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PRINCETON: Advocates urge council to enact progressive causes

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Local advocates for the environment, social justice and other progressive causes urged the Princeton Council on Wednesday to enact some of their priorities, including having paid sick leave for employees who work in Princeton, protecting workers against wage theft and creating a local civil rights commission.
Nearly 20 residents took to the microphone at public comment during a special council meeting at which officials set out to establish their goals and priorities for the year.
“I think that the concerns were legit, for the most part, and we’re going to listen and see if we can put them into the priorities, some of them anyway,” Council President Lance Liverman said in an interview at the meeting.
In some cases, the residents’ issues mirrored ones that officials also have identified as important to the town. “I was also glad that there was a lot of overlap of issues that were important that were already on our list,” Mayor Liz Lempert said in an interview, also at the meeting.
One of the most repeated requests was to create a historic district for the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood. Advocates, black and white, urged the council to take action to prevent the once historically black neighborhood from changing due to developers buying homes, tearing them down and building new ones in their place. They urged speedy action.
Yet Mayor Lempert said she did not know if the council would create the district.
“Clearly, we’ve heard a lot of support for it. And we’ve also heard concerns about some of the details,” she said. “There’s been a lot of community discussion, a lot of discussion at (the historic preservation commission), but there has not been a lot of discussion at council yet. My sense is that there’s general interest but still a lot of questions that need to be answered.”
Among other issues that residents raised ran the gamut from creating a special charge that customers would pay for plastic and paper bags at stores, trying to increase ridership on NJ Transit’s Dinky and working on a bike master plan to encourage alternate ways of getting around town. There was one familiar issue, the future of the old Valley Road School.
Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said the town should work with the school board to resolve that issue. She said the public does not know how the building will be used or what the plans are.
Aside from the Dinky, which is on the campus, no Princeton University issue — either from the public or the council — came up as a priority for the coming year.
“Nobody put it on,” Councilman Bernard P. Miller said.

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