Without a local debate this year, MercerMe asked questions of candidates running for Hopewell Township Committee based on ongoing community issues in the vicinity. The answers in this article have been provided by Republican Ed “Jack” Jackowski, who is seeking election to Hopewell Township Committee.
What do you think is the most pressing issue facing Hopewell Township?
There are two pressing issues. This year’s 4.68% tax increase (including the associated raiding of the Township’s surplus), and the Committee’s horrific environmental record, proceeding in its affordable housing plans by extending the sewer service area to regions defined by our Master Plan as environmentally sensitive. The current Committee blames everyone and everything and attacks those who raise objections, but takes no personal responsibility for their horrific decisions and results
What professional and/or personal skills do you bring to face that issue?
As a long-time businessman and environmentalist, the owner of Jack’s Nursery, I must always make responsible decisions and balance my budget or go out of business. I don’t have the luxury of raising taxes to make my business work. I must deal with changing local and national economic conditions and regulations, and fashion a business that recognizes that my customers are the key to everything. The Township’s “customers” are its citizens and taxpayers, who deserve a government that understands where its funds derive from. The point is, I listen calmly and patiently, always, and I will bring that underestimated skill to the running of the Township.
How could Hopewell Township be made more affordable for its residents?
The Township desperately needs far better long-term planning. The Township currently makes its decisions politically, often meeting-by-meeting rather than placing its actions within a broader context. The Township’s processes are also broken. They make enormously important decisions without properly consulting with residents. Get rid of the three-minute clock, invite the public’s expertise to help guide policy, establish independent citizens groups to guide everything from affordable housing planning through budget reviews. The present Committee eliminated the budget advisory committee, very much a step in the wrong direction.
Do you support running sewer lines to parts of the Township that don’t currently have them?
I will oppose all efforts to extend the Township’s sewer service area. Twice, Mayor McLaughlin has voted to extend the Township’s sewer service to environmentally sensitive lands on the West Side of Scotch Road, in my opinion a serious error, twice. Moreover, permitting a 16-pump gas station near a natural gas pipeline is very poor planning indeed.
The Township’s affordable housing approvals are in, and the neighborhoods surrounding these new developments should be offered the opportunity at reasonable rates to connect to the new sewers that are being constructed. Many of these neighborhoods around Pennington are already in the sewer service area with sewering provided from the Stony Brook Regional Sewerage Authority. They all involve relatively small lots that were originally meant for sewering, and these connections should be seriously explored, working in conjunction with each neighborhood.
How have you addressed PennEast’s plan to build underground gas lines through Hopewell Township?
I am not yet in office, but I am part of a natural, bi-partisan movement that has opposed the PennEast pipeline through environmentally sensitive lands. Democrats and Republicans have opposed this pipeline from its inception. The last time that Republicans were in the majority, they led the groundwork for the consistent fight that all members of the township committee have joined. I will keep up the good fight. I question the inherent, economic need for the pipeline and I am vehemently opposed to their use of eminent domain to seize land for their use. The effort must be fought using every means at our disposal. My main concern is that the Township has not allocated sufficient funds for joining the regional, legal effort. A relatively small investment there would pay enormous dividends later.
What solutions would you suggest for managing traffic through Hopewell Township, in particular on Route 31?
Two decades ago, the Township brought in citizen volunteers to organize the Task Force on Trucking and Traffic. They worked wonders. They worked with neighboring communities to reduce truck traffic, to re-set speed limits, and they introduced and passed important state legislation on where trucks could and could not go. The one unfinished piece remains unaddressed: re-defining “local deliveries” to keep most large trucks on interstate highways rather than cutting through Hopewell Valley en-route to northern states. Let’s reconstitute this group, bringing fresh energy to this problem and giving voice to the many local experts on trucking and traffic.
Since the League of Women Voters decided not to have an actual debate this year, what is one question you would ask each of the candidates from the other party?
Why do you persist in avoiding public mention about your 4.68% tax increase and the need to reconstitute the Budget Advisory Committee?