Princeton Today: Election Day

Princeton resident Bainy Suri talks about the plastic bag question on Hinds Plaza last month.
Princeton resident Bainy Suri talks about the plastic bag question on Hinds Plaza last month.

The polls for the general election today are open until 8 p.m. If you are not sure where your polling location is, visit the New Jersey Department of State website, where you can enter your address and find your polling site.

In Princeton, two Democrats are running unopposed in the Princeton Council race. Incumbents Bernie Miller and Jo Butler are seeking re-election.

Voters in Princeton will also elect three school board members. Only one incumbent is seeking reelection. Afsheen Shamsi is seeking her second term on the board. Fern Spruill, Justin Doran, and Connie Witter are also seeking seats on the board. For more on the candidates, visit the Save Our Schools survey and the League of Women Voters website.

In the Mercer County Freeholder election, Democratic incumbents Lucy Walter and John Cimino are being challenged by Republicans Andrew Curico and Bhanu Kirpalani for three-year terms on the board.

Mercer County Sheriff Jack Kemler,a Democrat, is seeking reelection. He is being challenged by Republican David Jones, who has criticized Kemper for “double-dipping” by retiring from the sheriff’s department and collecting that pension while earning a salary as sheriff. Jones claims he would not double dip if elected. Three-fourths of sheriffs in New Jersey double dip because of a loophole in the state law.

Democrat Cory Booker is seeking a full six-year term in the U.S. Senate. His challenger is Republican Jeff Bell.

New Jersey Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, a Democrat, will become the first New Jersey African American woman in the U.S. House of Representatives if she is elected today. She is being challenged by Republican Alieta Eck.

Voters in New Jersey will be asked to consider two public questions in the election. Voters in Mercer County are being asked to vote on an additional question.

Public Question 1: Constitutional Amendment To Allow a Court to Order Pretrial Detention of a Person in a Criminal Case

“Do you approve amending the Constitution to allow a court to order pretrial detention of a person in a criminal case?”

The measure would change the current constitutional right to bail. The change to the Constitution would mean that a court could order that a person remain in jail prior to trial without a chance for the person to post bail in some situations. The amendment also removes language in the Constitution about bail eligibility for death penalty cases, because the death penalty no longer exists in New Jersey.

The state Constitution guarantees defendants the right to bail — although judges have denied bail in the past for murder defendants. This question would give judges the ability to deny bail to people accused of lower-level crimes if they believe the person might not show up for trial if released on bail or is  a threat to the public’s safety. The measure would give the Legislature the authority to pass laws regarding bail and pretrial release. It would take effect January 1, 2017.

Public Question 2: Constitutional Amendment Dedicating State Funds for Open Space, Farmland, and Historic Preservation, and Changing Existing Dedication For Water Programs, Underground Storage Tanks, and Hazardous Site Cleanups

“Do you approve amending the Constitution to dedicate certain State revenues each year for environmental programs?”

The Constitution now dedicates four percent of the money collected from the Corporation Business Tax to help pay for some environmental programs. This amendment raises the amount from four percent to six percent beginning on July 1, 2019. The amendment also changes, beginning July 1, 2015, some of the programs funded by the current dedication. The new dedication would be used mostly to preserve and steward open space, farmland, historic sites, and flood-prone areas. Funds would also be used to improve water quality, remove and clean up underground tanks, and clean up polluted sites. Lastly, the amendment dedicates money received from leases and other uses of State open space lands to pay for open space, farmland, and historic preservation.

This question would increase the percentage of money taken from the Corporation Business Tax (CBT) for environmental programs from 4 percent to 6 percent and redirect that money into preserving open spaces, which generally had previously been purchased or preserved using bond money. Proponents say the dedication is needed to replenish the state’s empty Green Acres fund and would do so without raising additional taxes or putting the state in additional debt. Opponents either do not support using more corporate tax dollars for environmental purposes or argue that the question would cut funding for state water resource programs and hazardous waste cleanups, and leave little money for capital projects at state parks and historic sites.

