Category Archives: political

TBW: How to successfully do a coup d’état in Highlands

Back in the spring of 2013,  I blogged about how to structure a Coup in Highlands,pitchforks and torches

Then I blogged about “Now its time to put this in ACTION, below are some steps to do to pull this off:”

a) Make sure your Spell Check is On  (CHECK)

b) Get people to sign a petition to change from a Partisan to Non-Partisan Government in Highlands  (CHECK) –

d) When it passes the ballot process in November, a new election for council will happen in May, which can allow for “new” people to run for office regardless of political affiliation. (CHECK)

This is a Pitchfork & Torches moment where in the wise words of Twisted Sister “We’re not going to take it, no we’re not going to take it, we’re not going to take it, any more…”  (CHECK)

I think it was very telling that in the Highlands Survey that went out in 2013, most Highlanders felt they were most satisfied with their neighbors that helped them & most dissatisfied with the current council’s leadership. That stuck with residents 3 years later.

Dear Highlands, Thank you For Structuring a successful coup d’état!  ~ You matter.. 🙂

5 Things From Last Nights Council Meeting

5  1. The Streetscape services contract for Bay Ave was not awarded and tabled. However, they are planning on starting that project this year. The project which is broken out in 3 business zones on Bay Ave includes:

Replacing the sidewalks with stamp colored concrete
Adding Light Posts
Adding Planters

2. Army Corps update: They plan to have their report done by the end of 2015. As part of the report they will be having one on one mandatory sessions with home owners that will be affected by their plan. There will also be public meetings in May/June 2015 and August/Sept 2015. Highlands is under no obligation to comply with their recommendations, but if we don’t work with them in completing their report it could cost the town in the future with no help offered.

3. Monmouth County FEMA Meeting Feb 20th @ Henry Hudson High School between 4 – 8 pm. You can meet with a representative and discuss your specific property. This is part of the process of approving the new FEMA maps.

4.  The HBP budget of $60k was approved by the council. The budget was $10k higher than last year.

5.  The town is looking at potentially reversing the decision to make Valley a one way street. After multiple complaints from residents affected, Councilperson Ryan is surveying additional residents for feedback. To weigh in:

To view the meeting in its entirety click here

Learning From Other Towns

all in this together I would like to share the goals and objectives that Sea Bright’s Mayor has mapped out for her town. Believe it or not – it is not that far off from what could be said for Highlands. After all we shared the same resources in developing our FEMA Long Term Recovery Plan and our SRPR report for our upcoming Master Plan. The only difference is that we have no defined action plan publicly placed before us as a community.

What we do have are agenda minutes, studies and options buried in folders on the desks of various town officials and department heads – with no cohesive attempt to put it all together into one concise focus. We have developers and financial interests that recognize the potential of Highlands. We even have concerned residents attending meetings and requesting many of the same objectives you read in Mayor Long’s list. For example: Town Hall & PD buildings; CRS program; pump stations; written reports from committees; website interaction; business development on Bay Ave; streetscape projects; and attention to abandoned properties, etc.

What’s missing? Leadership? Focus? Competence? Communication? Public Forums?

I urge residents to keep attending our town meetings to help make this happen. Especially when it comes to public participation in the Master Plan. Get informed. Read the many reports and studies those outside agencies have publicly provided pro bono to the town Highlands. Speak out and demand feedback. WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.

I urge the Highlands Council and our Borough Administrator to listen to the residents, to step up our game, and to take a good look outside of Highlands to see how things can get done.

Councilman Doug Card (Highlands)

What Do You Want For Highlands in 2015

A year ago I did a post with a poll on what you wanted to see for Highlands in the year 2014. The results were:

results jan 2014

What did we accomplish?

We did NOT start any of the flood mitigation projects. And when I say start, I mean actually start, voting on starting does not count as actually starting the projects.

We did NOT stabilize taxes, Highlands incurred a 9% municipal tax increase.

We did NOT merge with another town in 2014.

We DID get more people in living in town in 2014, although many are still not back yet.

