Get to know Mia Sacks. She is one of 3 candidates vying for a seat on the town council for this upcoming election on Nov. 5.
Mia Sacks, Democratic Candidate for Princeton Council, 2019
Description of yourself
I come from a long line of Princetonians who have both benefitted from and contributed to our town. I attended Miss Mason’s School, Community Park School, John Witherspoon Middle School, and Princeton High School. After graduating from PHS, I went on to get a B.A. in Political Science from Barnard College, and an M.A. in Political Science from Columbia University. Subsequently I worked for more than two decades in New York, and around the world, in human rights, public health, and civil liberties. My work in legal and legislative advocacy at Human Rights Watch, and as part of the senior communications team at the National ACLU, taught me to operate strategically at the intersection of law and public policy, and to communicate effectively.
As a Program Officer for Public Health at the Soros Foundation, I was responsible for overseeing the development, funding, implementation and evaluation of public health projects disbursing more than $30 million annually in the former Soviet Bloc countries. After the fall of the Soviet Union, there was a tremendous need in the region for programs focused on developing public health policy as well as an infrastructure to respond adequately to public health issues. Of particular concern for us at the time was working to support the creation of legal frameworks for the health and social welfare sectors; strengthening the quality of practice in population-oriented public health; building the capacity of professional organizations to implement high standards of care; and promoting the inclusion of marginalized groups into health and social welfare services.
I moved back to Princeton 12 years ago to be closer to family and to build upon our long tradition of community involvement. I continue to work part-time as a consultant for a variety of social justice organizations in NYC. My husband also works in New York for an organization that provides ethics and regulatory compliance training to corporate employees. We have a child in middle school, three dogs ranging in age from six months to 18 years, and a tortoise who will outgrow and outlive us all.
What experience do you have that would help you serve?
In the last decade I have served on numerous municipal, school and community boards, committees and commissions. I’ve learned from the ground up how our municipality functions, and the challenges it faces. Here are just a few of the many activities and organizations with which I am or have recently been involved.
Member, Princeton Planning Board (Zoning Amendment Review, Subdivision, and Masterplan Subcommittees); Sustainable Princeton Board and Executive Committee; Resiliency Working Group, Climate Action Plan for Princeton; Vice Chair, Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee; Princeton Municipal Green Team; Princeton Public Schools’ Green Team; Elected County Rep, District 13 - second term; Steering Committee, Princeton Progressive Action Group; Steering Committee (and Founder), Princeton High School Alumni Association.
Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC); PEC liaison to the Board of Health; Princeton Bicycle Advisory Committee; Complete Streets Traffic Calming Committee; Chair, Princeton Green Schools Coalition; Princeton Public Schools, Strategic Plan Steering Committee; Every Child Known Task Force; NJ Leaders Educating for Sustainability, certification program; Sustainable Jersey, Health and Wellness Steering Committee; New Jersey School Boards Association, Health and Wellness Task Force.
What issues would you like to address if elected?
Since I believe, along with many of our long-time residents, that key decisions about the next half century for Princeton will be made in the next few years, my focus as a Councilwoman will be on proactive planning for Princeton.
Successful planning requires maximum public participation; conversely an inability to achieve public consensus about the future of a community is a fundamental reason why planning fails. For that reason, I believe Princeton Council has an essential role to play in facilitating a coherent, community-wide planning process that is transparent and leads to equitable, economically and environmentally sound outcomes. This will require intensive, proactive coordination between all major stakeholders and the municipality.
We must start with convening a public process for the comprehensive review and update of our Master Plan that reflects a consolidated, united Princeton. This will ensure that our community values and vision are reflected in the town’s land use ordinances and development priorities. The updated policies of our Master Plan will provide a much-needed guide for municipal decision-makers as we navigate growth in Princeton and the communities around us.
Additionally, I propose the inclusion of a new element to Princeton’s Master Plan focused on Economic Development. The revitalization of our commercial sector and figuring out how best to support our local merchants is an urgent priority. Genuine, lasting economic health for our town requires planning for and balancing the needs of all sectors: housing, transportation and schools, as well as our central business district.
In the past 18 months, as a Sustainable Princeton board member, I have been deeply involved in the development of a Climate Action Plan (CAP) for Princeton. This process, which engaged all major stakeholders in the town, resulted in a community plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help Princeton become more climate resilient. The plan was endorsed by Princeton Council this past July, and I look forward to playing an active role on Council in ensuring full and timely implementation of the plan.
In recent years I have been actively engaged, as a Planning Board member and with the Princeton Progressive Action Group, in advocating for middle income housing. On Council I will work to support zoning and other ordinance changes that allow for a wider variety of housing options, including accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The income from these units can help residents remain in their homes longer by offsetting taxes and providing funds for property maintenance and improvement.
Why should voters vote for you?
I believe that transparency and accountability are fundamental to effective decision-making, good governance, and strengthening civil society. A deep commitment to these principles is evident in my decades-long professional work at organizations which champion these principles at home and abroad.
Princeton, like many other towns, is confronted with challenges that include parking, traffic congestion, maintaining a vibrant downtown, stewardship of parks and open space, and responsibly managing growth. I believe these interconnected issues are most effectively solved using an approach that prioritizes sustainability and smart growth. Most importantly, I recognize the urgency of finding solutions to the core issue of affordability – essential to preserving the socioeconomic diversity through which our community thrives.
My years of service to Princeton have left me well-grounded in the issues we face; and I have demonstrated the ability to work collaboratively in finding solutions to Princeton’s planning challenges.
It takes time to understand the complex interrelationships between local institutions, between Council and municipal staff, and between the many strong personalities that make up our unique town. I have long experience navigating these complexities and have proven that I can work through and around them to obtain results.
My candidacy represents a bridge between the investment of my grandparents in this community, to the benefits that both my mother’s and my generation received, to my willingness to work together with the residents of Princeton, as a member of Council, in planning our shared future. I am eager to get started!
Mia Sacks, Candidate for Princeton Council