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."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Fight Against Eminent Domain Abuse Continues

Over the past several weeks, there have been quite a few encouraging developments in the fight against eminent domain abuse. Last week, U.S. Senator James Inhofe introduced S. 3873, the "Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2006." This bill is identical to the House of Representatives' terrific eminent domain reform bill, H.R. 4128, which has been stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee since it passed the House last November by an overwhelming majority of 376-38. The bill denies federal economic development funding to any municipality that has used eminent domain for private redevelopment.

S. 3873 - which is now the vehicle for eminent domain reform in Congress - will go straight to the floor of the Senate, bypassing the hold-ups other eminent domain bills are encountering in the Senate. However, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will not put eminent domain reform on the Senate's agenda, effectively prohibiting the Senate from voting on this bill!

It is more important than ever that we make our voices heard. Call Senator Bill Frist at 202-224-3344 NOW and ask him to put S. 3873, federal eminent domain reform, on the Senate's agenda and allow a vote. Explain that the American people are strongly opposed to the abuse of eminent domain, both politically and morally - and this opposition will only continue to grow. Then contact our own two senators and urge them to support S. 3873. Their phone numbers are U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, (D - NJ): (202) 224-3224 and U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D - NJ): (202) 224-4744. If you can, please e-mail Frist and our senators by clicking on the following link:

Another encouraging development is that Public Advocate Ronald Chen has joined homeowners in Long Branch, NJ who have filed an appeal of a June court ruling authorizing the taking of their homes. The national Institute for Justice has taken on the Long Branch homeowners' case, which could become a landmark national blow against eminent domain abuse. Chen is strongly committed to ending this travesty and may even attempt to persuade Governor Jon Corzine to support a moratorium on all use of eminent domain for private redevelopment.

That's why it's important for all of us who feel strongly about this issue to write to Governor Corzine now. Below is a sample letter created by the New Jersey Coalition to Stop Eminent Domain Abuse (formerly the New Jersey Coalition Against Eminent Domain Abuse) in support of a moratorium.

Governor Jon Corzine
125 West State Street
P.O. Box 001
Trenton NJ, 08625
Phone (609) - 292 - 6000
Fax (609) - 292 - 3454

Dear Governor Corzine:

You were elected by the people of NJ and one of your issues during the campaign was that you were against people losing their homes through the abuse of Eminent Domain.

When you were elected, you established the Office of the Public Advocate. Ron Chen's first duty was to investigate the abuse of Eminent Domain in NJ. Although he did a good preliminary investigation, his report just touches the surface of the abuses occurring here in our home State! The Assembly Commerce & Economic Development Committee have also just touched the surface with the tweaking of the Local Redevelopment & Housing Law by voting on Bill A3257.

What NJ really needs is STRONG legislation against the abuse of Eminent Domain. We need a moratorium NOW to protect our properties until stronger laws are enacted. We need to go back to the traditional uses of Eminent Domain so that all NJ property owners can FINALLY be secure in their homeownership. We need to be secure that our own elected officials will not conspire to take our property for some politically connected developer to build a luxury condominium complex or big box store that will be for private profit only and not serve any public use.

There are also some proposed constitutional amendments (ACR161, ACR168, ACR138, SCR40 AND SCR13) that the public will be concentrating on later in this session. As a taxpaying citizen I strongly believe we need a constitutional amendment to stop eminent domain abuse once and for all. If and when one of these bills reaches your desk, I would surely hope you sign it so that the voters of NJ can have the question on the ballot in November 2007 and make their own decision as to what eminent domain should be used for in our state! These are OUR homes we are losing and on the issue of Eminent Domain WE should have the final say.

Until that can be accomplished it is essential that you implement an Immediate Moratorium to protect our property here in the great State of NJ!

Finally, the newly formed group StopEDA will have their official first meeting on Friday, September 29th at 7 pm at the Redeemer Lutheran Church, 2531 State Route 33 at Jumping Brook Road in Neptune, NJ (zip code 07753-3003 for mapquest users). Pastor Randy Steinman has been gracious enough to allow the use of his church for our meeting.

I know this is not the most convenient date and time, but if you can, please try to attend this meeting. It would be great to have Highland Park represented. While the redevelopment situation here appears to be in limbo, the threat of eminent domain being used in the borough has not gone away!

If you plan to attend, please RSVP to Lori Ann Vendetti at 973-699-0375, by email to or email Barb at

The Church is located at 3531 State Route 33, at the corner of Jumping Brook Rd in Neptune. About 1/2 mile east of GSP Exit 100 (Rt 33 east, Ocean Grove) and about 2.5 miles west of the interchange for Rt 18 and Rt 33.

Also, please be sure to join the new Statewide Coalition at its new site,

This fight for justice is happening at every level--federal, state, and local. Let's keep the momentum going!