We DID alter zoning so that if people rebuilt in their footprint it wouldn’t be as onerous.

We did NOT start building down by the Oyster, unfortunately there were more hurdles, but the property has been cleaned up.

We DID streamline the process to open a business by changing  just doing background checks instead of fingerprinting.

We did NOT revamp the Masterplan in 2014 however, it’s not off table for 2015.

We did NOT build a hi-rise in Shadow lawn.

We DID have more rides at Clamfest.

What do you want to see for 2015? (Top 3)

(Rusty) signs of Sandy

rusty signsHomes aren’t the only thing that were affected by Sandy. Some of the [street] signs that were submerged are showing the after-effects of Sandy as well.

So add this to the to-do list of Sandy clean up:

Make a list of submerged street signs that either need to come down or replaced.

Should The Mayor & Council Put Disclaimers on Their Social Media Posts?

On October 22, 2014, the council, by a vote of 3-2, (Yes: Becky, Nolan, Redmond; NoL Card, Ryan)  approved a resolution (R-14-220) to require everyone affiliated with the town (from any town employees. elected officials, or even volunteers) to include a disclaimer when they comment on an unofficial Highlands Facebook group page or any other social media outlet. The resolution was originally part of the consent agenda, meaning that it could pass in a single reading and without any public discussion or input.

The disclaimer in question states: in (any) posting (on the Highlands Facebook page or anywhere considered social media) that the comment, posting or statement from that individual is a statement, comment or posting of that individual only and does not represent an official statement, comment or posting on behalf of the Borough of Highlands.

So something along the lines of, for example, Frank Nolan posts something to the effect “All the people in Highlands have no hearts” – He should post “All the people of Highlands have no hearts ~ This statement is from Frank Nolan, resident and does not represent an official statement, comment of posting on behalf of the Borough of Highlands.”

But neither he or other “officials” are adhering to their own resolutions.  See further examples:

frank nolan 1215

And here is another example:

franknolans post
One example was on the Highlands Facebook page, one was on his personal Facebook page. The issue isn’t whether you agree or don’t agree with his statements, the issue is as per R-14-220;

any elected Borough official, (Frank is an elected official who voted Yes for this resolution) or other Borough official, employee, agent, representative or volunteer, including appointees to boards, commissions, committees or subcommittees, who wishes to post on the Facebook page “Highlands New Jersey,” or other similar social media site (He posted on The Highlands Facebook Page and his Facebook page which is technically a similar social media site) which is currently or may be in the future established, shall state in such posting that the comment, posting or statement from that individual is a statement, comment or posting of that individual only and does not represent an official statement, comment or posting on behalf of the Borough of Highlands.”  (No such disclaimers were made)

The way I see it, there are two possible courses of action:

1.  Abolish R-14-220, as no-one, including the people that drafted and voted yes for it, are adhering to it.


2. Start including the disclaimer that you (Nolan, Redmond, and Kane) insisted was necessary. By not including this disclaimer, it is a slap in the face to your constituents and gives the perception that the council believes they are above their own resolution.

In my opinion, if they want to *start* or *try* to mend fences between residents and residents, residents and council, and other divisions in town, then they need to lead by example and just do the right thing.

Public Questions in Tuesday’s Election – Why You May Want To Vote ‘No’

In last year’s election, most of Highlands voters voted for Non-partisan, which moved the elections to May 2014.

February 2014, Highlands United petitioned to move the elections back to November to save the town money.

The Highlands Council, delayed voting on that petition until it was too late to gather signatures forcing the question in the May election.  They *further* voted against adding it on the May ballot, citing “constituents” were confused.

For more information/refresher click Are You Confused Highlands?

After the May elections, the council voted to add the question to Tuesday’s election.

This benefited the Council two ways- ensured the incumbents were not voted out tomorrow, two – made sure the incumbents were allowed to stay in office for an extra 6 months.

