Princeton Council Candidates 2012
Princeton Council Candidates Answer League Questions
Vote Tuesday, November 6, 2012, 6 AM to 8 PM
EDITOR'S NOTE: These are the verbatim responses of the candidates for Princeton Council to questions presented by The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area in cooperation with The Princeton Packet. The candidates were allowed to vary the length of their answers to the three questions but were given a word limit for the total.
Candidates – Vote for six (terms to be determined at reorganization)
Geoff Aton – Republican, Local businessman. www.aton4council.com
Jo Butler – Democrat, Senior Search Consultant, Wickenden Associates
Jenny Crumiller – Democrat, Borough Council Member (no other employment). Website: jennycrumiller.com
Heather Howard – Democrat, Director, State Health Reform Assistance Network and Lecturer in Public Affairs, Princeton University.
Arden “Lance” Liverman – Democrat, Owner of Liverman Associates Real Estate Investment Management Company.
Bernard (Bernie) Miller – Democrat, Retired aerospace executive.
Patrick Simon – Democrat, Software and Business Consultant to Transportation and Logistics Providers.
1. a) What are the three most important challenges facing Princeton’s new government?
b) What personal and professional experiences have prepared you for addressing these challenges?
a) The three most important challenges are implementing the consolidation plan, mending a broken relationship with the University and creating new ways to increase revenue. Princeton is in a unique situation beginning 2013; we will be the first major town to consolidate. Unfortunately we are off to an inauspicious beginning. Promises were made that we would scratch both the Township and Borough budgets and start anew; however this has not happened. Council needs to gain greater cost control over its departments in order for the plan to be effective. The biggest of which, the Police Department has had many examples of a lack of oversight. This needs to stop across the board. I will ensure it does. Secondly, the University relationship is getting worse over time. With current zoning legislation set to pass this will only strain an already fractured situation. This is a relationship built on spite. We need to stop recognizing that we have issues and begin solving them. This topic has gone on for far too long. It’s finally time to begin the healing process. Lastly, we need to create new revenue streams. The taxpayer and the University cannot be the fallback plan for a lack of leadership. This is a young entrepreneurial town. We house for 4 years some of the smartest talent in the world. Let’s give them reason to stay in Princeton after graduation and see them start businesses here instead of California, New York and Texas. What if the hospital site was a technology business center instead of apartments? Sounds crazy? Not to me. And the process is already underway.
b) The personal and professional skill set I have to make all this happen is that I am a great listener. A true leader needs first and foremost to listen in order to be effective. I will listen.
I am committed to fulfilling the all-encompassing promise of consolidation. We must deliver high quality services more efficiently and at a lower cost. That will require significant focus and discipline. Through consolidation, we have had the opportunity to review every cost we incur, every service we provide and the way we deliver those services. I serve on the Transition Task Force, including the Personnel, Public Safety, Infrastructure & Operations, and the IT subcommittees, so I feel well prepared to address the myriad issues we will face on day one. I understand the short- and long-term goals of consolidation, the details surrounding the critical decisions, and the costs associated with those decisions. While I work in the education field, my background is in finance, so I believe I have the capacity to see issues through many lenses and bring the experience and perspective that will ensure a successful consolidation. My mantra is Princeton should be diverse and affordable for all who want to live here and a town that is safe and livable.
a) One of the three biggest challenges is achieving the promised municipal tax savings from consolidation. We have a great opportunity with our fresh start to make improvements, but we will have to be prudent in choosing which new projects to take on. Another challenge is maintaining the socio-economic diversity of our town while housing prices at the lower end continue to rise beyond the means of many working people. Our best defense is our affordable housing program, which I fully support. The third is reconciling the two towns’ zoning ordinances, which is both a challenge and an opportunity. I envision a series of open, participatory public discussions about the future of our town in terms of development as part of this process.
b) My work on Borough Council as a member of the Finance Committee and Public Works committees as well as my membership on the Planning Board have given me experience and insight into these issues that has prepared me for the challenges. As we transition to a new government, with new relationships and new structures, this experience is especially important.
The biggest challenge is the property tax burden, which jeopardizes our ability to keep Princeton affordable and welcoming. Consolidation provides an opportunity to restructure government and identify recurring savings, but we haven’t waited for consolidation. As a member of the Borough Council Finance Committee this year, I pushed for a zero tax increase budget, and I will continue to fight to hold the line on taxes. Second, we will have to be bold and decisive to achieve the promise of consolidation. I will focus on ensuring a smooth transition to the new Princeton and maintaining the services on which citizens rely. For example, we are scrubbing transitions costs in order to pursue all possible efficiencies and undertaking only necessary expenditures. As New Jersey Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, I managed a budget of $3.5 billion and have a strong understanding of the state budget and government programs; I will use my experience to help create a more efficient and effective government. Finally, we must promote sustainability. I am proud to support (and participate in) New Jersey’s first municipal composting program. I also strongly support the open space initiative and will work to make sure the new Princeton government maintains and enhances our parks by establishing a Parks Commission.
