This article was originally published in the June 2018 Princeton Echo.

Five Democrats and one Republican will appear on ballots in the June 5 primary election for Princeton Council.

Adam Bierman, Michelle Pirone Lambros, Eve Niedergang, Surinder Sharma, and Dwaine Williamson are competing for two spots in the Democratic column for the November election. Republican Lisa Wu is the lone candidate from her party. Two Democrats who initially filed to run — Alvin McGowen and Myrtha Jasmin — have since dropped out of the race.

The Echo asked each candidate to answer the questions at right about their backgrounds, experience, and priorities for the town. Their answers are presented below in alphabetical order by last name.

Democrats:

Adam Bierman

Background and Family: Please tell us where you are from originally, your academic and professional background, your age, and when and why you moved to Princeton. Please identify your spouse or significant other and their occupation or employer. If you have children please give their ages and what school they attend.

Princeton native, age 58. Website: adambierman1.com

Spouse Sandra, from Ecuador, is an architect who works at BMS Community Health Center-Penn Medicine Princeton Hospital. Daughter, Rachel, is a junior at Stuart Country Day School, where she has attended since pre-K.

Education and Training: Princeton High School, BA political science, MA international affairs and public policy, Rutgers University.

Occupation: Overseas: Social Studies teacher at Escuela Americana San Salvador, and Colegio Americano Quito; Adjunct Professor Universidad Espiritu Santo, Guayaquil Ecuador; ESL teacher at Collier’s Academy, Taiwan.

U.S.: Currently teacher for the state Department of Children and Families at Mercer Teach, a school for teen moms, and serve as a CWA shop steward producer/host at Princeton TV.

Community Involvement: What activities or organizations have you been involved in that relate to the local community, either here or other places you have lived? What caused you to first get involved?

Overseas: El Salvador-Memver Gold Key Youth Initiative; Ecuador-Fundraisers San Vicente Orphanage.

U.S.: Former Princeton Community Democratic Organization Executive Board member; Princeton Democratic Municipal Committeeman, District 13, and Treasurer of PDMC.

Why I want to run for Princeton Council: From my activist and organization work, I feel it is a natural progression to run for my hometown council, where I could have more of a direct impact on the lives of Princetonians. Local legend/ activist Len Newton told me not to sit on the sideline and to use local politics to improve someone’s life.

The issues: Why are you running for council? Please identify the issues that are of particular concern to you, or that you feel are of greatest importance to the community?

Affordable Housing: Legalize “mother-in-law” apartments. These one-room apartments can be rented out by the owner, providing extra income for the “landlord” and an affordable room for the “tenant.”

Use regulatory and monetary incentives to reduce “teardowns” and/or the size of new homes being built.

Leverage our assets: increase non-tax revenue by renting out underused buildings such as Monument Hall. Sell the old Borough Hall to Princeton University to use as a conference center, and have them pay taxes on the property.

School referendum of $129 million is wearing away the good will of Prince­ton tax payers. I canvassed all over Princeton and heard the heart-rending anxiety caused by it. Work with the Board of Education. A big part of our taxes go to Princeton Public Schools, and we have to have a say if we want economic diversity in this town.

So let’s go slow, prioritize, and monitor these changes/costs/effectiveness.

I have an institutional memory going back to 2000.

A lot can go wrong with new construction/renovations.

Does anyone remember the botched construction that followed the 2002 school referendum? The high school’s new heating and cooling infrastructure was faulty. Windows would not open. Mold spread like cancer in some areas of the building. 2006 referendum needed more money that had to be spent on remediation of these problems.

We want the best facilities for our students, within a sane plan, but be it in an outhouse or the penthouse, the main keys to a great education are parental involvement, teacher instruction, and student motivation.

For short term projects, gather a volunteer team of local experts to shepherd these projects to successful completion.

More transparency with town halls where local residents can ask questions and demand answers from elected officials.

To encourage more voting participation/candidates and to actually hear all residents’ voices, consider non-partisan local elections.

