Four candidates are vying for two seats on the Hopewell Township Committee: incumbent John Hart, Edward Jackowski, Mayor Kristin McLaughlin and Courtney Peters-Manning.
John Hart, 66, has lived in Hopewell for 45 years. He attended Lawrence High School and went on to study animal science and agronomy McNeese State University. He currently owns Rosedale Mills in Pennington, which was the first farm preserved in Hopewell Township. Hart has been a committeeman since 1994, and his children and grandchildren have gone through Hopewell schools.
Edward Jackowski, 50, has lived on Woosamonsa Road since 1995. Prior to that, he lived in the Mountainview neighborhood. He graduated from Notre Dame High School in Lawrence and attended Mercer County Community College. He joined the United States Marine Corps in 1990. Jackowski and his wife own Jack’s Greenhouse and Farm. Their daughters have gone through Hopewell schools. Jackowski previously ran for township committee last year.
Kristin McLaughlin, 53, is the current mayor of Hopewell Township. She has lived in town for 11 years. McLaughlin grew up in Kansas and attended Harvard College, where she majored in Scandinavian studies. She also received a master’s in elementary education from Columbia University. McLaughlin previously worked for three years in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Racketeering Bureau and also taught in New York City before leaving to raise her daughters.
Courtney Peters-Manning, 42, has lived in Hopewell Township for 10 years. She grew up outside of Chicago and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Brown University, where she studied psychology and cognitive neuroscience. She also earned a law degree from the University of Chicago. Previously an environmental lawyer, Peters-Manning currently works as the director of finance and general counsel at the Cambridge School in Pennington, which her parents founded in 2001 to help children with learning differences. This is her first time running for office.
Question 1: What is your vision for the proposed senior and community center? Where would you like to see it located?
Hart: I proposed purchasing Hopewell Valley Golf and Country Club using funds already available to us with other partners twice; once three years ago and again just recently. This makes so much more sense because the seniors can use it right away. My vision was to share the location with the YMCA for summer camps and also use of the pool. It connects to the Watershed property for other recreation opportunities as well that would serve the interests of the community. The past Democratic parties have been promising a senior center for 20 years with no progress. Their current proposal is located in a sewer service area that may or may not materialize because housing is market driven.
Jackowski: My first thought was to have it at Pennytown, but then when Hopewell Valley Country Club became available, it sounded like the perfect position for the residents of Hopewell Valley. My vision for the proposed senior and community center is a property that is centrally located and would fit the needs that our residents are asking for. It’s been 20 years, and something needs to happen.
McLaughlin: My vision is informed by many conversations with residents. They want rooms for large and small groups and activities, fitness programs, a kitchen, a place for Mercer County’s senior lunch program and space for community organizations. They want a lap pool that could also be used by HVCHS, and a warm water pool. The center needs to be in an area that is convenient to our population and our schools, with access to public sewers and water. I do not want to spend millions extending sewers to pristine parts of the Township. I envision this center as the heart of the community and it needs to be easily accessible.
Peters-Manning: Hopewell Township needs a place where residents can come together. We lack meeting space (the public room at the library fills up a year in advance), and our high school swim team does not have a home pool. I envision a center with plentiful public meeting spaces, an exercise facility, an indoor pool, and a dedicated, separate space for our seniors. I am open about where to locate the center. My goal would be to build it at the most reasonable cost, and locate it in a place that is convenient to the majority of residents. I would need to see hard numbers before making any decisions. I am a director of finance after all!
Question 2: Climate change is on the minds of many residents. What do you think is the committee’s role in dealing with it?
Hart: Climate change is a state and federal issue, but I opposed the pipeline the very first time it was presented to us.
Jackowski: The committee’s role in climate change is negligible. As far as climate change, the PennEast pipeline must be stopped at any cost, but we as residents can do simple things such as going solar, going with green building, and always being aware of your refuse and recycling.
McLaughlin: Hopewell Township is on the front lines of environmental protection. From fighting the PennEast pipeline at the Washington DC offices of FERC, at state offices in Trenton, and at regional rallies, to our 2019 ANJEC award winning Environmental Commission, to adding EV chargers for electric vehicles, we fight to preserve clean air and water. Partnering with groups including FoHVOS, The Watershed, D&R Conservation, and others, we have preserved 3800 acres of open space. We won NJ’s Solar Challenge.
