Letters to the Editor, Feb. 28


Selection process anything but open
To the editor:
I’d like to alert you to a possible misprint in the article about Township Committeeman Bill Hearon’s resignation (The Packet, Feb. 24). In it, you quote Princeton Township Democratic Committee Municipal Chairman Dan Preston as encouraging an "open process" for finding Mr. Hearon’s replacement. Mr. Preston must have been misquoted.
   How do I know? Because I called him to see how I, a registered Republican, could be included in his review process. His four-word response stunned me: "Register as a Democrat." So I asked him, "Aren’t you putting partisan politics before what could potentially be beneficial to our community?" He responded by saying that it was his obligation as Democratic municipal chairman to further the Democratic agenda here in Princeton.
   My background — which includes current service on the Princeton Township Housing Board overseeing our affordable-housing program, former service on the Princeton Commission on Civil Rights, lifetime residency here in Mercer County with the last 20 years spent here in Princeton Township, almost 25 years of business experience, and an outspoken passion for this town — apparently isn’t enough to even warrant consideration unless I register as a Democrat.
   My wife’s a Democrat. My mom’s a Democrat. I have four sisters who are Democrats. Sorry, not good enough. The process is closed to me unless I sell out my core values. I’m faced with an interesting Catch-22: To be included in the process, I have to show a complete lack of character. But why would Mr. Preston consider recommending a candidate with no integrity?
   I spoke with our township attorney, and although the state statute is clear that the Princeton Township Democratic Committee gets to lead the candidate vetting process, there’s nothing that specifically states only Democrats can be considered as replacements. So could you please check your notes to make sure you quoted Mr. Preston accurately? There must be some mistake. I’ve learned that in order to be considered as a replacement for Mr. Hearon, one must first be a registered Democrat, yet less than half of the voters in Princeton are registered Democrats. So how can Mr. Preston say he wants "an open process" if that process excludes a majority of Princetonians? Unless, of course, he means open only to those who share his liberal views.
   And if that’s his intent, I’m fine with that. This isn’t a case of sour grapes. Democrats keep winning elections, and to the victors go the spoils. But here’s the rub: Every election season, the Princeton Democrats defend one-party rule by claiming party affiliation has no bearing on local politics. Well, clearly that’s not the case. My conversation with Mr. Preston proves these assertions are disingenuous or, worse, downright deceitful.
   My father once told me that not too long ago there were signs in businesses that read, "Irish-Catholics need not apply." In a town like Princeton that values diversity, we ought not have the attitude that when it comes to public service the message is, "Republicans need not apply."
Colin Vonvorys
Mount Lucas Road
Residents appreciate Hearon’s service
To the editor:
This is in appreciation for the special service of Bill Hearon, with regret — but understanding — for his resignation from the Princeton Township Committee.
   Bill epitomizes the best of representative service to his community: He welcomes neighborhood views and concerns, he helps pull them together practically, engages them constructively with the governing body and administration, and guides the process toward fruition — all in the most self-effacing way. We need more like him.
   Knowing that our experience with Bill in development of the Route 206 improvement plan is just one of many like it around the township, I hope it may be commemorated by naming the first stage "Hearon Circle."
Bob Rodgers
Laurel Road
Time to change field trip policy
To the editor:
On the front page Friday, you had a lovely story about the Princeton High School Orchestra trip to Italy, Austria and Germany (The Packet, Feb. 24). On Page 19A of the same edition, you have a story about the PHS boys’ and girls’ swim teams sectional championships. The stories have something in common. Both groups were missing important players.
   Although the Princeton Regional Schools’ field trip policy requests that when field trips are scheduled, the teachers involved be considerate of the competing needs of other groups, the policy has no teeth. With the exception of the 2004 orchestra trip, the music department has refused to consider the needs of the winter athletic teams. The worst example was in 2001 when the boys’ swim team qualified for the state semi-finals but three of four members of the A relay (including the captain) left for a choir trip.
