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West Windsor Township Mayor and Council 2005

2005 VOTERS GUIDE

NON-PARTISAN ELECTION INFORMATION

Vote Tuesday, May 10, 2005

CANDIDATES FOR WEST WINDSOR TOWNSHIP
MAYOR AND COUNCIL

The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area is a nonpartisan, non-profit volunteer organization which works to promote active, informed participation of all citizens in their government. The League provides nonpartisan information on public issues, and takes action on issues after member study and consensus. In publishing this material, the League neither endorses nor rejects the views of any candidate quoted.

All candidate information in this guide was compiled from candidates' responses to questionnaires. Replies are printed in the candidates' own words, without editing or verification. Due to space limitation, the candidates were given a word limit for replies.

Reproducing of this guide in part or in whole is not permissible without written permission of the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area.

Copyright 2005 by the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area

CANDIDATES FOR WEST WINDSOR TOWNSHIP MAYOR

The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area submitted the following five questions to all candidates for West Windsor Township Mayor:

1. Both mayoral candidates have been described, or have described themselves, as proponents of an "open and inclusive" philosophy of leadership. How does your record as mayor or as a council member support this claim?

2. How would you, as mayor, facilitate progress to improve Route 571 through Princeton Junction? What timeline and funding sources do you envision?

3. Describe the best practices for the Township Administration and the Planning Board to use in order to incorporate public opinion into their decision making. Do you endorse having a planning professional to coordinate and monitor new development projects?

4. Do you advocate "mixed-use smart growth" for West Windsor? If so, in which area(s) of the township? Explain.

5. How do you propose to have the mayor and the council work more effectively together?

Candidates for Mayor
Vote for OneTerm: 4 years

*Incumbent indicated by an asterisk (*)

Shing-Fu Hsueh*
Address:
 12 Bridgewater Dr., West Windsor, NJ 08550

Occupation:
Engineer; Planner; Mayor; Educator

Education:
Rutgers University - Ph.D., M.S., M.Ph.;
National Taiwan University - B.S.Ch.E.;
Registered Professional Engineer; Registered Professional Planner; Certified Public Manager; New Jersey Mayors Institute 2002 (Smart Growth)

Significant Community Activities:
Board Member, New Jersey Water Supply Authority (Governor's Appointee, October 2002 - present);
Member, Board of Directors, Robert Wood Johnson Health Care Corp. at Hamilton (January 2004 - present);
Member, Board of Managers, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Rutgers University (November 2002 - present);
Member, Bioresource/Bioenvironmental Engineering External Advisory Committee, Rutgers University (2001- present);
Member, Finance & Taxation Subcommittee, Legislative Committee, NJ State League of Municipalities (2003 - present);
Volunteer Tai-Chi Instructor, 3 hours/week, West Windsor (March 1995 - present);
Member, Board of Trustees, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association (1998 - 2004);
Member, Other Local, Regional, and National professional Boards, Commissions, and Charity Organizations

Responses to Questions:
1. Over the last four years, it has been my goal to develop and promote an open and responsive government with ample opportunities for public input and participation. I have recruited knowledgeable volunteers and established task forces and advisory boards to assist in the decision making process -- from the Princeton Junction Train Station redevelopment to bicycle and pedestrian-related improvements throughout the Township. My staff and I have also met with individual residents and community organizations to address neighborhood-specific concerns. Going forward, I plan to continue to reach out to the members of our community and provide forums, such as quarterly Town Hall Meetings, for increased public involvement in local government issues.

2. It is important to note that design plans for County Route 571 started and stalled throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In 2003, I reached out to the newly elected County Executive to discuss the badly needed upgrades to this roadway. Over the past year since the new County Administration took over, my staff and I have been working with County representatives to develop and refine a concept that balances traffic-related needs with pedestrian and bicycle safety and aesthetics. Short term improvements are scheduled for this spring and early summer. The concept, once accepted by the County, will be transformed into a plan, hopefully, next year. The Township will continue to work with the County to apply for funding from federal, state and/or private sources as well as budget for related projects in the annual capital plan.

3. As we move forward with a number of exciting projects, public input and feedback are extremely important as "concepts" become plans. In addition to hearing public comment at various meetings, this Administration will continue to work directly with residents and neighborhood organizations to address development-related concerns. The current members of the Planning Board have diverse backgrounds and represent various areas of our community. This representation combined with formal public meetings and informal resident meetings will ensure "public opinion" is taken into consideration at every level of the planning process. In regards to whether or not a "planning professional" should coordinate and monitor new development projects, I am confident in the abilities of our staff and planning consultants to manage these projects and advise the Governing Body of issues. As an engineer and registered professional planner, I will continue to be an active participant in this process.

