Princeton Council Candidates 2015

Princeton Council Candidates Answer League Questions

November 3, 2015 General Election Day

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.

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)

Kelly DiTosto – Republican, Accountant, C.P.A. (inactive)

Heather Howard – Democrat (incumbent), Lecturer in Public Affairs, Princeton University; Director, State Health Reform Assistance Network

Lynn Lu Irving – Republican, Residential Real Estate Professional, former pre-school teacher for ten years, president of a local public K – 8th school PTO.

Arden “Lance” Liverman – Democrat (incumbent), Owner/Liverman Associates, Real Estate Investment Co.

What do you consider the most important challenges facing Princeton? What personal and professional experiences have prepared you for addressing these challenges? Lastly, how do you intend that the Council will address these challenges?

Ms. DiTosto:

The most important challenge facing Princeton is having a local government that is open, inclusive and fiscally responsible. One-Party rule for an extended period of time is simply not healthy for our town and it’s residents. I will use my extensive accounting background to closely examine the revenues and expenditures of Princeton. In doing so, I will point out expenses that I believe are wasteful and unnecessary.

Ms. Howard:

Taxes and affordability are still the most salient issues in Princeton. We have worked hard to hold the line on property tax increases – thanks to consolidation and sound financial planning, the tax rate is essentially the same level as 2010 -- but we need to continue to find ways to keep Princeton the diverse and livable community we love. We have instituted new budget controls to help manage expenses, but we face budget pressure from increasing costs, especially rising health care expenses and wages. To counter those pressures, we continue to seek efficiencies and should explore ways to expand the commercial tax base so we are less reliant on individual property taxes.

Ms. Irving:

The most important challenge for Princeton is affordability. Ordinary residents are continually challenged to maintain a reasonable standard of living and pay the bills. With the consolidation of Princeton, the current six-member council and mayor haven’t lived up to residents’ expectations of better services and lower property taxes. My experience raising a family in this town gives me all the perspective necessary to identify the problems I share with fellow Princetonians. I will use my proven social skills to collaborate on solving them.

Mr. Liverman:

Princeton is truly in a great place. This is a great time to live in a pedestrian friendly community. The safety of our residents have always been my number one responsibility. This is seen by my participation on the Public Safety Committee and my position as Fire Commissioner. My unique communication skills allow me to relate and dialogue with all residents. Princeton Council has been 100% percent behind providing funding and resources to keep Princeton safe and accessible to the many different community members.

What, if any, new proposals for local ordinances and/or resolutions do you think are needed, and please explain why you believe this so.

Ms. DiTosto:

Maintaining a balanced budget should be the Council’s top resolution. The Council should always be working to see that our annual budget is being utilized in the most effective manner. Our town habitually spends more than we take in, without making enlightened but difficult decisions on how to balance the books. This is simply not sustainable.

Ms. Howard:

We are making steady progress harmonizing the ordinances from Princeton Borough and Township and in the coming year we will focus on land use. This is an opportunity to review our zoning and explore other tools to help preserve the character of our neighborhoods.

Ms. Irving:

I’d like our local Council to stay focused, reduce the number of ordinances that require more capital spending or inconvenience residents, stop wasting time on passing resolutions that have nothing to do with Princeton and distract the council from the essence of its responsibility. The priority challenge is to keep Princeton affordable for all.

Mr. Liverman:

Local ordinances and resolutions are created to help manage and keep things moving swiftly. Creating and supporting local ordinances can always be a challenge. I have always supported ordinances and resolutions that benefit everyone. The question of Historical Districts in certain areas of Princeton is an example of a challenging ordinance or resolution. I have been a strong advocate that council must hear from both sides of the community and to make a decision that benefits the majority of the residents. I have always supported the democratic process to achieve this goal. I strongly believe the preservation of our communities is vital to remain an affordable community. I believe whatever preservation vehicle we use must not impede other residence’s right to benefit financially from their homes.

A municipality has two budgets - the annual operating budget and a capital budget. What are your priorities for each of these budgets? Please specifically address whether the Council’s 2015 goals (including but not limited to completion of the work of the Affordable Housing Task Force, the Bicycle Path Plan and the River Road Solar Farm) are goals you think are properly identified as priorities.

Ms. DiTosto:

My priority for the annual operating and capital budget is that we adhere to it strictly. Affordable housing should be a top priority. However, the Council should be discussing their plan for buying property for affordable housing, i.e. the Witherspoon property, in public session not in closed door meetings. A priority should be maintaining the municipal roads to ensure the safety and vehicle maintenance for the residents of our town. Maintaining our roads directly complements the Council’s goal with respect to the Bicycle Path Plan. When elected I will work to ensure that Princeton’s annual operating and capital budgets are being utilized in the most effective and efficient manner

Ms. Howard:

I’m pleased that the Council undertakes an effort each year to identify priorities. This has helped us focus our work and guided discussions on our operating budget. Among our priorities, I’ve been particularly focused on several related to my committee assignments. The first is supporting the Police Department in development and implementation of a strategic plan. This plan – which maintains staffing at the level identified by the Transition Task Force – includes continuation of the successful community policing program, and increased attention to traffic safety, with an emphasis on data-driven enforcement. Second, the Human Services Department conducted a community needs assessment, which identified significant need in our community and which is helping to focus the direction of limited resources to support the most vulnerable. And the Bicycle Master Plan process, supported with grant funding from the state, will allow us to advance implementation of the Complete Streets policy by identifying bicycle infrastructure improvements that create a comfortable bicycling environment and enhance safety for all users.

Regarding our capital budget, I’ve supported the development of a long-term capital planning process, which will help us invest prudently in our infrastructure and maintain reasonable levels of municipal debt. I also supported the development of the River Road Solar Farm, which is being built on top of the landfill site. The project creates value out of an otherwise unusable site and is designed to lower energy bills for the sewage facility and also to generate income for the municipality.

Ms. Irving:

Princeton has a $61 million annual operating budget, $11.4 million of which goes to servicing the debt--that's about 18 percent of the budget. The Council should focus on cutting taxes to keep the embattled middle class from having to flee town. I’d like to see Princeton Council focus strictly on local issues while listening to local residents.

Mr. Liverman:

Princeton Council has been extremely mindful that we want to do more with our operating and capital budgets. We understand the town has said loud and clear that debt reduction is important. We, “Princeton Council,” are working on that goal. We have prioritized future expenses with the understanding that the debt will be reduced significantly within the next five years. We have agreed on goals that must be completed based on their time “ urgency “ criteria. It is important to note that the Affordable Housing Task Force completed their primary responsibility in locating municipal owned property. Princeton is extremely excited to have a committee to look at establishing a Bicycle Master Plan. This will allow bicycle riders and others to benefit from riding in a safe and secure mapped bike area. With the extremely high cost of energy it is important to always look into the future for energy reduction costs. The potential solar farm on River Road is a win-win for the municipality and the environment.

MISSION STATEMENT: The League of Women Voters®, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

To read the responses of candidates for other offices and to find links to debates, go to the LWV-Princeton Area website.

The Princeton Area League seeks new members (men and women) from Kendall Park, Kingston, Montgomery, Plainsboro, Princeton, Rocky Hill, South Brunswick and West Windsor. Click here to become a member.