(Note: for letters to the editor about the Hopewell Valley school board election, click here.)

Lester: Don’t forget the tax increase

Apparently, Hopewell Township Mayor Kristin McLaughlin has a short memory.

In her zeal to run for re-election, she forgets to mention some critical information regarding her claim of fiscal responsibility.

Maybe Mayor McLaughlin does not remember that, just six months ago, she raised municipal taxes by 4.68 percent. Not only was her tax increase about twice last year’s tax increase, it was more than twice the rate of inflation.

Maybe Mayor McLaughlin does not remember that, just six months ago, she put the township in debt by borrowing $4.4 million to balance her budget. Her new debt was 25 percent higher than the $3.3 million she voted to borrow last year. In the past two years, she put the township in debt for almost $8 million.

Maybe Mayor McLaughlin does not remember that, in each of her three years on the Township Committee, she voted for higher taxes than the year before.

Maybe Mayor McLaughlin does not remember that, in each of her three years on the Township Committee, she voted for new township debt. In other words, every year she voted to take out a loan to balance the township budget.

Maybe Mayor McLaughlin does not remember that, during her three years on the Township Committee, she voted to spend $2 million from our Emergency Fund for non-emergencies while claiming $2 million in budget savings. Three years ago our Emergency Fund was about $12 million and is currently $10 million today.

Maybe Mayor McLaughlin does remember, but she is hoping that the public has a short memory.

Harvey Lester, Titusville

Support for Hart, Jackowski

In 1966 there was a movie called The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It is very similar to what we are experiencing in Hopewell Township.

Mayor McLaughlin and her running mate, Planning Board Member Courtney Peters-Manning, say some “good” things on their door hangers, but let’s really evaluate what they actually mean.

“2109 Budget Below 2015 Spending” sounds good, but the bad thing is that in March 2015 the diesel dump trucks at the Public Works garage caught fire after everyone had left for the day. Virtually all the trucks were totally destroyed, and a large part of the garage had extensive damage. That is why the 2019 budget was better than 2015, BUT really it was because of a major fire in Public Works that required higher costs. The 2019 budget is a farce because it increased taxes by 4.68 percent. Something Mayor McLaughlin doesn’t want you to know.

“Preserve Open Space …” sounds good but the bad is that four out of five committee members and Planning Board members approved the change in our affordable housing plan in a very quiet way.  McLaughlin and three other Democratic committee members, and Ms. Peters-Manning and the Planning Board allowed Deer Valley Realty and CF Hopewell to change things so that the large farm on Nursery Road and some smaller farms on Scotch Road were allowed to put in 625 55+ aged community market rate homes with 125 affordable housing units. 

The other bad points with this approval by Mayor McLaughlin and Ms. Peters-Manning are that in the same area, they are allowing at least a 100- bedroom hotel, which gives the owner a liquor license via the state, a conference center, fast food restaurants, a very large 16-pump Wawa-type gas station with diesel fuel, and a large number of stores including a supermarket food store, etc.

I thought that Mayor McLaughlin and Ms. Courtney Peters-Manning were more knowledgeable about these “good” aspects of Hopewell Township, but really these are very bad aspects for our township!

Now for the ugly. The Hopewell Township Committee has four members of one political party; Mayor McLaughlin and Ms. Peters-Manning want to keep the Democratic “supermajority” on the Hopewell Township Committee. Such a “supermajority” has and will continue to allow one political party to rule the decisions of the entire township.  I do not think anyone in our township wants this to take place, your tax dollars are too important for that. We need opposing points of view to be represented. 

Make sure that Hopewell Township does not continue this ugly course of bad budgets and poor affordable housing communities and continues to take away the countryside of Hopewell Township.

On Tuesday, Nov. 5, vote for two men who have businesses in Hopewell Township and truly and will respect our land: John Hart and Ed Jackowski.

Jim Burd

Continue studying the HVGC property

As many of you know, the Hopewell Valley Golf and Country Club closed in August. In early September, Hopewell Township Committee Member, John Hart, introduced an interesting proposal to study the potential purchase of HVGC using no tax dollars for the purpose of converting the facilities into a Community Center, Senior Center, and possible YMCA offices. Hart explained that the purchase should be looked into by consolidating the existing set-aside Senior Center tax dollars due to the Township and the two Boroughs along with other monies from Mercer County. 

The potential purchase should be studied in a coordinated effort by the three local governing bodies. The possibilities for this facility include creating a domed pool for year-round use (including finally a home pool for HVCHS!), a central location for a senior and community center, a farm-to-table restaurant with full bar, income opportunities for banquet facilities rental, and of course, a public golf course, paddle, and tennis courts.