   I have complained about this problem in the past and received sympathetic comments from administrators at Valley Road and the high school but no one seems willing to tell the music department "no." I was told that the vacation week in March or April wasn’t good because the music faculty all have outside jobs, which keep them very busy the week before Easter. I was told that the week or partial week in November was no good because there wasn’t enough rehearsal time. Why can’t the choir members and musicians do what the fall athletes do and receive their music to practice over the summer on their own and perhaps have some pre-season, too? There is even the week between Christmas and New Year’s, all of which would involve missing little or no class time. The music trips could move around the calendar so a different group would be inconvenienced each year.
   The arrangement of an annual music trip the third week of February simply isn’t fair to our kids. Sure, kids must make choices, but it shouldn’t always be the winter athletes who are penalized. The students who chose to go on the trip feel badly about abandoning their teammates. The ones who chose to stay fundraise for and practice for concerts they will never perform in. The athletes struggle to compete in their most important meets or games without key members and can’t help wondering what the score might have been with all present. Asking the music department to be considerate of the needs of the athletic teams clearly isn’t working. It is time to change Princeton field trip policy.
Sarah Ferguson
Faculty Road
State DOT working at cross-purposes
To the editor:
My compliments to Marjorie Censer for an excellent article on the predicament of Bob Wells and his neighbors along State Road (The Packet, Feb. 24). Mr. Wells and five other homeowners have received letters from the state Department of Transportation announcing its intention to acquire by eminent domain substantial swathes of frontage on Route 206 for a drainage project. Not only would the forced purchase entail the felling of some 27 trees — trees that form part of the stately canopy that makes State Road so lovely — but clearing the area around the road would inevitably encourage speeding by giving drivers the sense of being on open highway.
   These proposed "improvements" would expend state funds to undermine another ongoing state-funded project to develop a unified vision plan for the entire northern leg of Route 206 in Princeton. As most people who live in town know, consultants hired by the DOT have been working with residents and local officials on this plan since last year. One of the things the vision plan stresses is preserving our wonderful tree canopy. It does so because that’s what Princeton residents have overwhelmingly told the consultants and the DOT they want. The plan also includes proposed road improvements at State Road and Arreton Road, the very intersection where the drainage project and the taking of private property is now scheduled.
   It is my understanding that the flooding of State Road, which the drainage repairs are supposed to address, came as a result of the confluence of obstructed drains beside the road and the occurrence of Hurricane Floyd, which was considered a 500-year storm. The drains were obstructed because no jurisdiction was clearing them properly. It is also my understanding that Princeton Township has now assumed responsibility for clearing those drains on a regular basis and that temporary repairs have already been made to the section of the road in question.
   There are better, more environmentally sensitive and context-sensitive methods to permanently solve this drainage problem besides the inordinate taking of private property and the destruction of 27 trees. Instead of having one project work at odds with another, we urge the DOT instead to incorporate the drainage repairs into the ongoing unified vision plan on which so many Princeton residents and officials have spent so much time and hard work.
Don Greenberg
Citizens For a Safer Route 206
State Road
Denuding Route 206 will invite speeders
To the editor:
The state Department of Transportation’s idea of removing 27 trees, against a property owner’s wishes, is bad under any circumstance, but especially wrong when the trees buffer Route 206, a road that faces a renewed onslaught of truck traffic (The Packet, Feb. 24). DOT Commissioner Kris Kolluri was quoted in the very same issue opposing the truck ban repeal.
   Since when does removing trees prevent erosion? Don’t take down the trees. Find another solution. Seek out Plan B. Build the culvert on the west side of Route 206, where the flooding originates. The tall trees along this part of Route 206 are very attractive, and give the area a pleasant, residential appearance. For heaven’s sake, don’t "help us" by denuding Route 206 and making it more inviting to speeding. This dumb idea will send exactly the wrong message to our returning 18-wheeled out-of-town guests.
