Princeton Packet, Friday, July 8, 2005
Independent candidate on GOP line in council race
By Marjorie Censer, Staff Writer
Though the Princeton Borough Council election seemed certain to be uncontested, Princeton Regional Board of Education member Joshua Leinsdorf is a latecomer to the race and will appear as a Republican on the ballot.
Mr. Leinsdorf did not participate in the primary, but he received 23 write-in votes, enough to earn a spot.
Though he is an independent, Mr. Leinsdorf said he will run as a Republican in order to appear next to his opponents on the ballot. Independent candidates are"at the mercy of the county clerk" as to their placement on the ballots, he said.
The move may surprise some. While Mr. Leinsdorf is registered as a Democrat - he registered when current Mayor Joseph O'Neill ran against state Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Princeton Borough) in the 2003 Democratic primary, because he opposed Mr. Gusciora - he said both parties have become complacent.
"I don't like unopposed races," he said. "If races are unopposed, there's no reason for people in power to get input."
He said the local Republicans have been a continual source of disappointment, because they often do not offer candidates. He called Princeton University student and non-Princeton resident Evan Baehr - who ran for council last year as a Republican - an "insult."
He added, "The Republican leadership is supporting the Democrats by not offering a choice."
Pat Strazza, the Republican municipal chairwoman, said she has not spoken with Mr. Leinsdorf, but that the party had been unsuccessful in finding a candidate to run for council this year.
In regard to running in the Republican column of the ballot, Mr. Leinsdorf "really doesn't have the endorsement as yet," Ms. Strazza said. "I hope he tackles some important issues."
The last Republican to win a Borough Council seat was Ray Wadsworth in 1991.
Mr. Leinsdorf said he had asked the council to make changes in the past, but it did not respond to his concerns. He said he realized that "someone had to do something." The Borough Council "has become a private club, and they don't respond to public needs anymore," Mr. Leinsdorf said, citing as evidence what he described as the council's choice for the borough to invest in private housing in the downtown redevelopment project and its recent decision to continue to restrict high school parking on public streets.
Council President Mildred Trotman, who will be one of Mr. Leinsdorf's opponents, said she did not agree with his criticisms.
"I can't see how anyone can say we are - or ever have been - complacent about any issue," she said, pointing to the public portion of all council meetings.
Mr. Leinsdorf said his platform will focus on children, because the council has become "anti-child." He said it is important for resident of the downtown development to pay school taxes - rather than have Nassau HKT submit a payment in lieu of taxes to the borough - and that the parking-permit system used by the high school is unfair. In addition, Mr. Leinsdorf said he will continue to advocate for the improvement of public transportation.
He said his longstanding goal has been to integrate the school bus system and the public transit system. Mr. Leinsdorf criticized the control that transportation logistics exercise over the school day.
"It makes no sense to have the school day determined by the bus system," he said. "I see public transportation as the key to a lot of problems."
Mr. Leinsdorf also noted that he did not think the Borough Council had worked hard enough to keep the hospital from moving out of Princeton, and he criticized the inability of township and borough officials to work together.
He used the example of Snowden Lane, a street that forms the boundary between the borough and township. He said the Boroough Council refused to aid the construction of sidewalks on the street.
Robert Bruschi, borough administrator, said the council has not made a final decision.
"They use the jurisdictional distinctions to make things worse," Mr. Leinsdorf said. "We should consolidate a lot of services....Do we really need two municipal buildings a mile apart?"
Democrat David Goldfarb is the other council member up for re-election. Both he and Mrs. Trotman have been longtime council members.
"The election will be about our performance, and I'm happy to defend what we've done over the years," Mr. Goldfarb said. "It's better for the borough, I think, if we have the ballot full of qualified candidates. It gives the electorate full choice."
Mr. Leinsdorf said he will not begin his campaign until Labor Day and that he does not expect support from either party.
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