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East Windsor Candidates Questioned on Consolidation, Transparency and Attracting Businesses

Some candidates said council meetings should be televised, while others said it would be costly.

East Windsor township council candidates sparred Tuesday over transparency, attracting businesses and whether or not having mixed representation would improve the government at Tuesday’s forum.

The League of Women Voters held the forum at the . Candidates explained their views on issues facing East Windsor. Nicole Plett, from the League of Women Voters in Lawrenceville, moderated.

The eight candidates vying for four open slots on the East Windsor Township Council include Democrat incumbents Marc Lippman, Janice Mironov and Peter Yeager, along with newcomer John Zoller. Republican challengers, TJ Berdzik, Steve Commer, Bob Ertel and John Guarniere, are all newcomers on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Each candidate had a minute and a half prepared opening statement, one minute to answer each question and a minute closing statement.

Responses to the question, “Do you think that having a mixture of both republicans and democrats on East Windsor town council would improve the government of East Windsor?” drew laughter from the audience.

“Absolutely! That’s exactly why I’m here. We need a few republicans, we certainly do,” Guarniere said.

Lippman said he doesn’t think having a mixed party council would make a difference. Mironov and Yeager agreed.

But Berdzik disagreed, saying the current council does not discuss issues and said 255 out of the 256 votes last year were unanimous.

“The sunshine law stipulates that the town council is supposed to discuss pressing issues in the eyes of the public,” Berdzik said. “This is one thing that a split council is going to give us. We’re going to have a multitude of opinions and people that are independent of any local political machine.”

All of the democratic candidates said the town has excellent communication with residents and the council is transparent.

Mironov said the council prides itself on communication and outreach to the community, and residents have “direct and personal access” to councilmembers. Yeager agreed, adding televised meetings would be costly, in response to part of the question.

The republican candidates said improvements could be made. 

“I think East Windsor could do a much better job regarding transparency,” Guarniere said.

Berdzik said no one comes to council meetings so televising the meetings and posting non-privileged documents online may improve communications with the public. Commer agreed, saying televised meetings will help residents who work late and can’t make it to a meeting. 

The Republican and Democratic candidates disagreed about how candidates would attract new business to the township.

Guarniere suggested lowering East Windsor’s tax rate would help attract businesses to East Windsor verse other surrounding towns.

Lippman called East Windsor a “business friendly town” and Zoller said the Township’s economic development committee is responsible for presenting the township to prospective companies. 

Mironov listed numerous businesses that recently moved into town or expanded existing ones.

One resident asked about possible consolidation with Hightstown.

Berdzik said a 2009 consolidation study identified potential cost savings. One example he gave was sharing a court with Hightstown and Robbinsville.

Commer said East Windsor would get “the short end of the stick” by consolidating its police department, but said he is willing to look at other options. Ertel agreed the township should look into all options.

Guarniere advocates for short term shared services, but in the long term a merger with Hightstown, which lies at the center of East Windsor, should be considered. 

Democratic candidates said the township is already looking into consolidation and shared services. 

Lippman said the township would continue to explore consolidation options that are advantageous to East Windsor residents. He also mentioned existing shared services, including with the senior center, animal shelter and daytime EMS.

Mironov agreed, saying discussions with Hightstown have been ongoing for two years about the possibility of combining the courts.

Yeager said he supports shared services as long as East Windsor residents benefit. He said East Windsor can’t force other towns to share services. 

Zoller agreed that any negotiations have to be a “win-win.”

A broadcast of the full forum will be shown on Verizon channel 38 and Comcast channel 27 on Saturdays, Sundays and Tuesdays at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. until Election Day on Nov. 8.

