Princeton Council’s apologies are meaningless

Dear Editor:

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.

Linda Oppenheim

One Comment

  1. Not only was this a terrible decision, completely ignoring about 35-40 public comments against consolidation of the three commissions (and none in favor), but Council members’ own comments were inconsistent. First they praised the hard work that the 27-29 commission members had put in, then at least two council members said that nothing had been accomplished in decades. I’m not familiar with the work of the Housing Board, so will not comment on that. I did serve for 12 years on the Human Services Commission, and while there helped bring back the Civil Rights Commission which had served our Town well from 1968-98. Let me recount just some of their accomplishments.
    Human Services – completed two Town needs assessments; during Hurricane Sandy were out distributing flyers on warming and recharging locations; during the pandemic assisted with food distribution; with our Police Department ran the annual “bike rodeo” for kids; were out on the streets and at the soccer field with informational flyers for immigrants on “know your rights” and wage theft.
    Civil Rights Commission – created a racial equity toolkit; pushed for gender neutral bathrooms; lobbied for our local Indigenous People’s Day; crafted resolutions against antisemitism and Islamophobia; was beginning to research the history of racial exclusion and exploitation in Princeton so that all, including students, could better understand this long sad history and never repeat it; by the ordinance that re-established it in 2016, provided a means for informal conflict resolution of discrimination complaints if both parties agreed to participate. This provided an outlet other than going to the NJ State Civil Rights or Attorney General’s Offices, both of which could be a long process.

Comments are closed.