The following op ed piece was written in 1979 during another Princeton debate about consolidation:
Now that the consolidation of the Borough and the Township is being seriously considered, it is inevitable that we shall hear many arguments against it: arguments concerning tax levels, zoning rules, “community” interests, etc. I should therefore like to take this opportunity to present what I believe to be the three most important reasons for voting in favor of this tremendously important issue.
1. At the very least, two independent Princetons present a bizarre geographical picture: the Township being the doughnut, and the Borough being the hole in the doughnut. Starting south from Kingston, you can travel on Route 27 through the Township, cross the border into the Borough, go further south on 27, and then eventually cross the border back into the Township again!
Does it make any sense to have so many of the area’s private residences in the encircling Township, yet concentrate almost the entire business district in the Borough? It is as if one lived in one municipality, but had one’s stores and amusements chopped away and given over to another municipality for administration.
2. No matter what arguments are raised about the separate “community” interests of the two municipalities, virtually everyone living here has but one municipal identification: he or she is a Princetonian. I have never met a local resident who called himself a “Township person” or a “proud resident of Princeton Borough.” People here live in Princeton, period: it is their identification, their home, their point of reference in an otherwise crazy, unstable world.
Indeed, even people who live in surrounding communities have been known to preen themselves on having a “Princeton address,” and it is certainly true that for people living within the Princetons, consolidation occurred a long time ago, and is very much a part of their social, political, and emotional lives. For most of us, consolidation would be merely a ratification of what is already a living reality.
3. Most importantly, if the problems of the Princetons can be solved by government agencies at all, it is clearly in everyone’s best interest to have the two governments combined. One hears a lot of talk these days about “regional planning,” but most regional planning organizations attempt to mediate between the competing interests of wildly different municipalities or even of whole counties. The result is often chaos.
The two Princetons, on the other hand, really do constitute one “region,” so that regional planning here would make a great deal of sense. If, for example, the traffic problems of Nassau Street are ever to be solved, it will clearly take the cooperation of the Township and the Borough to make it happen: there is simply no way to get cars away from the “inner city” without rerouting them through the Township. Clearly, it would be much easier to handle this problem if the entire traffic pattern of the region were being managed by one municipal government instead of two. As the already consolidated school districts have shown, consolidation leads to a far more natural pattern of community development than separation does.
In the end, the issue seems to come down to this: consolidation represents the natural, normal merging of two communities that should never have been separated in the first place. Our two Princetons have been living together for years as a truly attractive couple: it is time for the voters to make that union legal!
Marvin Harold Cheiten
Clover Lane, Princeton (Township)