Equity, Environment, and Economy
Economy and Affordability
A grocery story is our top priority. Elsie, Matthew and Jason and the rest of council, working with the community and Borough professionals, have developed new zoning contours for the privately-owned property that requires a grocery store as part of any future development of that site. In parallel, Elsie is taking advantage of the relationships she’s built in over 20 years of public service to engage in direct outreach to interested grocery stores in conjunction with the Middlesex County economic development team and the Supermarket Council of New Jersey.
Highland Park’s Downtown is our community’s lifeblood, and we’re advancing redevelopment by revitalizing vacant properties, making our town more accessible, and creating a new pedestrian plaza as a town square, event space, and permanent home for the Highland Park Farmers Market. We will also implement the Neighborhood Improvement Program grant for Woodbridge Avenue to transform it into a vibrant main street of its own.
This is only possible if people can afford to live in Highland Park, and we’re making Highland Park more affordable by implementing the new rent control ordinance that caps the rate of rent increases. We’ll also maintain our commitment to including municipal homes in every new development, and expand housing options for seniors and renters by allowing accessory dwelling units in existing homes. And to limit tax increases, we’ll continue to expand Highland Park’s commercial tax base by attracting new business and industries to our downtown.
But we’re not in this alone! We will continue to pursue State and Federal grant opportunities. Some of the best-run towns in the state are recipients of grants that enable road and sidewalk repair, open space preservation, green development, public art, and pedestrian and cycling improvements, and we have done and will continue to do the same.
Transparency and Inclusion
We will establish direct lines of communication from community leaders, Borough advisory councils, and elected District Representatives to the Mayor and Council so residents can more rapidly have their questions answered and concerns addressed.
It’s often difficult to understand legal language, which can be a barrier to input from residents, so we will start to provide short, simple explanatory statements for resolutions and ordinances in meeting agendas so that residents can have a clear understanding of what’s being considered.
And we’ll strive to broaden the avenues through which the Borough provides information to residents, so that all residents have equal access to municipal information. It’s our job to be proactive so that we affirmatively reach all residents, to make municipal government accessible to everyone.
Equity and Accessibility
We are implanting hybrid Borough Council meetings, so that every resident has the opportunity to provide input and participate in decision-making, even if they are unable to attend meetings in person.
We’ll implement Highland Park’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan and continue to progress the Safe Routes to School crosswalk improvement plan to make our town safer, more accessible, and less car-dependent.
One of our overarching goal is to ensure equity in municipal services, especially policing. As councilwoman and public service liaison, Elsie instituted quarterly use of force reports from the Highland Park Police Department, greatly increasing transparency and accountability. As Mayor, she and the Council instituted the ARRIVE Together program, where a mental health professional accompanies a plainclothes officer in responding to mental health crises, rather than responding with just a uniformed officer. Elsie also supports the State legislation that would allow municipalities to establish civilian review boards for police oversight.
Climate change is an existential threat to our global and local community. We're already seeing the effects: warmer summers, more days of extreme rainfalls, and increased frequency and intensity of floods.
A governing body must recognize these realities and take climate action at every level.
Elsie, Matthew, and Jason will advocate for and implement:
Buy Local. one of the most effective ways to reduce emissions is to support the local economy. Elsie and Matt will promote existing and identify innovative shop local campaigns to bolster our local economy as well as to reduce auto emissions. The pandemic has taken a deep toll on our local economy but several businesses have created new ways to reach their customers. Our local government must support and complement those efforts as part of a comprehensive economic and environmental plan.
Ecological Preservation. Elsie, Matthew, and Jason will work aggressively to make sure our natural resources are protected and managed in order to preserve habitat and its flora and fauna.
Reduce non-reusable materials. We support the Borough's efforts to reduce single-use plastic bag consumption and look forward to working with residents and the business community to reduce non-reusable materials, promote reusable materials, and to educate the public about steps they can take at home to do the same.
Reduce and Reuse before Recycling. Unfortunately, there is less incentive for municipalities to participate in recycling programs because it is no longer the cost-effective measure it once was. We need to take steps to promote and provide reusable materials. Recycling is the last option. However, in 2023, Elsie, working with Matthew as chair of Public Works, and the council have invested in 300 new, lidded recycling toters in the Borough's commercial district for residents and businesses to better prevent recycling items from littering our streets.
Energy Auditing. We support a comprehensive energy audit of all public buildings and will explore ways for the Borough to provide another home energy audit program.
Land Use. As a river town, our planning and zoning processes must be done through the lens of increased flooding, more severe storms, and additional tolls taken on our infrastructure.