lawrenceville, would be preferable.

A memo Mr. Bruschi sent to Council on October 10 detailed a Sunday events policy that would allow only community events sponsored or co-sponsored by the municipality to be held on Sundays, unless Council approves the event. No vote was taken on the proposed policy.

Also at the meeting, Council approved a resolution asking Mercer County to install safety improvements for the pedestrian crossing of the D&R Canal on Washington Road. A West Windsor man and his eight-year-old son were injured at the site earlier this month while walking their bikes across the road south of the Carnegie Lake Bridge. The improvements would include warning lights, a crosswalk, and signs.

The meeting included a public hearing for an ordinance that would create a board of parks and recreation commissioners to oversee the maintenance of the town’s open space, currently under the purview of the recreation board. The ordinance is part of the harmonizing of policies of the former Borough and Township into a new code for the consolidated municipality.

The new board would have seven members and two alternates, and would operate similarly to the commission that oversees the annual deer culling operation, Mr. Bruschi said. Council members Crumiller and Liverman spoke in favor of the ordinance. It will be voted on by Council at a future meeting.

 

October 22, 2014

When the Spring Street Garage next to Princeton Public Library opened a decade ago, the technology used for payment was considered state-of-the-art. But not for long.

“We were at the cutting edge, we thought. But that cutting edge lasted about 30 minutes,” joked Bob Bruschi, the town’s administrator. Mr. Bruschi was speaking to members of the Princeton Merchants Association Tuesday morning about parking, a hot topic among those who patronize local establishments and those who run them.

Along with Mayor Liz Lempert and the town’s Assistant Engineer Deanna Stockton, Mr. Bruschi was at the meeting to get feedback from merchants about some parking innovations being considered for the garage and other locations in the central business district. The topic will be on the agenda at the next Princeton Council meeting on Monday, October 27.

“Technology has changed so much,” said Mr. Bruschi, who recalled that parking meters cost six cents an hour when he was growing up in Princeton. “We’re at the point now where we know we need to make some decisions. We’re very excited over the options, but we’re also nervous about them.”

Anyone who parks in the Spring Street Garage knows the frustration of getting caught behind a line of vehicles trying to exit when the gate malfunctions. Whether to upgrade the present post-pay infrastructure at the garage or switch to a pre-pay system is the main question, Ms. Stockton said in her presentation. “The post-pay infrastructure is a very easy system, as long as it works,” she said. “Pre-pay is more difficult, but there are advantages.”

Among the options with pre-paying are bulk coupons for merchants to offer customers, and the ability to make payments, validations, and adding time through cell phones and computers. While the pre-pay option would be cheapest for the municipality, keeping the post-payment option is “in the mid-range,” Ms. Stockton said. “It’s just a matter of switching out the technology.” The most costly option would be hiring people to take payments in booths, as in the Palmer Square garage.

Mr. Bruschi said the technical abilities of people who park in town are being considered. “Are they savvy enough? We do have an aging population,” he said. “Would we drive people away if it was too advanced?”

Joanne Farrugia, who owns Jazam’s in Palmer Square, said she has concerns about the more technologically advanced option. “We still have customers who don’t get it about getting their parking validated,” she said. “You just want to keep it as simple as possible.” Others in the audience expressed similar sentiments.

There are 1,100 single-head meters, seven surface lots, and three parking garages in Princeton. Multi-space meters have been installed on Alexander Street and at the temporary Dinky train station, and more will be added when the new Dinky station opens next month, Ms. Stockton said.

The Spring Street Garage is a priority because of its aging technology. Asked whether they would favor upgrading the post-payment system or switching to a pre-payment initiative, most at the meeting raised their hands for the former. A few more indicated they were undecided.

“I understand wanting to keep it simple,” said Mr. Bruschi. “But we also want to be able to grow this as people become more technologically savvy.”

At the close of the meeting, Mr. Bruschi, who is retiring at the end of the year after 15 years on the job, was presented with a gift from the Princeton Merchants Association for his service to the business community.

 

Prompted by the repeated failure of the Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA) and the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education (BOE) to negotiate a new contract for Princeton’s teachers and other staff, two concerned Princeton residents have formed a new group.

Attorney Nicole Soffin and public relations consultant Jennifer Lea Cohan created Community for Princeton Public Schools in an effort to “promote awareness, connection and support for the Princeton Public Schools.”

“[The group] was launched in response to the confusion and curiosity many people feel about the current negotiations between PREA and the Board of Education,” said Ms. Cohan, who is urging those interested to attend an inaugural community gathering in front of the School District’s Administration Building at 25 Valley Road, today, October 22, between 4 and 5 p.m.

The gathering is timed to take place prior to tonight’s second bargaining session between union representatives and members of the school board.

The first bargaining session, on October 2, had lasted less than an hour before members of the PREA negotiating team walked out. At that time, PREA Chief Negotiator John Baxter and PREA President Joanne Ryan cited the District’s failure to “put a counter proposal on the table.”

Negotiations have stalled repeatedly over the issues of health care, salary increases, and a profound disagreement over the intent and impact of N.J. law Chapter 78.

The crux of the issue is whether premium contributions are subject to collective bargaining under the Chapter 78 law. PREA contends that, after this year, premium contributions are subject to collective bargaining. But, according to the District, increases in healthcare costs have been “imposed by State Law Chapter 78” and the union’s demands are “simply unaffordable.”

Such entrenchment provided the impetus for Ms. Soffin and Ms. Cohan, who said that today’s Community for Princeton Public Schools gathering, which will take place without a speaker or a formal program, is intended in “support of a positive resolution to the negotiations.”

“Public education affects the vibrance, safety, property values and prosperity of a community,” the group said in an email to supporters. “[Princeton] has a legacy of respect for public education. Your show of support, either physical, virtual, or both (#comm4pps), is essential to continuing this legacy.”

Using email and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, the group is spreading word of today’s gathering to local media, PTO groups, School Board members, the Superintendent of Princeton Schools, as well as community organizations and others.

In anticipation of tonight’s bargaining session, Mr. Baxter said yesterday that he was hoping for progress. “We enter the session prepared with proposals to do our part should the Board agree to negotiate premium contributions or an equivalent proposal,” he said, adding that he was looking for answers from the Board in advance of the public meeting on October 28.

In an email, yesterday, District representative Patrick Sullivan commented: “The goals of the board’s negotiations team have not changed since these negotiations began. We want an agreement that 1) is fair to and affirming of our teachers, whom we value; 2) is affordable for the duration of the new agreement; and 3) ensures the sustainability of the high quality of programs, staffing levels and class sizes we all value for the children in our public schools. We hope the PREA will work with us to achieve that, within the limits of what is possible and compliant with the laws of our State.”

The Board of Education is due to meet Tuesday, October 28, at 8 p.m., at which time Princeton residents are expected to put some difficult questions with respect to Chapter 78, the schools budget, and other matters (See Letters to the Editor, page 14).

Following next week’s board meeting, the two sides will have the help of a state-appointed mediator in their search for common ground. Kathy Vogt, Esq. assisted with negotiations for the 2011-2014 contract which expired June 30 but continues in operation until the terms and conditions of a new contract can be agreed upon. She will work with both sides on November 20.

For more information on Community for Princeton Public Schools, contact: comm4pps@gmail.com, Facebook (comm4pps), Twitter & Instagram, @comm4PPS.

As the former Princeton Hospital building is steadily dismantled, officials are keeping a close eye С or ear С on decibel levels. AvalonBay, the developer building a rental complex on the Witherspoon Street site, has an acoustical consultant on hand, while engineering and health officers from the municipality and Mercer County continue to monitor the sounds of crunching concrete.

While complaints have been lodged by a number of area residents, acceptable noise levels have not been exceeded so far. But that could change once the largest of the buildings come down. “They’re sort of acting as a shield for the neighborhood right now,” said Bob Kiser, the town’s municipal engineer. “So it remains to be seen how things will work out once they get started on those buildings.”

Depending on the weather, that could happen within the next month. Excessively cold temperatures could halt the demolition because the misting operation being used to help control dust could freeze, Mr. Kiser said.

Princeton’s health officer Jeffrey Grosser said most of the noise issues reported by residents have had to do with work on the parking garage, where removal of the upper level concrete floor deck is being replaced with a new concrete deck. “That was addressed through some noise dampening walls they had purchased, which worked pretty effectively,” he said. “There were also some blankets in use. But obviously with the larger structure coming down, that will change.”