4. I definitely support mixed-use development and smart growth principles, especially in two major areas that remain to be developed in West Windsor -- the Princeton Junction Train Station and the former Wyeth Tract. The Township must utilize capacity-based planning and related calculations to address issues such as traffic circulation and environmental conservation. In all areas throughout the Township, we must incorporate open space, bicycle and pedestrian-friendly designs and be open to mass transit opportunities such as the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) study currently underway by NJ Transit.

5. Over the last two years, I strongly believe that communication between the Administration and Council has dramatically improved and we have been able to create a positive and more professional environment for effective government decision-making. I would especially note the enthusiasm and cooperation exhibited by the last two Council Presidents and key staff members and volunteers. Going forward, my staff and I will continue to provide Council with timely information and presentations on important Township issues and projects. I would also like to schedule an annual Governing Body retreat so that we can work together to identify priorities, set goals, and strengthen working relationships. There is much to accomplish over the next four years and communication between both branches of government is of paramount importance.

Alison Miller
Address: 
41 Windsor Drive, West Windsor, New Jersey 08550

Occupation: 
Planner

Education: 
Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP), Rutgers, 1992;
Bachelor of Arts (English Literature), Hunter College, 1967

Significant Community Activities:
Trustee, Friends of West Windsor Open Space (FOWWOS), Arboretum Committee (a.k.a. 911 Memorial Committee);
Bike and Pedestrian Task Force;
Township Council;
Planning Board;
Zoning Board; 
Affordable Housing Committee;
SPRAB

Responses to Questions:
1. No important planning process should exclude any member of the public who wishes to participate. When I want to get something done, I reach out personally to people. Example: during this term on Council, I have shepherded planning ordinances through Council. I have done this by talking with each Councilperson privately to explain the content and purpose of the ordinance, and listening in turn to their comments. My style is respectful, non-confrontational.

2. I would meet with Mercer County and find out their proposed time line for both the interim and the final improvements. I would explore alternatives to the right-turn-in, right-turn-out only proposal for the Acme shopping center, which would cause new traffic and safety problems. Simultaneously, I would develop architectural standards for new buildings and explore means, including designating an area in need of rehabilitation, of ensuring upgrades to existing development such as the Acme shopping center. With the help of a grants expert, I would apply for applicable grants, but will proceed without outside funding; if the township invests in Princeton Junction redevelopment will happen.

3. For Master Plan changes, I would start by holding a meeting to present the reasons for exploring a change to the public. I would solicit participation by everyone but make sure that neighborhoods that are particularly affected are specifically informed. I would welcome volunteers who would examine specific aspects of proposed plan changes. For ordinance changes, I would reach out similarly to affected neighborhoods and the general public. The current process works well for development applications as long as the public is assured of an opportunity to participate.

We need to improve the quality of our transportation planning; we do not need a new coordinating position.

4. I advocate development containing a mix of uses for several areas of the township. The Wyeth property: offices, retail, perhaps the hospital or some other civic use(s), affordable housing and senior housing. The exact mix would depend on a traffic analysis of the surrounding roadways. If the property tax structure is properly reformed, there could be more market rate housing. The property next to Estates at Princeton Junction: a mix of offices, retail and affordable housing. Any development of the train station area should have a mix of uses. The township's policy requiring affordable housing when rezoning from single-family to a more intense use opens up the potential for other mixed-use development.

West Windsor should provide attractive housing for a diverse population; singles, couples, families, young people, older people, commuters, and non-commuters of various income levels. We have plenty of single-family homes suitable for families, so new development should be weighted toward other categories. Some people prefer neighborhoods isolated from shopping and other uses; others deplore the lack of mixed-use village neighborhoods. Presently, even our multifamily housing is in residential-only neighborhoods; we need to provide choices for our citizens and therefore any new residential development should be in a mixed-use neighborhood.

5. The Council Business Agenda includes "Mayor Comments" near the beginning of the meeting. I would be present to give a mayor's report monthly, and I would stay for the whole meeting. I would attend Council agenda sessions frequently. I would continue the practice of speaking with each Councilperson about issues of importance to me that were coming up for votes. I intend to have town meetings for the public approximately quarterly, and I would invite the Council President to come and answer specific Council-related questions. Good communication is the key to making the mayor and Council into effective partners.