The beauty of this study is to determine whether improvements could be made over time as budgeting allows. Our taxes are so high – we all just sustained a very significant 4.68% tax increase this year and we should avoid such future tax jolts. The currently proposed senior and community center at Zaitz tract, no doubt, would require further significant tax increases. How much will it cost to build a senior and community center from the ground up? At the Sept. 16, 2019 Hopewell Township Committee Meeting, Mr. Hart asked the other four members that critical question and received no reply. Apparently, they haven’t done the financials for the project yet.

Instead, Mayor McLaughlin and her majority tried to scare us that the property requires costly sewering and various other immediate improvements. It is apparently impossible to get a fair study of this idea.

I believe that residents would not support exorbitant taxes for a new community center. I also doubt that anyone would prefer to navigate the dangerous Pennington Circle, where 379 new homes approved by Mayor McLaughlin and the Democratic majority will be built, generating a traffic nightmare. I believe that the idea to retrofit is worth studying. 

Thank you, John Hart and Ed Jackowski, for bringing this idea to the public’s attention for further study. Please vote for John Hart and Ed Jackowski for Hopewell Township Committee and voice your support to study this proposal.   

Cathy Kavanaugh, Hopewell Township

Edwards: stewards of the environment?

Mayor McLaughlin likes to boast about her achievements as she campaigns for re-election. Notably, she and her running mate and Planning Board Member Courtney Peters-Manning see themselves as stewards of Hopewell Township’s environment. Well, not so fast. Let the facts speak for themselves.

Mayor McLaughlin and the Democratic majority have continually ignored the 2002 Master Plan. Many recent approvals were found to be inconsistent with the Master Plan. That is important to all of us because the Master Plan defined the carrying capacity of the land; the amount of development that our resources can support. It also identified key, environmentally sensitive areas that are needed to protect the Township’s aquifer from over-development. Too much impervious coverage permits water, which would normally percolate into the soil, to run-off. All elected officials must understand the science of water. The first step is reading and understanding the Master Plan, as well as using it as a guide for any proposed development. Most residents of Hopewell Valley rely upon wells for drinking water. Imagine turning on your faucet and having nothing come out!

Under Mayor Mclaughlin’s watch, the Township signed deals with developers to build a total of 1,720 market-rate homes and 430 affordable homes on the west side of Scotch Road. This is an area defined in the Master Plan as VRC (Valley Resource Conservation), a designation that limited development there to no more than one house for every six acres. That part of Scotch Road is geographically located at the headwaters of two streams. Along with all these homes, Mayor McLaughlin and her Democratic majority also voted to allow a drive-though, fast-food restaurant and a 16-pump gas station as accepted uses. This configuration would be next to a natural gas pipeline, simply horrible planning for an area defined as environmentally sensitive in the Master Plan.

I have tried to stay informed on the issues, by attending most meetings and serving as a government watchdog. I am a registered Democrat and I would love to vote that way. Yet, we cannot endure another three years of a Democratic majority that rubber stamps legislation without public input and which continually ignores a Master Plan that was written to protect Hopewell Township’s environment.

Mayor McLaughlin and her running mate, Courtney Peters-Manning, do not deserve our votes. They have not protected Hopewell Township’s environment. In fact, they have repeatedly sold-out to developers. I am casting my two votes for John Hart and Ed Jackowski, who I know will protect Hopewell Township.

Cheryl Edwards, Hopewell Township

Support for McLaughlin, Peters-Manning

There are significant differences in the Hopewell Township Committee candidates’ positions about climate change.

Republicans John Hart and Ed Jackowski do not take this issue seriously. Hart just shrugs: “Climate change is a federal and state issue,” he says. Jackowski throws up his hands in saying that the township committee has a “negligible” role in fighting climate change. I guess that is why they both came to the Penn East fight very late in the game. They claim to have been against the PennEast pipeline since the beginning, but that’s not true. John Hart said a long time after the pipeline’s announcement that we should “negotiate” – not fight – the pipeline. (Negotiate with what? Our open space and water supply and quality?)

Compare that mealy-mouthed response to the robust plan advocated by Mayor Kristin McLaughlin and Courtney Peters-Manning. They’ve spoken with federal and state officials in advocating for our green space, at rallies, and in the state house about their strong opposition to this project. Mayor McLaughlin has twice traveled to Washington, D.C. (on her own dime, not ours!) to speak directly to the heads of the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission about the damage this pipeline would inflict on Hopewell Township. And they’ve got ideas about how energy aggregation and solar projects can save township residents money and cut our energy usage. As an environmental lawyer, Peters-Manning knows how to bring successful environmental programs into municipal government.