Council member Jo Butler said that she and fellow Council member Jenny Crumiller have been contacted on a number of occasions by residents bothered by the noise. “But Bob Kiser and [health officer] Jeff Grosser have been terrific, really getting out there and working with the county,” she said. “I really think they’re doing their best.”

Mr. Grosser, Mr. Kiser, the town’s construction official, and land use engineer Jack West have been meeting at the demolition site every Monday with representatives from AvalonBay and Yannuzzi Wrecking and Recycling to go over the progress, Mr. Grosser said. At the most recent meeting, the issue of an odor was raised.

“My initial evaluation was that it was due to some kind of exhaust from one of the machines,” Mr. Grosser said. “I haven’t heard anything else. There were no odors on Monday when we were out there.”

Demolition work on the former hospital site, to make room for the 280 unit rental property, began September 22. Three of eight buildings have already been razed, leaving another five to be taken down. The overall project is expected to take another six months, according to progress reports from the town.

Should noise levels become extreme once the larger buildings are dismantled, “we will take readings and appropriate action if we have to,” Mr. Kiser said. “We would have to document it and then go back and determine what can be done to reduce the noise. If necessary, I’m sure our attorneys will be dealing with it.”

October 15, 2014

Princeton resident and NBC News Chief Medical Editor and Correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman, 62, issued an apology Monday via a statement read during the NBC Nightly News broadcast by Anchorman Brian Williams.

“While under voluntary quarantine guidelines, which called for our team to avoid public contact for 21 days, members of our group violated those guidelines and understand that our quarantine is now mandatory until 21 days have passed,” the statement read. “We remain healthy and our temperatures are normal. As a health professional I know that we have no symptoms and pose no risk to the public, but I am deeply sorry for the concerns this episode caused.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those exposed to the virus may develop symptoms up to 21 days after exposure. The NBC crew’s exposure was considered to be “low risk.”

The voluntary quarantine required Ms. Snyderman and the rest of her team to stay in touch with local health authorities for the remainder of the recommended 21-day period after a camera man they were working with tested positive for the disease and the team returned to the United States from Liberia where they had been reporting about the Ebola outbreak in Monrovia.

The American camera man, Ashoka Mukpo, a 33-year-old photo-journalist from Rhode Island, is being treated at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where he is reportedly receiving an experimental drug and recovering.

Ms. Snyderman’s Monday night statement was in response to the New Jersey Department of Health’s upping the quarantine from voluntary to mandatory status late Friday after news broke that Ms. Snyderman had been spotted outside a Hopewell restaurant.

The change came after local reporter Krystal Knapp reported the alleged sighting on the online news media outlet, Planet Princeton. Ms. Knapp had received a tip that Ms. Snyderman was sitting in her black Mercedes outside of the restaurant last Thursday afternoon; a man had been seen getting out of the car and going inside the restaurant to pick up a take-out order. Another man had been seen in the back seat of the vehicle.

“Unfortunately, the NBC crew violated this agreement and so the Department of Health today issued a mandatory quarantine order to ensure that the crew will remain confined until Oct. 22,” said Health Department spokesperson Dawn Thomas on Friday.

Of the trip to the restaurant, Ms. Thomas observed, “The NBC crew remains symptom-free, so there is no reason for concern of exposure to the community.”

The voluntary quarantine agreement violation as reported on Planet Princeton was picked up Friday by websites that cover the media industry, including JimRomenesko.com and Mediabistro.

Health Officer’s Report

At Monday night’s meeting of the Mayor and Princeton Council, Health Officer Jeffrey Grosser updated the council on the NBC team and the status of the quarantine.

After describing the disease in some detail and then the situation that had brought Ms. Snyderman and members of her team into self-quarantine in Princeton, he said, “The virus now has Princeton ties. The NBC team violated their agreement with the Princeton Health Department. Currently they are symptom free. Princeton police have been charged with policing the isolation area.”

Mr. Grosser, who became Princeton Health Officer just six months ago, explained that initial testing had determined the NBC team to be at “no risk” for the disease. But, he continued, a second test by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) had changed that assessment to “low risk,” and the team had been asked to self-monitor for 21 days. “Low risk,” Mr. Grosser explained, means being within three feet of an infected person. The second risk assessment was “erring on the side of caution,” he said. “For low risk exposure it is typical to have monitoring by a public health nurse.”

While expressing the need to support Mr. Grosser’s efforts to protect the community, councillor Heather Howard asked whether the costs of extra hours for the public health nurse might be reimbursed by the state. Mr. Grosser said he would look into it. Jo Butler asked him a hypothetical question about the alleged NBC team’s visit to Hopewell for take-out food: “If prior notice had been given to the health department, would he have approved?” He responded to the effect that this sort of question had come up when the self-monitoring agreement was put in place. “Public places were to be avoided. Food could have been delivered. It wasn’t necessary,” he said.

According to reports on CNN, the Ebola virus has been contracted for the first time by someone inside the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Sunday that the first known transmission of the disease in the United States had occurred when a nurse at a Dallas Hospital, who had worn protective gear during her “extensive contact” with Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan, tested positive for Ebola. The nurse is reported to be in stable condition. Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died last Wednesday, October 8.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports more than 8,300 people have contracted Ebola during the current outbreak. Of those, more than 4,000 have died. In spite of these figures, it is said that the disease is “not very contagious,” and “difficult to catch.”

People are at risk if they come into very close contact with the blood, saliva, sweat, feces, semen, vomit, or soiled clothing of an Ebola patient, or if they travel to affected areas in West Africa (Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia) and come into contact with someone who has Ebola.

Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, fever, and unexplained bleeding. WHO estimates that some 416 health care workers have contracted Ebola, and at least 233 have died.

Ms. Snyderman joined NBC News as the chief medical editor in September 2006. She has reported on wide-ranging medical topics and has traveled the world extensively, reporting from many of the world’s most troubled areas.

 

While concerns about the town’s handling of possible exposure to the Ebola virus (see accompanying story) dominated Monday night’s meeting of Princeton Council, there was additional business on the agenda. The governing body passed resolutions to accept a 2013 audit, the first since consolidation, and to approve a related corrective action plan. Also approved was a resolution to officially oppose the Penneast Pipeline Project, among other actions.

Mayor Liz Lempert said she was pleased with the results of the town’s audit. Discussion was led by Robert Morrison of the Highland Park firm Hodulik & Morrison. Mr. Morrison said there were only minor concerns with the report, which did not affect the fairness of the financial statements.

In response to a recommendation that data entry privileges for financial accounting software be modified to limit them to authorized personnel, the municipality said there is new software in place that allows only Kathy Monzo, the town’s director of finance, and Sandra Webb, its chief financial officer, to have access.

It was also recommended that reports of parking costs by credit card be obtained and checked against the amounts paid by credit card companies to make sure parking revenues are obtained in a timely manner.

Members of the Princeton Environmental Commission delivered a presentation about the “Leave the Leaves” initiative, which encourages property owners to use fallen leaves as mulch and ground-cover rather than piling them up at the curb for pickup. Piles of leaves can cause safety concerns for drivers, said Stephanie Chorney, PEC member. Having the town pick up the leaves “is not sustainable, and it increases energy consumption,” she said, adding, “It hauls away rich nutrients.”

The PEC recommends mulching leaves with a mower, spreading leaves on the garden to hold in moisture, using leaves to control weeds, and creating a “leaf corral,” a circle of wire fencing to help contain leaves. Robert Hough, the town’s director of infrastructure and operations, said the mega-storms of recent seasons have prevented his department from documenting whether professional landcapers deal properly with leaves, but they hope to do more in the future. “I think you should tell them that Princeton customers want that kind of service,” said Council member Jo Butler.

Resident and environmentalist Steve Hiltner commented that an ordinance dealing with the dumping of leaves needs to be strictly enforced. Mayor Lempert said educating the public about the issue is important and Council will work with the PEC on the problem.

Council approved resolutions to allow United Bow Hunters of New Jersey and White Buffalo Inc. Wildlife Management Services to control the herds of deer in certain areas. Also approved was a resolution allowing the Rodgers Group to develop a strategic plan for the Princeton Police Department.

 

Diane Landis was in a meeting with Mayor Liz Lempert Monday when the good news came through in an email: Princeton has been awarded silver level certification by Sustainable Jersey, the statewide non-profit organization that helps communities become more energy efficient and less wasteful.

“It’s very exciting,’” said Diane Landis, the executive director of Sustainable Princeton, speaking before Ms. Lempert announced the news at Monday night’s Princeton Council meeting. “A lot of effort has gone into this. It’s been a real collaboration between us, the different municipal departments, and Sustainable Jersey.