What have the incumbents accomplished since they took office Jan 1, 2013?

a) Flood mitigation – No

b) Cut Spending  – No

c) Brought back business on Bay Ave? – No

d) Limit the time constituents have to speak at council meetings, so they don’t have to hear about not accomplishing important things, – Yes

e) Vote in a Resolution that all volunteers(regardless of when/how they volunteered) must add a disclosure on Facebook as an intimidation tactic so that they don’t have to read about their short comings on Facebook? – Yes

By Voting NO, you give the possibility of new candidates getting in sooner. There is also the opportunity to move the elections back to November after next May’s election.

What it’s going to cost Highlands? 7k.

Let’s look at how Highlands has recovered since Sandy:

Collected Grant monies to start flood mitigation? – Nope

Collected Flood Insurance money to repair Borough hall or community center? – Nope

Collected volunteered hours and submitted them for reimbursement?  – Nope

Cut any expenditures departmentally within the Borough? – Nope

Some times you have to spend money to save money long-term, think about a broken down car that you spend money month after month to repair, if you buy a newer, more reliable car, it will cost you short-term, but saves you long-term. – Same thing here.





Election Time in Highlands 2014 – what you are voting on

election ballot 1

There are a few components to this year elections on Nov 4th.  The first is US Senate, House of Representatives (Think how much Pallone has helped Highlands since Sandy) & Monmouth County Freeholder.

The second piece voters choose members on the  Highlands School boards.

You have two seats available at the Henry Hudson District and the Highlands Board of Education, (Basically the elementary school district.

The last are public questions. One of which is at the local Highlands level.
election ballot 3

The first public question asks if voters approve amending the Constitution to allow a court to order pretrial detention of a person in a criminal case, changing the current constitutional right to bail.

The second public question asks if voters approve amending the Constitution to dedicate certain State revenues each year for environmental programs.

The third public questions asks Highlands voters if the local non-partisan elections (council and mayor positions) should be in May 2015 or November 2015.

Normally, non-partisan elections are held in May instead of November.  There is an opportunity to move it back to November and have it aligned with the normal election date. The down side to that would be the current incumbents would keep their seats for the extra time without being challenged.

Where are we in Highlands 2 years after Sandy

October 2013 we went to Henry Hudson and listened to the Highlands Prioritization Report at the FEMA recovery meeting.  I wanted to give an update of where we are.

Highlands Project Prioritization Oct 2013 V I D Final Priority Ranking Completed by Oct 2014
BIKE PATH 5 19 30 Desirable N

* October 22, 2014 an ordinance was passed to give the town more leverage to go after abandoned/foreclosed homes.


Who is Carolyn Broullon and how do you pronounce that last name?

carolynCarolyn Broullon has thrown her hat in the local Highlands political ring. The timing of when she gets in, next May or the following November, is up to you and how you vote in this November’s election of when the next Non-Partisan Election should be.

Here is her statement on who she is and what she stands for:

I discovered Highlands in 2002 while looking for a vacation home. After a few months, I realized what an amazing town this is and got rid of my NYC apartment to live here full time. It took a while to learn all my neighbor’s names and stories since I worked in Manhattan and wasn’t around from 7:30 am – 7:30 pm on workdays. Now, I’m proud to say we’re not just neighbors but good friends.

After Sandy, so many of us were either living out of town or simply couldn’t make it up the hill to go to the council meetings, so my wife and I signed up for a free account, bought a USB microphone and started streaming the meetings from our Mac laptop. We felt it was important for those displaced to have a way to see the council meetings, to participate in our future.

At the end of last summer, a group of residents came together to try to help the town move forward by re-introducing non-partisan elections to Highlands. We met as strangers with different ideas and party affiliations, but banded together to make our town more than just Democrats and Republicans. After knocking on doors and educating residents on how non-partisan election work, we successfully changed how we elect our council people in Highlands. This is now a direct process in which political party leaders do not choose who is on the ballot, Highlanders do.