CANDIDATES FOR WEST WINDSOR TOWNSHIP COUNCIL

The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area submitted the following five questions to all candidates for West Windsor Township Council:

1. Please describe how you think West Windsor Township is a diverse community. Do you perceive of any barriers that disconnect our community, and if so, what would you do to overcome them?

2. What measures would you recommend to relieve property tax burdens on West Windsor residents?

3. Do you approve of providing fast-track legislation for developers? Why or why not?

4. Do you advocate "mixed-use smart growth" for West Windsor? If so in which area(s) of the township? Explain.

5. How do you propose to have the mayor and the council work more effectively together?

Candidates for Council
Vote for TwoTerm: 4 years

George Borek

Address: 21 Wellington Drive, West Windsor 08550

Education:
Graduate of William L. Dickinson High School

Occupation:
Firefighter

Significant Community Activities:
Raised money for The Saint Barnabas Burn Foundation

Responses to Questions:
1. Yes, diverse. One of the reasons we came to West Windsor is that we wanted to raise our children in a town where people: 1. came from different parts of the world; 2. had different religions and 3. had different socioeconomic backgrounds. West Windsor offers all of this.

As West Windsor grew from a farm community into a bedroom community, the residential neighborhoods became isolated from each other. I propose the following to help integrate the town and bring our residents together:

a. Need a downtown area: for example if we could incorporate the Ellsworth shopping area with the ACME strip mall, it could be the beginning of a town center. It is unfortunate that the Town approved a bank being built in the Lick-its location, because in my opinion we have enough banks and that space could have been used for a building to help build the town center (i.e. Ice cream shop, restaurants, retail, etc.)
b. Rotating Town Hall/Council Meetings: we could have meetings in different parts of town, possibly utilizing school buildings, to encourage local residents in those areas to attend, express their concerns and get involved. We are diverse neighborhoods brought together under one government and we need people in all the areas to be involved. I propose to make it as easy as possible.

2. School costs are the largest part of taxes. I would ask the School Board to get an outside, objective consulting firm to evaluate the school budget to determine if they are being as efficient as they can be. (If the firm determines that all cost cutting efforts have been made in order to maintain the quality school program, then we know that is the cost for the schools we have. If they determine that there are areas where costs can be cut, then the proper steps can be taken.)

We should take advantage of grants available to municipalities to offset costs. For example, West Windsor needs two fire trucks, as they are both past their life expectancy and there is a concern that they could fail because of age. Although the Fire Act offers grants of up to $750,000 per year for training and equipment, including fire trucks, the Town has never applied for this grant.

We should be pro-active with Legislature to ensure that West Windsor receives that to which it is entitled. For 20 years I have lobbied in Washington and Trenton on issues concerning firefighters and public safety and I know how the system works.

3. No. By shortening the process for developers it requires the Building Department to drop other applications and allow developers to jump to the front of the line. In addition, it does not give the Town enough time to analyze the application and to allow for public input to ensure that the development will benefit the community.

4. Yes, which encompasses retail, commercial and residential development.
Transit Village: restaurants, retail, residential (including affordable housing).
Wyeth Property: commercial, retail, residential and community use.
All such growth must be on a scale that the roads can handle.

As we did when I was on the zoning board in Jersey City, with any such development the developer should be required to pay for the infrastructure costs (i.e. sewers, streets, lights), not the taxpayers.

5. The Mayor needs to be available to attend council meetings. The Mayor should keep Council apprised of issues affecting the community. For example, the current Mayor has had discussions with the Trustees of Princeton Medical Center. The Mayor should invite Council to appoint a council member to each mayoral task force.

 

Linda Geevers

Address: 20 Hawthorne Drive, Princeton Junction, N.J. 08550

Occupation:
Licensed salesperson with Coldwell Banker Residential Referral Network

Education:
Cornell University, B.S., Communication Arts

Significant Community Activities:
Two term elected member of the West Windsor-Plainsboro Board of Education (1999-2005); served Board as Vice President-3 three years, Chair of Administration and Facilities Committee-1 year, Chair of Administration Committee-2 years, Chair and/or member of various negotiations committees-5 years, member of Core Team for Strategic Planning;
PTA member- Dutch Neck School and Community Middle School;
girls head basketball coach in recreation league for five seasons.

