NIOT: Princeton Civil Rights Commission is a key resource

Princeton sign

The board of Not in Our Town Princeton (NIOT) strongly opposes Princeton Town Council’s proposed ordinance to merge the Civil Rights Commission (CRC) with the Affordable Housing Board and the Human Services Commission. We urge Council to withdraw this proposal, or at minimum, postpone the vote in order to allow for discussion with the three bodies and input from the public.

NIOT is a multi-racial, multi-faith group of individuals who stand together for racial justice and inclusive communities. Our focus is to identify and expose the political, economic, and cultural systems that have enabled white supremacy to flourish, and to create new structures and policies which will ensure equity and inclusion for all.

The Princeton Civil Rights Commission is a structure that plays a unique role in our town. It is a key resource for our marginalized residents to voice their concerns regarding equity issues. The existence of CRC as an independent body signals that Princeton aspires to be a town that is welcoming to all its residents and newcomers, willing to listen, understand and address issues of race, class, culture, and other forms of discrimination and injustice.

Over the years, CRC and NIOT have collaborated in initiatives such as observing Indigenous Peoples Day, modifying road signage to remove the racist and incorrect phrase “Settled in 1683,” and endorsing the enactment of Assembly Bill A938/S386, the “New Jersey Reparations Task Force Act.” The CRC has also been instrumental in resolutions declaring racism as a public health crisis; calling upon the White House and Congress to reunify migrant families; and condemning antisemitism and Islamophobia in our town. The CRC created a Racial Equity Impact Assessment Toolkit and spearheaded educational programs such as Juneteenth in partnership with the Princeton Public Library.

The proposed commissions/board consolidation will greatly reduce our community’s capacity to prioritize issues and initiatives that specifically and disproportionately impact our most marginalized communities. The CRC is completely volunteer-based. Losing it would further marginalize our underserved residents and local stakeholders like NIOT will lose both an effective collaborator in the struggle for social justice and a communication channel to Council. Our community would be deprived of the contributions and participation of engaged and committed volunteers and residents.

It is also distressing that Council is presenting an ordinance with such enormous implications with no notice or prior input from the members of the CRC, Human Services Commission and Affordable Housing Board, nor from the public. This utter disregard for community engagement and lack of transparency runs counter to our democratic process.

Therefore, we ask Council to allow time for more discussion before taking action. We call on conscientious Princetonians who care about making Princeton a more inclusive and equitable community to join us in urging Council to keep the CRC independent. Please make your voices heard at the public hearing on Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. at 400 Witherspoon St.

On Behalf of Not in Our Town Princeton Board of Trustees
Joanne Parker Princeton
Sally Kornegay Princeton
Miki Mendelsohn Princeton
Jeanne DeVoe Princeton
Shelley Krause Princeton
Wilma Solomon Princeton