My professional background has prepared me well for serving Highlands. I’ve been working in market research since 1992, coordinating international fieldwork, conducting focus groups and managing staff. My start in research was at Data Development, now known as Radius Global Market Research [one of the largest independent market research firm in the US], then on to Research International, now a part of TNS in the WPP Group [one of the top 5 market research firms in the world].  From 1999-2006, I had my own research business then I went on to my current position Vice President of Gazelle Global.

Skills I’ve honed along the way include budgeting, staff management, contract negotiations and conflict resolution.  Most of all, my training has given me the tools to listen to people and transform those thoughts and ideas into action.  I believe I can use my business experience to help our town. Now that I’m working from home, I have the time to do just that. We need so many things, but we must also prioritize.

Here’s a short list of actions I believe will make a difference in everyday Highlander’s lives:

1. Negotiate a resolution to Borough Hall and the Community Center empty buildings

2. Aggressive code enforcement to bring in much needed revenue

3. Review current operational cost and make cuts where appropriate

4. Remove ordinances that hinder new business development

We need to embrace the use of volunteers to contribute to a town-wide recovery including: light construction, painting, weed-whacking and street sweeping. There are many things we can do locally, without state or Federal funding. We have many tradespeople in town that can guide volunteers to complete much needed projects.

Those of you that know me have seen this example, but for those of you who do not:

In December of 2008, a serve flood wiped out a road to a state park in Hawaii. After being told by the state that repairs would take $4 million dollars and up to 2 years to fix, the residents and business owners came together, rented heavy equipment, got some volunteers, and in April of 2009, they did it themselves, in 8 days.

What’s on your short list? What are your ideas? Don’t be shy. Tell me. I’m listening.

Yours for Highlands,


P.S. Broullon is pronounced brew-yawn. Just think: You brew coffee so you don’t yawn.

New Disclaimer Proposed for Highlands Residents on Facebook

my opinion What you need to know about R- 14- 220:


Highlands New Jersey Facebook “Group”

The Borough of Highlands wants to mandate that any elected official, official, employee, agent, representative, and volunteer must include a disclosure on any post to the Highlands, New Jersey Facebook page (which there actually isn’t one, there is a Highlands, New Jersey Facebook Group – you can tell by the word groups in the url) OR any other social media site (pretty loose scope).

The proposed disclosure shall read “the following is a statement, comment or posting of [your name here] only and does not represent an official statement, comment or posting on behalf of the Borough of Highlands.”

A few things here:

a) All of the things that need to be accomplished in Highlands: Flood mitigation, Town Hall & PD station repaired, Tax stabilization, Attracting businesses to Bay Ave, and they chose this as a priority??  Really?

b) The proposed resolution is so broadly written it opens the door to selective enforcement, which in I’m guessing was purposefully done.

c) It appears to be another way to gag residents. First they limited the amount of time you have to ask questions in a council meeting. Now they are trying to legislate how you communicate on social media.

HB fb page

Highlands Blog Facebook “Page”

d) If their assertion that people are getting “confused” because Highlands is in the title of the social media site, then ask the social media site owner to disclose its not an Official Highlands Borough Social Media site.  I know this should be obvious already to anybody going to the said page/groups etc. But some people apparently get easily confused.  This Blog has a facebook page. (You can tell because it has the word “page” in the url) and its always had in the header “Personal Blog”)

e) A better way to handle it would be to have an official Highlands Borough Facebook Page & Twitter Account. (Like other towns, i.e. Middletown, or Hazlet) for “Official communication”.

f) Another potential way to handle it would be to have “officials” put a disclaimer up when they are posting “official” business. This way its a much narrower scope, easier to enforce and doesn’t force 1/2 the town to write a disclosure when they post anything anywhere.  Have you ever volunteered for anything in town, ever? Well then my fellow resident, you would be considered a volunteer under this proposed resolution.

g) The disclaimer doesn’t fit in a Tweet – (which is only 140 characters), what happens there?

h) Its on the Highlands Agenda for Wednesday Night’s Council Meeting at 8pm HES. If you feel like this is a joke and want our elected officials to spend more time fixing our town, getting grants and stabilizing taxes, you might want to come and speak out. (But do it in 3 minutes or less.)

