Not in Our Town urges Princeton residents to speak out against proposal to disband civil rights commission at Jan. 22 council meeting

Who thinks THIS is a good idea?

This letter was originally sent to Not In Our Town supporters.

We are writing to urge you and other conscientious Princetonians who care about making Princeton a more inclusive and equitable community to join us in speaking out against a Princeton Council proposal to merge the Civil Rights Commission with the Affordable Housing Board and the Human Services Commission.

Please come to the public hearing of the Council on Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. at 400 Witherspoon St. to share your perspective.  The board of Not in Our Town Princeton (NIOT) strongly opposes the Council’s proposed ordinance to merge the Civil Rights Commission with the other two groups. We urge the Council to withdraw this proposal, or at minimum, postpone the vote in order to allow for discussion with the three bodies and input from the public. 

The Princeton Civil Rights Commission (CRC) is a structure that plays a unique role in our town. It is a key resource for our marginalized residents to voice their concerns regarding equity issues. The existence of CRC as an independent body signals that Princeton aspires to be a town that is welcoming to all its residents and newcomers, willing to listen, understand, and address issues of race, class, culture, and other forms of discrimination and injustice.

Over the years, CRC and NIOT Princeton have collaborated in initiatives such as observing Indigenous Peoples Day, modifying road signage to remove the racist and incorrect phrase “Settled in 1683”, and endorsing the enactment of Assembly Bill A938/S386, the “New Jersey Reparations Task Force Act”. The CRC has also been instrumental in resolutions declaring racism as a public health crisis; calling upon the White House and Congress to reunify migrant families, and condemning antisemitism and Islamophobia in our town. The CRC created a Racial Equity Impact Assessment Toolkit and spearheaded educational programs such as Juneteenth in partnership with the Princeton Public Library. 

The proposed commissions/board consolidation will greatly reduce our community’s capacity to prioritize issues and initiatives that specifically and disproportionately impact our most marginalized communities.

The CRC is completely volunteer-based. Losing it would further marginalize our underserved residents and local stakeholders like NIOT will lose both an effective collaborator in the struggle for social justice and a communication channel to the Council. Further, to effectively address civil rights complaints, CRC needs to be independent from all government entities, and other boards and commissions.

Without the CRC, our community would be deprived of the contributions and participation of engaged and committed volunteers and residents. It is also distressing that the Council is presenting an ordinance with such enormous implications with no notice or prior input from the members of the CRC, Human Services Commission, and Affordable Housing Board, nor from the public. This utter disregard for community engagement and lack of transparency runs counter to our democratic process.

We hope to see you at the Jan. 22 meeting. In the meantime, look for op-eds and letters to the editor from NIOT Princeton and concerned individual citizens. You can of course also express your opposition in letters to the editor against this proposal.

Yours in the struggle, 

The NIOT Board