What do you think, Hopewell Township? Do you want committee members who passively claim there’s nothing we can do about climate change? Or do you want people with the initiative, expertise, and guts to make the township a leader in the fight?

We can’t gamble with our future. Democrats Mayor Kristin McLaughlin and Courtney Peters-Manning for Hopewell Township Committee on Nov. 5.

Billie Moore, Hopewell Township

Vote in your local elections

You may be tempted to sit out the upcoming election Nov. 5 because there is not a “big name” candidate on the ticket. However, there are two local candidates who would be immensely positive for Hopewell Township and they are Mayor Kristin McLaughlin and Courtney Peters-Manning. These two women consistently show their dedication to our township by working tirelessly to protect us from an unwanted and unneeded pipeline and improving the quality of life in the valley through preserving open space and expanding our trail network. Mayor McLaughlin also has demonstrated her commitment to keeping municipal taxes low with a 2019 budget that is below 2015 spending! Local elections matter!

I believe that Courtney Peters-Manning and Mayor Kristin McLaughlin will act in my and our best interest on all issues that comes before Hopewell Township. I endorse them both and urge you to get out and vote for them on Nov. 5.  

Linda Rogers, Hopewell Township

Rogers is a member of the Hopewell Township Zoning Board but writes as an individual resident.

Endorsing McLaughlin, Peters-Manning

I am writing in support of Mayor Kristin McLaughlin and Courtney Peters-Manning for Hopewell Township Committee.

Kristin is doing a very good job tirelessly following up on the many decisions to be made in order to protect our way of life in Hopewell Township and listening to citizens’ concerns regarding township issues. I attend a lot of township events and the mayor is always there.

Courtney Peters-Manning is committed to issues important to me, such as preserving open space. She wants to keep taxes under control, and she has the professional experience to help the township do so. From what I know about her and what I have seen, Courtney will be another civil voice on the Township Committee.

The Penn East pipeline is the biggest threat to the township. I have participated in marches against the pipeline and know the majority of the Township Committee have done so, too. Kristin has traveled to Washington, D.C., twice to talk with federal leaders about the pipeline and Courtney has spoken out against it as well.

Kristin and Courtney are my choices for Hopewell Township Committee. Please vote on Nov. 5.

Betty Ruger, Hopewell Township

Vogler: McLaughlin and Peters-Manning have what it takes

All elections are important.  Those who are chosen to serve at every level need to be thoughtful, hard working, intelligent and courageous. That is why I am supporting Kristin McLaughlin and Courtney Peters-Manning for Hopewell Township Committee.  

I have known Kristin for about 10 years. When our children were younger, we worked together as members of the parents’ association at our children’s school.  Beginning all those years ago, I have always been impressed with her ability to get in and do the work that needs to be done, regardless of the spotlight. In her role as Mayor, Kristin has worked to make sure that the budget was closely scrutinized, and was able to achieve a nearly 3% reduction in the discretionary portion.  She has represented the Township at every level of government, including traveling to Washington DC twice to meet with FERC regarding the pipeline. This is hard work, requiring understanding the issue and the applicable laws. She has listened to disparate opinions within the community. And she has been courageous, respectfully handling the often raucous comments of those who refuse to understand that we must sometimes make difficult choices in meeting the challenges our community faces, even continuing to do so despite a threat to her safety.  

While I haven’t known Courtney as long, I do know that she too will put in the many hours of work needed to govern the Township.  She has shown her ability to keep finances under control through her position at the Cambridge School, as well as serving on the finance council for her church.  Courtney cares deeply about the environment, and uses her time to serve on the boards of FoHVOS and the Lawrence-Hopewell Trail, two organizations that are devoted to improving our local environment.  She has been involved in many protests against the PennEast pipeline and spoke against it in Trenton. Courtney will continue to work to improve our community.

I hope you will join with me in voting for Kristin McLaughlin and Courtney Peters-Manning for Hopewell Township Committee.

Tracy Vogler, Hopewell Township

Blake endorses McLaughlin and Peters-Manning

I am weary of negative politics and bad news. It takes great effort to find out about candidates and, between the onslaught of national news and misleading opinions, voting takes an act of faith. 