“It means that we are moving in a coordinated fashion as a town to address sustainability in different departments of the municipality,” she continued. “We are in good company. There are a number of municipalities that have received this certification in New Jersey. It has really grown. It’s so important to keep moving on the initiatives so we can stand out and have the kind of town we want.”

At the Council meeting, Ms. Landis said 160 communities across the state earned certification. Princeton is one of 27 to attain the silver status.

The town’s forming of a “municipal green team” last October was key in helping Princeton move from bronze to silver certification. A total of 350 points are needed to secure the designation, and Princeton submitted 420 points. “We were approved for 34 actions in 19 different categories,” Ms. Landis said. “These actions can range from forming a municipal green team to having a tree inventory, or a fleet inventory [of vehicles].”

The team met the submission deadline in September. It was reviewed by Sustainable Jersey and sent back for revisions. “We had to redo about 100 points,” said Landis. “It’s very technical. We had to do things like go and take a photo of the drop box at the police department where you can put the old drugs; stuff like that.”

The process has also been helped by changes in attitude by the public. “Since we applied for the bronze level three years ago, there is much more interest in sustainability,” Ms. Landis said. “People are really seeing through the lens of being sustainable, and that’s helped us move our agenda forward. We’re not asked so much anymore, ‘Why should I do it?’ Instead, it’s ‘How do I do it?’ ”

Sustainable Princeton is housed in Monument Hall, formerly known as Borough Hall. The non-profit organization got $15,000 in funding from the town last year, Ms. Landis said.

Ms. Lempert was elated by the news of the silver level. “This is not a trivial process,” she said Monday afternoon. “For each level, you have to do a substantial amount of documentation, which Sustainable Jersey helps us with. We got credits for several things, like the Farmer’s Market in Hinds Plaza. It’s another way for us to learn from other communities and for them to learn from us about best practices.”

 

October 8, 2014

Representatives of both the teachers’ union, Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA) and the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education (BOE) failed to reach agreement when they met for a “bargaining session” last Thursday, October 2. The meeting was brought to a halt when members of the PREA negotiating team walked out.

“Tonight’s bargaining session lasted less than an hour. The Board refused to put a counter proposal on the table,” said PREA Chief Negotiator John Baxter and PREA President Joanne Ryan in a statement to Town Topics following the meeting.

“The parties reached a point where it seemed that further discussion was not leading to progress, and PREA terminated the meeting,” stated BOE representative Patrick Sullivan in a similar summation of the Board’s position. “The issues in this negotiation come down to salary and benefits, but the real issue from the Board’s point of view is the sustainability of the quality education we provide to our students,” said Mr. Sullivan.

The meeting was one of two scheduled by both sides in advance of mediation sessions with Kathy Vogt, Esq., a state-appointed mediator who has been called in to help forge a new contract for Princeton’s teachers.

Talks with Ms. Vogt are due to take place on November 20. “Ms. Vogt was the mediator during contract negations for the 2011-14 contract,” said BOE Secretary Stephanie Kennedy. That contract expired June 30, but continues in operation until the new contract terms and conditions are agreed upon.

While negotiations have stalled repeatedly over the issues of health care and salary increases, the most significant stumbling block to forward movement is a profound disagreement over the intent and impact of NJ law Chapter 78.

According to the PREA statement, “The Board has now refused to move for two consecutive meetings, despite significant movement by the association. There is no evidence that the extraordinary attendance and comments at the public meeting last week had any impact, other than to increase the Board’s obstinance. They continue to maintain their position on Chapter 78 and refuse to bargain premium contributions for years two and three.”

Not only that, the statement goes on, “[The Board] refused to make a counter offer on salary.” and “has not increased its 1.8 percent salary offer since April.”

From the perspective of the teachers’ union, the Board is insisting that “PREA members accept lower health care benefits to fund any additional salary increase above the 1.8 percent offer,” even though “PREA members have already saved the Board $700,000 in premiums this year.”

The crux of the issue is whether premium contributions are subject to collective bargaining under the Chapter 78 law. PREA contends that, after this year, premium contributions are subject to collective bargaining. In support of their position, they cite 12 other New Jersey school boards that have negotiated new rates for years two and three of a new three-year contract. As far as the union is concerned, the Board is failing to comply with NJ State law and using “highly questionable interpretations of the statute, in order to get something for nothing.”

But, according to a BOE statement provided by Mr. Sullivan, increases in healthcare costs have been “imposed by State Law Chapter 78” and the union’s demands are “simply unaffordable.”

“The PREA’s current proposal for salary increases and healthcare givebacks is far in excess of the maximum tax raise we could ask taxpayers to pay by law under the 2 percent cap on tax increases. As fiduciaries for the children and for this community, we cannot pay what they are asking us to give.”

To do so, the statement goes on, would “jeopardize” the quality of Princeton’s education and lead to cuts in programs and teachers, and to increases in class sizes. Any agreement would “involve looking at salary increases coupled with health plans that save money for BOTH sides, and we cannot negotiate salary in isolation to health benefits.”

From the perspective of the BOE, the teachers’ union is asking for a “counter-proposal” on salary only, “while refusing to propose any benefit plan other than the status quo, or to discuss any of the Board’s offers on health benefit plans that would save both sides money.”

A second bargaining session is due to take place October 22.

“We hope to arrive at a solution, but in order to do that, both sides need to work together and work within the confines of what is prudent, sustainable, and best for our children and our taxpayers,” said Mr. Sullivan.

Mediator services are provided by the state at no cost to the district, but if no agreement is reached in mediation, a fact-finder would be called in at a cost of $1,500 per day. The cost of a fact-finder would be split between the two parties. According to BOE negotiator Patrick Sullivan, 40 percent of school negotiations in New Jersey go to mediation.

“We are hopeful that Ms. Vogt can assist us in coming to agreement,” said Ms. Kennedy. “As yet, no fact finder has been called upon. That would only occur if the mediator can not get us to a point of agreement.”

 

SNYDERMAN BACK FROM LIBERIA: NBC News Chief Medical Editor and Correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman returned from Liberia on Monday after a cameraman on her team tested positive for the Ebola virus last Thursday. Her co-worker is being treated at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Ms. Snyderman and the rest of her team were described by NBC News President Deborah Turness yesterday as "feeling well and in good health." They will be staying in their homes monitoring their temperatures twice daily and staying in touch with the local health authorities for the remainder of the recommended 21-day quarantine period.

SNYDERMAN BACK FROM LIBERIA: NBC News Chief Medical Editor and Correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman returned from Liberia on Monday after a cameraman on her team tested positive for the Ebola virus last Thursday. Her co-worker is being treated at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Ms. Snyderman and the rest of her team were described by NBC News President Deborah Turness yesterday as “feeling well and in good health.” They will be staying in their homes monitoring their temperatures twice daily and staying in touch with the local health authorities for the remainder of the recommended 21-day quarantine period.

Princeton resident and NBC News Chief Medical Editor and Correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman had to be flown back from Liberia where she had been reporting on the Ebola outbreak in Monrovia when a cameraman on her team tested positive for the disease last Thursday.

The cameraman, named as Ashoka Mukpo, is the fourth American to have contracted Ebola in Liberia. The 33-year-old photo-journalist from Rhode Island was hired as a second cameraman on Dr. Snyderman’s team on Tuesday of last week. When he felt unwell on Wednesday, a routine temperature check showed a higher than normal reading. The help of Medicins Sans Frontieres doctors was immediately sought and he was tested for the disease and found positive for the virus on Thursday. By Sunday, he was on his way home to the United States on a specially equipped jet from Liberia to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for treatment. He is the second person with the Ebola virus to be treated at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

According to NBC News President Deborah Turness, the cameraman had worked in Liberia for the past three years and had recently been covering the epidemic for U.S. media. The rest of the crew, including Ms. Snyderman, are being closely monitored and show no symptoms or warning signs. As a precautionary measure, they are being quarantined for 21 days.

Ms. Snyderman has been reporting on the precautions being taken to prevent the spread of the disease. The strict safety protocols include wearing plastic suits, gloves and goggles when visiting hospitals where victims are being treated and at other times spraying shoes with bleach, monitoring body temperature at least twice a day to check for elevated temperature that is one of the first signs of the disease, and washing hands frequently with a sanitizer.

On Monday, she was seen on NBC taking the precautions that she said have become “a way of life” in Liberia, where officials are vigilant about monitoring people’s temperatures at the airport, at hotels, and for those traveling between towns.