Mercer County Plastic Bag Question

“In an effort to reduce disposable bag pollution in our communities, the residents of Mercer County support a five cent ($.05) fee for each single-use plastic disposable bag provided when shopping in any grocery, drug, or convenience store in Mercer County as an incentive to use recyclable bags.”

The referendum was placed on the ballot through a joint resolution by the Mercer County Executive and the Board of Chosen Freeholders. It is nonbinding and according to County Executive Brian Hughes it aims to gauge how Mercer County voters feel about the issue. Any actual fee would have to come in the form of state legislation. The specifics of the bag fee, including what the proceeds would be used for, will be addressed only if voters give the thumbs-up to proceed, Hughes said.

The average American uses about 500 plastic bags a year, while 183 million plastic bags are used annually in Mercer County alone, according to Think Outside the Bag NJ, a coalition dedicated to reducing plastic bag pollution in New Jersey. Supporters of the measure say that while plastic grocery and shopping bags offer short-term convenience, but they have long-term costs. Single-use bags require resources such as petroleum and natural gas to manufacture.  Plastic bags are extremely lightweight and can act like balloons, blowing out of garbage trucks and landfills. These flyaway bags litter parks and trees, enter storm drains and eventually end up in streams, rivers and oceans, where they break into small, toxic pieces, killing marine life and birds. Plastic bags create major problems at recycling facilities. They jam and shut down machinery. Plastic bags that get mixed with other recyclables also contaminate the end materials, lowering their quality and value.

Some opponents of this measure say it’s a tax. Hughes argues that it’s a fee that consumers wouldn’t have to pay if they brought their own reusable bag. Opponents also argue that stores already “reward” shoppers for bringing their own reusable bags by offering a small refund for each bag. Some people argue they would not have easy access to plastic bags for their cat and dog litter. Supporters of the fee say there will still be plenty of plastic bags around for those kinds of uses.


Mostly sunny, high of 68.


China and World Trade Organization – Xiaojun Li, assistant professor of political science at the University of British Columbia, will speak on “Administrative Reform, Bureaucratic Access and Policy Influence: Institutional Explanation of Trade Liberalization During China’s Accession to the WTO” at 4:30 p.m. in Robertson Hall, Room 002, at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Free and open to the public.

Screening of “La Pirogue” – Rockefeller College and the Department of French and Italian will screen “La Pirogue” at 7 p.m. in the Rockefeller College Theater. The 2012 Senegalese drama follows a group of African men who leave Senegal in a pirogue captained by a local fisherman to undertake the treacherous crossing of the Atlantic to Spain in search of a better life. All screenings are in French with English subtitles. Free.

Retirement and Income Taxes – Martha Ferrari provides an understanding of the effect of retirement on income taxes. The discussion will include how income tax is calculated, why knowing your personal tax rate is important, and some useful strategies. Ferrari is a CPA and fee-only CFP, with a practice in retirement planning, trust and estate administration and taxation. 7 p.m., Princeton Public Library Community Room. Free.


Route 518 between Canal Road and Carroll Place is down to one lane, with alternating traffic weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The speed limit in the construction area has been reduced to 35 miles per hour. Starting Nov. 10, the road will be closed with a detour in place. Starting Nov. 24, the road will be closed with a detour weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The work is part of a long-term project that will be completed by the end of 2015. Delays should be expected. Motorists should exercise extra caution in the area and follow posted detours during times of closure.

Somerset County is repaving portions of South Middlebush Road., Amwell Road., and Weston Canal Road. These will be nighttime paving projects and the roadways will remain open with an alternating traffic pattern. Project areas are as follows: South Middlebush Road: Between Blackwells Mills Road and Buffa Drive; Amwell Road: Between Elizabeth Avenue and Millstone River Road in Millstone; Weston Canal Road: Between Cottontail Lane and South Main Street in Manville. Use caution driving in these areas and expect possible delays.