Michelle Pirone Lambros

Background: Please tell us where you are from originally, your academic and professional background, your age, and when and why you moved to Princeton.

I am a Princeton native, age 56, with roots in our community going back four generations: my grandfathers were some of the earliest Italian immigrants to Princeton who worked as stone masons and landscapers at the university.

Politics influenced me early in my education and career. I was an activist on campus, then worked on Capitol Hill for Congressman John Murtha while attending graduate school. Soon after graduating, I founded my first business in event management.

I have spent nearly half of my 25-year career overseas. My extensive experience includes designing and implementing start up businesses and events. My national events include, most recently, the creation of a multi-year food festival in Kuwait, “Taste of Q8.

After living overseas the past eight years, we moved back to Princeton in June, 2017.

I have an M.A. in international affairs from the George Washington University and a B.A. in political science from Seton Hall University. I am a member of the PCDO, the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Princeton Italian-American Sportsmen’s Club.

Family: Please identify your spouse or significant other and their occupation or employer. If you have children please give their ages and what school they attend.

I am married to George, a corporate finance consultant and we have three sons: Costas, who attends Boston University, Elias, a junior, and Andreas, a freshman at Princeton High School.

Community Involvement: What activities or organizations have you been involved in that relate to the local community, either here or other places you have lived? What caused you to first get involved?

In Weston, Florida, I raised tens of thousands of dollars in corporate funding and gave the proceeds of seven consecutive food and wine festivals to various charities. I also served on the Executive Board of the “Taste of Weston” Committee at the Weston Chamber of Commerce in Florida. In Kuwait I chaired the Parent’s Association at the English School, which my boys attended, and raised over $100,000 over four years. I bring fresh eyes and a global perspective to the critical issues facing Prince­ton.

The issues: Why are you running for council? Please identify the issues that are of particular concern to you, or that you feel are of greatest importance to the community?

My platform issues include four main pillars: supporting the small business community, preserving our historic character, maintaining socio-economic diversity, and promoting greater sustainability.

I know that the impact of big box and the internet, but I believe there are strategies that can help revitalize our local retail community and maintain the charm of our downtown. Having been a small business owner I believe it is imperative to have an ongoing dialogue between the business community, the University, and the town and find ways to promote a Shop Local strategy, support better mobility, find strategies for increasing foot traffic and attract new businesses to invest here.

I believe we are losing our socio-economic diversity due, in part, to the high property taxes. Elderly and long time residents have seen property tax increases of over 100 percent just in the last seven years. Promoting wider use of the State Senior Tax Freeze program would also help residents to be able to age in place.

Greater density and changes in zoning that would allow building of duplexes and townhomes, would increase the inventory of starter homes for young families and seniors who would like to downsize and still stay in Princeton.

We have beautiful public parks, and some repairs and upgrades are needed to keep them safe and attractive. There is a need for more bike lanes, and improved sidewalks, to encourage residents to enjoy the walkable/bikable town and lead a more healthy lifestyle, that is also environmentally-friendly, and gives infrastructure support to those residents who can travel to downtown without the need for parking.

Increasing the recycling pick-ups to once a week, incentivizing the installation of more charging stations for electric vehicles, and finding a way to expand our “Freebie” shuttle bus service, are other examples of ways to promote sustainability. Read more at www.pironeforcouncil.com.

Eve Niedergang

Background: Please tell us where you are from originally, your academic and professional background, your age, and when and why you moved to Princeton.

I was born (1961) and raised in NYC, received my B.A. from Cornell, moved to Princeton in 1985 and received my M.A. from Princeton in Middle Eastern History. I worked at ETS developing tests for about 10 years before starting my own consulting business in educational testing, which I ran for more than 15 years. I currently work at the Watershed Institute (formerly the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association), as the Volunteer Coordinator.

Family: Please identify your spouse or significant other and their occupation or employer. If you have children please give their ages and what school they attend.

