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."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Giant Step Backward

After moving the location of its monthly meetings to the YM-YWHA in 2002 in response to objections regarding previous holding of meetings at the office of Gabel Associates, the firm owned by Mayor Frank's husband, the Highland Park Municipal Democratic Committee has unfortunately taken a giant step backward this year by returning its meetings to the Gabel site.

The office of Gabel Associates is a completely inappropriate location to hold these meetings. First, it is not handicapped accessible, meaning people in wheelchairs and those who cannot handle stairs are automatically shut out from meetings. That is ironic coming from a mayor who claims making the town accessible is one of her leading goals.

Second, by holding the meetings at a firm essentially owned by the mayor herself, the Democratic Committee is abandoning all pretense of independence from Frank. The mayor claims the party is independent of her, that she is not the power broker behind it. That is all the more reason the Democratic Committee should meet in a neutral location instead of a place that is clearly her "turf." Meeting at Gabel sends the wrong message to Committee members and the public about the party's independence from Frank's control.

While the YM-YWHA has moved most of its activities to other locations, it continues to host its preschool and has allowed both the Highland Park Conservative Temple and the Highland Park Minyan to hold religious services there on specific occasions. Did the Democratic Committee even try to negotiate with the Y to continue its monthly meetings there? If not, why not?

And if the Y is not an option, there are plenty of other neutral locations that are handicapped accessible and can be used as possibilities for Democratic Committee meetings, places such as restaurants, cafes, meeting rooms in the River Ridge building, or businesses not owned by any borough officials or Committee leaders. Why is it the Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War has no problem finding a neutral location in the basement of the Reformed Church to hold monthly cafes, but the Democratic Committee has not or will not consider this option? Finding a neutral, accessible location for meetings requires only a little resourcefulness on the part of the Committee's leadership and members.

As we head toward next week's elections, there are also other questions about the Democratic Committee that beg for answers. Why do only one or two out of 26 Committee members show up at important county Democratic events in the crucial month preceding a major Senatorial and Congressional election? That was the case at a Pines Manor breakfast hosted by the county Democratic Party several weeks ago. The local party has no problem asking the county party for help in the form of money and people whenever they feel such a need, but they do almost nothing to reciprocate the county party's generosity. Does even one local party leader or local elected official have a sign up for Jim Polos and John Pulomena, the two incumbent Democratic Freeholders up for re-election?

Finally, after close to seven years, the Highland Park Democratic Committee has still failed to hold a single open meeting where citizens can speak out, provide feedback and learn how they can participate in party activities. In many nearby towns, the Democratic Party holds several open meetings a year for these purposes. It is legitimate to not open every meeting so that the Committee can reserve time to deal with its own internal business. It is problematic, however, when every single meeting for the better part of a decade is closed to all but a selected few.

In the spring of 2007, Democratic voters in Highland Park will have a chance to have their say and even change all this by voting independent-minded Democrats into these committee seats and bringing about a change in leadership. Anyone interested in this cause is highly encouraged to consider running for the committeeman or committeewoman seats in their districts. The party of the people has never been more in need of the involvement of all the people.