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."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Turning Down County Money for Schools?

Are Mayor Frank and the Borough Council turning down, or at minimum stonewalling, acceptance of a $1 million grant from Middlesex County to repair Highland Park High School's athletic fields and track because the source of the funding is Frank's rival, Freeholder H. James Polos?

A very murky situation has been unfolding between the county, the local Board of Education, and the Governing Body over the past six or so weeks. The county, through Freeholder Polos, has offered the school district approximately $1 million toward fixing up the athletic fields and track at the high school. The repair would involve installation of artificial turf, which would mean the field could be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The system under consideration has excellent drainage, so this is not the source of the problem. The repairs would create additional opportunities for the high school's athletic teams and gym classes as well as for the borough's recreation programs, which are currently short on space due to the closing of portions of Donaldson Park for renovations.

Legal procedure requires the grant be approved by both the Board of Education and the mayor and Borough Council. The Freeholders have already made the money available, and both the Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools are in favor of accepting it. The only ones holding it up are the mayor and council, who have apparently been stonewalling during informal talks over the last month and a half.

Other Middlesex County municipalities have been only too happy to accept similar grants. Edison received $500,000 to fix a park near its municipal complex. Dunellen was given about $1 million to improve Columbia Park, creating a beautiful recreational complex totally funded by the county.

Until very recently, county officials assumed our acceptance of the grant was a done deal, as it should be.

Why is our town not accepting this money, which will benefit all of our populations? These facilities would be open and available to schoolchildren and local residents. There are no strings attached to the county's grant offer to the borough other than use of the fields be shared between the Board of Education and the borough's recreation programs. Without this money, the Board of Education will never be able to afford these improvements.

Freeholder Polos is up for re-election this November. Over the past seven years, Mayor Frank has maintained a personal grudge against him, at one point even telling a senior citizen not to mention his name at "her" monthly mayor's lunch. Her supporters who occupy leadership positions in the Municipal Democratic Party have actually encouraged voters to skip pushing the button for Polos when voting in both primaries and general elections to deliberately discredit him with a lower number than anyone else on the party line.

Is Mayor Frank afraid Polos will get credit for our obtaining the grant in these weeks immediately preceding the election? Is she rejecting the money because the initative was not her idea? Why is Councilman Mark Watson also apparently objecting to accepting the grant? If Frank is opposing acceptance of the money, why aren't members of the council overriding her and approving it anyway, as is their responsibility?

Mayor Frank's rhetoric is filled with abundant references to children and making this borough child friendly. If it is true that she is turning down $1 million that would benefit our children because the gift does not suit her personal and political needs, then that rhetoric rings hollow and reveals the blatant hypocrisy of someone who does not deserve to hold public office.