“Greetings are done at a distance, no handshakes, no hugs,” reported Ms. Snyderman. “For healthcare workers, layers of protective equipment are required. It’s a painstaking process.” The medical correspondent was shown visiting a patient in a local clinic and then removing her plastic protective suit, gloves and goggles afterwards. The removed items were hosed down with a bleach solution before being incinerated. “It’s a meticulous process,” she said.

Ms. Snyderman and the rest of her team returned to the United States Monday. All were ”feeling well and in good health,” said NBC News President Deborah Turness in a statement sent to staff members on Tuesday. “While they are deemed to be at low risk, we have agreed with state and local health authorities that our team will not come to work, and they will stay at home taking their temperatures twice daily and staying in touch with the local health authorities for the remainder of the recommended 21-day period.”

“Sadly this epidemic shows no signs of slowing down, adding to the social disintegration of Liberia,” said Ms. Snyderman before she left Liberia. “But we start this 21-day quarantine with the firm belief that we will come out the other end okay and we believe that our co-worker is also going to be fine. We want the eyes of the world to remain on Liberia,” she said. “And we will be back to continue to cover this story.”

American aid workers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were infected in July while working for Samaritan’s Purse in Monrovia. Last month, Dr. Rick Sacra was diagnosed with the virus after working at a local hospital in Liberia. Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan is currently being treated for Ebola at a hospital in Dallas.

Eli Waller

Eli Waller

A Virus Closer to Home

A Mercer County preschooler is New Jersey’s first confirmed death linked to the Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) a serious respiratory illness that has swept the country the last several weeks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 594 people across 43 states and the District of Columbia have been made ill by this virus since mid-August and it has been detected in four people who have died.

Mercer County officials reported that tests results showed that four-year-old Eli Waller, who died in his sleep on September 25, had the virus.

The child, a student at Yardville Elementary School in the afternoons, had gone to bed with what appeared to be “pink eye,” or conjunctivitus. Apparently, he showed showed none of the typical signs associated with the disease such as coughing, a runny nose, body and muscle aches and, sometimes, fever. A second student at the school, who has shown such symptoms, has been tested for the virus, which is spread through close contact with infected individuals, objects and surfaces. There is no vaccine.

So far, nine cases of ED68 have been confirmed by the New Jersey State Department of Health, in eight counties: Burlington, Camden, Essex, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic and Sussex. Princeton’s Health Officer has posted links to the New Jersey Department of Health on the municipal website, where you will also find the fact sheet, “Enterovirus-D68 (EV-D68) Frequently Asked Questions:” http://princetonnj.gov/health/9_29_14_EV-D68_FAQ_GENERAL_105180.pdf:

For more information, visit the NJ Department of Health: www.nj.gov/health/cd/ev-d60/index.shtml, and the CDC: www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/outbreaks/EV-D68-outbreaks.html

 

Morven Museum & Garden has received two major grants designed to help strengthen the organization’s endowment. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has donated $1 million, half of which must be matched, and Princeton University is giving the historic site $100,000.

Both grants are to be announced Thursday evening at a reception for The Boudinot Society, which honors donors who support the museum at a significant level. The funding is especially welcome at a time when state support has been affected by the ups and downs of the economy.

“We are a private/public partnership with the State of New Jersey, and with the state budget issues, we have not been able to depend on their contributions,” said Barbara Webb, Morven’s Director of Development. “These grants will help us with our long-term sustainability as a museum.”

Both organizations have strong connections to Morven. “The Stockton family [original occupants of the house] was instrumental in the beginnings of Princeton University. Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was part of the first graduating class,” said Ms. Webb.

Marco Navarro, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, made note of the fact that General Robert Wood Johnson was once an occupant of the house and that it was the official residence of New Jersey governors from 1954 to 1982. “It plays a significant and central role in New Jersey’s rich historic and cultural heritage,” he said in an email. “Grants like this help us honor the legacy of our founder and help New Jersey institutions become or stay national leaders.”

Robert Wood Johnson’s portrait hangs on the museum’s first floor. “He is responsible for developing the back part of the property including the pool house, which has been restored,” Ms. Webb said. “He also installed the tennis court and the pool, which has been removed and will be replaced by a fountain on the same footprint.”

Kristin Appelget, Princeton University’s director of community and regional affairs, said the decision to fund Morven’s endowment was a logical one. “Given the very historical connections between Morven and Princeton University, we determined we wanted to support the campaign,” she said. “One of the most obvious connections between us is that some of the University Art Museum’s collection is at Morven on loan. And many residents of the house have had University connections.”

Nearly every item in Morven’s dining room is from the University museum and on long-term loan, said Ms. Webb. Several portraits in the house are also owned by the University museum.

Morven has 18 months to raise the $500,000 portion of the Johnson Foundation grant earmarked as a matching grant. “One reason the Foundation gave us this grant is that they recognize the value of a museum dedicated to interpreting the cultural heritage of New Jersey,” said Ms. Webb.

 

October 1, 2014

Princeton has a new municipal administrator. At a special meeting Monday night, the town’s Council unanimously approved the appointment of Marc D. Dashield, who replaces longtime staffer Bob Bruschi and will start work October 27.

Mr. Dashield, 48, comes to Princeton after serving since 2010 as township manager for Montclair. Prior to that, he was city administrator in Plainfield and served several positions in Franklin Township, including chief financial officer. He began his municipal career in Elizabeth 21 years ago, serving as chief of the Neighborhood Services Bureau.

“Princeton is a great community, actually very similar to Montclair, though of course each are unique,” Mr. Dashield said Monday in a telephone interview from his Montclair office. “The downtown, the university, the very progressive makeup of the town С I thought it would be a good fit for me. We do have a lot of the same issues, like overnight parking in the downtown.”

Not least of Mr. Dashield’s reasons to pursue the job was the fact that he lives with his family in Kendall Park. “The commute will be so much easier,” he said. “It makes a lot of sense.”

Mr. Dashield was one of three finalists for the job. Kathy Monzo, Princeton’s assistant administrator and director of finance, was considered a leading contender. There were 17 applications for the position, and seven were chosen as candidates. Three of them withdrew, and the remaining four were seriously considered with a full day of interaction with the Council, individual presentations, and interviews. Three of the four were called back for a subsequent round of interviews.

Born in Mt. Holly, Mr. Dashield grew up in Burlington Township and earned undergraduate and master’s degrees at Kean University. He served in the U.S. Army during Desert Storm, rising to the rank of captain.

While being considered for the position, Mr. Dashield said he watched a number of Princeton municipal meetings online. His new role will be somewhat different from his previous job.

“In Montclair, I’m the township manager. I’m the CEO versus being an administrator, so there is a lot more that I’m directly in charge of here,” he said. “I’ve been a city administrator before, and it’s a different role, which I will go back to. I will have to relearn some things. There are a lot of things I have the authority to do on my own here, but that won’t be the case in Princeton.”

Mayor Liz Lempert said of Mr. Dashield in a press release, “He was a very strong candidate among a strong field of applicants. We think his experience in Montclair and other communities will serve our needs very well.”

Mr. Bruschi, 61, is retiring after 15 years of service to Princeton. Mr. Dashield will have a starting salary of $170,000. According to the letter offering him the position, his performance will be reviewed by the mayor and Council after six months and again prior to the end of 2015. After that, performance reviews will take place annually.

 

In spite of hopes expressed by both sides during a series of meetings over summer and into the start of the school year, members of Princeton Public Schools Board of Education (BOE) and the teachers’s union, the Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA), will require a state-appointed mediator to help them work out a new contract.

“The parties have yet to reach a final agreement,” said Patrick Sullivan of the BOE, Monday. “We wish there were an agreement on which the Board could vote С but that has not yet occurred.”

When Princeton Public Schools opened this fall, teachers were working under their “old” contract, which expired at the end of June. Negotiations that would have put a new contract in place stalled over the issues of health care and salary increases.

The BOE last met with representatives of the teachers’ union September 11. Under New Jersey law, when a new employment agreement is not reached before a contract expires, the prior contract continues in place for both parties until a new agreement replaces it.

Talks have broken down over salary increases and healthcare costs. BOE Secretary Stephanie Kennedy stated that “dates are set for November with the state appointed mediator.”

According to PREA Chief Negotiator John Baxter, the union will hold bargaining sessions with the district on October 2 and 22 prior to sessions with the mediator Kathy Vogt, Esq, on November 20 and December 9.

