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, August 21, 2007

Shooting the Messenger

In the fifth Harry Potter book, Harry and his mentor Professor Dumbledore try to warn the wizarding world that its nemesis Lord Voldemort is back, but unfortunately, the powers that be in that world choose not to believe them. Instead, they demonize Harry and Dumbledore, portraying them as liars, unstable, etc. because they do not want to believe their words are true.

Here in Highland Park, some of the mayor's supporters have taken a page from Harry's detractors. They claim that somehow, the campaign literature of the Wolf team in the June primary was "negative," "full of lies," "evil," etc. And those of us who worked on the literature are described as "angry," "vindictive,"and sometimes "evil" ourselves.

There is only one problem with this argument, which is this. Every single one of the accusations against Mayor Frank in the Wolf campaign's literature is true.

Frank did preside over the loss of $400,000 in tax deposits and then proceed to cover for two guilty borough employees, one of whom was allowed to work at the scene of the crime after being indicted.

Frank was fully aware of the terms of the cell tower agreement and then swore falsely that she was not.

Frank did refuse to enact statutory protection for local homes and businesses against eminent domain. The only reason her administration did not use it is because they couldn't. The property owners whose lots were placed in the redevelopment zone effectively pre-empted the administration by sounding the alarm and alerting the public and the media to the fact that eminent domain might be used.

Frank did play a role in former Councilwoman Carolyn Timmons' loss of her county job in late 2004 and her forced resignation in 2005.

A huge, unresolved conflict of interest remains in the fact that she has positioned herself as a leader in promoting green technology while her husband owns an energy consulting firm that accepted no bid contracts from the BPU's Clean Energy Fund and that benefits financially by getting consulting jobs through her efforts.

Frank formed an ethics task force made up entirely of her own supporters including the spouse of the previous head of the Green Community Working Group, who at the time was an employee of her husband's firm and being paid through Rutgers to consult on the borough's green initiatives.

Frank approached the employers of several of her opponents and asked that they fire those employees. I and my 2005 running mate were victims of this bullying. Thankfully, neither of our employers caved to these demands.

Frank presided over the largest municipal tax increase in Highland Park history--an increase of forty percent. And she has overburdened the business district with an additional tax--an assessment is, after all, a tax--averaging an additional $2,000 a year.

And in a move worthy of a totalitarian dictatorship, Frank filed a false police report against me in an attempt to intimidate me from seeking public office and brand me as some sort of criminal. Again thankfully, our Police Department recognized a political stunt when they saw one.

Why bring this up now that the election is over? The answer is that none of these issues has gone away. These things actually happened, and election or not, the public has a right to know about them, as do the appropriate law enforcement agencies.

Frank's supporters claim that opponents including myself will "ruin the schools," which is absurd. The Borough Council has nothing to do with running the schools, which are governed separately by the Board of Education. Everyone of our 2007 team--and our 2008 team--is a staunch supporter of public education. Her claim is a lie, and once again, the public, especially parents, have the right to know.

Once again, I am immensely proud of the 2007 race and my role in it. I have no intention of changing my personal or political style, both of which are sources of great satisfaction and reward. I am proud to be the type of politician who will not be bullied or intimidated from telling the truth as I know it. Through informal participation in campaign trainings, I have shared my strategies and experience as a watchdog and a muckraker and encouraged other aspiring political activists and candidates to not be afraid to shine the light in all of the public realm's dark places (and here in New Jersey, there is no shortage of them).

Instead of shooting the messenger, borough residents should take the time to think and investigate on their own whether any of the so-called "negative" accusations against Frank are true. Because if they are, we are being governed by someone who has consistently ducked responsibility and has shown herself unfit to hold public office.

Frank was right in one statement she made on the night of the election. To quote her own words, it's not over.