To the Editor:

Do Not Change April School Voting

The New Jersey Legislature is currently considering moving school board elections from April to the November general election (Assembly bill A15 and Senate bill S1861). This would be unwise.##M:[more]##

Progressive reformers, in an effort to make school board elections non-partisan and guard against patronage, fought to move school board elections away from general elections. Moving school elections to November would require board candidates to compete not just with each other, but with the many other candidates and issues in November, and would inevitably result in partisan partnerships and expensive campaigning, neither of which are likely to improve the makeup of school boards or policymaking.

Proponents of the move argue that it is made necessary because of low turnout in April. Presumably, since more voters turn out for November elections, they will use the opportunity to cast a ballot for school board candidates and budgets. But will a voter who is unmotivated or uninterested in April somehow become interested, motivated and informed in November?

Research into low turnout for April elections has identified factors such as apathy, satisfaction with the status quo, lack of information, and the relative absence of controversy compared with other elections as causes of low turnout. I doubt that moving school board elections to November would eliminate any of these, with the possible exception that controversy, artificial and manufactured, may be more likely in November.

Research also shows that those who do vote in April elections tend to favor candidates without an agenda. Voters report choosing the candidate they believe will act independently in the best interests of the district and the students, and that they believe that a candidate’s character, reputation, and motivation are more important than political affiliation or position on a single issue. Voters in April elections report gaining information about candidates and issues informally, from friends, family, neighbors, and other social networks, rather than the relatively more expensive and partisan methods of November campaigns.

I urge readers to contact their legislators to oppose Assembly bill A15 and its companion Senate bill S1861 which, if passed, would be a step backward for New Jersey.

Robert Johnson

50 Van Wyck Drive, West Windsor

VP/Chair of Finance Committee,

WW-P Board of Education

What’s Intercap’s Beef?

I expect that many of you are aware that Intercap has filed a lawsuit against our town. I recommend you read the entire 24 page complaint — yes 24 pages – at the WWCommunityDiscussion@googlegroups.com site. For those who don’t have time, this is my interpretation of what it says:

The Highlands Act prohibits residential development within an area in New Jersey. Because of the development restrictions elsewhere in the state, Intercap must build condos in West Windsor. Intercap has worked with the township for two years to develop a substantial amount of affordable housing. The zoning change Intercap advocates has broad based public support. The condo development will reduce traffic within the property and reduce greenhouse gases — and, will be smart growth.

The state needs more affordable housing in general and it is the responsibility of West Windsor to provide it for not just the municipality, but also for the welfare of the region and the state. Additionally, our community is concerned about the tax impact of a large influx of school children. This concern violates the Federal Fair Housing Act, prohibiting discrimination based on familial status. That’s a nice coda from the developer that pledged their plan won’t cost taxpayers a thing — Intercap wants damages and costs.

There is a range of number of condos Intercap wants the courts to force us to allow it to build. Numbers I’ve heard include 1,"200, 1,"440 and 1,"880. You can do the math on what something this scale will do to traffic, school crowding, home values, and taxes.

Do you ever get the feeling that some developers operate like companies that come into a community, make their outsized profits and leave the community to clean up the toxic waste remains of their activity?

The economy is in dire straits. We’ve already wasted more than a million of our tax dollars on the mayor’s transit village folly. Clearly, defending against this monstrosity is going to take more precious taxpayer money. Our town government should have three top priorities – cutting taxes, cutting expenses, and cutting spending. This is not the economy for doing anything other than the absolute necessities.

If you see anyone from Intercap around our town, maybe you want to ask them why they filed a lawsuit against our town. Or why they want to tear apart our community, mangle our schools, and increase our traffic congestion and our taxes. Maybe you should ask them how they sleep at night.

Mike Baxter

Landing Lane, Princeton Junction

Encourage Service

(Editor’s Note: This letter was originally sent to Superintendent Victoria Kniewel.)

On a day for which we have much to be thankful (the miracle regarding the USAir landing on the Hudson River), I am moved to again mirror President Obama’s call for all Americans to volunteer. As the Associated Press recently reported:

“President-elect Barack Obama said yesterday (January 14) he wants his inauguration to be about more than him; it should be about getting all Americans involved in community service.

“Obama, in a four-minute speech posted on the Internet, urged his supporters to volunteer for projects scheduled around his January 20 ceremony. Obama, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, and their families plan to participate in projects on January 19.

“His aides have posted thousands of volunteer opportunities at www.USAService.org.”

I have accessed this website and feel a call for community service warrants an endorsement by our school district. If we were to craft a “test” program for the district we might capture an estimated 38,"000 community service hours.

As requested initially from [Former Superintendent Robert] Loretan, might we place this on the agenda for Board consideration?

Peter R. Weale

144 Fisher Place

Advice for Obama

Enough has been said about the benefits of a gas tax by such eminent columnists as Tom Friedman: “A gas tax reduces gasoline demand and keeps dollars in America, dries up funding for terrorists, and reduces the clout of Iran and Russia at a time when Obama will be looking for greater leverage against petro-dictatorships. It reduces our current account deficit; reduces U.S. carbon emissions driving climate change; and increases incentives for innovation on clean cars and tech.”

However, at the highest levels the experts (yes, even Obama) hold that such a tax will affect the common man who desperately needs a break in this grim economic time.

Not true. This global crisis has brought in a worldwide correction of behavior. The average American, the world’s only true consumer, has changed his behavior, at least in the short term. We drove fewer miles this past year than ever before, effectively bringing down the demand for oil.

It was the average American who made this happen. The wealthier among us have continued their pre-crisis lifestyle. If a gas tax takes prices back to $4 a gallon, America will behave exactly as it has in the last six to eight months — the average American will remain frugal and the better-off will use their vehicles without undue worry at the pump. The result will be that the gas tax will tap into what everyone can afford to be taxed for. It will be disingenuous if the administration points to the average American as the reason for not levying a gas tax.

Manick Rajendran

4 Briardale Court, Plainsboro

Prayers for Obama

It is difficult, if not impossible, to express my feelings using mere words, concerning the effect of Barack Obama’s inauguration. I wonder if he, himself, recognizes the significance of his presidency.

His leadership will not only affect our country, but every country on the planet. His responsibilities will be fathomless.

The economy is unquestionably the most important priority to address. People need jobs to retain their dignity and their sanity. Unmet health, housing, and education needs can be a thorn for our society. There are many issues to be resolved.

I will be 90 very soon, and my days are numbered, but I am deeply concerned about our predicament. I lived during the Depression, but I sense that out country is experiencing now a greater fear for the future.

I wish I had some answers to help rectify our plight. However, one positive contribution we can all make is prayers — lots of them.

Victor Opalski

West Windsor

Food Drive Success

The neighborhood food drive December 1 to 18 for Mercer Street Friends was very successful. Thank you to all for your time, generosity and caring, Mercer Street Friends were very grateful with the haul, we filled up a whole pallet.

Your donations will make a difference. We hope to do it again next year.

Susan and Alan Cohen

Penns Neck