Signs that a mediator would be needed prompted the BOE to formally file for “impasse,” the first step in securing a mediator, on June 12. It can take up to 60 days for a mediator to be scheduled.

In such cases, a mediator is provided by the state at no cost to the district. But if no agreement is reached in mediation, a fact-finder would be called in at a cost of $1,500 per day. The cost of a fact-finder would be split between the two parties. According to BOE negotiator Patrick Sullivan, 40 percent of school negotiations in New Jersey go to mediation.

In a recent statement to Town Topics, PREA President Joanne Ryan, and Mr. Baxter wrote: “At our last negotiations session (Sept. 11) the Board did not change any of its proposals and continues to refuse to bargain premium contributions. PREA members are now contributing to their health benefits premiums at the Tier 4 rate. As a result, take home pay has decreased for a large majority of our members — for many the decrease is well over $100 per paycheck.”

The statement goes on to describe the union’s salary increase as “reasonable” and the Board’s offer of 1.8 percent as “below average.”

“We are also seeking a reasonable reduction of healthcare contributions in years two and three of the contract. We ARE NOT seeking to eliminate our contributions. PREA members were contributing to their healthcare long before the law required us to do so and when very few, if any, other associations were doing so. We will continue to make a significant contribution going forward. But even the Board admits our current rates of contribution are well above the national average. The intent of the Chapter 78 law was that, after 4 years, districts and associations could negotiate the amounts members contributed towards their healthcare. The Board insists that the four-year law binds us to Tier 4, the highest percentages of contribution, for two additional years.”

Ms. Ryan and Mr. Baxter call upon the Board to change its position regarding the bargaining of contribution levels. “We would like to work to craft a contribution formula that makes sense for Princeton as opposed to blindly adhering to Trenton’s one-size-fits-all approach to school districts. Saying ‘yes’ costs the Board nothing — they do not commit to lowering the contributions.”

The two sides continue to disagree over the intent of impact of N.J. law Chapter 78. “By refusing to allow premium contributions to be part of the bargaining process, the Board is taking a substantial tool out of our collective toolbox for the work of crafting a fair contract,” said Mr. Baxter. “12 other school districts in New Jersey, in the same position as Princeton, have already negotiated contracts that include various different formulas for contributions for years 2 and 3. Those school boards have demonstrated that changes to the Chapter 78 formula are not just permitted; they are an equitable way of addressing the legitimate concerns of education professionals.”

“Mr. Baxter’s accusation that the Board refuses to negotiate healthcare contributions is not precisely true,” commented Mr. Sullivan. “What we are saying is it is illegal to negotiate healthcare contributions in conflict with the formula set out in Chapter 78 of New Jersey Law. And regardless of the legalities, we have stated repeatedly that under the 2 percent tax cap that is also law in New Jersey, it is absolutely impossible to give PREA both the salary increases they are asking for (4 percent) and a healthcare giveback.”

“If we want to reduce healthcare costs legally and do it for both sides (PREA and the District), then PREA needs to stop rejecting proposed changes that would contain or reduce healthcare premiums,” said Mr. Sullivan. “As we have explained, if the PREA were to indicate their willingness to accept a salary increase anywhere close to the Mercer County average of 2.4 percent, and at the same time work with the Board to generate savings on healthcare costs, then we would be much further along the road to a compromise.”

“We stand ready to work with the Board to develop a contract that the community, PREA members, and the Board of Education can be proud of,” said Mr. Baxter.

 

Greeted by one standing ovation and acknowledged with another as he concluded his remarks, Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson spoke of a new era for the beleaguered capital city Tuesday morning during a sold-out breakfast held by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce at Trenton’s Wyndham Garden Hotel.

“The very fact that you are in this room today shows that you want to see a strong and thriving capital city,” said Mr. Jackson, who was sworn in July 1 following the tumultuous run of former Mayor Tony Mack, now serving a prison sentence for corruption. “We are off on a very strong path to move our city forward,” he added, referring to the previous mayor’s unfavorable relationship with the city council as compared to the new administration’s more harmonious one.

The focus is now on economic development, public safety, public schools, tourism, and the arts, Mr. Jackson said. While Mr. Mack made significant cuts in the police force, the city has recently sworn in a new class of 20 police recruits and a $1.5 million grant has allowed the hiring of 12 more officers who will be on the streets in 2015. Violent crime is down, “but there is still much to do,” Mr. Jackson said.

The city’s expanding tax base, its plan for a new high school building, its historic sites, housing stock, and easy access to New York City and Philadelphia are assets to be marketed, the mayor said. “We have to do a better job conveying this message,” he said, adding, “We are restoring municipal government services that have been broken.”

Mr. Jackson cited the Block 3 project in the former Roebling Steel buildings as a reason for optimism. The 450,000 square foot mixed use project by the developers HHG combines commercial, residential, offices, and restaurants aimed at the “milennials” who are the target market. “We believe strongly that this is a project that will change the direction of our city,” he said.

Mr. Jackson also expressed enthusiasm for Trenton 250, a long-range master plan designed to guide the city through its 250th anniversary in 2042. The initiative, “currently in the visionary phase,” he said, has been launched to help identify goals, strategies, and priorities. Meetings in the city’s various wards and a youth summit have already taken place, and a citywide marketing study has been done.

“My door is open,” Mr. Jackson told the assembled business and government representatives. “I am here to collaborate with you.”

Asked what kind of reception he has gotten from the state government, which was not friendly to Mr. Mack, Mr. Jackson said it was “excellent,” and “proactive, not reactive.” But he acknowledged that there is work to be done. “I have met with the governor. He hasn’t said he’s opening up the checkbook, but we’re doing some collaborations. I do want some money. We need financial resources.”

Mr. Jackson expressed gratitude for the advice he has gotten from the state and business leaders. “Stakeholders have called and said, ‘How can we help?’, he said, adding, “We want to not only move the city forward. We want to be a regional partner.”

 

September 24, 2014

Should the stretch of Witherspoon Street between Nassau Street and Valley Road continue in its current configuration of eight separate zones, or should Princeton consider rezoning? That question was debated by members of the community at Princeton Council’s meeting Monday night. Designed as a dialogue to be continued at future meetings, the topic drew comments about the neighborhood’s character, its diversity, and fear of encroaching development.

Also prominent on the agenda were the potential threats of hydraulic fracking and the future of the environmentally sensitive Princeton Ridge. Council voted 5-1 to approve an ordinance banning fracking in Princeton, the first municipality in Mercer County to do so. Patrick Simon, who cast the sole “no” vote, said that since there are already laws banning fracking in Princeton, passing the ordinance undermines them and makes them seem weak.

Less than a mile long, the Witherspoon Street corridor is a mix of retail, residential, offices, and some other uses. Last January, Council included the future of the street on its list of priorities. “Now, as a unified town, we have the opportunity to create a unified vision,” Planning Director Lee Solow said in his presentation Monday.

But some at the meeting questioned the intention of the discussion. There were suggestions that the intent was to position the corridor, where a 280-unit rental complex will be built on the former Princeton Hospital site, for more development.

“Just leave it alone,” said resident Peter Marks. There has been too much change, he added, “most of it adverse and detrimental in the 50 or so years that I can remember.”

Longtime neighborhood resident and former Princeton Township Mayor Jim Floyd urged Council to prioritize more residential rather than commercial zoning, recalling Witherspoon Street’s history as a home to many African American citizens. Alexi Assmus of Maple Street suggested the town hire a professional urban designer as a consultant to help map out the future. “We need a professional. It’s a complicated street,” she said, adding that a fiscal analysis and a plan for coping with an increase in students at the public schools should be considered.

Beverly Leach, who moved with her husband to a house on Witherspoon Street a few years ago, said they enjoy sitting on their front porch and chatting with passersby. “It’s village living. I have a vision of what this village corridor could be like,” she said. “We need balance.”

Ms. Leach was among several who expressed interest in the idea of form-based zoning, which regulates form and scale. Architect Evan Yassky of Hawthorne Avenue counterd Mr. Marks’s suggestion that Council leave the current situation as is. “I don’t agree that we should sit back and do nothing,” he said. “This deserves planning with professional guidance.”

Council members said they welcomed the opportunity to hear residents’ thoughts on the future of the corridor. Heather Howard said that if there is change, it is to preserve what is already positive on the street, rather than “change for change’s sake.” Lance Liverman, who has lived on Witherspoon Street for 46 years, said the examination of the corridor is necessary, “because it’s vulnerable right now.” The neighborhood, once considered undesirable, has become just the opposite, he said.

