Jill Jachera, a retired attorney who is active in community organizations, is running for Princeton Borough mayor as the Republican candidate after winning the party’s uncontested nomination in this month’s primary election. She currently works as a consultant on performance management and diversity in employment and is a member of the Princeton YWCA, where she served as president from 2007 to 2009.
Jachera, who worked as an attorney for 23 years specializing in employment-related issues, said that, if elected, she would encourage the Borough Council to move forward with a decision on the University’s requested zoning for its Arts and Transit Neighborhood, as the controversy over moving the Dinky 460 feet south has delayed the plan too long.
As the Arts and Transit Neighborhood itself would be a benefit to the community, she explained, moving the local train is a possible necessity, if an unfortunate one.
“I think that the project has the potential to add a world-class arts center to our community, and I don’t think anybody could think that that’s a bad thing,” Jachera said. “I would prefer that they didn’t move it, but if the only way that they can get this arts project done is by moving the Dinky and they have the right to move it, then I think that is going to have to be done.”
Jachera said she regrets that the move will inconvenience some residents, but still believes that the project will benefit the community as a whole.
“On every project, you’re going to have some people who are going to win and some people who are going to lose. Overall, you hope the project is going to be a benefit to the entire community,” she explained.
Jachera also said that the Council has wasted time considering the proposal to condemn the Dinky station under eminent domain law and purchase it by forming a private-public partnership with the Railroad Development Corporation. The condemnation plan, she noted, would not be legally effective and would not keep the University from moving the station.
“Even if you could condemn the land to the terminus of the track, the University could still move the terminus to the portion of the land that is under the control of the Township,” Jachera said. “So it really wouldn’t buy the Borough anything to go through a process that A, not only isn’t of legal merit, but B, even if they were successful, would not actually get them what they want. So to me it’s just another example of using a process to further delay this project that shouldn’t be further delayed.”
Of bigger concern, she said, are the problems in the Borough’s relationship with the University — a relationship which she described as “dysfunctional and unsustainable” — that the recent zoning negotiations revealed.
“I do believe that tactics being used reflect badly upon our community, both as a place of business and a place to live,” Jachera stated. “I believe that it’s a non-starter for the community to vilify the University or call them names or hold up their projects. I think that there’s a better way to engage the University in constructive, respectful dialogue.”
She said the community should take into account the University’s other contributions when negotiating the annual payment in lieu of taxes that the University makes to the municipal operating budget.
“One of the mistakes that the community makes is only looking at [the University’s contribution] as a dollar amount because I believe that the University provides a tremendous amount of benefits to the community,” she explained. “I do think the PILOT is one way in which the University can benefit the community, but we also need to look at other ways they can provide benefits to the community through funding other projects.”
Jachera cited the University’s recent donation of funds to repair a community pool as an example of the other ways in which the University could support the community.
One alternative to continuing current negotiations, she added, would be for the Borough to study PILOT arrangements in other communities to determine what it is fair to ask of the University. “Obviously, everybody would like to see more, but the question of whether it’s fair needs to be looked at in the context of other communities that have similar arrangements,” Jachera said.
On the issue of consolidation with the Township, Jachera offered conditional support. “There are valid arguments both for and against consolidation,” she explained, noting voters should decide the question for themselves in November.
Jachera said she did disagree with the consolidation commission’s recommendation that the consolidated Princeton use the Borough form of government because of its reliance on races between party-nominated candidates.
“With a Borough form of government, you need partisan politics, and I personally believe that partisan politics have no business on a local level,” she explained. “The kinds of issues that we usually face at a local level are not usually drawn along party lines.”
Jachera said she would support consolidation if the consolidated community looked for additional efficiencies and cost savings in its budget and that she is currently studying the savings in other communities that have gone through consolidation, she said.
In either case, the Borough should look closely at its annual spending to find ways to reduced property taxes, Jachera noted.
“For a long time I don’t think anybody has engaged in a really in-depth study of the budget to really look at if the numbers are accurate or do we continue to base our budget year after year on numbers that may not be accurate,” she explained, noting that decreasing property taxes could also help the Borough increase its economic diversity.
“For years and years and years we have just been spending, spending, spending,” she said. “Now we’ve got this great quality of life in Princeton, but at what cost? And the revaluation has now made people realize that the cost is that people are going to have to leave Princeton that don’t want to leave Princeton. So one way to address and ensure that we continue to have that economic diversity is to try to get a handle on our property taxes.”
Another priority of Jachera’s is making the Borough a more “business-friendly” community, she explained, by reducing the difficulty of obtaining licenses and approvals to attract business owners.
“Our current climate discourages new businesses from moving into Princeton and has encouraged others to leave Princeton,” Jachera noted. “I want to seek ways to cut the cost of doing business in Princeton, cutting the excessive red tape that I’ve heard so much about, and partner with businesses to promote Princeton as a good place of doing business.”
The election to replace current Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman, a Democrat who has served as mayor since 2005 and announced in March that she would be stepping down after 26 years as an elected official, will take place this November.
Jachera will be running against Yina Moore ’79, a member of the Regional Planning Board who won the Democratic nomination in this month’s primary after defeating Councilman David Goldfarb, 301–219.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2011/06/28/28635/