The good news is that this year it is easy to vote for two Hopewell Township Committee members. Kristin McLaughlin and Courtney Peters-Manning are serious-minded, thoughtful leaders who will do what is right, and sometimes difficult, for Hopewell Township’s residents and environment.  I have worked closely with both women and each of them asks good questions, does her research, and keeps an open mind when making decisions that affect our taxes and our community.

Kristin and Courtney are tireless workers, and both are consensus builders. Being a Township Committee member requires a lot of work. You need to create and attend countless meetings. You need to do your homework on land use, road conditions, trail building, social services, clean water, municipal finance, and many other issues. You can count on these women to take the time and be prepared for whatever faces us.

Each candidate brings something different to the table: Kristin has experience working with all levels of government, and Courtney is an environmental lawyer, the finance director of a local school, and an active community volunteer. Both are fully aware that each decision made impacts our health, quality of life and our pocketbook.  

This year it is easy to recognize and support these exceptional candidates. Please join me in voting for Kristin McLaughlin and Courtney Peters-Manning on Nov. 5.  

Julie Blake, Hopewell Township

Blake is a member of the Hopewell Township Committee but writes as an individual resident.

Crerand: don’t roll the dice on builder’s remedy lawsuits

To meet its court-mandated obligation to provide affordable housing, Hopewell Township – and every other municipality in NJ – has three options.

The first option is for the township to build all 653 of its required units on its own. At a cost of about $300,000 per unit, that’s $196 million dollars, or $30,000 for every homeowner in Hopewell Township. Mortgage it, and you’re paying off the principal plus interest for years to come, and by agreeing to build it at township expense, we would be guaranteeing that the housing gets built. Remember, the township’s obligation is only to provide a realistic opportunity for affordable housing to be built, not guarantee it will be built.

Another option is to allow a developer to build the required housing, which then comes with a ratio of four market-rate units for every affordable unit. In this option, it’s the developer’s responsibility to pay for all infrastructure and construction costs. The Township pays for none of it, and if the developer decides the market doesn’t support the construction of those housing units, the economy shifts into recession or market conditions otherwise change, these units don’t get built, yet the Township’s obligation is still fully satisfied.

A third option is to do nothing, risking “builder’s remedy” lawsuits that take control of the process away from the community and gives it to outside developers, resulting in the construction of far more market-rate units – after all, that’s how the developer makes its profits, not on the affordable units – as we have seen in Brandon Farms where the ratio of market-rate to affordable is 8-9 market rate units for every affordable unit. Equally concerning, ANY Township parcel could be rezoned for affordable housing with a builder’s remedy lawsuit, opening the entire valley up to unchecked development and sprawl.

Leadership is deciding between the options that are available, not stringing along the public’s hopes for a zero-impact option that doesn’t exist. That leadership is what Mayor Kristin McLaughlin has shown. Her opponent, by contrast, suggests we “roll the dice” on builder’s remedy lawsuits.

Bill Crerand, Hopewell Township

Candidates understand environmental issues

Mayor Kristin McLaughlin and fellow Township Committee candidate Courtney Peters-Manning understand environmental issues and how to respond to them.  

McLaughlin has resolutely led efforts to combat the unneeded PennEast pipeline from its destruction of public preserved lands recently saved at great cost with taxpayer monies and private contributions. She has traveled twice to Washington, D.C., at her own expense to meet directly with the commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the federal agency with pipeline oversight.

Peters-Manning has also taken necessary steps to protect our rural character in the face of development pressure in and around the township, helping preserve our community through her time on the Planning Board and work with FoHVOS.

Both candidates have the temperament and experience to work with our residents and professionals to help come to grips with difficult decisions on future development.  

McLaughlin and Peters-Manning are true allies for open space and preservation of fragile ecosystems. If you care about the valley’s natural beauty then one of the most important things you can do is vote for Kristin McLaughlin and Courtney Peters-Manning for Township Committee on Nov. 5.

Carol Kleis, Hopewell Township

Ruger: choose McLaughlin and Peters-Manning

Hopewell Township residents will vote for two members of the Hopewell Township Committee on Nov. 5. I encourage voters to choose Mayor Kristin McLaughlin and Courtney Peters-Manning.

Kristin McLaughlin is a hard-working committee member who takes her position seriously. Courtney Peters-Manning promises to bring new ideas to the committee that align with the values of our community, such as a sincere concern about the environment and open space.

I have served on the committee with John Hart since January 2018. John has been involved in public life in the township for many years, but the more I see him in action the less I think his views reflect those of the majority of township voters.

