West Windsor Township Mayor 2009
2009 WEST WINDSOR TOWNSHIP
MAYORAL CANDIDATES VOTERS GUIDE
NON-PARTISAN ELECTION INFORMATION
Vote Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Polls are open in West Windsor from 6 AM to 8 PM
These are the verbatim responses of the candidates for the West Windsor Township Mayor 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 (four-year term)
Shing-Fu Hsueh (incumbent) – Registered professional engineer and professional planner
Charles Morgan – Consultant; attorney at law; member West Windsor Township Council
Pete Weale — Business development executive
What is your ideal vision for West Windsor in the coming years and how would you help achieve it?
As the Mayor of the first Greentown USA in New Jersey, and the first municipal senior center to receive accreditation by the National Council on Aging, my vision is to keep West Windsor as the most desirable family-friendly community in the nation.
First, I will continue to manage our township economically by having the lowest municipal property tax rate in the county along with the highest Triple A credit rating for bonding capital projects.
I will also control and manage growth in support of our blue ribbon schools yet provide growth that enhances our interests and needs. It is important to control the growth around the Princeton Junction train station so that we do not wind up with another Metro Park with a huge parking garage complex.
With input from residents and Township Council, I will maintain the characteristics of our community and establish a village center in which we can all take pride.
will continue our implementation of bike lanes and sidewalks to ensure the safety of cyclists and pedestrians and increase our clean, safe, and green open spaces and recreational facilities for residents of all ages.
I will promote implementation of our sustainability plan and continue to preserve established neighborhoods and historical sites.
I will continue my efforts to seek outside sources of funding to implement the many projects that are planned as I have with past projects such as the Alexander Road Bridge, the Trolley Line Trail, Grovers Mill Pond, and sidewalk and road improvements.
The question asks about my ideal vision. This is my ideal without regard to practicality:
1. Enhanced quality of life and property values with reduced tax burdens (see the answer to the third question) to retain our children and seniors;
2. Interactive website so that it becomes the go-to website of first choice;
3. Down-sized train station redevelopment with parking restricted to shoppers, West Windsor commuters and day-trippers, three story maximum buildings (housing over retail, restaurants, art galleries) and a village green and parks;
4. Regional commuters restricted to parking garages away from the station and near existing major roads:
a. Along the Dinky line out to Route 1 (noise barriers for Longmeadow and Penns Neck residents and airport-equivalent high speed shuttles) and
b. At the corner of Quaker Bridge Road and Amtrak Line with airport-equivalent high speed shuttles along the Amtrak right of way and Dinky line ( kick-start General Growth/Wyeth tract development);
5. The Amtrak power station moved to a remote location;
6. Main street beautification with Route 571 completed in Princeton Junction, three lanes, tree lined and pedestrian and bike friendly, the Ellsworth’s Center completed and the Rite Aid Center (Starbucks, restaurant and Rite Aid) completed.
7. The Route 1 cut under Penns Neck circle completed with a village green and park in front of the church.
I would do this through rigorous management oversight, hard-nosed negotiations with the state and the county with no compromises on quality of life. See my answers to question three.
West Windsor has paid a steep price for one person’s dominating vision. As WW’s Township Planner recently quipped: “The PJ Redevelopment is a beginning, not an ending.” My goal is to make West Windsor affordable and economically sustainable by REDUCING THE SPENDING! The largest contributor to unbridled costs is our outstanding school system. Due to exorbitant costs, our residents are leaving WW.
The hallmark of my candidacy is Quality of Life issues as captured in over 200 photographs viewable from my website: http://mysite.verizon.net/michaeljohnr/pete4mayor.htm
• Breed accountability by publishing all meeting costs.
• Reduce the no-bid professional services contracts. The greatest gulf is a lack of leadership. While it is laudable to be an optimist, my role is to be an optometrist to permit people to see how their government operates and participate.
• Harness the pool of intelligent, creative volunteers of all ages to harvest cost-effective ideas.
