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I leave Atlantic Highlands voters with this after reading Mike Harmon’s History of Open Space and Waterfront Preservation from 1988-2019.

During the 20-year term that Mr. Harmon served on the Atlantic Highlands Borough Council the administration was successful in preserving open space in the Lenape Woods area mainly due to the hard work of an extremely active group of environmental committee members and most importantly, the late Paul Boyd.

What Mr. Harmon doesn’t disclose in any of his diatribe is that in 1995 while a councilmember (or possibly even Mayor) and with knowledge of the trail system from the Ocean to the River that was envisioned, he purchased a 6-acre lot in the same area that the that was slotted to be part of this trail system. The Borough of Atlantic Highlands and Middletown were acquiring land in this area at that time as well. Tax records indicate that he paid $165,000 for the property that assessed at $583,000. A great bargain and good for him! But then he proceeded to get the Borough of Atlantic Highlands to put his property on the Open Space acquisition list in July 2000 with an acquisition price tag of $1M. Would have been a nice windfall for him but Democrats got elected and focused their efforts on waterfront acquisition, again with the help of the late Paul Boyd.

While representing the borough, Mr. Harmon’s focus in preservation was in the exact area where he owned land. These preservation efforts were great, but in doing so his administration neglected another issue facing the borough. And that was the affordable housing issue. No matter how many times he’d like to blame another administration the fact remains that his administration ignored it for 16 years.

Instead of working with COAH to find creative ways of providing affordable housing for the less fortunate among us, he suggests in his letter the incoming Democratic administration should have litigated the COAH decision. Seems he’ll do anything to spend taxpayer’s money.

During 1987-2003 (his time in office) the town’s debt burden went from $5M to $30M most due to land acquisitions. Then his administration neglected to file the paperwork to recover $900,000 in Green Acres reimbursements. Attorney Miller worked with Green Acres to get that reimbursement to benefit the taxpayer. Check number 000684568 in the amount of $827,932 was issued on May 15,2005 and an additional $119,875 was issued on June 7, 2005.

During his time in office, the Bayshore Trail along the Atlantic Highlands waterfront languished for years. Again, it was Attorney Miller in 2004 and 2005 that negotiated agreements with every property owner on the waterfront. Mr. Harmon knows this because he is one of them. In addition, the Democratic administration got the State Department of Transportation to come out to Atlantic Highlands and actually walk the area of the proposed trail. Once they saw its potential they worked with us to release other funding that was being held up. In addition, we got the county to agree to maintain the trail.

Just this weekend, I learned (through Facebook of all places) that the Republican Party Campaign Manager has of the numbers of “potential” acquisition funds available for the McConnell property should that property become available. Yet none of this information was shared with borough representatives who would ultimately be responsible for negotiations. He listed Naval Weapons Station Earl, the Littoral Society and the Monmouth County Trust fund. I have forwarded this information to borough officials and asked them to reach out to those organizations to confirm any commitments and amounts. I also asked Mr. Harmon why as a commissioner of the Monmouth County Park System for 30 years, the county had never acquired this property. His response - the price was too high and the property was contaminated. So what’s changed?

Lastly, today I received a set of questions posed to the three mayoral candidates with their responses. A platform issue on the Republican Party flyers has been for open transparent appointments. Yet Mrs. Gluckstein responded that she would appoint Mr. Boms (the Atlantic Highlands Republican Party Chairman) to the planning board and in a flyer stated that she would appoint a “Mr. Fisher” to a head a traffic committee. So much for an “open” process - transparent yes - but not open.

So ask yourself a simple question when you go to the polls tomorrow...do you want honest, hardworking people with no conflicts of interest representing ALL of our residents interests or do you want the same old conflicted, self-serving, tax & spend group that have been in the majority in Atlantic Highlands for 28 of the last 33 years?

I am casting my vote for Mayor Randi LeGrice, Kerri Kennedy and Linda Peng-Grooters. All women dedicated to the of betterment Atlantic Highlands for all residents and all without conflicts of interest!

Respectfully submitted with no conflicts of interest,

Stephanie Ladiana
Former Borough Council Member, 2004-2006