Blog for Highland Park

Welcome to the Blog for Highland Park, a weblog chronicling events in Highland Park, NJ from an alternative perspective to the often one-sided slant of the official borough newsletter.

My Photo
Location: Highland Park, New Jersey, United States

I am a freelance writer and community activist who has worked on many progressive and Democratic political campaigns over the last 25 plus years and a lifelong resident of Highland Park, NJ. I have a BA in Journalism from Rutgers University, an MA in Middle East Studies from Harvard University, and an MEd in English Education from Rutgers Graduate School of Education. An enthusiastic amateur astronomer, I have just completed Swinburne University Astronomy Online's Graduate Certificate of Science in astronomy and am pursuing a Masters of Science in astronomy at Swinburne. I am also an actress with experience in theatre and film and have written a full length play. I am currently working full time on a book "The Little Planet That Would Not Die: Pluto's Story."

Friday, December 23, 2005

Urge Corzine: No Cabinet Position for Meryl Frank

The Highland Park Democrats, a grassroots unofficial party organization opposed to the use of eminent domain and redevelopment in Highland Park strongly urges Governor-elect Jon Corzine to not appoint Highland Park Mayor Meryl Frank to any Cabinet level positions, especially president of the Board of Public Utilities, head of the Community Affairs Department, or Secretary of State.

For the last year and a half, Mayor Frank has aggressively promoted a controversial redevelopment plan in Highland Park that targets thriving businesses, describing them unfairly as "underutilized." Despite countless requests during this time, she has adamantly refused to rule out the use of eminent domain to take those properties if the owners refuse to sell. Since her redevelopment vision has no room for many of the existing businesses to remain, most of the property owners are backed against the wall. They do not want to sell but see little room for negotiating.

Also during this past year and a half, affected property owners and residents opposed to eminent domain have organized rallies and letter writing campaigns and packed meetings in an attempt to convince the mayor to preclude any use of eminent domain. Activists formed the Highland Park Citizens for Property Rights Protection, which is working together with home and business owners targeted by eminent domain across the region to oppose this injustice.

The mayor's vision of redevelopment amounts to gentrification, a pushing out of "blue collar" type businesses to replace them with upscale boutiques and luxury condominiums. This is in spite of the fact that Highland Park is not a wealthy community.

Frank has consistently treated the anti-redevelopment movement with contempt, has lied to property owners about the future of their properties, and even forced a lone Council member opposing redevelopment to resign in March 2005. That Council member had worked for Middlesex County until late 2004, when she lost her job under mysterious circumstances. Many in town have strong suspicions Mayor Frank intervened with the county Freeholders to get this person fired.

In conjunction with Highland Park Citizens for Property Rights Protection, an insurgent Democratic organization has come together to oppose Frank, her redevelopment project, and her uncompromising, inflexible leadership style. This group plans to run candidates annually in primaries to challenge Frank's candidates and break her control over the Democratic committee. Although no formal poll numbers are available, the number of Democrats siding with this insurgent group is estimated to be as high as 45% of registered Democrats in town.

In short, Meryl Frank has been and continues to be a divisive, inflexible, even tyrannical leader continually challenged in local elections, someone who is far from qualified for a Cabinet level position in state government. Governor-elect Jon Corzine is strongly urged to investigate the controversies she has caused in Highland Park and to ultimately reject her for any Cabinet level position.