a) I truly feel that it will be imperative for the new government to begin by reassuring the public that consolidation will have a significant “positive” impact on current and future municipal services. The new government must review and recommend the many changes that were submitted by the former Princeton Township and Borough of Princeton governing boards.
b) I am delighted to bring to the table my experience in organizational communications, conflict resolution, management training techniques, budgeting and financial review and a willingness to serve. These skills should help enhance the new government.
a) (1) Realizing the benefits of reduced municipal expenditures and improved services resulting from consolidation. (2) Maintaining Princeton as a sustainable community, diverse economically, tolerant of ourdifferences and protective of our environment (3) Making certain that our citizens get a dollar’s worth of services for every dollar that they pay in municipal property taxes.
b) It is important that the new mayor and council members be prepared to hit the ground running on January 1st in order to successfully manage these challenges and opportunities. This means that they need recent experience in Princeton local government, and experience in the three year process of studying, planning and implementing the merger of the Princetons. I have 10 years of experience as a Committeeman, Deputy Mayor and Mayor, and private sector experience merging two large commercial businesses. I have served on the Consolidation Study Commission and the Consolidation Transition Task Force. This combination of experience has uniquely prepared me to serve on the new Princeton Council.
a) My priorities are the successful implementation of consolidation, the safety and security of Princeton during weather emergencies, and the development of more collaborative, productive and forward-moving relationships among Princeton's key institutional stakeholders.
Many folks with whom I've spoken are concerned about how we will balance costs and tax savings with levels of municipal services. There's no magic here: if we want to keep property taxes in check, then absent state action, our only options are to keep costs down, grow the tax base, and seek suitable other revenue sources. In the short term, our best hope lies in finding the greatest efficiencies we can through consolidation, and I am committed to doing so.
b) My academic work in science, my professional work as a software and business consultant to railroads and other transportation companies, and my service to the community, especially on the Joint Consolidation and Shared Services Study Commission and this year working on the transition, have prepared me to help lead our community as we seek to address these and other challenges.
2. Getting along with the University is important, both to find points of collaboration and to deal with conflicts. How can this best be done?
The University relationship needs a new negotiator. Council has proven over the past several years that they are incapable of solving this problem. It’s embarrassing. Council needs to put aside personal agendas and begin to work with the University and not against for the betterment of Princeton. The first step is to listen.
A strong town/gown relationship is important for Princeton University and for the town. We are on the verge of a new era. We will be a new municipality speaking with one voice to new leadership at Princeton University. We collaborate with the University in many ways every day – from public safety to Princeton First Aid & Rescue, to the Health Department. There is no reason to believe that will change. The closing of the Route 1 jughandles serves as a reminder of our shared interests and interdependence. Continued communication and cooperation on the wide range of issues upon which we agree will serve as a foundation for us to find solutions to the more complicated issues on which good people (and institutions) can disagree.
The University and the town have collaborated successfully and lived harmoniously together for decades. We share an interest in maintaining our vibrant community. The best way to continue working together is to focus positively on our areas of agreement and respectfully work through problems. Right now, some governing body members are struggling with moving the Dinky and eliminating the public transit easement, and all of us are opposed to the proposed NJ Assembly bill to exempt private colleges from local land use oversight. But the University is well meaning and so are we. Our common goals and desire to be productive and collaborative will prevail once these issues are resolved.
Clearly a good relationship is in both of our interests: the community benefits from having a vibrant, world-class University, and the University benefits from a thriving community surrounding it. I am proud to work at the Woodrow Wilson School, running a program helping implement President Obama’s health care plan and teaching health policy. That connection will help me be a strong advocate for our town’s residents when dealing with the University. I would institute monthly Council meetings with University officials, so that we are constantly working to find common areas of interest, and identifying areas of difference before they become conflicts. Fortunately, consolidation offers the opportunity for a “fresh start” – an opportunity that we should seize.
It is important to note that Princeton’s local government and Princeton University are connected at the “ hip.” It is important to keep the lines of communication open. I have for many years understood the importance of listening and negotiating. Both sides will rarely receive total agreement. But it is important to understand that we can learn to disagree but respect the decision. What benefits the town benefits Princeton University (most of the time). I have never viewed the University as the problem but as one of the community partners. I am certain that the new government will work to secure lines of communication and will continue to improve the town gown relationship. This relationship is important so that Princeton can continue to flourish.
The University and the municipality share many common interests. However, there are bound to be occasions when our interests diverge. A frank and open forum between the two parties is the best way that I know to make certain that our positions are well understood by each other and the residents of Princeton. To do this, I propose that we establish a permanent, standing committee consisting of elected officials, representatives of the University administration and citizens that will meet regularly to work on town/gown issues. In those instances where the issues cannot be amicably resolved, I will always stand first for the interest of the residents of the Princeton community.
