In Princeton, Democrats Use Rhetoric of Washington Against Fellow Democrats

By on March 20, 2014 , 9:06 pm


Local Democrats are using the rhetoric of Democrats and Republicans at the national level against people in their own party.

Words like “gridlock”, “polarization” and “obstructionist” have been used in letters to the editor supporting the election of Council President Bernie Miller and Sue Nemeth as the local Democratic club endorsement meeting for the June town council primary nears. Few of the letters actually mention the name of opponent they are seeking to oust, fellow Democrat Jo Butler.

This Wednesday in a letter to the Town Topics, former Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner, who now lives in Hopewell and is a close ally of Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, went so far as to say some council members on the all-Democrat slate are using “Tea Party tactics.”

Two seats are available on the council this year. The primary race is not until June, but the Democratic club endorsement meeting is March 30. Butler, an incumbent, is running alone. Miller, the council president, is running as a slate with Nemeth. The pair served on the former Princeton Township committee together. Lempert, Howard and Liverman are backing the slate in an effort to oust Butler.

In light of the language of gridlock and obstructionism, Planet Princeton recently reviewed all of the available Princeton Council minutes from Jan. 1 of 2013 to Feb. 1 of 2014.

The council voted on 340 items in public session during that period, on issues ranging from ordinances and resolutions to professional appointments and more.

According to the review of minutes, the-six member, all Democrat council voted unanimously for 321 votes, or 94.4 percent of the time.

Council members were split for 19 votes, or 5.6 percent of all votes.

Lance Liverman, Heather Howard and Bernie Miller voted with the majority 99 percent of the time. Liverman voted with the majority more than anyone on council, voting with the majority 99.7 percent of the time.

In the borough form of government, the mayor only votes in case there is a tie. Lempert voted three times. All three times she voted with the voting block of Howard, Liverman, and Miller.

The other three council members, Jo Butler, Jenny Crumiller and Patrick Simon, voted with the majority 97 percent of the time. Simon voted with the majority 97.6 percent of the time.

The issues the council was split on came down to a handful of issues (The council voted on the same issue at least twice for ordinances).

Butler voted against approving a professional services contact with the town’s law firm, and opposed the retirement and release for former police chief David Dudeck. She disagreed that Administrator Bob Bruschi should be the authority supervising the police department and  argued that the council or a public safety committee should oversee the police, and voted to go into closed session on an issue but Miller and his slate refused because they were convinced there was a leak to the press on council. She also recused herself on a vote regarding Princeton University’s payment in lieu if taxes for 2013, questioning whether the mayor had a conflict of interest participating when her husband works for the university.

Crumiller voted against a lease with the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce to manage the Nassau Street kiosks, opposed a crosswalk ordinance, the wording of a sustainable land use pledge, the naming of the municipal buildings, the professional services agreement with the town’s law firm,, and the naming of Bruschi as the authority to oversee the police department. She also voted for going into closed session on another issue, but the majority refused to hold the session because they were convinced there was a council leak to the press.

Simon voted against naming Bruschi as the “appropriate authority” overseeing the police department, against a contract for a law firm to merge the municipal land use codes, against new proposed crosswalk design standards, and borrowing money for capital improvements. He voted to go into closed session on an issue, but the majority refused to hold the session because they were convinced there was a council leak to the press.

Howard voted against the proposal to have the Princeton Chamber take over the Nassau Street kiosks.

Miller voted against the proposed 2013 budget because he opposed the tax reduction in the budget. He also voted against a contract with a lawyer to review the municipal land use codes.

The one time Liverman voted against the majority was when Miller was absent. Miller’s absence meant Butler, Crumiller and Simon were the majority for a change. They voted against making Bruschi the appropriate authority for the police. Liverman and Howard disagreed with them.

Overall, Butler voted against the majority nine times, Crumiller voted against the majority ten times, and Simon voted against the majority eight times. Miller voted against the majority three times, Howard voted against the majority twice, and Liverman voted against the majority once.

What are your thoughts on the Democratic divide and these statistics? Do you feel the recent campaigning is overkill? What suggestions do you have for improving local government and the way political parties function (or don’t) in Princeton?



  • Dudley Sipprelle

    Although I don’t as a rule feed Internet trolls, this one merits a
    comment. It is typical of liberal left group think and its often specious argumentation to attempt to demonize opposing points of view. Thus, we have here the attempt to tar Republicans as disruptive tea-party types who couldn’t possibly contribute to a productive discussion or meritorious outcome. This type of slander is, to paraphrase, the last resort of the unprincipled. It’s
    equivalent to labeling all Democrats as “Occupy Wall Street” anarchists.

    The editor asked for a discussion of ideas to advance local governance. The assertion that local property taxes are not a particularly relevant issue, just doesn’t get it or just plain wishes to avoid the major problem for the long-run sustainability of our beloved Princeton. By the way, man up (or person up, if you prefer) and come out of the shadows. The IRS is certainly not going to come after you!



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