Joe Diaz October 27, 2011 at 10:14 AM
Good government isn’t free. Educators and other Public Servants in East Windsor deserve a living wage; not minimum wage. Yes, that will mean higher property taxes; which most people are for. Republicans, especially the Tea Party Republicans, are a disgrace and can move out if they dislike it here so much.
David Bock October 27, 2011 at 11:28 AM
Sixteen years of one party government is ridiculous. There are talented people on the Republican ticket. They would bring balance to a monolithic council. How can it possibly be a bad thing to have a council where one party keeps the other party honest and acts as a watchman for the public? I am sure the Dems don't want a light to be shined on what they have done over 16 years of what is far less of the kind of government we are entitled to for the ridiculous amount of taxes we pay. Shine some light on local government and vote Republican.
Margaret October 27, 2011 at 11:33 AM
The government we have isn't good and our school system is mediocre at best, so the astronomical taxes we are paying aren't worth it. According to NJ.com, the average police salary in East Windsor is $93,198 and the average teacher salary, for 9 months work, is $69,030....hardly minimum wage by anyone's scale. The fact that Hightstown is a sanctuary city, bringing in people who utilize the schools and other public services but pay little in taxes to support them is a huge part of the issue. Mr. Berdzik's point that 255 of 256 votes were unanimous hit's home that the current EW government is merely a group of rubber stampers. New blood in this system, even if it's new Democratic blood, would be far more beneficial to the residents of EW than the current group of politicians. Certainly a counter point of view from an Independent or Republican is exactly what is needed.
Pam Parker October 27, 2011 at 01:04 PM
Those of you that feel our government in East Windsor isn't good - can you please elaborate on why you feel that way? What do you think are some things that should have been done differently?
Lynn Greene October 28, 2011 at 03:02 PM
East Windsor is not a town, it is a township. Hightstown, when I lived there out on Dutch Neck Rd, was still Hightstown. I'd like to know why East Windsor, which surrounds Hightstown, is called a town. All of the area has the zip code of 08520. I think both should be titled as Hightstown again, thereby incorporating all activities. All of the schools are Hightstown-oriented, too.
David Bock October 28, 2011 at 03:27 PM
Lynn, Hightstown is known nationally as a declared "sanctuary town" for illegal aliens, and the people of East Windsor do not want to be associated with that. Aside from violating U.S. law, that title decreases real estate values, and is distasteful to the vast majority of law-abiding Americans. Hightstown shares that distinction with San Francisco. Also, Drew, McKnight, and Kreps are hardly "Hightstown oriented" as two are in Twin Rivers, and one in the western part of the township. The 08520 zip code is not the only one used in East Windsor. The western part has the 08512 Cranbury code, and I think the southern part has the Robbinsville code. More to the point, the people controlling the East Windsor Council will never agree to any consolidation as that would dilute the absolute control they have. They will never share power with Hightstowners. Not ever.
Lynn Greene October 28, 2011 at 06:23 PM
Ethel McKnight and Melvin Kreps grew up and were leaders in Hightstown's school system. They were not outsiders. And why do you state that Hightstown is noted for illegal alien status in our US of A? You obviously haven't read the book entitled "Reflections From the Shrine", written by John W Orr, Jr. He researched this information entirely about Hightstown and its surrounding areas, such as Etra. Did you know that Hightstown, laying between Trenton and Princeton, fought The Revolutionary War to help make our country free? And, by the way, I know Cranbury well because of relatives who were settled there in the beauty of the outskirts of Cranbury, where my uncle had a large potato farm. The outskirts of Cranbury are still known as Cranbury, and I resent the fact that the Hightstown outskirts I grew up in are called East Windsor. The fact of the matter is that Twin Rivers' Jews did not want to be associated with Hightstown. You, Mr Brock, saying that Hightstown is full of aliens, have stung me to the core. My Mom's family owned that beautiful old house directly across from the Methodist Church. My Dad's family owned the house on the corner of N Main and William Sts. My families were very proud to be Hightonians. My granddad, when with a beard, looked like Lincoln, cited "The Gettysburg Address" in front of Hightstown's veterans' memorial statue on Stockton St during Memorial Day parades. You, Mr Brock, have my sympathy for being so uncaring about Hightstown.
Lynn Greene October 28, 2011 at 06:26 PM
Mr Bock, So sorry that I misspelled your last name wrong in my previous email to you.

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