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PCDO Endorses Princeton Area Democrats

Matthew Hersh

Democratic candidates for municipal government in Princeton Borough and Township were endorsed Sunday night at a forum that touched on various community concerns, including Princeton University's annual donation to Princeton Borough and the future site of the University Medical Center at Princeton.

The Princeton Community Democratic Organization's endorsement night set in motion a campaign season that will see Borough Council veterans Mildred Trotman and David Goldfarb seek an eighth and a sixth term, respectively, and Township Deputy Mayor Bernie Miller seek his second full term on Township Committee. In addition, Vicky Bergman, the former chairperson of the Princeton Regional Planning Board, is seeking her first term on Township Committee, hoping to fill the seat that will be vacated by Committeeman Bill Enslin at the end of the year.

The forum was also the latest venue for the public to examine the findings of the Princeton Health Care Task Force. Presented by Borough Mayor Joe O'Neill and Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand, the report, written by various municipal planning, heath, and elected officials, was assembled to serve in an advisory capacity for future planning on UMCP's current 12-acre lot on Witherspoon Street, be it planning for an expanded hospital or some sort of housing complex. Nevertheless,trustees of Princeton HealthCare System, the parent entity to UMCP, voted unanimously in January to pursue hospital relocation efforts.

Township Deputy Mayor Bernie Miller, who was not on the task force, expressed his concern for resident access to a full-service hospital if UMCP makes the seemingly likely move to U.S. 1 to accommodate the majority of its patient base at points east of Princeton. "What happens when we have to drive five miles for access to a full-service hospital?" he asked.

But Barry Rabner, president and CEO of PHCS, said he wanted to do "a lot better" than five or six miles away from the current site. One of the five reported sites of interest is land on U.S. 1 South, between Alexander Road and Carnegie Boulevard West. That site is approximately two-and-a-half miles from the hospital's current site.

Discussing various budgetary expenditures and with an eye toward another Borough tax hike on the horizon, the Borough's Mr. Goldfarb called the University's contribution to the Borough, which will be about $819,000 this year, "obviously inadequate," saying the Borough needs to start lobbying for increased gifts from the University. The University is not required by the state to pay property tax on buildings that go to support its academic mission. UMCP, also a not-for-profit institution, follows the same guidelines.

With a $22 million budget, Ms. Trotman said that while she will attempt to keep taxes "as low as possible," she did say that when it came to the University, the Borough should explore "different formulas" to maximize the University's annual contribution.

"Because they are a tax-exempt institution, I will work with them in an amicable way so we can get more from them, but not alienate anyone in the process," she said.

Mr. Goldfarb took a decidedly firmer stance: "[the University has] tried to convince everyone in this process that they do much more than they have to, and we should all be so grateful that they are a wonderful institution and providing benefits to all ‹ that's not the point.

"They have an obligation to Princeton," he said. "And that's the message that we need to send and make very clear."

The somewhat frayed relationship between the Borough and Township governments was also touched on. Ms. Trotman, who is also Council -president, said that she and Borough Mayor Joe O'Neill meet regularly with Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand and Deputy Mayor Bernie Miller to discuss "common interests" and to amend a relationship that she admitted was at a "low" point, but did not seem to take an alarmist's point-of-view to that assessment.

"Every year we have differences: who pays for this, how much to pay for that," adding that she was willing to "hang in" and continue taking part in these meetings.

"We just have to have a good old-fashioned sit-down and talk and find out what we feel is wrong and discuss among ourselves, Township and Borough, ways that we might ease some perceived tensions."

Mr. Goldfarb agreed, saying that he had seen relations worse, most recently in 1996, when municipal consolidation, favored by Township voters, was voted down by Borough voters.

The Township's Mr. Miller said the two municipalities were joined at "the hip," and are "obligated to work together" citing the various joint-municipal agencies, which include the Planning Board, the Recreation Department, Princeton Human Services, the Princeton Health Department, the Princeton Environmental Commission, and joint funding for the Princeton Public Library, and the Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad.

Ms. Bergman touted her experience on the Planning Board as a means to work together with both municipalities. The board, the only regional planning board in the state, includes an equal number of Borough and Township representatives among its 12 members. "We all want what's best for the places we live and I think the Planning Board exemplifies that."

All Democratic candidates are as yet uncontested.


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