I’ve been married for 30+ years to Andy Weiss, an assessment specialist at ETS. We have two children, both K-12 products of the Princeton Public Schools. Miriam Niedergang, 25, graduated from Mt Holyoke College and Sam Weiss, 22, is a rising junior at Brandeis University.

Community Involvement: What activities or organizations have you been involved in that relate to the local community, either here or other places you have lived? What caused you to first get involved?

I’ve gotten involved in Princeton for two reasons. First, I’m an idealist who wants to make things better. Second, I’m a pragmatist who realizes that progress involves hard work, compromise and – most importantly – time and effort. When I’ve seen a role for myself in improving this community, I’ve stepped forward. In the 25+ years I’ve lived in Princeton, I’ve served as co-president of the Riverside Elementary School PTO, where I made equity a priority and fundraised to ensure that every student could participate in all activities. At the Friends of the Princeton Public Library, I established the Used Bookstore and transformed the Friends Book Sale into a major funding source for the library, increasing revenue by over $100,000 annually. At the Watershed Institute, I’ve greatly improved volunteer training and tripled the number of volunteers in less than two years. My work at the Watershed reflects my long-standing commitment to environmental sustainability. I’ve been involved with the Princeton Community Democratic Organization for more than a decade and been elected to the Executive Board three times. I’ve served as the District 18 Democratic committeewoman since 2014. I currently mentor a PHS junior who will be the first in her family to go to college.

The issues: Why are you running for council? Please identify the issues that are of particular concern to you, or that you feel are of greatest importance to the community?

The issues that are of greatest concern to the community and to me are affordability, managing development, and sustainability and environmental protection. These broad issues subsume a number of other critical subjects that must be addressed: Affordable Housing, taxes, parking, our retail/small business community, Princeton’s climate action plan, maintaining diversity in all its forms, and relations with our many local nonprofits. I want to ensure that all voices are heard as decisions are made on these critical issues. I’ve spent much of my professional and volunteer life helping people work together to solve problems, and I want to continue that approach on Council. If elected, I will bring my experience as a committed and involved leader and volunteer to the Council. Those who have worked with me will attest to my collaborative, inclusive work style that values all input and seeks to find and implement the best solutions for all. My campaign slogan, “Building Community Together,” sums up why I want to run for Council — to help us work together to solve the problems that we face.

Surinder Paul Sharma

Background: Please tell us where you are from originally, your academic and professional background, your age, and when and why you moved to Princeton.

Born and raised in Punjab, India. I trace my core values to the village environment I grew up in. I immigrated to Canada in 1972. I graduated from the University of Toronto, Institute for Aerospace Studies, and earned my Ph.D. from Northcentral University.

I am 70 years young, an avid tennis player, and a certified yoga instructor. I am semi-retired with over 40 years of experience in management of aerospace and defense industry and financial institutions. I have worked as an aerospace engineer for Telesat Canada, Comsat (now Lockheed Martin), Sirius Satellite Radio, Global Aerospace, on scores of satellite programs around the world.

I was a board member at RomAsia Bank, and now am an advisory board member at Investors Bank. My wife and I moved to Prince­ton with our two boys, Rajeev and Sanjeev, in 1995.

Family: Please identify your spouse or significant other and their occupation or employer. If you have children please give their ages and what school they attend.

My wife, Rashma, worked for ETS for 15 years as a computer programmer analyst, now retired, and volunteers on the Princeton Adult School board since 2014. Our two boys graduated from Princeton Day School.

Community Involvement: What activities or organizations have you been involved in that relate to the local community, either here or other places you have lived? What caused you to first get involved?

In 2005 I served as a member of TV30 team during contract negotiations to get favorable terms from Patriot Media and FIOS. I served on Princeton Municipality Traffic and Safety Committee for three years (2013-2016). I have been a member of the Complete Streets Committee since 2016. I am a contributor to a report titled “Transportation Choices for Princeton: A Strategic Analysis” (Ralph Widner, Principal Investigator) that will become a guide for equitable safe transportation choices for residents and visitors. Since 2014 I have been an elected District 3 representative of Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee.

