League of Women Voters Holds Forum for Municipal Candidates

Hopewell Valley League of Women Voters Forum 2018. Left to right: Mark Bovenizer, Samara McAuliffe, Debra Stuhler, Julie Blake, and Edward "Jack" Jackowski. (photo credit: Mary Galioto)

At the Hopewell Valley League of Women Voters forum, five candidates answered questions on October 16, 2018 at the Hopewell Valley Regional School District Administration Building. The two candidates running for one Hopewell Township Committee seat are Julie Blake (incumbent – D) and Edward “Jack” Jackowski (R), and, three candidates running for two seats on the Hopewell Borough Council are Mark Bovenizer (R), Samara McAuliffe (D), and Debra Stuhler (D). Pennington Borough’s local election is uncontested.

Hopewell Borough Council candidate Samara McAuliffe grew up in Hopewell Township and has lived and worked in the Borough for years. Her concerns include traffic and safety issues, encouraging community engagement, and ensuring that the Borough “continues to reflect the progressive and environmentally conscious community” as the “safe and welcoming place” it is now, she said.

Debra Stuhler, also in the running for Hopewell Borough Council, echoed many of the same concerns as McAuliffe including environmental issues and gun issues.

Deputy Mayor Julie Blake, running for reelection in Hopewell Township, spoke about budgets, PennEast pipeline, and bringing new revenue in the Township without burdening tax payers. Blake described herself as a “lifelong Democrat with a tradition of service” who values honesty and collaboration.

“I am committed to keeping Hopewell Township affordable, welcoming, and green,” Blake said.

Edward “Jack” Jackowski, running for Hopewell Township Committee, lives and has a business in Hopewell Township. He expressed a concern about “policies and lack of transparency” of the current Committee and wants to bring “new ideas and opinions in an open transparent environment.”

“I listen to what people want and ask of me, I tell them what I can accomplish and I do it,” said Jackowski.

Mark Bovenizer, also running in Hopewell Borough, has lived in Borough for more than 10 years, was born in Princeton, and grew up in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District. He spoke about his experience as a volunteer first responder and his service on Hopewell Borough Fire Commissioners.

“The role as a public servant gives me the desire to be leader,” he said. “Being a part of local government shouldn’t be a role that is taken lightly and we should work with our constituents and community to get things done.”

Candidates were asked about what basic principles they would use to determine appropriateness of future development projects.

“Environmental impact,” said Jackowski, “and if it is fiscally sound. It would have to be a win for the Township.”

Blake urged adherence to the Township’s Master Plan. “I ask that we keep that as a blueprint to any type of action including all infrastructure,” said Blake, who also spoke well-water and the aquifer.

Also for the Borough, McAuliffe said, “Future developments should be environmentally sound but they need to make sense for the community. We need to keep [the Borough] welcoming and affordable and future development should consider the affordability.”

“Living in the Borough, we’re already built-out and there are already projects [development] lined up,” said Bovenizer.

“I would look for community imput and make sure it fits within the historical nature of the Borough,” said Stuhler, who also stressed walkability and fiscal responsibility.

Regarding public safety, candidates generally agreed on issues including speeding and traffic, walkability in Hopewell Borough, and water issues in Hopewell Township.

When asked about ways to rethink waste disposal, McAuliffe and Stuhler both supported food waste recycling. Blake also supported food composting and recycling education. Bovenizer would like to “team up with Hopewell Township to figure out what is affordable and what is not.”

Two candidates, when asked how to improve delivery of government services to residents, shared a common answer: communication.

“We need to improve communications,” said Blake. “The services we provide don’t hit the right people – especially seniors and that includes mail delivery.”

“We have great services but could do a better job communicating,” said McAuliffe about the need for an improved Borough website. She also expressed the importance of residents coming to meetings. “That is when effective change happens,” she said.

Each candidate was asked his or her number one priority if elected and what skills does the candidate bring to achieve that outcome.

“Safety and walkability,” said McAuliffe, who said she works in HR and is good at listening and absorbing facts. “We need to tap the right resources and listen to the right people,” she said.

Blake stressed preserving open space and farmland while creating social infrastructure, as well fiscal responsibility to the tax payer.

Jackowski spoke about his concerns about safety on roadways.

Bovenizer spoke about open space and a concern about debt to asset ratio. “I believe that Hopewell Borough Council’s main function is a fiduciary responsibility to our residences as well as to manage and maintain a fair and even tax for the citizens of the Borough,” said Bovenizer.

In their closing remarks, candidates reiterated their platforms and asked for support at the polls on November 6, 2018. To watch a recording of the forum online, please see this link.

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