• Halt costly spending on non-economic dreams.
• Discover the days of FREE MONEY are over; fiscal realities force a new paradigm.
• Manage and maintain assets by providing cost centers for all activities- and share the realities with taxpayers.
• Communicate via student designed, operated local website. Share content with two local cable companies via public access.
• I reject Governor Corzine’s vision for our community via Affordable Housing. I pledge to make housing affordable.
When I moved to WW 25 years ago, it had a small town feel. That has now evaporated. We see an exodus of residents following their children’s graduation.
What should be done to alleviate traffic congestion in the township, especially during peak driving hours?
There are a number of approaches that should be taken to address traffic congestion in and around West Windsor. Having the third busiest rail station causes localized congestion. While the new Alexander Road Bridge has helped alleviate congestion, I will continue to work with NJDOT and NJ Transit to establish a better circulation pattern into and out of the train station area as part of the redevelopment plan. The Vaughn Drive Connector is an important element of this. No taxpayer’s money will be used for infrastructure improvements such as Vaughn Drive Connector.
I will continue to work with the County to complete improvements which have been approved for CR 571 through Princeton Junction. These improvements will make this roadway pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly by providing continuous sidewalks and bike lanes and will improve traffic flow through intersection upgrades.
On a larger scale, I will continue to coordinate with mayors along Route One to bring state support back to funding the Route One improvements as defined by the Penns Neck EIS.
I will continue to pursue busing for our community and coordinate with other municipalities to connect to their bus routes. As part of this bus network, I will look to establish satellite parking located at less congested areas. In making these improvements, we can support and encourage use of alternative transportation reducing the volume of vehicular traffic. I will also incorporate transportation planning in the local land use planning process to ensure that land use patterns become part of traffic solutions.
We should redirect regional traffic out of the center of Princeton Junction. See the answer to question 1. We should demand completion of the Route 1 cut.
The train station redevelopment should be down-sized. Parking at the station should be restricted to shoppers, West Windsor commuters and day-trippers. Regional commuters should be restricted to parking garages away from the station and near existing major roads. Airport-equivalent high speed shuttles should be provided to and from the train station along the Dinky line out to Route 1 (with the concerns of Longmeadow residents fully addressed) and at corner of Quaker Bridge Road and Amtrak Line.
We should prohibit additional peak hour traffic generators at the train station. We should prohibit office buildings at the station and prohibit parking at the station for regional commuters.
We should congregate new peak hour traffic generators near Route 1 and Quakerbridge Road.
We should avoid actions leading to impaired quality of life, higher speeds and reduced pedestrian safety.
Construction of the Millstone Bypass is NOT a solution with less invasive options extant.
(1). Build it and they will come. Six lanes of Route 1 traffic have yielded eight lanes worth of volume. Roadways for LOCAL traffic perform adequately unless WW enacts its proposed explosion of housing, commercial, and retail at the PJ train station. Aren’t roadways expected to be busy during the morning and evening rush? To where are these travelers headed? OUT or THROUGH WW to other points or the homes of lower taxes, including Pennsylvania. NJDOT abandoned common sense when it failed in the redesign on Route 1 South in Lawrence Township transitioning to 295 North/95South.
(2). Mass Transit: The proposed Greater Princeton Area Bus Rapid Transit is not an economically viable solution. A regional planning organization spent $947,000 tax dollars in 2003 to propose spending $1 billion to construct an area network. With scarce State and Federal dollars, who will privately source the funding for this?
For the past two years I have proposed the Australian owner of University Square on Alexander Road @ Route 1 North partner with NJ Transit to provide a Dinky stop to alleviate congestion. For the past 25 years, I have proposed the re-gentrification of the Dinky line into Plainsboro which would mitigate vehicular traffic to and from Plainsboro’s residential and business community, including the new Medical Center.
(3). With the Millstone Bridge widening, commence construction of the Penns Neck ‘cut & cover’ of the limited Route 1 tunnel beneath Washington Road.