Responses to Questions:
1. West Windsor's diversity is evident through our multicultural mix, large span of age groups, local workers and commuters, people with varied leisure pursuits, predominantly suburban development patterns and almost 50% open space with some vestiges of a rich farming heritage. To further accommodate and celebrate our diversity:

- We need to expand opportunities for various cultural and artistic pursuits. The renovation of the Alexander Road Firehouse into a new Arts Center will further advance our cultural understandings;

- We need to expand opportunities for active and passive recreation;

- We need to expand services, facilities and activities for the youth and senior citizens. The proposed expansion of the Senior Center would provide for more multigenerational uses and more multigenerational interaction;

- We need to provide a variety of housing opportunities for people in all stages of their life and increased shuttle bus service for seniors and others who are unable to drive;

- We need to provide infrastructure to facilitate safe mobility and community connectivity;

- And we need to pursue various sources of revenue by encouraging and supporting the formation of nonprofits, external grants and public/private partnerships.

2. The need for immediate action on property tax relief is quite apparent. I would support efforts leading to a special session of the legislature. It is the legislature's responsibility to address the over reliance on the property tax to fund our municipal and school budgets. If the special session is not politically possible, I would support a Constitutional Convention.

In the meantime, in West Windsor we should continue to focus on quality ratables to shift the preponderance of the tax burden away from residential property owners, while addressing traffic and environmental impacts.

We also need to develop non-property tax revenue sources to support important local programs. I support the continuing efforts of Mayor Hsueh towards procuring grant funding and in forming public/private partnerships to fund local projects and programs. As always, we need to seek ways to run local government in a businesslike and efficient manner and to contain costs wherever possible.

3. I do not believe in providing fast-track legislation for developers. I support the efforts of our Environmental Commission to oppose the Fast Track Permitting Act. I'm concerned that the fast track law limits the opportunity for public comment on expedited permits, allows for the bypass of local review by our professionals on potentially negative impacts and prohibits local government and residents from appealing decisions made by the Office of Administrative Law. Developers should not receive preferential treatment.

4. Mixed-Use Smart Growth Planning principles in West Windsor would be beneficial in considering redevelopment in the Princeton Junction area, both east and west of the train station. A village scale center on the west side of the train station with a diversity of land uses has the potential to create the pedestrian friendly Center with a "sense of place" that is sorely missing in our community. The mix of housing, shops and restaurants would serve as a focal point for bringing people together in an attractive atmosphere. The input of the public during the planning process will enrich the outcome and reflect the unique history of Township.

5. I will propose to the Mayor that an annual retreat be scheduled as soon as possible with all council members and key administrators. The purpose would be to arrive at common goals for the year. Building consensus promotes a spirit of cooperation and mutual understanding. I would also suggest that the Mayor send out to council members a bi-weekly progress briefing; this would encourage communication between the two bodies.


Heidi Kleinman

Address: 131 South Mill Road, Princeton Junction NJ 08550

Education: 
Virginia Polytechnic Institute, 1973 - 1978, Bachelor of Architecture, 1978

Occupation:
Self-Employed Registered Architect - State of New Jersey, 1981- 2005

Significant Community Activities:
West Windsor Arts Council, Founding Member, Treasurer, Long term Planning committee, 2002-2005;
Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh Task Force for the Arts;
West Windsor Planning Board, 2003-2006;
West Windsor SPRAB committee, 2003-2005;
Co-Chair of the Congregation Beth Chaim Building Expansion Committee

Responses to Questions:
1. Diversity is the strength of our Township. Individuals from many nations, at all stages of their lives, with differing educational backgrounds and with a wide economic profile are moving into this wonderful Farming Community. West Windsor is emerging into a multi-cultural Center for Central New Jersey. As a Planning Board member I feel strongly that our Master Plan must include varying Zones that encourage a variety of housing types to attract a diversity of residents in our community: larger residences for families, apartments, townhouses, age -restricted housing, and affordable-housing. As a founding Member of the West Windsor Arts Council I can speak first hand about the importance of Arts Programming to bring diverse groups in our Community to share in Arts and Cultural Programs. Over the last year alone the Arts Council has sponsored Tango Dancing, An International Film Festival and a Hands-On Children's Art Day, Poetry readings, Battle of the Bands for High School Students, and a Traditional Chinese Painting Exhibit in order to support, educate, inspire and promote arts and art appreciation in the West Windsor community.

2. WW has the lowest tax increase (2%) of all the towns in Mercer County this year and the highest Surplus. The Mayor's sound fiscal management of the township includes promoting tax stabilization and a fair distribution of the tax burdens between residential and commercial properties. Alternative revenue sources to fund local programs at no cost to taxpayers have brought in over 20 million dollars for improvements to our community. Joint purchasing between agencies, recruiting additional Business and Institutions to our township, refining the Master Plan to collect off-track fees on Developers for road improvements all relieve property tax burdens on West Windsor Residents.