Peters-Manning: The committee can have a big role in fighting climate change. The first step is to elect members who understand that global warming is real. Then, there are two initiatives I would champion. First, green energy aggregation allows towns to pool their electric customers (with an easy opt-out if desired) and therefore get lower prices—and more renewable energy—then single customers could. Second, Community Solar is a state program that allows customers to purchase “subscriptions” to remotely-located solar projects, and then get credits back on their utility bills. With both, customers save money while fighting climate change.
Questions 3: Some feel that the committee has not been consulting with the public enough when it comes to major decision-making. Do you agree with this? How do you think the committee can strengthen communication with residents?
Hart: Committee could have been more transparent. I don’t know why the affordable housing couldn’t have been a more public process. Had it been, residents could participated in the process and I know our numbers would have been much lower.
Jackowski: As of last year, did you know the majority of the township committee agreed to put in 3,800 homes, 3x the size of Brandon Farms? You wouldn’t know this because most of the meetings were not held public with the community’s input. Multiple times, the majority township committee agreed to have open township public meetings throughout our township about issues concerning water, sewer, building, and a plethora of other concerns. Not once did they follow through with this.
McLaughlin: I want to hear from residents. We’ve introduced a newsletter, The Town Crier, to get information out. Residents use Have Your Say Hopewell, under the Community tab on the website, to respond to surveys. We gathered information from residents on deer management, open space and recreation, service from the post office, and asked for help tracking the emerald ash borer. Residents can email or call me, and I will always be available to listen.
Peters-Manning: It is government’s responsibility to keep the public informed and facilitate public input on major decisions. I agree the current Committee could do better, and I have already advocated for changes. When I served on the Open Space and Recreation Plan subcommittee, I insisted that we conduct a survey to get public input before making any recommendations. At the last Township Committee meeting, I suggested that developers be required to post signs on their property alerting neighbors about where to get more information. If elected, I would hold office hours, make more use of video and social media, and proactively spread the word about potentially controversial topics. I am also open to any suggestions. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question 4: Why should Hopewell residents vote for you?
Hart: I have the most experience of all the current members. I base my decision making on facts and rational thought. I currently sit with four democrats who all vote together. If we had some more balance on the committee, we wouldn’t be looking at the biggest development this town has ever seen. Ed Jackowski and I will work to preserve the quality of life residents of Hopewell Township enjoy and preserve what the developers haven’t taken yet. Sitting up there by myself, not a part of the super majority, is frustrating at best. I opposed buying Pennytown for over $6 million, opposed buying two dilapidated farms and losing money and wasting taxpayer dollars way to often on very poor decisions they never want to debate.
Jackowski: I’ve been a resident of Hopewell Township for nearly 25 years. I’ve known my community for decades. I hear the frustration of the community about taxes, increasing traffic, and overdevelopment. For one great example, with another opposing vote, I could have stopped the rezoning of West Scotch Road, where the majority of township council agreed to rezone the farm property for commercial enterprises. It would have a 16 pump gas station, a hotel, and a huge shopping center. I am appalled at this. I appreciate your vote and support for me. Vote John Hart and Ed “Jack” Jackowski 2019!
McLaughlin: I fought for lower taxes, reduced the average annual increase from +6% to 2%. We paid down debt and did more with less while expanding services like Bulky Waste. I fought to stop the PennEast pipeline and protect our rural character by preserving open space and farmland. I unite groups to solve complex challenges. I take this job seriously; our decisions affect this and future generations. I will continue to fight for a green, healthy, and fiscally strong Hopewell Township.
Peters-Manning: I have financial skill, environmental expertise, and most importantly, I listen. I got involved in local politics shortly after the 2016 election. Whatever your politics, I think we can all agree that here at the local level, we can improve on the level of discourse that we have seen nationally over the last several years. We are all neighbors. I pledge to listen to anyone who wants to engage in a constructive way, proactively engage with the community, and if elected, I will respect and hear all constituents, whether we agree or disagree.