Quickie “Compare and Contrast”: Dowden to Shing-Fu Hsueh

Both of them, I think, are in there to “make sense of the madness”. Hsueh, I’m sure he’s got an amount of cleaning up to do. Dowden holds back Republican Party excesses that, like in tale of Pandora’s Box, are ready to come spewing forth if the G.O.P. ever gets its hold on the mayorship again.

Hsueh is about 20 years ahead of Jim on the planning thing. In part, because West Windsor is a ratables “sinking boat” without major changes to the way this state raises the money and cuts the pie. The idea that West Windsor could use Route 1 in the way Bridgewater crammed up its highways is a nonstarter. Obviously in Bridgewater it was the Republicans and not Dowden who were the big, big let’s build-it-up guys, but Jim D. has been taking credit for some of the ratables chase.

What happens if we ever get switched to a statewide property tax? Bridgewater becomes the goat, stuck with the mass of sprawl that pays taxes for other communities forty, fifty miles away.

So since W. Windsor’s problems are different, the message is different, and I would say that Hsueh comes across as more progressive, realizing that there is no way to pave ourselves out of the property tax mess in New Jersey.

On administration, Dowden I have to say has the edge, since he has the record—he’s been administering Bridgewater for twenty years. Shing-Fu Hsueh will probably match it, but will never have to put up with what Dowden’s been putting up with in the last four years. Both townships have a Council, but Dowden faces a 5-0 Republican bloc, and Hsueh is opposite a five-member nonpartisan at-large Council where it appears he has strong allies and no “county party red phone” ringing to tell Council not to go along.

In the nonpartisan governments, personalities matter more than parties. So in West Windsor, people are talking exclusively about names, not parties — I remember Rae Roeder being one mentioned a lot, Hsueh of course, from his Council days. In the 8 years when Bridgewater was nonpartisan, you started to have that. But the Republicans really always wanted it to be partisan–they pick up extra juice county-wide as a result.

As long as Dowden could make alliances on the Council—almost in nonpartisan fashion—-first with Hank Walsh, a fellow Democrat, and then with his buddy Charlie Harrison in the G.O.P., the township ran like a nonpartisan one (people said “bipartisan” but really it was more like when personalities trumped party identity.)

I am not sure that partisan Faulkner Act towns work when one party gets the whole Council, and the mayor is the opposite party. So I must give Dowden credit there, and hope that West Windsor never puts itself into a partisan situation like ours.


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