3. As a Planning Board Member I know it is critical to evaluate traffic, environmental and quality of life issues that are by-products of each Development Application. This must be balanced against a reasonable review period. Fast track Legislation was crafted in haste and needs revision. As a practicing Architect for 20 years working with Builders and Developers I can confidently say the permitting and approval process to get projects built in our State and Township needs to be streamlined to encourage a healthy environment for commercial investment leading to property tax stabilization. A lengthy approval process discourages locally owned business investments.

4. A mixed-use Smart Growth approach for the Cyanamid/Rouse Property and the Property around the train station has the advantage of consolidating the infrastructure costs, preserving Open Space and smoothing out traffic impact peaks and demands. Smart Growth also has the advantage of smoothing out the economic cycles in the real-estate market between commercial, retail and residential development stabilizing our taxes.

5. Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh recognizes Linda Geevers and myself as independent thinkers with years of community service who know how to work as a TEAM with common goals. The three council members (Franc Gambatese, Christine Applegate and Charlie Morgan) have endorsed our candidacy and look forward to four years of mutual respect and open dialogue on issues concerning our township. The Community Vision Team brings leadership expertise and experience to the future Council.

David Siegel 

Address: 17 Berrien Ave, West Windsor, 08550

Occupation:
Software Developer

Education:
BS (Physics) from Michigan State University;
Associates (Computer Programming) from Lansing Community College (Mich)

Significant Community Activities: 
Active in the Berrien City Neighborhood Assn, having been on the Executive Committee, then Vice President, and currently Secretary;
Member (but not officer or trustee) of FOWWOS;
Regular blood donor, with the Community Blood Council; the New Jersey Blood Center; and the American Red Cross;
Assistant Director and Webmaster: Plainsboro Duplicate Bridge Club

Responses to Questions:
1. West Windsor is diverse in ethnicities, and in age distribution. It also has a significant but limited range of economic diversity. There are barriers between the various neighborhoods, which don't interact as much as they might. Those seniors in age-restricted housing don't interact with people of other ages as much as those who live in mixed-age neighborhoods. Developing well-designed village centers can help to overcome these barriers, as can projects that will involve people from different backgrounds and ages. Involving seniors, with their varied experience, in youth programs might particularly help to bridge some of these gaps.

2. The ultimate solution must be to reduce reliance on the property tax for so much of local government, including both schools and municipal taxes. This must be done at the state level, either by the legislature or by convention. West Windsor can't force this, but we can lobby, and West Windsor can band together with other localities to apply pressure. Pending state action, we must control costs where we can; zone for limited, sensible growth; and work to attract quality rateables. This will reduce the residential tax burden in the short term. Hiring, or contracting with, a grant specialist will also help.

3. As presently implemented, no. The current fast-track legislation unduly restricts public input on vital development issues, and tends to force approval of projects that may be badly planned or not desirable for the community. Some way to reduce delays in approvals might well be desirable, but only if it permits good planning, and permits adequate public comment, and if it does not tend to force approval of debatable applications.

4. In principal, yes. But the application must be done with care. When "mixed use" includes high-density residential housing, we must be careful of the possible increased school (and therefore property tax) costs. We should be reluctant to approve additional high-density housing as part of a mixed-use solution until the funding mechanism for schools is changed at the state level, as I discussed before. Some degree of mixed-use development might be appropriate on the Wyeth property. Some form of mixed use might be a good idea at the train station, but only if we are very careful with the details of the design. Under the current tax structure we should not rush to embrace any additional large residential developments, but if there is to be additional residential growth, it should probably be designed as a walkable, mixed-use area, including both residential and retail uses, and possibly non-retail commercial uses as well.

In addition, converting some of the retail districts into walkable, village centers, will make the retail areas and adjacent residential areas into an effectively mixed-use area, with retail at the core. As long as the uses are in easy walking distance from each other, and designed so people will actually make the walk, the uses are, in effect, mixed. This would allow West Windsor to get many of the benefits of mixed-use without needing to build completely new developments.

5. Communication between Mayor and Council must be improved. The mayor must be willing to discuss issues with council members, not merely send memos. The mayor should involve council members (as well as members of the public) in the planning stages of projects, rather than keeping plans under wraps until they are ready. Council members, in turn, should reach out to and work with the mayor and the administration. The mayor and council must have increased respect for each other, and not view each other with hostility. The mayor should attend council meetings regularly, not just on ceremonial occasions.