This starts with the new mayor and council. I think we’ll be much better able to collaborate with the University and other local stakeholders and effectively address conflicts with them, if the new mayor and council consciously work together to further our interests as a community, rather than working individually at cross purposes. This will take bargaining and compromise, but the results will be worth it for our community in the long run. We also have to hope that we can defeat Assembly Bill A-2586. This bill would exempt private universities from municipal zoning and planning oversight, and I cannot think of a more effective way to permanently strain town-gown relationships. It is simply bad public policy to privilege some private land owners over the public or other private land owners. In its current form this bill is also inherently corrupting. Its controls on private universities partnering with private developers are inadequate, and the inevitable result will be private universities selling their exemption from land use oversight to the highest bidders.
3. Do you see underserved residents in Princeton, and if so, how do you hope to respond to their needs? How would you win support for your response?
The average tax bill has increased 30% in 4 years. Some have doubled. I see all residents of Princeton underserved. We deserve better. For a more recent example ask the residents of the western section. Council saw fit to make the neighborhood an historical district, no reasoning nor substantiation. It was overwhelmingly unpopular (57-3). Here is a prime example of council not listening or representing the community. I think it has become lost that government is the voice of the people. This is why I am running….IT’S TIME TO BE HEARD.
Like all communities, there is no question that Princeton has an underserved population. We are compassionate community that cares deeply about all of its residents, and we have a number of programs and services to support and maintain its diversity. We have a strong commitment to provide affordable housing, a commitment I have and will continue to support. We support our Senior Resource Center; we provide a range of counseling services through our support of Corner House; we fund our Human Services Commission; we support the daytime FreeB, and Crosstown 62 which provides subsidized transportation for seniors. Our schools, the Library and our Recreation Department all provide services to those in need and serve as a safety net for our most vulnerable citizens.
Our community includes a significant Latino population, some of whom may not be getting services that could be helpful to their families. Our Human Services department helps residents connect with State and Federal government services and provides some charity and other aid for this population. We have an active Human Services Commission that supports this work and provides guidance. Consolidation will include restructuring some personnel, including the Human Services department, which will give us an opportunity to improve and possibly expand these services.
Princeton is a diverse community with a strong commitment to helping the most vulnerable among us. In order to maintain that promise, I would work to preserve Human Services programs, which connect residents with important state and federal assistance, and promote programs to strengthen families and help seniors age in place. In addition, we must promote affordable housing, particularly in light of Governor Christie’s attempts to abolish the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) and the resulting confusion at the state level. Affordable housing that welcomes individuals and families from all economic levels – low income to moderate income – enriches our neighborhoods and our schools. This is an area where Princeton can lead, even as the state takes steps backwards.
Yes there are underserved residents in Princeton. As a founding father of the first Human Services Commission in Princeton I am very sensitive to this issue. First, I would make sure Princeton continues to manage the local welfare assistance program. This makes sure all Single residents that fall under a specific financial guideline receive assistance in the form Of rental assistance, food stamps, transportation and counseling. Second, will continue to offer services to our many Latino residents. Assist in providing translations to the many programs that are now available. Will continue to assist the Princeton Hospital in Plainsboro to help keep our residents informed that free health care is still available in one of the best clinics in the world. Third, will continue to reach out to our quiet and hidden Senior Citizens. I am so grateful that Princeton Senior Resource Center does check in on our Seniors. I would like to expand that Senior check in system and see if we could provide additional “age “ in home services. Fourth, there are children that are falling through the cracks in the area of nutrition. Due to parents not working or other life difficulties. I would like the new government to make sure no child in Princeton goes to bed hungry. This can be done with partnering with the many non-profits that offer food services. WOULD SIMPLY ASK THE NEW GOVERNMENT TO CARE!!!
Princeton is a community that is made up of neighborhoods. The perception of what it means to be “underserved” can differ from neighborhood-to-neighborhood. One neighborhood may be concerned about overcrowding, another about leaf and brush collection, and another about encroaching development by one of the institutions of higher education that call the Princeton community home. Moreover, the entire Princeton community may be “underserved’, or disserved by a larger political entity such as the State of New Jersey changing traffic patterns on Route 1 that cause access and traffic congestion problems in our town. As a representative for all of the Princeton community, I will oppose the attempts of the State to solve their problems by shifting the problem onto our community. As a Councilman, I am also aware that if one neighborhood and its residents are underserved, that condition will detract from the sustainability of our entire community, and I will work to assure that the needs of each of our neighborhoods and all of our residents for municipal services are fairly balanced.
Princeton certainly has many residents in need of services and resources, and we have many municipal departments and independent organizations who serve them, including the Department of Human Services, Princeton Community Housing, Princeton Housing Authority, Corner House, HiTops, the Library, and many others. I think the biggest threat to the people they serve is that they can easily be invisible to members of the broader community. Raising awareness of the issues and the individuals affected and sharing their personal stories are the most important actions we can take to continue and expand our commitment to serving those most at risk.
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