Council president Bernie Miller said he wants to hear more from members of the community before making a decision on whether to think about rezoning. Jenny Crumiller said she liked the idea of doing a capacity analysis. Jo Butler said that with the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad (PFARS) planning to build a new headquarters at the Valley Road end of the corridor, traffic should also be a consideration.

 

After three hours of often contentious discussion, much of it between the lawyers for the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) and the Princeton Battlefield Society, Princeton’s Planning Board last Thursday postponed its vote on whether to approve a revised proposal by the Institute for faculty housing.

The vote is now scheduled for the Planning Board’s October 16 meeting. In March 2012, the planners unanimously approved the project, which would build eight townhouses and seven single-family homes on a seven-acre parcel of the campus. But after the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission later voted against the proposal because of its encroachment on the stream corridor, the development, now slightly scaled down, came back before the Board for a new vote.

The new plan presented to the Board is modified to include smaller lots, a third of an acre further away from the stream. Though the Board opted early in the meeting to limit testimony to the subject of adjusted lot lines on the previous plan, Bruce Afran, the lawyer for the Battlefield Society, argued repeatedly that it was inappropriate to bar testimony not on that subject.

Battlefield Society members have opposed the development from its inception more than a decade ago because of its proximity to the Princeton Battlefield State Park, where key battles of the American Revolution took place. Testifying Thursday night were witnesses for both sides of the issue, as well as members of the public, some of whom repeated testimony they had given at past hearings. Nearly every seat in Witherspoon Hall was filled with people sporting “I support IAS” buttons on one side; and “Save the Princeton Battlefield” on the other.

A representative of the Civil War Trust told the Board that preserved battlefields serve as outdoor classrooms. “Every acre of this hallowed ground that is lost now will be lost forever,” he said. Former Princeton Borough Councilman Roger Martindell said that while he supports the Institute, he wonders why the development can’t be moved to a different location on the IAS grounds. “Is this particular site the only site?,” he asked. “I haven’t had an answer to that to my satisfaction, and I urge you to vote no.”

Another member of the public proposed that the IAS approach homeowners on Battle Road, which is adjacent to the campus, about putting the development there. David Shure, who lives on Stockton Street, spoke in opposition to the development. “No change has happened on this site in more than 225 years,” he said. “It is of national significance. Once we allow building to happen, we’ve lost it. That’s not coming back. Do you want to be the Board responsible for destroying the integrity of a nationally significant site that has stood undeveloped for 225 years?”

Former Princeton Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand spoke in support of the development. “I think it’s appalling that it’s almost 2015 and we’re still debating this,” she said. “This is not on the historic battlefield. This is on land owned by the Institute.” Ms. Marchand encouraged the Board not to be threatened by Mr. Afran’s promise of additional lawsuits. “I urge you to end this Battle of Princeton tonight and vote for this application,” she said.

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY NEW JERSEY: The Princeton Battlefield Society is among several local institutions celebrating New Jersey’s 350th anniversary this weekend. On the schedule at the Battlefield, 500 Mercer Street, are artillery demonstrations, musket drilling for kids, a National Marine Corps Museum Display, ice cream making, music, the return of General George Washington (played by Sam Davis), encampment demonstrations,; the performance of Shakespeare’s “Pericles,” and much more. Also celebrating with events are Princeton Public Library, Morven, the Historical Society of Princeton, Rockingham, Drumthwacket, and the Princeton University Art Museum. For a full description and schedule of events throughout the weekend, visit www.ThePrincetonBattlefieldSociety.com.(Photo by A.J. Pocheck)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY NEW JERSEY: The Princeton Battlefield Society is among several local institutions celebrating New Jersey’s 350th anniversary this weekend. On the schedule at the Battlefield, 500 Mercer Street, are artillery demonstrations, musket drilling for kids, a National Marine Corps Museum Display, ice cream making, music, the return of General George Washington (played by Sam Davis), encampment demonstrations,; the performance of Shakespeare’s “Pericles,” and much more. Also celebrating with events are Princeton Public Library, Morven, the Historical Society of Princeton, Rockingham, Drumthwacket, and the Princeton University Art Museum. For a full description and schedule of events throughout the weekend, visit www.ThePrincetonBattlefieldSociety.com. (Photo by A.J. Pocheck)

Princeton’s historic preservation groups are coordinating to provide a weekend of activities to celebrate New Jersey’s 350th Anniversary this weekend, September 26 to 28. Activities are planned at the Princeton Battlefield State Park, Morven Museum and Garden, at the Historical Society of Princeton’s sites at Updike Farm and Bainbridge House, as well as at Rockingham and Drumthwacket. The Princeton Public Library and the Princeton University Art Museum will also be offering special anniversary related activities.

Most of these locations offer free public parking save for the Princeton Public Library and Bainbridge House, and a free shuttle bus will loop between several sites on Saturday.

As if to bookend the weekend’s activities, the Princeton Public Library is presenting two lectures, one on Friday evening and another on Sunday evening. Tom Fleming speaks on “The Quest for Justice in the American Revolution,” Friday, September 26, at 7 p.m., and Arthur Lefkowitz focuses on “Black Soldiers in the American Revolution,” on Sunday, September 28, at 5 p.m. Details of both talks can be viewed on the Library website: www.princetonlibrary.org.

Courtesy of the Princeton Battlefield Society, events kick off at the Battlefield State Park on Saturday at 11 a.m. and run through the day until 7:30 p.m. There is sure to be lots of information on the early days of New Jersey as well as Princeton’s role in the American Revolution. A town crier will alert visitors to Royal Artillery demonstrations; displays from the National Marine Corps Museum; military encampment demonstrations of cooking, laundry, spinning, medicine, and others; musket drilling for kids; ice cream making and tasting; long-sword display; a display of work by members of the Princeton Photography Club; and a book signing with Michael Harris. There will also be tours of the Battlefield and the 1772 Clarke House as well as food and music.

The musical group, Ministers of Apollo, will perform a concert for families between 5 and 6 p.m., to be followed by an outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s Pericles, for which visitors are asked to bring a lawn chair as well as a flash light and warm clothing. The play’s director is Sam Kessler of the Princeton Shakespeare Company. In the event of rain, it will be performed on Sunday, September 28. For more information, visit: www.The PrincetonBattlefieldSociety.com.

At Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street on Saturday, free events include Archaeological Discovery Day with interpretive tours and hands-on sessions from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and a Colonial Chamber Music Concert by The Practitioners of Musick, such as would have been enjoyed by the patriots who founded the new Republic, at 2 p.m. The program promises a rich and diverse selection of Jefferson’s, Franklin’s, and Washington’s favorite music, as well as a chamber air set for harpsichord composed by Francis Hopkinson. Performers are Donovan Klotzbeacher on harpsichord and John Burkhalter on recorder. For more information, call (609) 924-8144, or visit: www.morven.org. The museum is open for tours on the hour Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., with the final tour at 3 p.m.

In keeping with the presidential theme, the Princeton University Art Museum will offer docent-led tours featuring Charles Wilson Peale’s portrait of George Washington at the Battle of Princeton on Saturday and Sunday. Self-guided family activities about American Portraiture will also be available throughout the weekend. For more information, visit: www.artmuseum.princeton.edu.

The Historical Society of Princeton (HSP), will be offering free admission to both of its historic sites on Saturday. The Updike Farmstead and Bainbridge House will be open from noon to 4 p.m. At both locations, the exhibition, “Princeton’s Portrait,” showcases the town’s history by means of vintage photographs drawn from HSP archives, many of which have never been exhibited before.

At Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, photos of Nassau Street stores, University students celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and Princeton Borough’s first African American police officer, Philip Diggs, show life in and around town. At the Updike Farmstead, 354 Quaker Road, images celebrate the land and a way of life that is now largely gone. Farmers toil in the sun; haystacks dot rolling fields; and a young boy shows off his prized hen.

At the Farmstead at noon, there will be a special program on the events that unfolded in Princeton and Trenton from December 25, 1776 to January 3, 1777, the ten crucial days that marked the turning point in the American Revolution. For more information, visit www.princetonhistory.org.

Rockingham, the home of former New Jersey colonial Supreme Court Justice John Berrien, where General George Washington stayed at the invitation of the Continental Congress, which was meeting in Princeton during late August to early November 1783, will be open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, from 1 to 4 p.m. On Saturday at 1 p.m., Stacy Roth will host a “Revolutionary Tea” with tea lore, history, songs, and poetry. Mini-tours will be offered from 2 to 4 p.m. On Sunday at 3 p.m., Practitioners of Musick will present a talk and concert of 17th century music celebrating NJ’s Dutch heritage. For more information, visit: Rockingham.net.

