The Countdown Begins
"One day more. Another day, another destiny..." That is the song sung by revolutionaries in the musical "Les Miserables" on the eve of their brave strike against tyranny. In Highland Park, it's now officially one year more--one year more until we bring much needed regime change to this borough.
June 5, 2007 is the day of Highland Park's primary for mayor, 2 council seats, and every seat on the Democratic Municipal Committee. June 5, 2007 is the day we restore genuine open government and transparency to this borough. It is the day we elect public servants who aren't afraid of the Open Public Records Act or of politically connected developers or of the healthy dissent that comes with being a democracy. June 5, 2007 is the day we elect new leadership that doesn't just talk the talk of inclusion but walks the walk. June 5, 2007 is the day we elect government officials who will protect the interests of our low income residents, of our seniors, of every single local business, of all who have been wrongly excluded from having their rightful voices in government. June 5, 2007 is the day Highland Park definitively says no to any use of eminent domain in this town to take homes or business properties from anyone and hand them over to private developers.
All over the state and the country, the tide is starting to turn. Governor Jon Corzine's appointed Public Advocate released a report that, while stopping short of a moratorium on eminent domain for private development, recognizes the current situation is broken and makes solid recommendations for repairing it. Among his arguments are the recognition of the "underutilization" and "consistent with Smart Growth" criteria for designating properties "in need of redevelopment" as unconstitutional. Those criteria were used in Highland Park's redevelopment study to blight many properties. For the Public Advocate to recognize them as unconstitutional is a huge step in the right direction.
Then there are the many bills introduced in New Jersey and nationwide, ranging from a complete moratorium on any use of eminent domain for redevelopment to significant reforms that will make it much harder for government to partner with developers to take people's hard earned homes and businesses.
But the turning tide goes beyond eminent domain reform. It manifests in the movement to GRIP or get rid of incumbent politicians, in the shedding of light on rampant corruption, especially here in New Jersey and the recognition that our political system needs serious reform. Politicians who have abused the public trust for years are finally being made to answer for their deeds, and constituents are waking up and realizing that democracy means representation for the people, not for politically connected developers, oil companies, and their friends.
And people are waking up to the danger of the growing gap between this country's haves and have nots, the policies that created that gap, and the urgent need to reverse them as rapidly as possible. It is a national issue but also a local issue. Here in Highland Park, it will translate into a movement that rejects gentrification, meaning the effort to turn our town into a wealthy, upscale community at the expense of small businesses and lower income residents.
On June 5, 2007, the people in Highland Park will elect leaders who find room for all who want to serve our town regardless of their political loyalties. We will elect people who will reject giving hard-earned taxpayers' money to consultants and event planners and go back to sponsoring public events run by volunteers invested in the community. We will elect people who will throw out the faulty redevelopment study and plan and replace it with a fair revitalization effort that welcomes every resident and every business as an integral part of our borough.
If these goals hit home, if they match your vision, we welcome you to join us in building a movement for change. There is one year to go, and everyone and every effort is needed to make this effort succeed.
The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
June 5, 2007. One year more.