Morris Township candidates spar over Honeywell, retirement communities, governing styles

Morris Township Committee candidates prior to forum at Alexander Hamilton School. From left: Republicans Dan Caffrey (incumbent) and Louise Johnson, and Democrats Cathy Wilson and Jeff Grayzel (incumbent). Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morris Township Committee candidates prior to forum at Alexander Hamilton School. From left: Republicans Dan Caffrey (incumbent) and Louise Johnson, and Democrats Cathy Wilson and Jeff Grayzel (incumbent). Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Morris Township Committee candidates prior to forum at Alexander Hamilton School. From left: Republicans Dan Caffrey (incumbent) and Louise Johnson, and Democrats Cathy Wilson and Jeff Grayzel (incumbent). Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morris Township Committee candidates prior to forum at Alexander Hamilton School. From left: Republicans Dan Caffrey (incumbent) and Louise Johnson, and Democrats Cathy Wilson and Jeff Grayzel (incumbent). Photo by Kevin Coughlin

 

Candidates for the Morris Township committee sparred on Tuesday over Honeywell’s decision to move its world headquarters to Morris Plains next year.

At a 90-minute forum hosted by the League of Women Voters in Morristown, Republican incumbent Dan Caffrey and his running mate, Louise Johnson, attempted to pin blame on Democratic incumbent Jeff Grayzel for aligning himself with residents who battled Honeywell over its redevelopment plans.

“When a Fortune 100 company leaves your town… that’s a bad thing,” said Johnson. “And what happened with Honeywell is that the will of 40 homeowners eclipsed that  of 8,000 homeowners.”

Losing the township’s largest taxpayer is “terrible,” but the Republican-controlled committee should have engaged the public at an early stage of the re-development hearings, contended Grayzel and running mate Cathy Wilson.

Honeywell is selling its 147-acre campus to a group that wants to build a mix of offices and town homes.

Grayzel and Caffrey each seek a third three-year term; their running mates aim to replace the incumbent from the opposite party.

WATCH VIDEO OF THE DEBATE

The Honeywell saga should remind the governing body to be more “pro-active,” transparent and inclusive when determining what will replace another local giant, Mennen, when it’s shuttered next year by parent Colgate-Palmolive, said Grayzel, the committee’s lone Democrat.

Caffrey, who doubles as deputy mayor, bristled at insinuations of closed-door politics. Fifty-four public meetings over two years were held to vet Honeywell’ s proposal, he said.

Nor should the township attempt to dictate what Honeywell, Mennen or any other company does with its private property, Caffrey said. Government ought to foster a business-friendly environment and then “get out of the way,” he said.

Caffrey also jabbed at Grayzel for opposing a retirement facility near his own home, and for repeatedly calling for televised committee meetings without, he said, taking any steps to make that happen.

The retirement home proposed by the Delbarton School was ill-suited for its remote, environmentally sensitive tract, which finally was sold a few years ago as conservation land, “a win-win for everyone,” Grayzel said.

Caffrey and Johnson credited Republican leadership with stable taxes that have landed the township on lists of New Jersey’s most desirable, family friendly communities. The township committee has held the line despite rising healthcare costs and $7 million in lost tax appeals, Caffrey said.

Johnson cited her budget- and communications experience as an executive at a Fortune 500 company as reasons for voters to muster “the courage to cross party lines” at the polls on Nov. 4, 2014.

Fifty-seven people attended the forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Morristown Area and moderated by Louise Davis, of the League's Mountain Lakes chapter. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Fifty-seven people attended the forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Morristown Area and moderated by Louise Davis, of the League’s Mountain Lakes chapter. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

 

But Grayzel said he’s the one actually saving money for taxpayers, by supporting a regional court system that Caffrey abstained from voting on.  The shared municipal court in Madison saves the township $150,000 annually, Grayzel said, vowing to explore more shared services.

Along those lines, he is pursuing outside customers for the township sewage plant, to hold down fees for residents, he said.

Yet shared operations don’t always work, cautioned Caffrey, pointing to a failed arrangement to share animal control services with Morristown.

Grayzel and Wilson emphasized the need for greater interaction with neighboring town governments, to stem the influx of traffic from development beyond the township’s borders. Policies to promote bicycling and walking also could put a dent in traffic, Grayzel suggested.

