It wasn’t exactly the fall of the Berlin Wall, but the outcome of this November’s election, in which the residents of both Princeton Township and Princeton Borough voted to consolidate the two municipalities, marked a watershed event in this corner of the world. The 2011 Election Day vote was 1,238 (61 percent) for, and 828 against consolidation in the Borough; and 3,542 for (85 percent), and 604 against in the Township.
Consolidation is officially scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2013. In the meantime, a newly-created “transition team” will bear the brunt of making one entity out of two by consolidating public works and police departments, and fine-tuning the myriad details that will go into effecting the change.
Broader interest in what is transpiring in Princeton was almost immediately evident; just weeks after the historic (for us, anyway) election, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie visited the Princeton Public Library to applaud the community’s fiscal pragmatism. An article in The Bond Buyer (the “daily newspaper of public finance”) ran a headline suggesting that with a “A Marriage Made in New Jersey,” the ”Princeton union could reflect a trend,” and Bloomberg News picked up on the story. Marty Moss-Coane, a fixture at National Public Radio’s Philadelphia affiliate, WHYY, invited journalist Krystal Knapp to answer questions about consolidation on her program.
One of the voices for consolidation was Borough Council President Kevin Wilkes. “Consolidation should happen because our community spends so much time engaged in tension and friction trying to resolve issues amongst each other,” he commented in an pre-Election Day interview. “We stare at each other in a self-reflective gaze, and never look beyond the boundaries of our central New Jersey community.” Pointing to neighboring communities like West Windsor, he suggested that there would be even greater strength in services like a unified police dispatch system.
A plan developed by a ten-member Consolidation and Shared Services Commission over the preceding 16 months provided the backbone for the aggressive campaign that was waged in this latest go-round. Chaired by Borough resident Anton Lahnston, commission members included Borough appointees Ryan Lilienthal, Mayor Mildred Trotman, Patrick Simon, Borough Council member David Goldfarb, and alternate citizen representative Alice Small. Deputy Chair Valerie Haynes, Township Committee member Bernie Miller, Mayor Chad Goerner, Carol Golden, and William Metro represented the Township. Non-voting regulars at Commission meetings were CGR’s Joseph Stefko and State Department of Community Affairs representative Eugene McCarthy.
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