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, April 26, 2007

Always "I, I, I"

Can Meryl Frank ever turn over the spotlight to anyone other than herself? At a public reading of excerpts from The Ditchdigger's Daughters, part of the Library's and Arts Commission's jointly sponsored "One Book, One Highland Park program," Frank once again snagged the spotlight from author Dr. Yvonne Thornton when she inappropriately compared her 1996 public appearance with President Bill Clinton with Dr. Thornton's graduation from Columbia University.

Thornton grew up poor, took on her father's dream for her of becoming a doctor, and successfully navigated the grueling path of organic chemistry, medical school, 36-hour shifts, etc. Comparing this long term accomplishment with a one-time campaign appearance that is largely theater is an insult to Dr. Thornton and the obstacles she has overcome.

Graduation from college and medical school are the culmination of long, hard work that requires incredible stamina, perseverance, and determination. A one-time public appearance, even with the president, is none of these. I can vouch for that personally because I too introduced President Bill Clinton in front of a large crowd, this time in 2000 when he appeared in New Jersey to endorse Congressman Rush Holt. Yes, it was exciting and fun; yes my parents were proud, but I would never compare it to becoming a physician.

Is it really so difficult for Frank to refrain from inserting herself into everybody else's moments in the sun? Why was it necessary to use this occasion to tout herself and her so-called accomplishments? For once, can't she let someone else have the limelight?

King Louis XIV of France once said, "I am the state." With Frank, like with Louis, it's always I, I, I. Someone needs to remind her that she is not the borough of Highland Park and that the rhetoric of a leader in a democracy should center around the word "we."

Then again, what should we expect from a mayor who compares her job to that of a prostitute? That's right, she actually compared her efforts to "sell" the green community idea to those of a prostitute selling her body. To quote from The Auditor in The Star Ledger of Sunday, April 22:

"What the ...?
Mayors are often called leaders, visionaries or idealists. But at least one Jersey mayor compares the job to the world's oldest profession. Last week, about 20 civic leaders and curious residents visited various contaminated sites in Middlesex County on an environmental health and justice tour. Nearly two hours after the program began, the bus stopped on Donaldson Street in the borough of Highland Park. There, Mayor Meryl Frank told the group the current construction waste zone, situated across the street from mostly low-income immigrant residences, will become a community garden by next year. It's all part of her grand 'green' plan. One tour participant asked the mayor how long it took for others to catch on to the environmentally friendly model? 'You know, Highland Park became New Jersey's first green community four years ago,' Frank responded. 'I've been fighting this fight for years. Finally, people are noticing. It's sort of like being prostitutes, who sell their bodies. Mayors sell themselves for the good of the people.'"

Thank you, Mayor Frank, for speaking your truth. No one could have better stated just why this town needs new leadership.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It Begins...

At long last, the fight to restore accountability, fiscal responsibility, open government, and genuine participatory democracy to Highland Park has begun.

I am proud to announce our outstanding slate of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Mayor, Borough Council, and Democratic Municipal Committee in the June 5 Democratic primary.

Leading the team under the banner of Highland Park Democrats is mayoral candidate Nancy J. Wolf, former councilwoman and council president, a 19-year state employee with a Masters in Public Administration. Running alongside her for Borough Council are my former running mate, 11th District Democratic Municipal Committeeman George Valenta, a founder of Highland Park Citizens for Property Rights Protection; and my brother Michael Kornfeld, a local business owner, active participant in Congregation Ahavas Achim, and member of the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce.

Joining the mayoral candidates are the following people seeking seats on the Democratic Municipal Committee:

Barry Seiden, first district
Alan Salit, second district
Michael Kornfeld, fourth district
Mary Laney, seventh district
Sal Raspa, tenth district
Yours truly, Laurel Kornfeld, tenth district
Nancy Wolf, eleventh district
George Valenta, eleventh district

A question some may ask is, why am I not running for a council seat, as originally planned? First, I will dispel the false notions circulating about this choice. My decision to seek a Democratic Committee seat instead of a Borough Council seat is not in any way due to any form of intimidation or "muzzling" by the mayor or due to false and ridiculous accusations she made against me one month ago. I am not in any way afraid of Meryl Frank or any "consequences" she thinks she can inflict on me personally or professionally. I was not scared out of running. And I have no interest in "imitating" a person I consider a complete failure as a mayor.

Two important goals of our campaign are fiscal responsibility regarding budget, spending and taxes to keep Highland Park affordable and working in harmony with business owners to keep them in town and avoid excessive additional tax burdens that drive them away. In the past year and a half, the borough has experienced serious fiscal mismanagement and a complete lack of accountability in justifying how our tax dollars are spent. For this reason, it is crucial that our team be made up of people with strong fiscal and business backgrounds. Keeping this town affordable to everyone, not just the wealthy, must be a top priority of local government. Nancy, George, and Michael have the skill sets to focus successfully on these issues.

We believe taxpayers' money should be spent on necessities such as equipment for First Responders, not for expensive private consultants.

Other goals of our campaign include restoring accountability by the mayor and council. We need an administration that will take responsibility for all decisions, including mistakes, instead of blaming others for its choices, as the current administration has done over and over again with issues such as the Y, the cell tower, and the missing $400,000 tax dollars.

Highland Park needs a government characterized by transparency and open government that are more than just rhetoric. This team will welcome and respect all opinions, including those different from ours, and do our best to incorporate public sentiment into decision making. For this reason, an important goal of ours is informing residents and businesses in advance of major decisions to obtain their input. This was not done with the businesses placed in the redevelopment zone two years ago, which ended up seriously alienating them.

We seek to motivate people with a wide variety of views to participate in government and welcome rather than fear dissent. The vision this campaign has of borough government is a big tent with room for all who want to contribute, including those with differing views. No one should ever be told to "go away" because he or she does not support a particular policy of the administration.

Also, we seek to continue our town’s longstanding, 20-year tradition of promoting green, environmentally friendly policies, welcoming anyone and everyone who wants to play a lead role in preserving our natural resources for future generations.

The campaign's official web site is This blog is not an official voice of the campaign but my own observations and sentiments as a writer, activist, local resident, and supporter of this team. It will remain an independent voice and commentary throughout the campaign season.

If you are reading this, and these goals resonate with you; if you want new leadership that is open, inclusive, and conscientious about keeping Highland Park affordable, please join us. Volunteer, donate to the campaign, and most of all, vote on June 5. If you know you will not be around that day, you can apply for an absentee ballot in advance. The web site, which should be live in a few days, will direct you in how you can be part of this noble effort to bring a new day to our borough.

We all have the power to change the world. As a song from the musical "Rags" says:

"If it's wrong, you can fix it. If you can't, you can fight it. If you don't like to fight, you can learn. You don't need to be blind here. You can open your mind here. Better than see the light--help it burn!"