Smiling from ear to ear, the two newest members of the Princeton Council were sworn into office at the council’s annual reorganization meeting on Jan. 3.
With their families at their side, Eve Niedergang and Dwaine Williamson took the oath of office and then took their seats on the dais next to Mayor Liz Lempert and council members Jenny Crumiller, who was re-elected as council president, and David Cohen, Leticia Fraga and Tim Quinn.
With the 2019 edition of the council seated beside her, Lempert offered her annual reorganization comments, this time focusing on the fruits of collaboration between government, nonprofit groups and citizens.
That collaboration is perhaps best exemplified by the renovated Mary B. Moss Playground on the corner of John and Lytle streets; the buildable space next to it for a planned Habitat for Humanity affordable housing duplex; and the speed table on John Street to slow down vehicles, Lempert said.
The park’s reopening marked the culmination of a multi-year effort that involved the council, the Recreation Board, the Engineering Department, the Historic Preservation Committee, neighbors and affordable housing advocates, she said. Mercer County contributed some funding toward the park project.
“The project’s ultimate success, a new playground, affordable housing and a safer street, exemplifies how collaboration among government, citizen volunteers, nonprofit partners and engaged residents can work for the benefit of all,” Lempert said.
Working together will be key for the town as it continues to make progress on issues affecting affordability, equity, sustainability, wellness and user-friendly government, she said.
One of the greatest challenges facing Princeton is affordability, the mayor said, pointing to the council’s work with the Citizens Finance Advisory Committee to find budget savings. The municipal tax rate has stayed flat or declined in three of the six years since consolidation of the former Princeton Borough and Princeton Township.
Lempert noted the town’s collaboration with the Housing Stability Coalition, which has provided more than $40,000 in emergency rental assistance since 2016.
The coalition is made up of the town’s Human Services Department, Arm in Arm, Housing Initiatives of Princeton, HomeFront, Stone Hill Church and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Municipal officials are working with the Princeton Public Schools, the Youth Advisory Committee, Corner House and the Task Force on Teen Stress to find ways to deal with mental health issues affecting young people, she said.
Lempert also reeled off a list of accomplishments in the past year – from the Health Department receiving national public health accreditation, to a road program and the new Neighborhood Character ordinance that addresses out-of-scale new houses and design elements for new houses.
“None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the hard work of many of my colleagues here on the council and the hundreds of volunteers who serve on our boards and commissions,” Lempert said.
The mayor thanked former council members Heather Howard and Lance Liverman for their work in helping to make Princeton a healthier, more equitable and more welcoming community.
Looking ahead, Lempert said priorities for 2019 include ensuring proper coverage in the Princeton Fire Department and the redevelopment of the Princeton Theological Seminary property.
“There is much critical work to be done in the year ahead. By working together, we can make our exceptional town even better, more affordable, more equitable, more sustainable and healthier,” she said.
Lempert was not alone in praising Howard and Liverman for their service on council.
Crumiller described Howard as a “reliably progressive voice” on the council, and a good friend, too. Liverman is a “Princeton institution” who knows everyone and knows what’s going on in town, she said. He always looked out for the “little guy,” she added.
“You couldn’t ask for better, more trusted advisers than Heather and Lance,” said Quinn, who is beginning his third year on council. Howard and Liverman epitomize “selfless public servants who are in it for the right reasons,” he said.
Niedergang thanked Howard and Liverman for being gracious with their time as she sought their guidance in preparing to take office.
Fraga said the two departing council members, Howard and Liverman, have left a great legacy to follow.