To the Editor:
My name is Nayla Caruso, my family has deep roots in Highland Park and I have personally lived here for 12 years. I don’t come to town politics naturally, but today I am the Democratic committeewoman for District 7.
I think that from the trenches of the daily grind, we tend to miss the forest for the trees; we see our local government in terms of the extraordinary -the once-in-a-while headline or sensational event- rather than in terms of its everyday functions. In light of that, I’d like to share my street’s eye view of our community as someone who walks the town nearly every day:
On main street, I see storefronts filling up with new, unique businesses, despite a retail climate that is shuttering chains and malls across the country; and in Boro Hall, Gayle is seeking to redevelop empty downtown properties to broaden our tax base and build a thriving downtown economy.
At Global Grace Cafe, I see children receive a free hot lunch through the new HP Gives a Hoot program on days when school is closed and they might otherwise go hungry.
In the library, I see my neighbors receiving our new municipal IDs, so that everyone, including seniors without drivers’ licenses, has a photo ID when they need one.
Downtown, I see new body cameras on our police officers and I know that back in their department they have been sent to implicit bias training by their new department mentor, Quovella Spruill of the National Organization of Black Law Executives (NOBLE), who was the 1st African-American Chief of Detectives instated in Essex County.
On the side streets, I see other developments, developments that I’m not necessarily happy about, but I know that when it became legally impossible to hold them at bay indefinitely, Gayle pivoted to negotiate the best settlement possible for our community in terms of fewer overall units, smaller construction, and more affordable housing within, and in so doing she concluded years of litigation that devoured our town’s budget.
Highland Park has always been a wonderful community, it’s why we all chose to live here, but under Mayor Gayle we have not simply rested on our laurels or swept problems under the rug, we have improved what was right and faced what’s gone wrong. For all these reasons and more, I plan to vote for Mayor Gayle and our councilmen Matt Hale and Phil George on June 4th, because I want to continue Building on Progress.”
Nayla Caruso, Lawrence Ave.