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.

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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."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Pulling A Fast One

After promising not to take any action on redevelopment during the summer, the Borough Council tonight pulled a fast one on us by holding a first reading on the ordinance adopting the redevelopment plan. The public hearing and vote on final adoption are scheduled for September 6, one day after Labor Day. Councilman Steve Nolan seemed baffled by my objection to tonight's first reading (which, by the way, was unanimous in favor), arguing that the plan has been on the web for two months (how can that be when the current version of the plan was only adopted on June 21, and today is August 9?).

There is something very wrong with the Council taking any action during the summer when it is in direct contradiction to a promise made by the mayor and governing body. How can anyone negotiate with borough officials in good faith when we cannot even rely on the mayor and council to keep their word about scheduling? Summer is a down time for many in town, and few people are likely to spend their vacations perusing a redevelopment plan on the web. One day after Labor Day is insufficient for people of all views to organize and prepare comments at a meeting where there will be a final vote on adoption.

Nolan claims redevelopment is being done in an open process, but tonight's action is neither in good faith nor is it open. Any number of citizens might have been intending to attend the meeting for the first reading, a chance they have now been deprived of since this item was only put on the agenda earlier today. The usual procedure is for items scheduled for the next Regular Council meeting to be on the Conference Meeting agenda. Conference Meetings are held on the same night after the Regular Meeting. I attended the July Conference Meeting and have the agenda planned for tonight's August meeting. A first reading on the redevelopment study is NOT listed on this agenda. So no matter how much Nolan claims this is not an attempt to sneak redevelopment through, the facts show that it is just that. And it is very similar to the borough's adoption of the Business Improvement Tax two years ago, also done in mid-August.

After insisting on the 60-40 lie about this year's Council primary, Nolan says he feels comfortable about next year's election. He shouldn't. Because he is wrong about both 2005 and 2006. The numbers this year were not 60-40. George Valenta and I came VERY close, and I am excited about building on that for next year. I was never disappointed with this year's results. The June 7 primary was in no way a "loss." In fact, I was and am ecstatic and thrilled with the results; I feel as if we won. The movement for change in town is building. Nobody in Highland Park was disappointed on Primary Night this year. And next year--well, let's just say I will definitely be a Council candidate in 2006, and I feel very comfortable about that election.

Obviously, we need to continually keep an eye on the Council--no vacations, no down time. Someone has to always be present at meetings keeping up with every detail of action being taken . Jefferson was right on when he said "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."