A three-way race is shaping up among Princeton Democrats for two open Princeton Council seats.
Incumbent Princeton Council members David Cohen and Leticia Fraga have announced that they are each running for re-election. They are being challenged by Dina Shaw. The three Democrats will square off in the June 2 Democratic Party primary.
Cohen, who is seeking his second, three-year term, said he is running for re-election because many of the issues facing the town are issues on which he has the most to offer.
Cohen reeled off a list of those issues – implementing the town’s recently adopted Climate Action Plan and working to improve the town’s land use policies to encourage “smart growth” and more sustainable development.
Other issues on which he has focused are advocating for the senior citizens through his liaison work with the Princeton Senior Resource Center and participating in the town’s affordable housing negotiations.
“I served as the Princeton Council liaison to the steering committee for the Climate Action Plan, and I have already been working on implementing the recommendations in the plan, such as community solar and renewal energy aggregation,” he said.
“There is still much to be done, and I don’t want to leave in midstream. This is the core of what I want to focus on in my second term – coaxing Princeton toward a more sustainable, livable version of itself,” he said.
Cohen said he also believes some continuity in government is essential for smooth functioning, and that is another reason why he has chosen to seek re-election. There has been “enormous turnover” on the council, he said.
With one term under his belt, Cohen he is one of the two senior members on Princeton Council – with the exception of Mayor Liz Lempert, who is completing her third four-year term as mayor.
“There is an enormous amount of information to be mastered if one is to serve effectively, and I feel I am just beginning to get a handle on how best to work collaboratively with staff and fellow elected officials to get things done,” Cohen said.
“I think it would be a shame to waste that hard-earned experience, and a disservice to the town, by squandering it by serving a single term,” he said.
Fraga is also seeking a second term on the council. She is the first Latinx to serve on the Princeton Council. Her family immigrated to Washington State from Mexico when she was 12 years old.
Fraga is the council’s liaison to the Civil Rights Commission, the Human Services Commission, the Youth Advisory Committee and the Board of Health. She is also the police commissioner.
During her first term, she said, she has focused on affordability, equity, sustainability and quality of life – all of which defined her initial campaign.
“My approach to government is to endorse policies and form partnerships that support equity, inclusivity and well-being, and that keep government responsive and transparent,” Fraga said.
Fraga said she sees her second term as a chance to amplify the momentum, goodwill and expertise that she developed in her first three years, “and to work alongside of colleagues -elected and volunteer – to build on our accomplishments.”
Among those accomplishments are an ordinance that requires all single-stall bathrooms to be gender neutral, and adoption of a resolution advocated by residents and the Civil Rights Commission to observe Indigenous People’s Day in October.
“As a first-generation immigrant and as someone who has been involved hands-on, I have a good understanding of the needs of our vulnerable and under-served population,” she said. She added that she uses that perspective in applying an “equity lens” to all policies that the council considers.
Fraga said she is eager to continue to work together with her colleagues on Princeton Council to ensure the town lives up to its potential as a “standout community” and an ideal place to start a family, open a business, buy a home or to retire.
Shaw, who is making her first run for elected office, said that town leadership has an important role in the management of the municipality. It has a direct impact on the quality of life of the residents, she said.
“We are experiencing a period of growth in Princeton’s history that requires visionary management,” Shaw said. The impact of that growth is far-reaching – from the environment to infrastructure, public schools, taxes and social services.
Shaw’s three-point platform focuses on managing economic development; communication and inclusivity; and support for the Princeton Public Schools.
Shaw’s economic development platform calls for improving the town’s collaboration with Princeton University; promoting “creative” economic development to lower the residential property tax burden; and to encourage residents to patronize local businesses.
She also seeks to clearly communicate plans, ideas, policies and opportunities to the community through diverse platforms and languages, and to promote racial and cultural literacy, inclusion and diversity throughout the municipal government “to better understand and serve everyone in our community.”
Shaw also wants to bridge the gap between municipal government and the public school system. Moving toward a more collaborative relationship with the Princeton Public Schools would strengthen the town, she said.
Reporting that 12 percent of the students in the public schools qualify for free or reduced price lunches, Shaw said that “we need a specific advocate to support these students and their families.”
“I accomplish goals by working to understand the issues, identifying options, building constituencies and driving the best results for the community at large. Now, I am ready to apply my energy and skills as a member of the Princeton Council,” she said.