I actively support organizations that fight against social injustice, promote gun control, and the causes for the Dreamers. I am also involved in mentoring awith Princeton HS students and others about new technologies and innovations (Drone/camera, 5G Wi-Fi).

The issues: Why are you running for council? Please identify the issues that are of particular concern to you, or that you feel are of greatest importance to the community?

The pressures of high property taxes, the affordable housing issue, impending Princeton Public School facilities referendum, challenges faced by merchants, transportation and infrastructure issues, is affecting the quality of life for the most vulnerable senior residents, as well as middle and low-income families. To keep Princeton an affordable, equitable, diverse, vibrant, and inclusive community, with best schools and facilities, we need to think outside the box to control municipality expenditures, raise revenues, and lower taxes.

As a Councilman, I shall champion lowering municipality taxes by 5 percent by improved productivity and efficiency of municipality departments, and promote shared services with schools, county, university, and surrounding communities. To help businesses the municipality should proactively review and update zoning policies that are more businesses friendly, while preserving Princeton character.

I have also proposed to use the existing under-utilized municipality parking lots (such as on 400 Witherspoon and downtown) by zoning changes for constructing multi-purpose, multi-income affordable housing complexes that will help solve the affordable housing needs while contributing to the revenue for the municipality.

To continue to have an equitable, and socially responsible town-gown relationship with Princeton University, the municipality should renegotiate with the university, their fair share payments in lieu of taxes. I propose that an Equity, Diversity and Unity Trust Fund be established to share Taxpayers’ burdens for schools, historic district preservation, and infrastructure improvements. The fund can be funded on a voluntary basis, by Princeton University and other such institutions, alumni, corporations, and residents. To start such a trust fund, if elected, I shall personally commit a minimum payment of $11,000 to start with and continue to personally fund up to $100,000. I shall also volunteer to solicit contributions from others with a goal of $1 million over five years.

With my 40 plus years of experience in aerospace sciences, technology and financial institutions, my experience with the municipality committees, my community service, coupled with my strong analytical and quantitative skills, I believe that we can better manage challenges faced by Princeton municipality.

As your representative on council, I shall be proactive, bring transparency, and accountability. I shall serve the community for $1. For details visit www.sharma4princeton.com.

Dwaine Williamson

Background: Please tell us where you are from originally, your academic and professional background, your age, and when and why you moved to Princeton.

I emigrated with my family from Jamaica and grew up in Trenton. After graduating from Trenton High School, I attended Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, where I earned a Bachelor of Science in International Politics. After some years in the investment business, I earned my Juris Doctor from Rutgers University School of Law in Newark and have made my career as an attorney in private practice.

Family: Please identify your spouse or significant other and their occupation or employer. If you have children please give their ages and what school they attend.

In 1998 I moved to Princeton with my wife, Trina, an elementary school teacher. We are so proud of our three children, all of whom were raised here, and have benefitted from their experience in Princeton Public Schools. Dwaine Jr. went on to Rutgers, where he graduated cum laude and now serves as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. My daughters, Leah and Raina, are students at PHS. Leah serves on the Municipal Youth Advisory Committee and looks forward to attending Savannah College of Art and Design in the fall. Raina, a sophomore, excels in Volleyball and Track and recently competed for PHS at the Penn Relays.

Community Involvement: What activities or organizations have you been involved in that relate to the local community, either here or other places you have lived? What caused you to first get involved?

I serve on the Princeton Planning Board, working to preserve neighborhood character while facilitating smart, environmentally and economically responsible municipal growth. While on the board, I have enjoyed collegial and productive relationships with Council President Jenny Crumiller and Councilmen Tim Quinn and David Cohen. I chair the board’s Zoning Amendment Review Committee (ZARC), leading the difficult work of harmonizing former borough and township ordinances into a single code.