A retired educator, Wilson said her Columbia University masters degree in conflict resolution will help her unite residents with differing views.  In the meantime, she said, she is exploring whether Morristown High School students might televise committee meetings as volunteers.

“I’m a woman of action,” Wilson said.

Grayzel said his professional engineering background is handy for dealing with sewer plant issues.

Caffrey, who works for a large accounting firm, said he scrutinizes every municipal dollar as if it were from his own checkbook. Some 2 1/2 years of process management training by Zenger Miller in Canada further prepared him for municipal service, he said.

THE REPUBLICANS’ PLATFORM, BIOS

THE DEMOCRATS’ PLATFORM, BIOS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. How About Giving a D…n About the Township Residents?

    I find the current clique “owning” the township committee pathetic.

    I lived in Morris Township since 1970 when my company moved from Manhattan to NJ to “save money”. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the peace and quiet away from the hassles and noise in Manhattan.

    However, I noticed a marked deterioration in the performance of the Morris Township Committee as far as managing the township affairs for the benefit of the residents:

    *Excuses for sky-high property taxes, always hiding behind the school taxes rather than voting it down
    *Budgeting by photocopying the last year’s budget and slapping the minimum state increase allowance they can get away with
    *Doing nothing with respect to holding JCP&L accountable for the disastrous performance (week long blackouts) during Irene and Sandy. I started Citizens for Reliable Electricity in Morris Township together with Cathy Wilson to do something about it, and slowly JCP&L was shamed into implementation of some of our recommendations (isolation switches, fast fuses, preventing cascade failures)
    *Perfunctory handling deer overpopulation. Did you hit a deer? (twice, fortunately at low speed). Did deer eat your garden? Did you get lyme disease from their droppings? (unfortunately…)
    *How about rutted, potholed roads, and incompetent engineering and installation of sewer piping? And taking 5 month to re-asphalt the trench…with drinking water contamination as a bonus..
    *I hate that under the current Township leadership we lost a bunch of big employers and taxpayers. Why they did not meet with these companies top management to work out a deal, I don’t understand. Now they have a windows-dressing committee after the horse left the barn…
    * How about changing the incompetent “color and gender-blind” clique with new blood and new vision, with people that care about Township’s future, and not just pay lip service…for more of the same for the last 15 years?
    * Some nit-picking: since I travel very frequently, how about 5 AM airplane noise over your house, or miss-timed traffic signals stopping you at 2AM returning from the airport (8 out of 10 times), burning gas and polluting the air unnecessarily?

    Well, these are some of the negatives I am not very happy about, as I am sure others have noticed. Now you have a chance to make things right, by voting for fresh, energetic thinker and doer like Cathy Wilson.

  2. My name is Tanya Van Order and I have lived in Morris Township for 17 years. My husband and I chose this community to raise our two children, now 25 and 30, because we enjoy the proximity to parks, to downtown Morristown and to the Midtown direct train line.

    I have a history here in Morris Township, I like it here and I plan to stay. I’m grateful to the residents who step up to leadership in local politics. Our elected officials guide the direction and help shape the character of our community. For this reason I enthusiastically endorse Cathy Wilson’s candidacy for the Morris Township Committee. Cathy is energetic, open-minded, and hardworking. She brings a new skill set to the table with her Master’s degree in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution. She has a positive attitude, a solid spirit and truly she cares about our community. If elected, Cathy will be a strong voice for transparency, cooperation and compromise in our local government.

    I met Cathy at my church about a year ago and discovered that she was running in the November 2013 local election. Notwithstanding this substantial commitment, Cathy stepped up to join other church leaders in a focused, intense and ultimately successful capital campaign effort. As the co-chair of this fundraising committee, I witnessed Cathy- a relative newcomer to our congregation- gather and process critical data, ask probing questions and identify mentors to ensure that her efforts would have impact and success. I was quite impressed.

    Cathy’s participation is local politics is similarly broad and deep, taking a “hands on” approach to digesting and understanding our local political and administrative operations. Shortly after meeting her, I ran into her again at a Zoning Board of Adjustments meeting where my husband and I were requesting a variance for our property. It was there that I learned that she regularly attends public meetings of all sorts and closely follows local government issues and decisions.

    The best local government is one that welcomes new ideas and opinions, communicates openly to the public, and collaborates both in managing fiscal resources and in creating a vision for the future. I know that Cathy Wilson will be excellent as a Morris Township Committee member. I hope we will give her that chance.

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