i) This resolution seems to be counter productive.  If you volunteer you’re not allowed to post on social media with out disclosure, and if you post on certain outlets, you can’t volunteer. Here are some of the social media outlets that could be considered if you ever volunteered and post on:

Instagram (You want to post a pic of Twin Lights, make sure you disclose that’s your pic and has nothing to do with the Town.)
Google +
Any Comments section of any web site
Google Talk
Yahoo Buzz

5 Things From 9/18 Council Meeting

5 1)R-14-199 Resolution Approving Strategic Planning Report – Steve Nelson spoke briefly and answered some questions from the residents.  The plan was approved by the council and now goes to the state for approval.  The state generally approves these quickly and Steve Nelson said he expects approval within a week.  The town can then start applying for grants.  The aggregate maximum of the grants is $300k and there are line item limits.  For example, there is a maximum grant amount for rewriting ordinances, a maximum grant amount (I think $50k) for rewriting the Master Plan, etc.

To view presentation from town hall CLICK HERE
To view NJ Future’s Report CLICK HERE


2) Captain’s Cove – The Zoning change request from RA Multimedia aka Captain’s Cove was requested to be postponed.  Councilman Card asked to move forward on the town’s clean up of Captain’s Cove parking lot and placing a lien on the property.  The council agreed to move forward on this.

3) O-14-26 – Bonding for the Community Center Playground and Shore Drive Phase II project: This did not move forward and no public hearing date was set.  There was some concern on the other costs of the projects in their entirety.  So such as, the playground there is a $90k snowflake grant that needs to be used for the playground only, the entire project could be in the hundred’s of thousands of dollars, can we afford the differential in costs to get a playground?

Tim Hill is looking into our minimum requirements to use these funds or if we may have to give up the funds if we can’t come up with the additional monies to complete the projects.

4) R-14-202 – Increased the 2 minute rule to 3 minutes.

5) Finance Committee – Mayor Nolan appointed 2 additional people, the two residents he appointed where: Chris Francy and Kim Skorka


To see the meeting in its entirety click here:

What does Albert Einstein have in Common with Highlands Elections?

albert einstein We have an election coming MAY 13th. 

Two seats are available.

Some of the candidates running have been on and off the council for up to 10 years.

Did we have flooding over the last 10 years? Yes

Did we have issues with the sewers over the last 10 years? Yes

Did we have issues with attracting businesses in town for the last 10 years? Yes

Did we have sub-standard housing issues over the last 10 years?  Yes

Why would we want to elect the same people in and honestly expect different results? If they couldn’t fix it before Sandy, why would be able to after?


Their argument is going to be, “new” isn’t always better.. And that is true, however, it provides *us* (Highlands) the opportunity to do something different. And by doing something different we have the opportunity to get different results.

I know by posting this, I’m opening up a lightning rod for myself from certain council’s relatives. My comment back to them is, you have to love your relatives regardless of screw ups or non-performance,  I don’t have to…


TBT: How’s the Council Doing NOW?

A year ago I did a poll on how residents thought the Council was doing with Sandy Recovery, I wanted to do a re-poll and see how you’re thoughts have changed?

2013 poll

Poll Results April 2013


Are you Confused Highlands?

At Wednesday Nights Council meeting, If you tune into the streamed meeting and fast forward to the 5.28 minute mark you hear about O-147-7 (Moving the nonpartisan elections back to November after the initial May election, which ultimately would horse quotesave the town money.) You remember the Non-Partisan thing right? 728 of you voted for it last November. That thing that takes out the Democrat and Republican labels off at the local level and opens up the candidate pool to others wanting to run for office. The initial election has to happen in May, then its totally feasible to move back to November.

Well, Councilman Francy offered up the ordinance to do this, and nobody seconded it. {crickets} Kind of weird since both Council woman’s Kane and Ryan back in November erected signs AGAINST the non-partisan with the premise that moving the election to May would just cost the town too much money.  Apparently they are not concerned about the money now.

