By Donald Gilpin
Tuesday, June 7 is primary day in New Jersey, and the two candidates for Princeton Council, incumbents Michelle Pirone Lambros and Mia Sacks, are running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for two available seats.
They have both been endorsed by the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) and have received the support of the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee (PDMC). No one has filed to run for the Republican nomination.
Also on the ballot are Bonnie Watson Coleman, running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for another two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives, and, looking to face Watson Coleman in the November general election, unopposed Republican Darius Mayfield.
Princeton voters will be able to cast their ballots in one of three different ways. They can vote in person on June 7 between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. at the polling place listed on the front of the sample ballot received in the mail. Early in-person voting is available from June 3 to 5 at various locations throughout the county, including a voting site at the Princeton Shopping Center.
Up until Monday, June 6, at 3 p.m. prospective voters can apply in person for vote-by-mail ballots at the county clerk’s office in Trenton. Those ballots must be filled out and postmarked, or placed in a special county drop box, or delivered to the board of elections in Trenton by 8 p.m. on June 7.
At the PCDO endorsement meeting in March, Lambros and Sacks discussed their accomplishments as Council members and some of their priorities for the future.
“When I ran in 2019, I promised to help drive economic development, and my other main focus was to address affordability,” said Lambros.
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic increased those formidable challenges.
“I’m not sure if it was because of COVID or in spite of COVID, but we’ve managed to somehow be incredibly productive,” she noted. Lambros led the effort to support small businesses in responding to COVID-19, as the town created a grant program that dispersed nearly $500,000, worked to help small businesses reopen, and kept up regular communications on the changing COVID-19 protocols.
In March this year, Lambros pointed out, the Council passed an ordinance to form a Special Improvement District for Princeton, “something that will have long-lasting benefits to the community by supporting the revitalization of our businesses” and will also aim to expand minority and women-owned entrepreneurship, she said.
She went on to comment on the need for greater diversity in Princeton, with more affordable housing and more middle income housing. She called for a “multi-pronged strategy of finding ways to incentivize smart growth development without increasing the financial burden on taxpayers.”
In her first term on Council, Lambros has served as chair of the Finance and Communications committees, fire commissioner, and Council liaison to the Princeton Merchants Association, as well as a member of several other committees.
She noted that the Finance Committee is focused on finding ways to trim the municipal budget while maintaining a high level of services. The committee is looking for ways that municipal properties can better serve the town and ways to capture federal infrastructure funding for a number of capital improvement projects. They are also exploring the feasibility of a community center and looking for ways to invest more in Princeton’s parks and recreational amenities.
Praising her collaborative team of Council colleagues, Lambros cited “great accomplishments these past two years, but there is still much more work to do.”
During her term in office, Sacks has chaired the Infrastructure and Operations Committee; the Affordable Housing, Planning, and Redevelopment Committee; and the Legal Committee of Princeton Council. She has also been the Council representative on the Planning Board, liaison to the School Board, and liaison to Sustainable Princeton and Friends of Herrontown Woods, along with serving on several other Council committees.
In her remarks to the PDMC in March, Sacks highlighted her work on Princeton’s affordable housing plan and noted that “serving on Princeton Council has been equally challenging and rewarding.” She added, “I’m grateful to you for having given me the opportunity to help shape my hometown during this critical period.”
Sacks pointed out that she and her Affordable Housing Committee had been largely focused on overseeing the implementation of Princeton’s Affordable Housing Settlement, following the Court’s approval of Princeton’s Agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center in February 2020.
“Princeton has now satisfied virtually all of the requirements for compliance, including the adoption of a Municipal Housing Element and Fair Share Plan and accompanying Spending Plan, as well as the enactment of dozens of implementing ordinances, resolutions, and funding agreements,” she wrote.
Sacks noted that Princeton’s plan increases affordable housing for seniors, provides housing opportunities for developmentally disabled adults, and locates the housing close to transit, shopping, and jobs.
In her work with the Princeton Planning Board, Sacks said, she has laid the groundwork for reworking the town’s Master Plan and she has participated in a process that will renew Princeton’s Regional Center designation with the State Planning Office.
Among many other accomplishments during the past two and a half pandemic years, Sacks noted that she and Councilwoman Eve Niedergang had brought together a consortium of local partners to acquire funding for preservation of a 153-acre parcel of land, the largest remaining undeveloped tract in Princeton.
She has also been instrumental in streamlining local government, participating in an organization-wide restructuring, combining multiple departments, and creating a new leadership team. She led the Council effort to merge the Public Works and Engineering departments to achieve better coordination of the planning and maintenance of municipal infrastructure and more streamlined, cost-effective delivery of services.
Sacks emphasized the importance of Council’s work on stormwater management by restoring and enhancing Princeton’s underground stormwater and sanitary sewer infrastructure and working towards the creation of a stormwater utility for Princeton.
In her work as liaison to the Public Transit Committee, Sacks helped transition Princeton’s free bus service to a new, more efficient model with We Drive You, Princeton University’s transportation partner, and they are working to expand routes to incorporate the new affordable housing sites to help meet the needs of working families.
Later this year Sacks and Lambros, along with Niedergang, will be renegotiating the town’s agreement with Princeton University.
“My vision of Princeton is one where community involvement, private sector innovation, growth and revitalization, are joined with attractive, accessible housing and local job opportunities, where public services are cost-effectively furnished, and where vital natural resources in and around our core are protected and preserved,” said Sacks.
Mercer County has two new informational tools this year to answer voters’ questions: call the Mercer County Voter Hotline at (609) 278-2719 or email MercerVotes@mercercounty.org.