West Windsor councilman forms ‘Common Sense’ group

Effort follows council rejection of ZIP code name change

By: Emily Craighead
   WEST WINDSOR — Following the Township Council’s vote against approving "West Windsor" as the official name of the 08550 ZIP code, Councilman Franc Gambatese became convinced that something needed to be done to make sure the council hears all West Windsor residents’ voices.
   Mr. Gambatese cast the lone vote for the name change, though other council members had previously expressed support for the resolution.
   "It all came apart as a relatively small but determined group repetitively peppered council with heartfelt fears and concerns for two hours," Mr. Gambatese wrote on his Web site, www.francgambatese.com. "I stood my ground, believing that the group, while genuine in their beliefs, did not represent the feelings of the 23,000 people living in West Windsor."
   Part of the problem, according to Mr. Gambatese, is the need for better communication between the township and residents.
   Sometimes, "People think we’re trying to sneak something by them," he said.
   Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh, council President Charlie Morgan and Mr. Gambatese have suggested hiring a communications director to keep the township Web site updated and the public informed, an idea Councilwoman Kristin Appelget opposed at the council’s strategic planning session in September.
   Common Sense, the name of the group Mr. Gambatese said he intends to form, would help fill that gap, he said.
   "The purpose is to examine issues and communicate with residents and measure what a consensus is," he said.
   He said he has received about 30 e-mail responses to a message posted on the West Windsor & Plainsboro Today Web site, www.wwptoday.com, from people he knows in the township, and from skeptics who have seen other community groups flounder and die before accomplishing anything significant.
   Some responses posted on the West Windsor & Plainsboro Today site have questioned whether it is appropriate for a councilman to organize such a group.
   Mr. Gambatese acknowledged that some people would see his involvement as being politically motivated. On the other hand, he says, he has a good idea of what people expect, and many will trust him because of his reputation as a "straight-up" guy.
   He said he hopes to see about 15 to 20 people at the group’s first meeting Dec. 10.
   Priorities at that meeting will be to develop a mission statement, discuss the organizational structure, set goals and create a Web site.
   "I hope it’s not another thing we start, and that doesn’t work out," Mr. Gambatese said.
More information is available by e-mailing westwindsor@hotmail.com.