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Op-Ed: Princeton Needs Unified Leadership for Community Safety

By Laura Kahn

I can’t stress enough the importance of having Princeton Borough and Township consolidate. Almost two weeks have passed since Hurricane Irene wrecked havoc on our collective community including the tragic loss of life of a heroic EMT, flooding, and power loss.  It is important to note that the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad serves both the Borough and Township; imagine the problems that would ensue if two separate first aid and rescue entities only worked within their respective borders. I have studied crisis leadership for almost a decade, and I can’t stress enough the importance of having unified leadership responsible for a community’s safety.

It is downright dangerous having two separate political entities: Princeton Borough is donut-holed within Princeton Township, a difficult arrangement from an emergency management, health, and safety perspective.  Hurricanes and microbes do not recognize political borders.

Since 1976, the Princeton Regional Health Commission (PRHC) has been serving the collective community.  The PRHC works hard to integrate the directives and budgets from two different governing bodies. Yet, despite the bureaucratic challenges, the PRHC, health officer, contract nurses and HITOPS provided vaccinations in 2009 to the entire Princeton community—not just to the Borough or Township residents—during the H1N1 influenza outbreak.  In fact, the Princeton Regional Schools provided space for many of the H1N1 clinics.  Responding to a deadly pandemic would be much harder if there were two separate public health entities.

Yet, this is the situation with the police.  We have two separate police departments that must communicate and coordinate between two political entities during a crisis. Even worse, our elected officials, the people ultimately responsible for the health and safety of Princeton, are very much split.  This cannot and should not continue.  Putting the issue of consolidation to a public vote is a good first step in thinking and acting like one community.   We are one community and here is our opportunity to prove it.

I urge everyone to vote for consolidation.

Laura Kahn is a resident of Princeton Township and serves on the Princeton Regional Health Commission.

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Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Van Williams

    Mr. Marks comments regarding the Arts District debate seem to me to lead to an impossible situation. When the University proposes something as consequential as the Arts District, it affects both the Borough and the Township. As such, it seems to me fair and logical that the local government(s) ought to coordinate their response, not confront the University with different perspectives, leaving the University (or a Court) to have to decide the outcome. Isn’t it better for the the local officials to work together to prepare a unified response, thereby making debate and decisions more focused? That would happen under a consolidated government structure, but separate entities pleading their own cases may just result in a no-win for anyone.

  • Laura Kahn

    For emergency management, a divided government is a weak government. A tragic consequence of this is unnecessary loss of life.

  • Peter Marks

    I suggest that Princeton is already one community, as evidenced in part by the shared mandates of the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad and the Princeton Regional Health Commission.

    That our elected officials are “very much split” seems to this Borough resident to be a very good thing — at least when considered in the context of the University’s proposed redevelopment of the Alexander Street corridor and its plans for large scale development elsewhere in downtown Princeton. The “split” cited by Ms. Kahn reveals two sharply opposing views of the Dinky, the proposed “arts” complex, and, more broadly, the proper nature of constraints on future development. The reservations being voiced by many of our Borough officials are not likely to receive much consideration in a consolidated Princeton. That would be a significant loss, one with consequences that Borough and Township residents might soon have reason to regret..

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