Charlie Huchet (pronounced “Yoo-shay”) is one of four Democrats running for New Hope Borough Council in next month’s election. A resident of Lambertville before moving to New Hope with his wife in 2001, he has been involved in several community organizations, including the Historical Society, Bucks County Playhouse, revitalization committee of Borough Council and the New Hope-Solebury School District.
Huchet studied psychology at Wesleyan, received an Ed.D from Harvard, and has enjoyed a well-rounded career in education in roles including school psychologist, regional director of special services, and his current consultancy for parent advocates of special needs children.
Huchet believes that including more stakeholders in borough decision making is key to solving New Hope’s more pressing issues. One example would be to more actively recruit volunteers to fill Borough Council committee positions. “I’m in the process of looking for the talent now. I think we all should be doing that,” said Huchet. “New Hope is a community of many uniquely-talented individuals. We need to reach out to and enlist those talents.
“If you take a look at all the issues that we should be paying attention to, my interest is in finding our strengths to apply to those issues,” continued Huchet. “Rather than counting on Borough Council or some commission to solve these problems, I want to see community involvement. I think some new creativity and vision can be brought to issues like parking. I don’t think we’ll find a final solution to parking — as we used to say, it’s a good problem to have and we’ll always have it as long as business is prospering. We’re not going to build a multi-tiered garage, but I think that there’s space utilization issues that need to be examined, along with smart metering, and ways to encourage people to come downtown. And there need to be reasons to come downtown outside of going out to dinner,” he added.
“Take the issue of the absentee landlord who doesn’t feel any responsibility for whether there’s somebody renting or not. What I want to see develop is a pride of place, which is an outgrowth of community spirit and involvement that causes one naturally to go pick up that piece of trash somebody just dropped, or keep the front of your store clean,” Huchet said.
“While I much prefer living in New Hope, Lambertville has done a very good job of maintaining their housing stock,” he said. “That should be an ethic here, a value. We should find reasons to bring people together in this town that I think don’t exist enough now, like an annual picnic around Borough Hall, or taking the Christmas tree lighting and thinking larger than that to make it something more inclusive, so people can feel part of something larger than their separate neighborhood.
“I think we need to get a better handle on what kind and quality of community we want and how that affects planning,” continued Huchet. “I grew up in a small town. I want New Hope to maintain a small town quality and ambience, but I’m looking for a balance. One might take the south end of Main Street and say ‘this really needs to be cleaned up,’ but if you really cleaned it up, you’d kill off a certain quality. So, is there some compromise, is there some aesthetic standard which cleans it up but doesn’t over-clean it?
“We want room for the families, the kids…we want to encourage multi-use downtown. We don’t want it to be dark after 5 p.m. And I think it’s really important to maintain, sustain and encourage the art tradition in town which is very important to many people. We tend to operate with bits and pieces rather than having some kind of larger picture to help guide these decisions,” he said.
Huchet is also concerned about improving emergency planning. “Everyone seemed well-prepared for the river rising, but no one was very well-prepared for the trees blowing down when Hurricane Sandy came in. Emergency planning needs to be re-thought, and we should be involving the public in that process.
“At the same time, we need to be thinking and planning more regionally,” he added. “I think we need to be talking more to Solebury, I think we need to be talking more to Lambertville — I mean it’s just across the river, and we act as if it’s on Mars. Are there things we could be sharing? Are there things they’re about to do that we should know about? Should the right hand know what the heck the left is doing? I think the planning boards of New Hope and Lambertville should get together over a couple of beers and talk about where things are going in their communities,” said Hutchet. In fact, he has served on the planning boards of both communities.
Concluded Huchet, “The Council never sits down and just talks. They never sit down with the chairs of their commissions — which astounds me — and then you can have a blow up, and you’re surprised. We should be on the same page. These are not rocket science issues. We can create synergies by working together, like more actively coordinating the planning and operations of Borough Council, the revititalization committee, and the Chamber of Commerce.”