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, November 07, 2006

Democrats Deserve Support

For the first time in 12 years, the Democratic Party has a chance to win back one or both houses of Congress and reverse the Republican takeover of 1994. That election was the one where right wing extremist Newt Gingrich led the charge with his Contract on America and began a systematic effort to undermine the seventy year old social safety net established by the New Deal and the Great Society.

Since then, the gap between the rich and poor in this country has widened frighteningly, as first the Republican Congress and then George W. Bush instituted wave after wave of tax cuts for the wealthy while at the same time refusing to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour. No progress has been made on providing universal health care to all in this country. In fact, health care has become more unaffordable than ever, and a record 44 million Americans have no health insurance at all. The Bush administration adamantly refuses to ratify the Kyoto protocol and has done everything in its power to roll back environmental protections of 35 years--all while the planet burns and global warming escalates to the terrifying possibility of a point of no return.
Then of course, there is Bush's determination to privatize Social Security and the billions of dollars poured into the black hole that is Iraq over the last three and a half years--money that could be used to address human needs at home.

I consider myself a "renegade Democrat." I have many times been confronted with the party's flaws, many of which center on its leadership. I have often been at odds with Democratic officials in power. However, the critical issues of preserving the social safety net, protecting our environment, instituting national health care, and creating "a rising tide that lifts all boats" outweigh, in my view, the negatives associated with the party and with various candidates.

Therefore, I am asking readers to support Bob Menendez for US Senate and Frank Pallone, a strong environmentalist and opponent of eminent domain for private development, for US Congress in the Sixth District. For those who live in the Seventh District, please support Linda Stender, who has a real chance to oust an extreme right wing incumbent who gained his Congressional seat only because he comes from a wealthy family and has been used as a pawn by the health insurance industry.

On the county level, Jim Polos and John Pulomena are superb, hardworking freeholders who deserve our support. Since taking office in 1998, Polos has been one of the most active freeholders, taking the lead in initiating a county wide prescription drug discount program being emulated across the state and country, promoting initiatives to combat school violence, and much more. Middlesex County's Environmental Showroom, an innovative, bold, comprehensive initiative to turn the county green by supporting environmentally friendly policies across the county and its municipalities, such as use of hybrid vehicles and renewable energy, is Polos' brainchild and a shining example of how government can make conservation a priority in spite of a total lack of leadership on the federal level. Pulomena has actively promoted good health initiatives across the county, in an effort to bring services to those who otherwise would not receive them.

Finally, there are the ballot questions. For Edison residents, who are lucky enough to have a ballot initiative asking whether to prohibit all use of eminent domain for private redevelopment, I urge you overwhelmingly to vote yes and put this awesome power back in the hands of the people.

Across the state, you can help ensure that our state's parks get the repair and maintenance they need, by voting Yes on Ballot Question #2. Question #2, if passed, would ensure that state and local parks and protected wildlife areas received an additional $15 million a year through 2015 and $32 million a year thereafter for the improvement, construction, renovation and repair, drawn from an existing, environmentally-dedicated fund. Therefore, this measure does not depend on any new taxes.For more information, click on this link or paste it to your web browser:

This September, I had the privilege of attending the national conference of the Democratic National Committee's Women's Leadership Forum in Washington, DC. The sessions brought home the difference between the parties and why it is so important to change the direction in which the country is currently moving. As we approach the presidential election of 2008, the Women's Leadership Forum is looking to start chapters across the country to motivate Democratic women and supportive men to take leadership roles in the party and work for change. I would like to see a local chapter started in this region. If you are interested in working on this, please contact me at

Most of all, even if you disagree with everything I just wrote, please remember to vote. Democracy is not a spectator sport.

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.