I have seen John curse at a constituent from the dais in an open public meeting for daring to hold John to account for his own words. He challenged the need for a bike and walking path, asking how many kids get hit by cars while going to school. Regarding the greatest threat to our planet, he said, “The facts are it might be climate change and not actually global warming,” mentioning as evidence that it was cold in Canada last winter. He called medical marijuana “ridiculous.” He referred to Baldpate Mountain as “just open space land.” And he decided it was unimportant to attend a ceremony honoring LGBTQ residents.

John’s running mate is Ed “Jack” Jackowski. He ran for Township Committee last year with the slogan of “Restoring Hopewell’s Roots” and his showing at last year’s League of Women Voters forum showed that he wasn’t terribly informed about township issues. He hasn’t said much this year, so it’s hard to determine whether he has learned anything over the past twelve months.

I have nothing against John or Jack personally. John and I have had several pleasant conversations during my term on the Township Committee, and I am sure Jack is a nice person.

Serving on the Township Committee requires a willingness to work hard, to pay at-tention to detail, to make tough choices, and to present new ideas to move the township forward. Kristin and Courtney are clear winners by that measure.

Please remember to vote for two candidates for Hopewell Township’s future on Nov. 5—Kristin McLaughlin and Courtney Peters-Manning.

Michael Ruger, Hopewell Township

Ruger is writing as an individual and not on behalf of the Hopewell Township Committee.

McLaughlin: fighting for Hopewell

My name is Kristin McLaughlin and I am running for reelection to the Hopewell Township Committee. I am proud of my accomplishments and enthusiastic about the possibilities ahead. 

Over the last three years, I fought to hold the line on taxes and do more with less. We brought the average annual tax rate increase down from 6 percent in 2013-15 to 2 percent over recent years. We added services. The operating budget I presented is down 3 percent versus 2018, and our 2019 budget remains well-below 2015 levels. Since 2017, we reduced debt from $67 million to $59.5 million. I take seriously my responsibility to taxpayers and these numbers prove it.

Our township proudly defines itself as a green and healthy place to live and I have fought to advance these goals, including stopping the PennEast pipeline. I have fought the PennEast pipeline, which threatens our water, air and land, at every turn. I filed as an intervenor, spoke at rallies, Assembly hearings, and traveled to FERC in Washington, D.C. I went to Kentucky for The EnVision Forum, a gathering of energy industry leaders to take Hopewell’s story to a national audience. We do not want and do not need this pipeline. I won’t stop fighting until the project is rejected. 

Beyond this, I have worked with local environmental groups to preserve more open space and farmland, and to expand our trail network. I have fought against the expansion of sewer service areas and the unchecked development and sprawl it would bring. And I have worked with Trenton Water Works to correct the deficiencies in its system and to ensure our water is clean, safe and healthy.

It is easy to say you want the best for the township. It is another thing entirely to actually do the work. I take my job seriously and get the key work done. The people of Hopewell Township deserve nothing less. On Nov. 5, please vote to re-elect Mayor Kristin McLaughlin and for Courtney Peters-Manning for Hopewell Township Committee. 

Kristin McLaughlin, Hopewell Township

McLaughlin is the mayor of Hopewell Township.

Peters-Manning: property taxes, environment top concerns

I am Courtney Peters-Manning, and I am running as a Democratic candidate for Hopewell Township Committee. I have spent the last several months walking door-to-door, talking to residents. I have heard your concerns and what is important to you.

In talking to voters, two major concerns come up over and over again. Residents are concerned about property taxes, and they want to protect our environment and open space, which includes fighting the PennEast pipeline.

As the director of finance of a local business with 59 employees, an environmental lawyer by training, an experienced advocate against PennEast and board member of FoHVOS, the LHT, the Township Planning Board, and the St. James Finance Council, I have the skills, expertise, and passion to address both of these critical issues.

I moved a lot growing up. That experience shaped me in many positive ways, but I always wished I had a community where I could dig in, plant roots, and make an impact. I have found that in Hopewell Township. My husband Tomas and I moved here ten years ago because of the Township’s rural character, open space, and its active, engaged community. We have made this our home. We are raising our two boys, ages 9 and 11, to appreciate this place on the planet and give back to the community we love.

I understand the importance of increasing public engagement in local government. I have already begun advocating for changes in public notice for Planning Board applications and in getting public input on the Open Space and Recreation Plan. I’ve knocked on over 1,000 doors. I will continue listening and getting your input on decisions big and small.

I ask for your vote on Nov. 5.

Courtney Peters-Manning