West Windsor Township Council November 2009




Vote Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Polls are open in West Windsor from 6 AM to 8 PM

EDITOR'S NOTE: These are the verbatim responses of the candidates for West Windsor Township Council to questions presented by The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area, in cooperation with The Princeton Packet. The candidates were given an equal amount of space for their answers.

Candidates – Vote for one to fill an unexpired term ending June 30, 2011

Diane Ciccone - Attorney and Administrative Law Judge, appointed to Council in April, 2009

Andrew Hersh - Vice President, Marsh & McLennan

What strategies would you support in order to cut costs and boost revenues?

Ms. Ciccone:

Since joining the council in April, I have advocated a zero cent increase budget for 2009, and council has joined me in calling for a zero cent increase budget for 2010. I have been insistent on conducting an energy audit to cut energy costs. A township energy audit will be conducted in the next several weeks. We can cut our energy costs by adopting energy efficient practices and using alternative forms of energy. I have charged the administration to increase the use of shared services and bulk purchases as well as trimming health care costs. By adopting theses strategies we will have immediate and long-term savings that will keep taxes from rising while maintaining present services. I have urged council to create a marketing plan to attract new business growth to the township. We must market our geographic location, train station and excellent school system to attract the businesses of the 21st century. By attracting for example, vertical farms or companies that create the new green technology we can increase our tax base while minimizing the impact on our natural resources. I am open to and will support any idea that demonstrates real cost saving that can be sustained

Mr. Hersh:

I have worked over 17,000 hours helping public entities, like West Windsor, and large corporations to improve financial and operational performance. I would like to apply my expertise for the benefit of West Windsor tax payers. The strategy is fairly strait forward to me. Define the objective, analyze how to hit the objective, assign accountability, implement improvements and establish controls.

The township’s forecasted 2010 tax increase is 8% or approximately $3,000,000. It is easy to call for or ask for a 0% budget. I have the experience to make it happen.

Define objective: 0% increase ($3M), maintain quality of life, and protect AAA bond rating

Analyze how: Prioritize new spending ($1.5M), Strategic Sourcing (Est. $500K), operational efficiency (Est. $500K), leverage corporate “good will” moneys (Est. $500K), incentives to fill empty commercial space (Est. $100K), decrease energy use (Est. $20K), green initiatives (up front costs, future benefit), other

Assign accountability: Project Manager (Hersh), Spending Prioritization (Harry), Corporate good will (Kieling), Empty office space (Bennison), Operational Efficiency (Hersh/Borek), Strategic Sourcing (Hersh/Harry), Energy/Green (Environmental Sustainability Chair)

Implement: Task Managers will “own” implementation with help from others.

Control: Put measurements and controls in place to prevent rogue spending and expense creep.

What is your vision to improve bicycle and pedestrian friendliness in West Windsor, and what will you do to implement your vision if elected?

Ms. Ciccone:

I imagine a West Windsor where one can bike or walk almost anywhere safely. This future West Windsor must have destinations for residents to bike or walk. Currently we have few destinations other than the schools or train station. We must work to attract businesses such as cafés, restaurants, art galleries or other places for leisure or entertainment.The Princeton Junction Fire House will soon be the home of the Arts Center, but we need sidewalks so patrons can walk safely from the parking at the train station to the Fire House. We must continue to add sidewalks, multi-use trails, bike trails, bike racks and bike shelters so residents will feel safe to ride or bike to such destinations. Beneficial to this growth is to continue to seek and secure grant money to help defray costs in creating bike paths, multi-use trails and sidewalks. I will continue to ensure there is money in the budget to retrofit our roads to accommodate bikes and/or build sidewalks, bike paths and multi-use trails.

Mr. Hersh:

My 3 year old and I ride our bikes around town, walk to the Farmers Market together and I walk to the train station to commute to NYC. This summer, I traveled to Holland and Denmark and witnessed some of the most bicycle and pedestrian friendly places in the world. They have figured out a symbiotic relationship that works and we could do that too with a little ingenuity. First, though, we have some basics to tackle in West Windsor.

Presently we have an infrastructure problem of dark streets, no sidewalks and unmarked road crossings. We have kids at play in neighborhoods where teenagers speed their cars around corners, we have “end speed limit” signs just before cross walks and we’ve had our share of accidents.

As a proud member of the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance, I will continue to advocate for safer walkways and more bike-friendly infrastructure. From Council, I will ensure that safety comes first. Once we resolve the basic safety needs of the community, we can move on to the nice-to-haves. Believe me, I want them too.

What should the township be doing about the proliferation of empty retail buildings, including the former Acme supermarket?

Ms. Ciccone:

Our township ordinances only require an owner board up or seal an empty building and keep it clear of debris and weeds. I have requested that we toughen our ordinances to require owners to either demolish or find creative ways to camouflage the vacant buildings. Owners who are or will be in the process of developing a site must have as a condition of approval a time certain that they demolish and/or the area is cleared and grass planted until they start construction, as we insisted in the recent Princeton University application before the planning board of which I am a member. The township should utilize the talents of the residents by creating a beautification commission of dedicated residents and officials to develop a beautification plan for not only Rt. 571 but also other areas of the town. As for the current condition, the Rite Aid application has been approved and the township is working with the developer to expedite the demolition of buildings and construction can begin as soon as it is economically feasible. In addition to a slow economy, the Acme site must have DEP approval before the property can be sold or financing is available.

Mr. Hersh:

Join me on Sunday, October 25th at 11 AM in front of the former Acme Supermarket for 571 day. The Day will bring together residents, businesses and hopefully the Township. The Property Manager from Silbert Realty will be there to discuss plans for the shopping center and to listen to the community.

At the October 13th Council meeting I presented the Mayor and Council with petitions to address the issues on 571 before we invest in brand new development elsewhere. An approved plan for the area has been gathering dust in the Mayor’s office. Let’s dust it off and implement it. A resident-business partnership is currently being formed to bring immediate resolution to long-standing issues.

The days of “if we build it they will come” are over. We need to incent businesses to move to West Windsor rather than Princeton or elsewhere. We are in a competition and the way to win it is to offer a cost-benefit advantage over other places. Let’s ask businesses to consider our beautiful office space in our logistically-friendly town, find out what will win them over and then work with property owners to close the deal. We are in Einstein’s Alley after-all.

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.

The Princeton League, which encompasses the same area as is served by The Packet, needs members (men and women) to act as observers at meetings of their local school boards and municipalities and to report back issues that can be explored in candidates’ forums and questionnaires or that may become the basis for League studies. To become a member or learn more, click here.