To the Editor:
It is unfortunate that the Princeton Council Democratic Candidates Forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters last Wednesday evening coincided with Princeton’s monsoon season, as the weather no doubt deterred many from attending. I did attend and urge all voters who were unable to attend to view the video online when it becomes available. The winners of the June 3 primary will impact all of our futures and our votes should be shaped by the fullest knowledge of the candidates and issues as we can muster.
Full disclosure, I am a volunteer with Jo Butler’s campaign for reelection to the Council. Initially, I was motivated by my distaste for the “slate” of Bernie Miller and Sue Nemeth running against Butler. I thought it would be fairer to have a contested election with three candidates running independently rather than attempting to use what are presumably Miller’s very long coattails to replace Butler with Nemeth, Miller’s former colleague on the Township Committee. In politics, however, fair doesn’t matter, winning does. Getting to know Jo and her positions on the issues and commitment to the future of Princeton have persuaded me of the critical importance of Butler’s continued service on the Council. My negative reaction to the tactic of a “slate” has been supplanted by my positive commitment to Butler’s continued fine service to the town.
The performance of all the candidates at the League of Women Voters’ Forum only reinforced this opinion. At one point, Miller stated that his model of local government worked to achieve consensus. Butler countered with an important distinction between democracy and consensus. Democracy includes dissension; all parties should strive to immerse themselves in all aspects of an issue and present the best arguments for their position. There is a vote and majority rules. A desire for consensus should not be used to mute the full airing of all differences.
Butler’s dedication to delving into the details to make the best choices was evident in the discussion of how to set capital budget priorities. While Miller and Nemeth spoke in generalities about infrastructure and public safety as priorities, Butler championed the importance of the Council reviewing all capital budget proposals, not just those on a short list the town administrator had culled from a larger pool of projects. No doubt this would be a more time-consuming and cumbersome process, but decisions would be based on the largest possible knowledge base.
In her closing statement, Butler reiterated her commitment to fiscal responsibility, to closely reading all contracts and to working with a legal oversight committee to ensure the best advice at the best price for the town. Miller’s final words urged us to vote for Nemeth as well as him. Do we want a hard worker who diligently examines all options on Council or do we want those whose commitment to “consensus” might well discourage diligent oversight and hard choices?