Until announcing my candidacy, I served with you as First Vice President of the PCDO where together we made history by turning New Jersey’s 16th Assembly District blue with the election of Assemblymen Andrew Zwicker and Roy Freiman. I am also the District 22 Committeeman for the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee. One of my greatest joys in recent years has been volunteering, along with my wife, for Committed and Faithful Princetonians, a social and academic support group for local youth, run by Fern and Larry Spruill. Another is serving on the Advisory Board for the Witherspoon-Jackson Development Corporation.

The issues: Why are you running for council? Please identify the issues that are of particular concern to you, or that you feel are of greatest importance to the community?

I seek the opportunity to work to provide evidence-based, cost-effective solutions. I pledge to be a responsible steward of our public funds, working to maintain excellent municipal services and limiting increases in the municipal portion of our property tax bill. We must ensure that PILOTs from our town’s tax-exempt institutions are fair and appropriate and serve to benefit both town and gown.

Bold leadership is needed to ensure the viability of our commercial sector and to keep Princeton affordable for residents aging-in-place, as well as for young families. Creating a network of walkable, bike-friendly streets between residential neighborhoods, our schools, and the vibrant downtown core, is essential to keep us all safely connected. As an immigrant, I am proud to support Princeton’s firm commitment to remain a welcoming community.

I pledge to remain accessible to you so that together we create a town which reflects our vision and values.

Republican:

Lisa Wu

Community Involvement: What activities or organizations have you been involved in that relate to the local community, either here or other places you have lived? What caused you to first get involved?

I’m running because Princeton is facing a crisis which affects the very essence of Princeton as we know it. The principal culprit is our local government which seems incapable of addressing our continually rising property taxes beyond temporary fixes and dipping into reserves.

Long-time Princeton residents, both people of means and those with modest incomes or pensions, are leaving town because Princeton is pricing itself out of the market either because it is no longer affordable or is failing to provide sufficient added value for the cost involved. Our Mayor and the Council she dominates stand by passively as the other Princeton taxing authorities, the public school system and the County, seem to live on another planet when it comes to taxation. Where are our elected officials in advocating on behalf of the beleaguered taxpayer? Missing in action! It’s time to elect a constructive dissenting voice and taxpayer advocate to Council.

The issues: Why are you running for council? Please identify the issues that are of particular concern to you, or that you feel are of greatest importance to the community?

The three most serious issues in Princeton are #1. Property taxes, #2. Property taxes, and #3. Property taxes. What to do about them? Get back to basics by starting with a budget process that focuses on the essential services a municipality should provide: 1. Public safety and security, 2. A modern, well-functioning, cost-effective sewer and waste water system and 3. Well-managed traffic and pedestrian flow, good streets free of potholes, adequate parking, and clean sidewalks. Then prioritize necessary additions.
New Jersey already has the highest effective property tax rate in the United States. In Princeton residents pay 2.3 percent annually of their homes’ assessed value in property taxes. And assessed valuations keep rising. The average property tax in Princeton consumes one-sixth of the median income. The town’s suffocating ordinances and regulations increase the cost of housing, lessen affordability, and discourage business development.

We must face the reality that Princeton is living beyond its means. The municipality can not be all things to all people. We should observe and learn from neighboring communities who do it just as well and with less burden on the taxpayer.

One Republican on Town Council can make a huge difference. No more decision-making behind closed doors. Public airing of differing opinions. Guaranteed transparency and serious consideration of public input.

Background: Please tell us where you are from originally, your academic and professional background, your age, and when and why you moved to Princeton.

I was born in Taiwan and came to the United States in 1974 to study at the University of California, Los Angeles. My professional background was in accounting. I raised three children as a single mother, and one of my daughters graduated from Princeton University’s Ph.D. program. I am a resident of Princeton affordable housing. I am committed to community involvement and ensuring that Princeton remains affordable for all our residents, especially seniors and retirees who need a helping hand.