Opportunities Abound for Community Engagement
By Anne Levin
With plans in coming weeks for an open house on the town’s efforts to rework its Master Plan, a discussion with industry leaders about the housing and climate crisis, and a forum on housing justice, this seems an especially opportune time for involvement in community issues.
It is also a time when Princeton is looking for residents to volunteer for its boards, commissions, and committees. Covering a wide range including environmental issues, human services, historic preservation, permit parking, public art selection, and public transit — among several others — these groups require a time commitment of 8 to 10 hours a month, and form what Princeton Councilman Leighton Newlin called “the backbone of municipal engagement and government.”
Other members of the governing body stress the importance of the “BCCs.”
“We have a diverse population in Princeton, one that we are very committed to preserving and expanding,” said Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros. “Having diverse representation on our boards, committees, and commissions is one way to assure we have truly representative government. Any community outreach initiatives that we undertake are much more successful if we have more resident involvement.”
Councilwoman Eve Niedergang said the town “benefits greatly from the input of a wide variety of residents with different viewpoints but a shared passion for making Princeton a great place to live and work.” Participation “gives our residents a front row seat in how key grassroots issues work their way up to policy-making, and to also understanding and advancing the community’s priorities.”
The open house devoted to updating the town’s Master Plan is Wednesday, November 30 at Princeton Public Library between 4 and 7 p.m. Members of the public can stop by during those hours to learn about the process, existing conditions, and highlights from recent public surveys. This is an opportunity to share suggestions and ideas on the future of the community. Visit engage.princetonmasterplan.org for more information.
On Tuesday, December 6 at 7 p.m., a presentation over Zoom from Sustainable Princeton takes on the question of building and developing sustainably. Part of the Sustainable Minds Virtual Speaker Series, the event features Christina McPike, director of energy and sustainability for WinnCompanies (developer of The Alice on Terhune Road, which will have affordable and market rate units); and Ken Levenson, executive director of The Passive House Network. Visit sustainableprinceton.org for details.
Saturday, December 10 is the date for the Housing Justice Forum at Princeton Public Library, which can be attended in person or via Zoom. Panel discussions will be held at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., with an opportunity at 2 p.m. to connect with people who are working locally on housing and related efforts. Lunch will be provided.
Discussions, focused on the Princeton area, are titled “How Did We Get Here?” and “What Can We Do?” Panelists include Sara Bronin, professor of planning and law at Cornell University; Jean Pierre Brutus, senior counsel with the Economic Justice Program, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice; and Peter Kasabach, executive director of New Jersey Future. Matt Mieczko, Princeton University doctoral candidate in population studies and social policy, will serve as moderator. An Action Fair will provide access to a resource guide listing local organizations and initiatives. Visit Princetonlibrary.org for details.
To find more information about joining boards, commissions, or committees, visit princetonnj.gov.
“Most if not all of us who serve in elected office started out by first volunteering on a board, commission, or committee,” said Council President Leticia Fraga. “There is no better way to get to know our residents and the needs of our diverse communities.”
“Mayor, Council, and municipal staff cannot possibly understand all issues on a granular level,” added Newlin. “BCCs, along with staff, act as a triage or filter to qualify issues and actions that inform and educate decisions that are considered and executed. Princeton is very fortunate to have advocacy through volunteerism that makes our municipality potent and capable of providing a high level of services to our residents.”