Meet the Candidates: Peter Marks

Over the past month, The Sun has questioned candidates about local issues leading up to their contested election. Here is the full four weeks, including this week’s issue – a final pitch as to why they should be elected Nov. 8.


Week 1

Name: Peter Marks

Age: 61

Occupation: Real Estate Consulting and Development

Political Affiliation: Republican

Clubs/Organizations: None

Why are you running for Mayor?

The short answer is that I was asked to run and that I usually try to accommodate those who ask for my help.

The more complete answer is that a Mayoral campaign, even a futile Mayoral campaign, offers one of the relatively few opportunities to reach people who ordinarily pay little attention to local issues – and to do so at a time when I think the future character of our lovely little town is at issue.

If elected, what would be your top priority?

My top priority would be persuading Princetonians that the “affordability,” “sustainability” and “diversity” they prize are possible only in a state of equilibrium – and that such a state is possible only if we tighten our zoning, stabilize our population, preserve our open spaces, challenge the state mandates that bloat our various budgets and return control of our town to its residents.


What do you think is the most pressing issue in Princeton at present and how will you attempt to remedy it as mayor?

Growth is the single most pressing issue facing Princeton.  It is fashionable to argue that our little town is destined to morph into a regional hub.  Many of our leaders consider such a transformation to be both desirable and inevitable.

I could not disagree more strongly.

Some of us fight to preserve our distinctive, predominately single-family downtown neighborhoods.  Others fight to maintain Princeton as an affordable place to live.  Still others fight to ensure that Princeton remains diverse.  Growth undermines all three causes.

New apartment blocks are creating zoning precedents, overwhelming our schools with new students, and driving up land values. The resulting property taxes are driving out long time residents and creating pressure to subdivide single-family lots.

Infrastructure costs are growing. We learned recently that overcrowding may necessitate new schools. We also learned that the University is eying Springdale Golf Course and the meadows south of Carnegie Lake for expansion.

We are often told that Princeton needs to be “sustainable.” Perhaps our overseers do not grasp that “sustainable” implies equilibrium.

What is your plan to keep taxes at an affordable rate for residents?

Taxes can be held in check only if we stabilize our population, limit our density, maintain our height restrictions and curb our enthusiasm for extravagant expenditures – e.g. a ca. $40 million high school performing arts center, a $6 million community swimming pool, an empty Free-B bus and successive multi-million dollar artificial surfaces on our high school’s main playing field.

We can hope that Bruce Afran’s suit against the University will bring meaningful relief.    Residents can rely upon me to ensure that any settlement proceeds will be used to lower their tax bills, not to fund new projects. 


What are some innovative ideas you will bring to the table as Princeton mayor and how will these ideas benefit the community?

The solution is not innovation (there is, after all, nothing new under the sun). It is rather alerting people to the contradictions implicit in their existing policy choices.

Instead of whining about county taxes, we should elect freeholders who will work to reduce county spending.

Instead of complaining about school taxes, we should seek to overturn some of the state mandates that limit our choices and drive up school costs.

Instead of arguing about a supposed affordable housing obligation, we should work with other municipalities to overturn some of the more unrestrained interpretations of the Mt. Laurel decision.

And instead of capitulating obsequiously when prominent entities seek zoning variances and/or amendments to our master plan, we should enact and enforce zoning that preserves the small town character that makes our town so distinctive.

How will you work to balance the small town characteristics Princeton residents love, while accommodating the demand of a growing population?

I will work to ensure that Princeton remains a small town.  Growth is neither inevitable, nor desirable.  I would contest the idea that we have an “affordable housing obligation” and I would resist the University’s efforts to impose its expansionist dreams on our little community.


Make your final pitch.  Why should you be elected as Mayor of Princeton?

One party rule has left us in thrall to an ideology. We have serious problems, problems that we can no longer afford to ignore. But ignore them we do, usually because the solutions are unfashionable.

My particular aptitude is problem solving.  I have no interest in higher office. I am not wedded to an ideology. Two objectives will receive my focus: protecting our existing residents and preventing the transformation of our distinctive little town into another of the edgeless, urban blobs that blight so much of our lovely country.

About Erica Chayes Wida

Erica Chayes Wida is a writer, mom, and complete zealot when it comes to poetry, paella and globe collections. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA, Erica moved to Italy where the seasons and old architecture inspired her journey back to the East Coast. Since then, she and her husband have created a nest egg locally and, over time, developed a rather grand love affair with the town of Princeton. Erica is senior editor at The Princeton Sun and enjoys fulfilling her Princeton affections on a daily basis. | View all posts by Erica Chayes Wida