On Monday, January 22, after over two hours of public comment, virtually all of which objected to the proposal to consolidate the Human Services Commission, the Affordable Housing Board, and the Civil Rights Commission, Princeton Council voted for consolidation. There were plenty of apologies from Council members about the manner in which this proposal came about, that is, with zero consultation with current commission and board members and none with the public. I was taught that apologies without change in behavior are meaningless. Not only did Council ignore pleas to pause the process so that consultation could take place, but they gave a demonstration of slipshod decision-making in their adoption of two amendments to the proposal before comment began, a questionable process.
Council’s major complaint about the board and commissions was that they were not effective in managing human needs and civil rights in the municipality. It is doubtful whether Council’s new committee with 9 instead of the former 29 commissioners will better deal with these problems. To use Justice Ginsberg’s allusion to taking down an umbrella in a rainstorm, Council may well learn that the shrunken body it has created offers far less protection than is needed or that was provided by the three advisory groups they voted out of existence. Unfortunately, it will be the most vulnerable people in Princeton who will suffer from their action.