We must get zoning right. Zoning drives the direction a town grow. We need the ability to construct mother in laws apartments, auxiliary apartments; so, the cost of the land (i.e.: property taxes) can be shared. It is the only way we can hold on to the middle-class, teachers, police, firefighters, people making "only 75,000 a year', seniors on fixed incomes, etc. Some neighborhoods could be rezoned for mixed use/decouple the need for cars; that way residents can work, socialize in their neighborhoods. Less sprawl is a good housing policy and good housing policy becomes good climate policy. Having new businesses with the help of grants can expand our tax base through increased commercial property tax collection, I do not know why this has not happened yet? Not enough manpower to focus on the issue? The lack of political will?
Princeton is a highly desirable area. 2018 the average price for a home was 950,000 dollars. 34% of these sales went conducted on a cash basis! If this trend continues (Unless Trumps limit on property tax deduction deter new homeowners) make home ownership less attractive, it will not matter what rules you have about teardowns. People with the resources, will come here to live and push property taxes up
I get support by establishing a track record of doing my homework, having data driven information, building positive relations, doing the quid pro quo compromises,demonstrating how they can benefit supporting the initiative
I will focus in issues that are trending NOW
We might have to look into mixed use and less single unit housing in some areas, zoning up and not out. This housing policy is also good climate policy: less sprawl when it comes to housing and AFH. Cities like Seattle, Minneapolis have this long term vision and are mitigating their AFH problems.
AFH- Right now the mandate for the 2025 round will probably be 753 units. We need to know the number of kids from AHF as it will affect the continuing school modifications, but with credits like 2-1 renting, group homes, the number might be more like 235 units.
Work with AFH site builders to save the town money. We don't have enough land to build 80 /20 market rate for AFH housing
We should work with profit/nonprofit companies that specialize in building these types of homes. They have the requisite expertise in tax credits and how the byzantine world of state funding works, and incentives by allowing more height and density when they build; therefore, the more lucrative price points will be another inducement to work with the town. Do not forget builders take a lot of risk such as rising materials costs, inclement weather, sketchy subcontractors. We must understand their liabilities and work with them This is happening at the old SAVE site today.
We must focus on what matters to citizens' everyday lives, and not being behind paving roads, fixing sewers, garbage being picked up. We have had ethical malfeasance issues. Parking bribes scandal, police harassment scandal, employee IT theft and now SEWERGATE.
Princeton U: First, think what is right for the town and work backwards. PU does a lot, but they can do better on fair share payments. They put a lot of stress on infrastructure, especially our public schools and our aging sewers, which is 7% of the budget. We should find projects we partner on.
I see lots of room for improvement. The officials seem to lurch/ react from one issue to another, one scandal to another The town's lawyers must be on speed dial. After the bribery scandal of the parking meter enforcers, we were told this would not happen again. Then we had the IT scandal, and police harassment scandal and all that made me wonder if there was attorney error there and then, how much will insurance rates go up, then the parking roll out fiasco and the disregard to the merchants' input. I think the council just thought the money was going to roll in , forget about the details, this is Princeton. Then comes the River Rd scandal , how much will this 2nd bribery scandal in 6 years cost the tax payers? This translates in consultants, clean up, legal fees. What about the oversight and accountability promised back in 2013? What staff culture caused the whistle blowers to report the corruption, asbestos dumping, etc. to Planet Princeton, not their superiors? Who was the council liaison in all this and what he/she did or knew? Who knew, what, when? Why does the county and town deny requests for public records related to the scandal? I get the feeling the council does not see any urgency to set systems in place to manage over 200 employees, leading to the problems above. Regarding the location of the refueling station, again, disregard to the community input. I find the council uncapable of owning their missteps and rather reactive instead of proactive, and this is something that needs to change, projects are rushed and then when there is outrage, backtracking; which makes me wonder if the projects are actually needed, what are the priorities? Community/merchants input is necessary and the government should reciprocate with total transparency to inform those who are going to be directly and indirectly affected and then figure out how we can all work together and compromise for what is actually better for the town and its citizens.
For issues of transparency on big ticket items, a disaster.
On the big ticket items the council has not been transparent whatsoever.
Parking, they talk pricing, policy, then rolled out a different higher pricing, and then reacted chaotically, and backtracking ensued The River Rd corruption/asbestos scandal. First the town administrator said it was a misconception A week later, the scandal breaks, but the town waits two weeks to make a comment. Then, the council denies OPRAH requests for PP to get public records. When I went to the council on July 22 and asked the council basically how we got here, how much it will cost, I was not satisfied with the answers I received, it is all in tape, a council even dared to say that I should have reported what I knew, and what I knew I heard just talking around, then investigated more, but I would say that council members who should have oversight over the departments, they should have known. It makes one wonder if there is similar dysfunction in other departments.