Given an uncertain economic future, how would you minimize the tax burden on township residents?
First, I will maintain the Township’s Triple A bond rating to keep the debt service low and keep a reasonable and healthy fund balance in preparation for unexpected emergency needs under the current uncertain economic situation.
I will continue to look for ways to deliver the Township’s public services with fewer resources using, for example, shared services with other municipalities, county and the school district. So far, we remain a full service community and have been able to avoid separate fire districts and loss of services such as garbage collection which are paid for separately in some other municipalities. I will continue to recruit and increase quality business ratables to offset the residential property tax burden. Even in this economic downturn, development in West Windsor continues.
I will continue to review business operations in West Windsor to ensure residential taxpayers are not subsidizing commercial property owners. We recently won a case against a business that was claiming tax exemption when in fact it did not qualify. In the past seven years, I have worked with Princeton and Stony Brook Sewerage Authority to modify the tax distribution system among the member townships.
Most recently, I worked on an agreement with Plainsboro to implement a new formula for school tax distribution. Both of these have resulted in a more reasonable and predictable property tax impact at the municipal level. My goal is to ensure West Windsor remains a full service community with the lowest municipal tax rate in the county.
We must increase revenues and cut costs where possible:
1. Implement a not-for-profit organization to lessen the burdens of government and taxpayers as permitted by the Internal Revenue Code by substituting private dollars for taxpayer dollars. This would significantly dampen the increase in our taxes. The new organization would be overseen by the Township (without using elected officials or Township employees) and used for any of the following:
a. Open space acquisition and maintenance,
b. Bicycle and pedestrian safety,
d. The Farmer’s Market,
e. Facilities management (e.g., the old Princeton Junction Firehouse, the Senior Center),
f. Emergency Services (volunteer fire companies and Twin W).
2. Save the average homeowner $170 per year by holding surplus at investment grade single A rating (like most municipalities).
3. Increase staff job satisfaction and productivity through staff support and development, introducing private sector tools and implementing innovative recognition programs.
4. Demand that Trenton pay 100% of train station regional transportation hub infrastructure costs with respect to redevelopment. I would lead a state-wide strategy to eliminate unfunded mandates.
5. Pursue more shared services (WW-P School District and others).
6. Repatriate excess medical reserves from Horizon without reducing benefits.
7. Consider the possibility of advertising on the Township website.
8. Consider establishing a Township store to sell and preserve the West Windsor brands (Grovers Mill, Princeton Junction, Penns Neck, etc.). The store could sell merchandize as well as regional brands (such as Princeton).
The typical parochial answers for this suggest a municipal budget cut and spend the surplus. Municipal surplus spending is a one-time gimmick and fiscally irresponsible. The State of NJ rewards communities with no surplus by rushing aid to those with revenue shortfalls at the expense of communities which are fiscally prudent.
The root of our exploding property taxes are school taxes driven by labor agreements which somehow clairvoyantly look three years into the future. We’ve endured budget-busting increases for the past 15 years and it is not sustainable. However, anyone vetting these issues regarding public employee wages and benefits is bullied from the landscape. My solution? Partner with our educators unions as other unions throughout our country do for survival. Bankruptcy voids labor and benefit agreements.
WWP is unique in having two extraordinary Assistant Superintendents departing for area superintendent roles. Assuming proper succession planning, I propose these posts be left vacant for two years… saving a minimum of $350K/yr. Remand Athletic Director duties to the two Assistant AD’s and reduce the Public Information Officer’s job to part-time for an additional savings of $200,000 per annum.
Outsource exterior grounds maintenance following competitive bids.
I have already voiced traditional options for savings: furloughs, stipend reductions, leaving open positions unfilled, partner for greater employee contributions for health benefits.
Regardless of municipal or school venues, we must track costs via cost centers to develop a 10-year database. Zero-based budgeting is NOT a gimmick since we need budgets based on ACTUAL figures, not budgeted figures.
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