Ask Mark Freda for his opinion on the top issue that he would like to address if he is sworn in again as the second mayor of the Municipality of Princeton, and his answer is simple and concise: communication.
Communication ensuring the town continues to build on what have become excellent methods of communication reaching out to our residents over the past few months, Freda said.
Freda, who is a Democrat, is running unopposed for the top elected post in Princeton. Current Mayor Liz Lempert is not seeking re-election.
Born and raised in Princeton, Freda is not a newcomer to municipal politics. He served for 13 years on the former Princeton Borough Council, including a stint as the Princeton Borough Council president.
In the Princeton, the mayor who serves a four-year term serves as the chief executive officer of the town. Among other duties, the mayor nominates appointees to the boards and committees, subject to the Princeton Council’s approval. The mayor presides over the Princeton Council meetings, and may be the tie-breaker if there is a 3-3 vote.
On the issue of communications, Freda said it is important for residents to communicate with the town. There should be easily available ways for residents to express their concerns and share ideas, and it will be an evolving effort to accomplish that goal, he said.
Freda said there is a segment of the town’s residents who are underserved and whose personal situations make it difficult for them to speak up. They may not realize what their rights are and the services that are available to them, so having municipal staff communicate with them on a regular basis is one way to help them, he said.
While communication is the top issue for Freda, there are other issues facing the town that he would like to address from housing to the health of the business community, and working collaboratively with the Princeton Public Schools, Princeton University and Mercer County.
Housing is an issue that cuts across socio-economic levels, he said. Housing opportunities need to be made available for people at many different income levels to encourage the diversity that makes Princeton a special place, he said. It can be encouraged through planning, zoning and housing decisions made by the town.
Encouraging economic development and a healthy business community are key, because their impact ripples across the town, Freda said. They affect jobs and property taxes.
We need to develop plans to grow the commercial and business areas of the town (in order) to expand the percentage of the town’s tax base, Freda said. Property tax revenue generated by the town’s commercial properties helps to balance the municipal portion of the property tax bill.
Freda said he would like the town to work more closely with the Princeton Public Schools, Princeton University and Mercer County. The town has begun to work with the school district, and he would like to expand that relationship between the school board and the district staff, and the Princeton Council and municipal staff.
Building on the town’s relationship with the other educational institution in town Princeton University is another of his goals, Freda said. He would like it to become more of a partnership, because many of the needs and plans of the town are tied to the university.
Summing up, Freda said his approach to the role of mayor is that of being viewed as the leader of the Princeton Council and of the town. The mayor provides leadership, sets the tone for the management of the municipality, and ensures that there is robust communication with the residents and the staff outside of the Princeton Council meetings.
The mayor needs to lead by example, Freda said. The mayor needs to ensure that all voices are heard, because communication is the key to good decision-making. It is all about what is doing best for the town and the residents, he said.