How would I improve this? I would meet with the neighbors, I would use local paper space, it could be designated to print out what council members say, where they stand on a trending big item issue of the day be it zoning, River Rd corruption /scandal (Sewergate), a dog park, can or should the EMT pump be relocated and its whys and/ why nots. In other words, I will do my homework and I will communicate, I will listen and I will speak up when needed.
Questions about non partisan elections because Princeton has become a one party town and if we are the inclusive community we say we are, then we need to hear all voices, and those are the independents, unaffiliated, democrats, republicans, the voices of all the people who live in town. Questions about why is important to monitor the latest school referendum. Questions about savings from consolidation that were supposed to come from less police, so what number of police we need or can we cut more get savings, but will any savings be offset for the need to hire professional fire fighters;. Questions about a potential initiative that would get the council to come up with a specific plan for cutting taxes instead of just talking about it and taking out of reserves. Specifically 2/3 or so of the budget foes to personnel salaries and benefits' costs; another 18% I believe goes to debt service.
There are so many initiatives to choose from, but since I have already done the research on one issue I will use this as an example. As a member of the Economic Development Committee, I have been in discussions on how to streamline processes for new businesses to start up and open in Princeton. There is currently a parking space requirement for businesses, but we don’t have adequate parking available. The municipality always ends up waiving this requirement, but only after the business spends tens of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees. Instead, we’re exploring the creation of a Parking Fund, where that money would go directly to the municipality, instead of the attorneys. I agree with this solution, however I would push for the fees to be significantly lower. A flat rate permit fee of a few thousand dollars, would attract and encourage small businesses to open here. Currently the costs are prohibitive.
This is just one of an array of initiatives I will advocate for. As importantly, I would work with my fellow Councilmembers to help them see the long-term economic benefits of attracting new businesses, over the short-term goals of increasing revenue from higher parking fees. Our goal should be to further enhance the attractiveness of Princeton’s centers of commerce to achieve a thriving local economy that will, in the long run, help all sectors of our population.
This would be one of an array of initiatives I would be advocating for, and would work with the other Councilmembers to have their agreement as well, to see that the smaller amount of revenue for the Parking Fund should not be our goal but rather our goal should be to further enhance the attractiveness of Princeton’s centers of commerce to achieve a thriving local economy that will, in the long run, help all sectors of our population.
Priorities will include:
1) Increase municipal revenue to off-set residential property taxes. There are two major sources where we have not put enough focus. 1) Is the economic sector, our local businesses. By expanding and supporting the business community we expand commercial revenue. We can do this by streamlining zoning ordinances that impede the creation and success of new businesses. Some of this streamlining includes reducing signage requirements, accommodating employee and customer parking and reducing the permitting fees and time to acquire permits. 2) Is an improved relationship with the University. We should be asking for a larger voluntary payment, with the justification for it. Furthermore, we should be actively exploring the tremendous partnership opportunities that exist, and break out of this Town/Gown binary that has shackled us for so long. Opportunities for more joined-up projects can extend beyond the obvious, like joining up the Free-B and the Tiger Transit, and also more ambitious projects like sharing renewable energy infrastructure and housing opportunities.
2) Another priority is to expand options for housing that is affordable. Princeton has an affordable housing obligation, but we also need housing that’s affordable. This is achieved by changing the zoning ordinances to encourage in-law units, duplexes, and other types of multi-family structures. This allows Princetonians to age in place, it encourages flexible living arrangements, and it makes Princeton affordable for the middle class.
3) Provide social services and support to Princetonians who need them most. This includes our undocumented neighbors, our fixed-income seniors, and children. The Witherspoon neighborhood needs more services. It needs a laundromat, a grocery store, and an urgent care center. Those Princetonians without cars now have to take a bus across Route 1 for emergency care. No one with a sick child should have to take a bus to the hospital.
The best decisions are those made with all stakeholder input, comments and suggestions. Specifically, the parking meter roll out did not incorporate all the stakeholders’ input. There is an over reliance on consultants, and not enough on the stakeholders’ who were most impacted by the parking meters. The new parking meters should have been a positive impact on merchants, and residents alike. Instead it had the opposite effect. In the instance of such a major large scale change, an educational promotional campaign upfront to give guidance on the new technology should have been enacted…not six months or more after the meters are installed. A more thoughtful approach using local resources and particularly the merchant community, could have avoided so many pitfalls.
