December 18, 2019

PCTV Proponents Urge Council to Continue Funding

By Anne Levin

Numerous speakers at the Monday, December 18 meeting of Princeton Council urged the governing body to reconsider its decision to stop funding Princeton Community Television (PCTV), the public access channel that has been airing programs since 1997.

The municipality decided in May to eliminate the nonprofit station’s $232,000 in annual funding after negotiations with the station broke down. The town maintains that the station should be raising funds privately instead of using taxpayer dollars. Not all of those who produce programs and use facilities at the station live in Princeton, which makes it unfair to have it subsidized by local residents, the municipality contends.

But those who have benefited from PCTV programs say it should continue to be funded by the town. “I have found them to be an incredible resource,” said the Rev. Robert Moore of the Coalition for Peace Action. “It has helped us to reach a much wider audience.”

Dempsey Avenue resident Kip Cherry called the station “a jewel in jeopardy. Without public access we are limiting our ability to be well informed,” she said. “I hope the current impasse will be resolved and the town will continue to support PCTV. Let’s not shut the door on one of the key avenues to community discourse.”

Mayor Liz Lempert responded that very few municipalities use government funds to support local stations. “Most nonprofits in town do their own fundraising,” she said. The station’s four-year contract in 2015 encouraged PCTV to do more just that. “We had meetings with them last year, and negotiations broke down,” she said. “We chose to move on from there. We’re not trying to kill the station. We’re just urging you to fundraise privately.”

Councilman Tim Quinn commented, “Every PBS and NPR program I watch or hear is prefaced with a list of supporters. There is no reason why PCTV, if they have widespread support, couldn’t turn that into private donations.”

Councilwoman Leticia Fraga said she was moved by the public comments and hoped the station will continue. “I encourage you to use that passion to go on with your work,” she said.

The meeting also included several reports on ongoing projects and initiatives. Municipal Engineer Deanna Stockton talked about the Traffic Calming Plan, following up on a report made in October. “The good news is that a lot of the streets in the master plan are in action already,” she said, referring to work that addresses speeding on several roadways. Recommendations are being put together for 11 intersections by a group made up of Councilwomen Jenny Crumiller and Eve Niedergang, Land Use Engineer Jack West, Princeton Police Sergeant Tom Murray, Stockton, and Assistant Engineer Tajal Patel.

Stockton also reported on the status of the nine recommendations related to the municipal fueling station on Mount Lucas Road. Three of those have been completed, three are in process, and three are on hold. The facility will remain at the Mount Lucas location, while certain diesel public works vehicles are now refueling at the Harrison Street location. The generator that was at the Mount Lucas site has been removed to improve its appearance.

In process are the removal of the canopy at the Mount Lucas Road site, the installation of lighting in place of the canopy, and exploring repairs to the River Road fueling facility to allow vehicles to refuel there when practical. On hold for further consideration are the landscaping plan, screening wall, and brick veneer proposed at the Mount Lucas site.

Sam Bunting and Pam Hersh reported on efforts by the Task Force on Walkway Safety, listing crosswalk safety, walkway lighting, and trip hazards as priorities. The Princeton Housing Authority delivered its annual report, and Lempert spoke about a fee in lieu of parking requirement.

Council will hold a special meeting at Witherspoon Hall Wednesday, December 18, at 7:30 p.m., to address Princeton’s affordable housing obligation.