Here are his views on GGCNJ’s top 10 priorities for commissioners:
The “County Line” in primary election ballots: Being placed in a preferential ballot position unfairly benefits some candidates and disadvantages others. Recognizing the outsize influence of the “county line” primary election ballots on the outcomes of elections, and the considerable voter confusion that they cause, I will therefore advocate for an “Office Bloc” ballot as is used in every other state and in some counties in NJ (see http://ggcnj.org/resolution for more information).
Comment: I am in favor of cleaner ballot design more generally to avoid voter confusion when actually voting. In my role as PCDO President from 2013-2016, I was the co-architect of a package of reforms that made the Princeton Democratic Party more welcoming, transparent, and competitive. This package of transformative reforms was the result of a year’s worth of discussion between the PCDO, the PDMC, town elected officials, and engaged Princeton Dems. I should note that we started the process by all agreeing that it would take a super-majority vote in favor to pass the package of changes, since these were fundamental changes to the way our local party had been working for a number of years. One of the major changes was that for mayoral and council races, we voted to put all Democrats in good-standing in the column with the party endorsed candidates listed first and the unendorsed candidates listed just below them. When I think about the Mercer County line and possible changes to it along these lines or as an alternative via ranked choice voting, I think it’s important that a similar process be followed with wide and lengthy engagement to see whether a super-majority of Mercer County Democratic Committeepersons and our elected officials would want to follow a similar path as the Princeton Dems. When it comes to major change, I think it’s important to remember that each culture is unique. And as a result, I also think it’s important to build consensus most of the time when making fundamental DNA changes to any organization or culture. I would support and help facilitate on-going discussions and engagement on this issue and a range of good governance issues highlighted in your questionnaire, but I do think that much more time and discussion is needed to see if a consensus can even be built within the Mercer County Democratic Party. Moreover, I also think each political party plays a vital role in recruiting, developing, and vetting candidates for elected office. I think the Mercer County Democrats currently set a good example for openness and transparency when it comes to fostering processes to determine who will receive the party endorsement for the primary ballot. For example, by the time the endorsements are decided, candidates this year for Mercer County Commissioner will have participated in at least 7 forums around the county that are open to delegates and non-delegates, and the candidates will have had the opportunity to reach out individually to all 450+ convention delegates to make the case for their candidacy. Regardless of the ballot design, I think it’s critical that the party endorsed candidates be listed first due to the important role we play in the democratic process. Finally, I think on-going discussions about how to improve our overall electoral process and ballot design are healthy and will lead to further changes and improvements over time that will strengthen our democracy, and I support having them and would help facilitate them.
Contract Vetting: I will rigorously review all county contracts to make sure they reflect fiscal responsibility and the values of constituents.
Pay to Play: I will not exchange professional service contracts for donations to my campaign or the campaigns of my friends/allies. When possible, I will open contracts up for a competitive bidding process, instead of automatically renewing last year’s contract.
Ethics Reform: I support ethics reforms that would require broader disclosure of financial information (e.g., investments) by candidates for county commissioner, as a means for regulating campaigns and limiting corruption.
Professionalism: I will commit my time and energy to full length meetings that make information accessible to the public. I will not support rushing through an abbreviated consent agenda.
Meeting location and accessibility: I support using technology to make meeting attendance more accessible for residents, both publicly in person and via live-streaming of meetings (e.g., zoom) or other remote attendance options.
Comment: If the consensus does not exist to make the meetings regularly available by live stream, then I would also support going back to the pre-pandemic practice of having a certain number of meetings each year held in different towns around the county to make them more accessible.
Meeting Structure: I believe that county commissioners should hear from the public that they represent, and therefore I will not limit public comment beyond reasonable rules that make it possible for all who want to contribute, to do so (e.g., no more than 3 minutes per speaker). When possible, I will be responsive to public input.
Information reporting: I support easily accessible online meeting agendas and minutes. I support user-friendly budgets so residents can easily see how public funds are allocated. I support user friendly agendas that include explainers about resolutions being voted on.
Responsible County Administration & Oversight: I will work to ensure that the county entities and public services I oversee (such as libraries, parks, technical schools, community colleges, correction facilities, and infrastructure) are safe, professionally staffed, and appropriately funded.
Appointments to Boards, Authorities and Commissions: I will appoint people with diverse perspectives to boards, authorities and committees, opening up government for greater participation, rather than selecting the well-connected. Because new ideas and voices are important, I will seek out new residents to fill these board positions and strive for diversity that represents constituents (e.g., in terms of gender and race), rather than having the same individuals serve for decades.
More information about Jon Durbin:
Date of Birth: 10/31/1966
Current Occupation: Editor and Vice-President, W.W. Norton and Company
Education: I received a BA in history from Grinnell College in Iowa.
Public/party service: Current member of the Mercer County Democratic Committee-Executive Committee, Former Princeton Municipal Chair and PCDO President. Former President of Princeton Little League. Current President of West Windsor-Plainsboro Babe Ruth Baseball, and Little League Assistant District Administrator for Mercer County.