Two incumbent Princeton Council members, both Democrats, are running unopposed for re-election. The Republican Party did not field candidates for the two open seats on the Princeton Council.
David Cohen and Leticia Fraga are seeking their second, consecutive terms on the council. The term is for three years.
Cohen has lived in Princeton since 1987. Fraga has lived in Princeton for the past 13 years.
In his next term on the Princeton Council, Cohen said he would like to focus on climate change and affordable housing. Those are the top issues to be confronted in the next two or three years, he said.
Cohen has been the council’s liaison to Sustainable Princeton’s Climate Action Plan steering committee. He was also a member of the council’s negotiating team that led to the town’s affordable housing settlement agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center. The nonprofit group sued Princeton and many towns in New Jersey for allegedly failing to provide their fair share of affordable housing.
“These issues dovetail perfectly with the Smart Growth agenda I ran on in my first campaign, focusing future development on walkable, transit-friendly, energy efficient patterns of growth,” Cohen said. “Now that the Climate Action Plan has been adopted, much remains to be done – both to prepare for the impacts of climate change and their severity.”
Cohen, who serves on the Princeton Planning Board, said he played a role in helping to create the Green Building and Environmental Sustainability Element in the town’s Master Plan. It established sustainability as a guiding principle in the Master Plan.
Cohen said his work to mitigate the impact of climate change also resulted in the town’s participation in the Renewable Government Energy Aggregation plan, whose purpose is to offer less expensive electricity rates to Princeton residents by buying electricity in bulk – much of which comes from renewable energy sources.
Turning to affordable housing, Cohen said his professional background as an architect will be useful as officials review development plans for the affordable housing sites identified in the town’s settlement agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center.
On providing housing for the “missing middle” – those who do not qualify for low- and moderate-income housing, and who also cannot afford $1 million-plus homes – Cohen is an advocate for allowing duplexes and triplexes in certain zones by loosening zoning regulations, which is what he refers to as the “essence of Smart Growth.”
Cohen said another approach would be to allow condominiums to be created in the large houses in the town’s exclusive Western Section – Hodge Road, Library Place, Westcott Road and Cleveland Lane, for example. It would allow people to downsize to a walkable location and still preserve the architecturally significant houses.
Fraga, who also is seeking her second term on the Princeton Council, said the top issues facing the town are affordability, inclusiveness and quality of life.
Focusing on health care, Fraga said she has worked with the town’s Health Department and the Human Services Commission to expand health services, including well-baby clinics. Access to health care is critical, especially for residents who are uninsured or underinsured, she said. It is a quality of life issue.
Addressing housing and affordability, Fraga also is an advocate for changes in zoning regulations and policies to provide “much needed” diverse housing options.
Those diverse housing options include allowing for duplexes, fourplexes and accessory dwelling units as a means to provide housing for the missing middle, Fraga said. They could provide accessible housing options for first-time homebuyers, as well as renters.
The Princeton Council also could work with the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education to reduce property taxes, she said. Combined, the municipal property tax and the school district tax make up nearly 70% of the property tax bill.
“Although we have explored shared services, our options appear limited. However, we should always strive to coordinate our efforts whenever possible to prevent waste,” she said.
Fraga also suggested continuing to explore possible collaboration with neighboring towns to find cost-saving measures through shared services. Princeton and Lawrence Township already share the Joseph H. Maher Ecological Center in Lawrence Township.