Special tours of Drumthwacket, the Governor’s Mansion, will be offered on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. But note that reservations are required. For more information, visit the Princeton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau website, or www.VisitPrinceton.org or e-mail princetonbattlefieldsocinfo@gmail.com.

For the official NJ350 Blog and a listing of programs throughout the state, visit www.officialnj350.com.

September 17, 2014

Area citizen and environmental groups and local legislators have submitted comments criticizing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s assessment of the pipeline project proposed for an environmentally sensitive stretch of the Princeton Ridge. FERC’s Environmental Assessment of the plan, which is part of the Williams Transco Leidy Southeast Expansion Project, stated that it would not result in any significant environmental impacts.

FERC issued its 474-page assessment of the project last month, and members of the public had 30 days to respond. The New Jersey Sierra Club is among those groups to register a protest, saying the assessment was incomplete and in violation of federal law. The groups favor a more comprehensive examination, known as an Environmental Impact Statement, prepared by the federal agency.

“Once again, FERC ignores the public when it comes to the impacts of these pipelines,” wrote Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, in a statement. “What is worse, they are ignoring the environmental and health and safety impacts, and also now the law.”

The Sierra Club says FERC is violating federal law by reviewing the pipeline’s many loops separately and not doing a thorough enough review on its cumulative impacts. “The report ignores the additional fracking the pipeline will encourage in the areas the projects connect to by expanding capacity as well as the cumulative regional impacts resulting from other projects such as Transco’s recently completed Northeast Supply Link project,” the statement reads. “Sierra Club is calling for a full Environmental Impact Statement to be prepared for the project.”

The Princeton Ridge Coalition, which has monitored the pipeline proposal since it was first announced, is also challenging the assessment’s “Finding of No Significant Impact.” The group calls FERC’s description of the portion of the project based on the Princeton Ridge “based on incomplete and insufficient data and incorrect analysis,” making it impossible for the agency to properly measure the safety and environmental impacts.

A joint letter last week by Representative Rush Holt, Senator Robert Menendez, and Senator Cory Booker urged FERC to address the widespread concerns. “We believe a meeting among FERC, PHMSA (the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration), Transco, and the Coalition would be productive and beneficial to all,” the letter reads.

Princeton Council passed a resolution in July encouraging FERC to reject Williams/Transco’s construction plan, which calls for the installation of a new pipeline loop through Mercer, Somerset, and Hunterdon counties as well as two counties in Pennsylvania. The local portion is part of the Skillman Loop. An existing natural gas pipeline built in 1958 is not sufficient to handle current production demands, the company has said.

FERC’s assessment says that the project will not cause significant damage to the environment. The Princeton Ridge Coalition, the Sierra Club and others question that finding since the pipeline would cross streams, woods, and important habitat.

“This dirty infrastructure will cause irreparable harm here at home in the Princeton Ridge, Sourland Moutains, and other protected and environmentally sensitive areas,” the Sierra Club statement quotes Kate Millsaps, conservation program coordinator. “FERC is not only ignoring and writing off these impacts, but also the damage this project will have on the region by allowing fracking operations to move more gas to market and increase production. As a result of this pipeline the communities the infrastructure runs through and those near drill sites will see more air and water pollution.”

The Princeton Ridge Coalition is not opposed to the pipeline and does not want to see it pushed into other communities. “We do expect regulatory agencies to comply with federal laws governing the approval and operation of pipelines,” said Barbara Blumenthal, the group’s president. “The failure of the Environmental Assessment to seriously consider alternatives is particularly troubling. “

The Coalition would like FERC and Transco to consider the use of horizontal drilling to tunnel under the ridge, “which would reduce safety risks and lessen environmental impacts,” Ms. Blumenthal said.

“There is no need for this pipeline,” said Mr. Tittel of the Sierra Club. “The purpose is to promote fracking and the burning of fossil fuels that impact clean water and promote climate change. This pipeline is going to go through environmentally sensitive areas creating an ugly scar, adding to pollution, and putting people at risk. Just ask the people of Bellingham, Washington; Burlingame, California; and Edison, New Jersey. This line not only threatens the neighborhoods it passes through but threatens our environment.”

 

Those who live and work in the vicinity of the former Princeton Hospital site are growing used to the sounds of crushing concrete and rumbling trucks as workers prepare the empty buildings for demolition. This week, municipal officials said that the actual razing could begin Friday, September 19, if the weather cooperates.

Princeton’s municipal engineer Bob Kiser said Monday that he and other staff members met that day with representatives of AvalonBay, the developer that will turn the site into a complex of 280 rental units. They will convene again on Friday to confirm that day as the start of demolition.

Ron Ladell, AvalonBay senior vice president, said the company expects demolition to begin “within the next week. As of today,” he said Tuesday, “I can’t be sure it will actually begin on Friday.”

Mr. Kiser said the first section to be razed will be the one closest to the parking garage. “It’s a one story section so you won’t be able to see much of what’s going on from Witherspoon Street or Franklin Avenue,” he said. “Then, they are planning to work in towards Franklin Avenue.”

The work is anticipated to take four to six months, Mr. Kiser said, echoing what John Mucha of Yannuzzi Wrecking and Recycling Corporation, the company carrying out the demolition, told members of the public at a meeting on September 3. Residents were assured that noise from the process would be monitored, and that AvalonBay had hired an acoustical consultant to be on site.

Noise during recent weeks has come from the breaking up of concrete on the upper level of the parking garage. “We had one complaint, but we found out it actually had to do with another process having to do with cutting asphalt,” said Jeffrey Grosser, Princeton’s health officer. “But that was temporary.”

Regarding noise from the breaking up of concrete, Mr. Grosser said AvalonBay’s acoustical consultant, Cerami & Associates, “is working to alleviate any noise that sounds like a nuisance. In the event that levels spike or we have complaints, we’ll go to them to make sure they take some additional measures,” he said.

Mr. Grosser added that the staff will meet weekly, or more frequently, to go over demolition-related issues. “The fact that they have a consultant on site is a good preventive measure,” he said. Mr. Grosser is working alongside the Mercer County Division of Public Health to  provide additional noise monitoring.

In an update issued Monday from the municipality, it was reported that it will take 10 to 11 months to complete repairs to the parking garage, and that Yannuzzi anticipates completing the removal of asbestos material from the hospital buildings this week.

Any complaints regarding noise should be directed to the town’s engineering department at (609) 921-7077.

Asked in Town Talk to rate their concern about climate change on a scale of 1 to 10 (Town Topics, May 14), area residents mentioned numbers from 7 to 11. One young Princeton mother was “a 10 concerned” because “we’re not prepared” and “it doesn’t seem that anyone is doing anything about it, which is the scariest part.”

On Sunday, September 21, hundreds of thousands of people committed to “doing something about it” will join the Global People’s Climate March, an unparalleled worldwide mobilization on climate change; the epicenter of the international event will be Columbus Circle in New York City, where as many as 100,000 marchers are expected to gather at 11:30 a.m. One objective is to bring the issue to the attention of world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit that convenes on September 24.

Helping to make sure Princeton is well represented Sunday are Caroline (Callie) Hancock, group leader of Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), and CCL’s “one-man publicity machine” author Huck Fairman, who reports that  Sustainable Princeton’s September 9 newsletter numbered the organizations involved at 850. Area colleges and universities, notably Princeton and Rutgers, are organizing buses for students, faculty and staff; churches bringing groups to the march include Unitarian Universalist Church and Christ Church. Sustainability Coordinator at Princeton Day School Liz Cutler reports that groups from the PDS community and elsewhere will be taking a train together (for a reduced rate). Said Ms. Cutler, who teaches English at the school, “My grandchildren will ask, what were you doing when you knew there was a problem, and what will I say if I don’t do anything now?”

Among CCL members boarding the train to New York is retired Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory physicist John Schivell, who said he and his wife are going to the People’s Climate March “because we feel it’s time to get something done now!”

Editor of Princeton Nature Notes Stephen Hiltner, who alerted area residents to the New York event in the September 10 Town Topics Mailbox, calls it “a crisis of the collective. We’re allowed to collectively create a huge problem like climate and sea level destabilization, but because of the ideological bias against intentional collective action, we aren’t allowed to work together to solve the problem.”