   The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that New Jersey regulations confining out-of-state tractor trailers to the national network of interstate highways and the New Jersey Turnpike violated the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. What phony rubbish. This was about a few dollars, nothing more. Route 206 (and Route 31) will again be an interstate trucker’s alternate route, simply so truckers can avoid paying the $25 or so in Turnpike tolls, and towns like Princeton (and Montgomery and Hillsborough and Hopewell and Pennington) take it on the chin. Does restricting only out-of-state trucks discriminate against them? How? Owners of locally owned trucks pay many state taxes, licenses and fees which support New Jersey roads that owners of trucks from other states don’t pay for.
   We already know that more big trucks on roads like this mean more serious accidents. We also need to recognize that we will pay a fortune in more frequent road repairs, as the increased volume of large trucks wear out a road much faster than autos. This is a gift from New Jersey taxpayers to out-of-state truck drivers.
   I hope the return of our fast-moving out-of-state friends is occasioned by more frequent police patrols. This might be a time to consider revising municipal statutes to base speeding violations on the weight of the vehicle speeding.
Dave Saltzman
Montadale Drive
Rocky Hill should have legal recourse
To the editor:
Isn’t it ironic that the residential Borough of Rocky Hill, which will be adversely affected by a proposed convenience store cum 12-pump gas station on Montgomery Township’s boundary, has no legal recourse to stop it?
   Our sole wellhead is located within 500 feet of the proposed new pumps, which greatly increases the contamination risk that we’re already battling due to the prior toxic spill, still under remediation as a 1988 Superfund site. Our community will also be threatened by the increased traffic flow in the area of the already busy commercial intersection of routes 206 and 518.
   On the other hand, Montgomery Township will add substantially to its tax ratables with no discomfort to its residents or risk of potential pollution to their water supply.
   If you were on the Montgomery Township Planning Board, how would you vote on such an application?
Nan Agar
Knoll Way
Rocky Hill
Holiday Fund thanks contributors
To the editor:
We wish to thank each of you who contributed to the Princeton Holiday Fund this past year. With your help, we will be able to help the many individuals and families who come to our doors seeking financial help when a crisis has occurred in their lives or when an opportunity for training and education becomes available.
   Last year, 76 people were helped with food, clothing, rent, medication and utility bills and 35 received help with books, tuition or transportation to a training program. Another 11 people came to us for help when they started working and needed child care or lunch money for the first two weeks on the job.
   Where would these people be without the generosity of their Princeton neighbors?
   On behalf of all of us, thank you for caring and for sharing. The Princeton Holiday Fund is all about neighbors helping neighbors.
Mary Pickens
Volunteer Coordinator
Princeton Holiday Fund
Mimi Ballard
Executive Director
Family and Children’s Services of Central New Jersey
John Street
Port sale is insult to state
To the editor:
In New Jersey, home to the second highest number of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and neighboring ground zero, we know firsthand that homeland security is a necessity. For these reasons, the Bush administration’s decision to support the sale of operations at six American ports to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates is an insult to the people of our state.
   The Dubai Ports World sale is just the latest failure in the Bush foreign trade policy that places profits and commerce over the economic and domestic security needs of American citizens. The president must learn that the goals of globalization should never trump the safety and well being of hardworking American families.
   Too often, we see good-paying jobs shipped overseas so that corporations can pad profits and give executives exorbitant salaries and bonuses. Now we are reminded that our ports can be sold to foreign companies if the price is right. The U.S. cannot afford to have its major economic assets sold off piecemeal to foreign corporations and governments. Our ports, oil reserves and national assets are too vital to sell to the highest bidder.
   I have received numerous calls on this issue, and I am taking these concerns seriously. I am introducing legislation to urge the president to reverse his decision so that we can better maintain our domestic security. This is one issue where we must be united in fighting for the safety and security of the residents of our state.
Shirley K. Turner
15th District
Pennington Road
Pets were aided by road departments
To the editor:
Thank you to all the wonderful people in the road departments who made it possible for me to attend all my animals during the storm of 2006.
   You did such a wonderful job that my husband was able to get me to each and every one of my little furry friends while their families were out of town.
   All of my animals were cared for because of your hard work. We appreciate all your efforts.
Lisa Watson
Sayre Drive