Princeton Council Candidates 2013
Princeton Council Candidates Answer League Questions
November 5, 2013 General Election Day
Polls will be open from 6am until 8pm
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 two (three-year term)
Jenny Crumiller (incumbent) – Democrat, Princeton Council Member, not otherwise employed. Website: www.jennycrumiller.com
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz – Republican, Translator. Website: http://faustaforcouncil.com
Patrick Simon (incumbent) – Democrat, Information Technology and Management Consultant.
What do you consider the three most important challenges facing Princeton? What personal and professional experiences have prepared you for addressing these challenges?
Keeping the municipal portion of our property taxes in check while maintaining the level of services residents expect will always be the biggest challenge. Given steadily rising employee costs, some of which are mandated, we need to concentrate on our police force. It is our largest personnel expense and offers the biggest savings from consolidation. I support the recommended “right-sizing” of the force to reduce its numbers over the next several years through retirement and attrition.
Another important issue is the dire threat posed by Assembly Bill 2586, which would exempt private universities from all land use regulations. Given that Princeton University has the wherewithal to buy every piece of property in town many times over, this bill would essentially render our government moot as far as land use and put our town’s destiny entirely in the hands of the University. The Mayor and Council have opposed the bill, and I will continue to fight it vigorously.
Last, we have faced several lawsuits and behind-the-scenes arrangements with former police chiefs and members of our police force. I have been party to some of these decisions and I believe they were all made for the best. But we obviously have problems. We need to make structural changes to avoid repeating the same mistakes. I will push for more effective communication and better Council oversight, including serious consideration of a civilian public safety director.
Ms. Rodriguez Wertz:
High property taxes, traffic congestion, and the long-standing turmoil in the police department are the three most important issues.
As a Latina and 24-year resident with an MBA, experienced in cost analysis, with ample experience in private and non-profits building consensus to find solutions, I am prepared to face up to these challenges, and work to solve them, while being accessible to all our residents.
Additionally, real diversity of culture, ethnicity, politics and experience leads to real transparency. I will be the first Latina in Council history, bringing a fresh point of view and opportunities for constructive engagement.
Three years ago I was selected by the Princeton Borough Council to serve as a citizen member of the Joint Consolidation and Shared Services Study Commission. My tenure on the commission awakened in me a call to community service and leadership, and I ran for council last year with a few key goals: to implement the recommendations of the commission and the Transition Task Force to fully realize the intended benefits of consolidation, to work to improve local emergency planning and management, and to improve the working relationship between the municipality and the university.
I have worked the past nine months to follow through on each of those goals.
This spring I chaired the Emergency Preparedness Task Force, and I serve now on the Local Emergency Management Committee. We have just approved the first basic Emergency Operation Plan covering all of Princeton, and by the end of the year we expect to complete 15 plan annexes covering various aspects of emergency management in detail, including shelters and comfort centers, alerts and emergency communications, hazardous materials events, and emergency medical.
I serve as a council liaison to the Citizens’ Finance Advisory Committee, which serves both to advise the council and to make the municipal budget and finances transparent and accessible to the public. Municipal finances are tracking close to the projected savings from consolidation estimated by the Transition Task Force last year, and the council delivered a modest tax cut as part of this year’s budget.
I have also served on the Alexander Street University Place Task Force, a joint task force made up of elected representatives, private citizens appointed by mayor and council, and representatives of the university, studying potential traffic and transit improvements along the Alexander Street - University Place corridor.
The newly consolidated Princeton has not yet updated the master plan to reflect the new municipality. What do you want to make sure is included in the revision?
As a Planning Board member and member of the Master Plan Subcommittee, I will work to include stronger protections for neighborhoods, including measures to facilitate historic preservation.
Ms. Rodriguez Wertz:
Appropriate development of the Witherspoon Street area, solutions to the heavy truck traffic through downtown and parking problems, and involvement and input by small businesses. The Master Plan should be updated without incurring additional consultant fees.
The new master plan should include a comprehensive plan for Witherspoon Street from the library to Witherspoon Hall, the town should strengthen the representation of neighborhoods in the planning and zoning process, and our zoning laws should be revised and enforced, with variances rarely granted.
If you had the chance to undertake one new initiative to serve the town, what would it be?
The new council has been involved in many new initiatives stemming from consolidating two municipalities. But if I have to choose just one, I feel it is important to improve our budgetary process, involving the Council and the public earlier than happened last year and previously in the former Borough, when decisions by the administrator and finance subcommittee sometimes seemed like a fait accompli by the time they reached Council. I would have the Council hear reports from individual department heads as part of that process. This would introduce more transparency and better integrate the Council and the public into the crucial decision-making process for allocating resources for the ongoing betterment of the Princeton community.
Ms. Rodriguez Wertz:
My top initiative would be to reduce debt and spending by
a. Schedule routine fixed costs, maintenance, upkeep, and repairs from the operating budget, instead of issuing more debt.
b. Hire fewer consultants.
c. Consider the best and maximum utilization of existing municipal structures before expanding any existing buildings or proposing any new construction, possibly including sale as a cost-saving measure. d. Do cost analysis of new projects to determine cost effectiveness; if not cost-effective, the project should not be undertaken.
e. Avoid becoming entangled in lawsuits, by following updated Master Plan guidelines, listening to sound legal advice, and reject quixotic agendas.
Given the risks posed by frequent power outages and by the potential for Princeton to be cut off from area hospitals due to flooding and downed trees, I intend to continue to work on emergency management and planning.
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