From all accounts, Sunday’s march will be the ultimate in collective action, billed on all sides as “the largest demonstration on climate change in history.” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, “This isn’t just about getting a bunch of people to New York to march for an hour then go home. This is about making sure that the tipping point in the fight to halt climate disruption tips in the favor of the average citizen and clean energy prosperity, and that the world’s leaders see that the support to do so has reached a level that can no longer be ignored.”

Detailed information about the parade route can be found at Peoplesclimate.org. Local residents looking for information about groups attending can contact Callie Hancock at climatecallie@gmail.com or Liz Cutler at lcutler@pds/org.

 

September 10, 2014

Thanks to a stalemate-breaking vote by Mayor Liz Lempert, Princeton Council Monday night approved a resolution to raise the governing body’s salaries. The controversial issue had Patrick Simon, Jo Butler, and Jenny Crumiller voting against the resolution, while Lance Liverman, Council president Bernie Miller, and Heather Howard cast their votes in favor.

Before voting yes, Mayor Lempert said she had hoped the matter could have been settled without her stepping in. “I appreciate the attempts at trying to find a compromise,” she said. “But I’m going to vote yes, and I think we’ve debated this for many, many hours of our valuable time.”

The raise brings her salary from $15,000 to $17,500. Council members’ compensation rises from $7,500 to $10,000, while Council president Miller goes from $7,500 to $12,500.

The issue has provoked heated discussion at previous meetings of the Council, and Monday night’s meeting was no exception. Members of the public weighed in as well. Those in favor of the raises have said that the low amount of compensation for all of the hours of work required may discourage people who are not of significant means from serving on the governing body. Those against it have argued that there were salary amounts approved by the former Borough Council and Township Committee before consolidation, and changing them would mean going back on a promise.

“It’s extremely uncomfortable to put money in our own pockets,” Ms. Crumiller said, suggesting that the issue become a public question on the next ballot. But Bob Bruschi, the town’s administrator, said that would be inappropriate because it would politicize the issue. Ms. Crumiller said there was no evidence that adding $2,500 to the compensation would make serving on the Council more appealing. “Twenty-five hundred dollars is just not going to make a difference,” she said.

Mr. Liverman said that amount “for some people, is a lot of money. I think it’s fair.” Ms. Howard commented that she didn’t see the raises as a consolidation issue. Mr. Miller said that since consolidation took effect, there are now seven members of Council doing the work of what 12 people, who served on the former Borough Council and Township Committee, did in the past. Mr. Simon suggested an amendment to the resolution that would make the raises effective when successors to the current Council are appointed. But the option was overruled.

Mr. Bruschi sent a memo last week on the issue to members of Council, including statistics from other communities around New Jersey. He urges giving “serious consideration to raise the annual salary stipend to at least the levels that were discussed. I would argue that there is significant rationale for a stipend in excess of what is being considered.”

He urged Council to focus on the topic from a policy point of view rather than the fact that it was a decision made during consolidation. “Approach the salary matter the same way we would approach it when hiring a new employee,” he wrote. “Look at the job duties, the resident expectations not just for the incumbent but also for the successors. The unintended consequence could be a reality and that is to restrict who might consider running for office by eliminating an economic portion of the community that — because of the need to work or provide for child care service — therefore just can’t afford to make the commitment because of the time and financial impact it would have on the family.”

Mr. Bruschi also suggested Council provide for increases going forward based on the salary and wage approved for non-contractual employees. “In other words, when Council approves an increase of 1.5 percent for the employees, the salaries for those positions would likewise receive the 1.5 percent,” he wrote.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Peter Marks agreed with Ms. Crumiller that there should be a referendum on the subject, but said he was in favor of higher pay for elected officials. “The mayor is as important a position as chief of police or administrator,” he said, suggesting that cuts be made in staff to finance higher pay for members of the governing body. Peter Wolanin, municipal chair of the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee, called the resolution “a little narrow” but spoke in favor of the salary increase.

 

A resolution to establish an affordable housing task force to consider development of properties on Clearview and Franklin Avenues was passed by Princeton Council at its meeting Monday night, but only after amendments were made to broaden the resolution so that it doesn’t focus only on those two properties as possible locations for affordable units.

Several members of the public commented for and against the idea before Council members made changes to the resolution and voted it in. The Clearview Avenue properties are part of a land swap between the municipality and Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad (PFARS), in which the town gets the three buildings currently occupied by PFARS and the rescue squad gets the land at the former Princeton Township Public Works site, where they plan to build a new facility.

The Franklin Avenue site is a parking lot opposite the former Princeton Hospital, where demolition is about to begin and a 280-unit rental complex, 57 of which are affordable, will be built by the developer AvalonBay. Princeton University owns the lot but will donate it to the town for a public purpose.

Some members of Council said the focus is too narrow, and should be expanded to include all of the properties owned by the municipality. Mayor Liz Lempert said part of the reason for the resolution was “a pretty unique opportunity” presented by the Clearview Avenue and Franklin Avenue properties. “The municipality is driving the development and has control over it,” she said.

Councilwoman Jo Butler said, “We need to back up and take a more holistic look at all of the properties” owned by the municipality. “I think this is premature. I ask about it repeatedly, so it’s extremely disappointing that it was dealt with this way.”

Resident Alexi Assmus commented that while she strongly supports affordable housing, she opposes “Princeton’s growth into a small city.” The schools are already overcrowded and the town does not have the infrastructure to support the kind of increased density more units would bring. Leighton Newlin, chairman of the Princeton Housing Authority, said that more low-income housing is crucial and the organization would like to work with Princeton Community Housing to develop such units at the Franklin Avenue site.

Other residents urged Council to wait a few years to see what the impact of the rental community at the hospital site is going to be before making a decision. Anita Garoniak, who lives on Harris Road, expressed concerns about increased density. “Nothing should be constructed at the Franklin lot until we see what the impact of AvalonBay will be,” she said. Carol Golden of the town’s Affordable Housing Board said, “There is an urgency. There are people who need housing now, not in five years.”

Scott Sillars of the Citizens Finance Advisory Committee suggested there are other properties in town including the old firehouses on Chestnut and Harrison streets, as well as other surplus sites, that should be considered.

Council accordingly amended the resolution to look at all municipal properties in Princeton rather than just the Franklin and Clearview avenue sites, and the measure was passed. Anyone interested in serving on the task force can get information from the town’s website (www.princetonnj.gov), said Mayor Lempert. The final list of people who will serve on the task force will be announced at the next meeting on September 22.

 

At its first meeting of the school year on Monday, September 15, the faculty at Princeton University is expected to vote on revised policies regarding the way it handles allegations of sexual misconduct. Changes proposed by the Faculty Advisory Committee on Policy are designed to bring the University into compliance with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which Congress authorized in March, 2013, and Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational institutions that get federal funding.

While all other Ivy League schools use the “preponderance” standard that relies on a more-likely-than-not principle when it comes to assessing guilt, Princeton has for years relied on a “clear and persuasive” standard, which insists on a higher burden of proof. This standard is usually associated with criminal proceedings.

The revised policies would bring Princeton in line with the “preponderance” standard. Separate policies, one for a complaint or violation involving a student and the other if it involves a member of the faculty or staff, have been developed. A third refers to when a person not in the University community is involved as a complainant or respondent.

According to information from the University’s Office of Communications, the committee devoted significant time over the summer to the issue. Since 2010, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has been investigating the University’s handling of student disciplinary cases related to sexual misconduct. Princeton is one of several colleges under investigation for alleged Title IX violations.

It was in 2010 that an adjunct professor at the New England School of Law filed a complaint against Princeton for allegedly mishandling reports of sexual assault.

“The University has fully cooperated with the investigation and has also made a number of adjustments to its sexual misconduct policies and disciplinary procedures in response to guidance released by OCR in 2011,” reads a report sent to members of the faculty last week.

The federal office informed the University this past July that changes will need to be made to bring the institution up to speed with Title IX. “It is important that the University come into compliance with both the OCR and the VAWA requirements as promptly as possible,” the report reads, “and ideally before any new cases come forward for adjudication.”

To get this done, the University has established a new faculty-student committee. The proposed changes include using trained investigators rather than members of the Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline. Also recommended is allowing lawyers to accompany any involved parties and giving accusers and accused individuals the right to appeal.

Should the faculty vote in favor of the recommendations at the September 15 meeting, the Council of the Princeton University Community will consider revisions to Rights, Rules and Responsibilities two weeks later, according to The Daily Princetonian.