I think generally there is a good amount of transparency and openness but there is still room for improvement. For instance, I believe that there is too much reliance on the Citizen’s Finance Advisory Committee for guidance on the budget. I don’t get a sense that the Council is delving deeply into the numbers both on the revenue and expense side of the balance sheet, to really see where we can improve. I think CFAC’s role should be to help with transparency and as an objective view of the budget, but shouldn’t be a crutch to keep elected officials from delving into the budget more aggressively and asking the hard questions.
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The need to plan appropriately and cost-effectively for Princeton's long-term future is the single biggest challenge facing our community. Since I believe, along with many of our long-time residents, that key decisions about the next half century for Princeton will be made in the next few years, my focus as a Councilwoman will be on proactive planning for Princeton.
Successful planning requires maximum public participation; conversely an inability to achieve public consensus about the future of a community is a fundamental reason why planning fails. For that reason, I believe Princeton Council has an essential role to play in facilitating a coherent, community-wide planning process that is transparent and leads to equitable, economically and environmentally sound outcomes. This will require intensive, proactive coordination between all major stakeholders and the municipality.
We must start with convening a public process for the comprehensive review and update of our Master Plan that reflects a consolidated, united Princeton. This will ensure that our community values and vision are reflected in the town’s land use ordinances and development priorities. The updated policies of our Master Plan will provide a much-needed guide for municipal decision-makers as we navigate growth in Princeton and the communities around us.
I have already been working to build support for an overhaul of Princeton's Master Plan as a member of the Planning Board's Master Plan subcommittee and we will be exploring specifics over the next few months.
In recent years I have been actively engaged, as a Planning Board member and with the Princeton Progressive Action Group, in advocating for the development of housing that will curb the extinction of Princeton's middle class. On Council I will work to support zoning and other ordinance changes that allow for a wider variety of housing options, including accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The income from these units can help residents remain in their homes longer by offsetting taxes and providing funds for property maintenance and improvement.
The revitalization of our commercial sector and figuring out how best to support our local merchants is an urgent priority. Genuine lasting economic health for our town requires planning for and balancing the needs of all sectors: housing, transportation and schools, as well as our central business district. Balance and success can be achieved through the creation of an Economic Action Plan for Princeton utilizing expertise and guidance from some of the nation's leading economists - who also happen to be Princeton residents!.. Implementation of the EAP will be ensured by including a new element to Princeton’s Master Plan focused on Economic Development.
It is essential that we build resiliency to climate change into our municipal facilities and infrastructure in order to protect our community's investments as well as our most vulnerable residents. Over the past 18 months, as a Sustainable Princeton board member, I have been deeply involved in the development of a Climate Action Plan (CAP) for Princeton. This process, which engaged all major stakeholders in the town, resulted in a community plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help Princeton become more climate resilient. The plan was endorsed by Princeton Council this past July, and I look forward to playing an active role on Council in ensuring full and timely implementation of the plan.
In recent years, many in the community have watched with dismay as less-than-optimal decisions have been made that negatively impact the future of our town. Debacles like the refueling station placement occur because key decisions are made in isolation, piecemeal and in reaction to an urgent situation. We need proactive, big-picture, long-range planning, and municipal processes that are more transparent, accessible to residents with busy lives, and which hold those involved accountable for the outcome of their decisions.
There is a need for more thoughtful, fact-and-design-based decision-making, for aspects and areas of our community in great need of attention – from parking to zoning to affordable housing to infrastructure improvements and many other areas that require appropriate planning.
The only way to ensure a change in these problematic patterns is (as discussed in Question #1) through the creation of a functional, updated Master Plan. The community visioning process needed for overhaul of the Master Plan will ensure that all relevant data is collected and that we evaluate all possible options in order to determine the best path forward for Princeton. Further, a functional Master Plan will provide more clarity and predictability for local residents and businesses that will result in more productive outcomes for the community as a whole.
I believe that transparency and accountability are fundamental to effective decision-making, good governance, and strengthening civil society. A deep commitment to these principles is evident in my decades-long professional work at organizations which champion these principles at home and abroad. One specific step that I would like to implement as soon as possible is the addition of an executive summary to each significant ordinance proposed by the municipality. This summary would help local residents to understand the background and objectives of proposed ordinances. Links to meeting videos or meeting minutes in the previous year where the ordinance was discussed would also be included. Another step I would take is to allow local residents to sign up on the municipal website for regular updates on key topics in which they have a specific interest, i.e., transportation, traffic calming, parking, economic development, zoning reform, etc.
I am also interested in convening an ad hoc municipal committee focused specifically on Communications: both from the municipality to the residents and from the residents to the municipality. The task of engaging a much broader swathe of local residents in the essential work of municipal government is crucial and will be a top priority for me on Council.
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