But it gets better.. fast forward to the 24.15 min mark in the streamed meeting and watch to about the 26 min mark. Their rationale for crickets is, “Many people [contacted various council members] on moving the election and thought {the whole non-partisan thing} was just really confusing.”

First off, the online agenda that was put up early Wednesday morning, didn’t even include the proposed ordinance so who knew it was agenda feb19going to be offered up to proactively voice their confusion?  Second, 728 people weren’t confused on the movement or the election process in November, so it’s quite presumptuous on the council’s part to assume that most Highlanders are “confused”. Maybe I just have more faith in the intelligence of my fellow residents than they do.

When pressured on it, the council back peddled that them not moving it forward on it Wednesday night didn’t mean they were never going to move it forward, it just meant they were going to wait until sometime after the first election as to not  confuse us simpleton Highlanders.

If you are NOT confused, I suggest you write an email to the council with the subject line “I AM NOT CONFUSED”

Frank Nolan
Council President
Rebecca Kane
Kevin Redmond
Christopher Francy
Tara Ryan

Highlands Council Voted to Hire Patrick DeBlasio

At last night’s Highlands Council meeting, they voted on hiring the current Tax collector to facilitate the CFO duties next year after both Tim Hill & the current CFO Steve Pfeffer endorsed him. Three out of five council members voted “yes” on the resolution.  Both Chris Francy & Mayor Frank Nolan voted no.

DeBlasio will increase his current workload by adding at least 10 hours a week as Highlands’ new chief financial officer. That work load includes being a full time CFO in Carteret as well the part time treasurer of the school monies in Carteret, a part time CFO for both North Plainfield and Keansburg,and part time as Highlands’ tax collector.

He will be paid an additional $65,000 under his proposal, an amount close to what the outgoing Pfeffer earned in 2013, which will bring his total compensation to over $300,000. The agreement is for a 4 year term, so his start date is going to be  May 1, 2014 and his term would be up on 12/31/2018.

It was decided that the job not be posted externally for others to apply, Council Rebecca Kane was quoted in the as saying “We don’t have time to start from scratch,” Kane said. “We have the person we want.”

When polled, most Highlanders wanted the position advertised to the outside before deciding on DeBlasio. Further 39% thought $65k was too much to pay for a 10 hour part time position.

Highlands CFO retiring

retirementSteve Pfeffer is retiring from Highlands as CFO next year. Its been reported in AHHERALD and MMM that the job is being offered to Patrick DeBlasio who is currently the tenured Tax Collector for Highlands.

Some of the questions being discussed are:

A) Why isn’t this position being publicized or advertised?

B) Mr. DeBlasio currently has 5 jobs in 4 different Boroughs, is it reasonable to think that he could handle a 6th job? Job sharing isn’t new, Mr Pfeffer was split his time between Tinton Falls and Highlands as CFO. But is there a number of jobs that tips the scale from a yes to a no vote when considering hiring a potential employee?

C) If Mr. DeBlasio is appointed CFO, he’ll be paid over $300,000 a year. Highlands portion of that is $95k, $65 for CFO and $30k for tax collector. Do we get a special deal for him doing 2 separate jobs in one municipality? So instead of $95k we only have to pay him $70k? I mean we are saving him traveling expenses.

What do you think we should do regarding back filling the CFO position?

2 Weeks to the Highlands Mayoral Election – What do you think?

Have the video debates made a difference in your choice for Highlands Mayor?


Who do you think should be Mayor?


2nd House in Highlands fell

2nd house down in highlandsThe A frame on 2nd Ave that was lifted on toothpicks fell.  Notice no sirens or hooplah..2nd st house

I actually drove past it tonight and thought, that is going to fall with the first strong wind..

Yeah, I don’t have my engineering degree, but I do have common sense..

ALL: Jerome Homes was the lifter..house2fell

Check out last council meeting where Dale & Mayor address question on this house and the safety of…

You can ff to 1.12 – 1.18