Borough Briefs: HP council meeting of October 20, 2015

Council sends six resolutions to the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

At the Highland Park Council meeting of Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, the Highland Park Borough Council approved six resolutions to be sent to the NJ League of Municipalities in an attempt to get the League to adopt the positions formally and to advocate for these measures among the New Jersey State Legislature. Council President Susan Welkovits introduced all the resolutions, and all but one passed unanimously.

Ms. Welkovits began her report with a resolution that opposed the building of a 180-mile oil pipeline between New York and Linden, N.J., to be constructed by Pilgrim Pipeline Company. With council’s unanimous approval of the resolution, Highland Park now joins other municipalities — from Chatham to Woodbridge — that have passed resolutions opposing the pipeline.

The other resolutions approved for transmission to the League of Municipalities included: supporting efforts of the New Jersey Senate Environmental Committee’s legislation to develop municipal micro-grids, crucial for provision of power during power outages; supporting a ban on fracking; opposing excessive charter school funding at the expense of public schools; and supporting NJ Assembly Bill A-2753 and NJ Senate Bill S-1923 requiring direct payment of energy taxes to Highland Park’s government. All passed unanimously, with the mayor making a particular comment on the importance of the municipality receiving the energy tax revenue, which the state has failed to turn over to the town as legally required – and which would be worth about $6 million to Highland Park, if it could actually collect.

A resolution that supported the automatic extension of employee health benefits contributions (Title 78) was opposed by Councilman Jon Erikson and thus was the only HP resolution for the League of Municipalities that failed to get unanimous approval. It passed 5 to 1. He refused to support automatic renewal of benefits, which, in his opinion, should be a part of contract negotiations.

Council votes to ban fracking waste.

With several anti-fracking protestors in attendance, the council unanimously voted to ban the waste byproducts of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking.’The anti-fracking waste resolution was approved as an amendment to the Highland Park’s existing ordinance that bans fracking.

Adding to the amendment discourse was public commenter Rita Yelda, who represented Food and Water Watch, a not-for-profit consumer advocacy organization based in New Brunswick. She offered her take on Highland Park’s resolution.

“This is an extremely pressing issue in New Jersey because of our proximity to the Shale Gas Fields in Pennsylvania,” Ms. Yelda said. “There is a glut of fracking waste that is leaving that state and other states and coming into New Jersey, and that’s due to federal and state loopholes in the law.” She and others noted the toxic and hazardous- t human- health nature of fracking waste, containing such poisons as cancer-causing benzene.

The latest ban continues Highland Park’s trend of being a leader in anti-fracking measures. In September of 2013, Highland Park became the first New Jersey town to explicitly ban fracking.

Highland Park is honored with Complete Streets Excellence Award.

Mayor Brill Mittler in her report to the council announced that Highland Park was going to be awarded (on October 26) a Complete Streets excellence award on October 26. Highland Park was among the half-dozen New Jersey municipalities to receive New Jersey State’s 2015 “Complete Streets Excellence Award.” In addition to New Brunswick, Hoboken, Ocean City, Passaic, and Camden, the New Jersey Department of Transportation recognized Highland Park for it’s dedication to creating a safe environment for all users of its streets. According to Mayor Brill Mittler, the award is “a big honor for us.” A Complete Streets policy according to the New Jersey Department of Transportation formalizes a community’s intent to plan, design, operate, and maintain streets that are safe for all users of all ages and abilities. The town must be proactive in implementing policies to fund, plan for, design, and construct community streets to accommodate all anticipated users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit users, motorists, and freight vehicles. NJDOT adds to this definition by noting that “the intent of [its] policy is not to retrofit the entire street network at once, but rather to implement Complete Streets as routine construction, reconstruction, and repaving projects are completed.”

Veterans Day Parade announced.

The council also announced information about this year’s Veterans Day Parade at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. The procession will start at the “Doughboy Monument,” at the intersection of Raritan Avenue and Woodbridge Avenue. Doughboy, an informal term for a member of the United States Army or Marine Corps, has been guarding Highland Park since 1921 – a World War One soldier watching over his Highland Park hometown.

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