In wake of ‘tornado,’ Morristown council endorses national carbon tax to fight climate change

Lauren Cranmer, vice president of Sustainable Morristown, urges council to endorse a national carbon tax, Aug. 7, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Lauren Cranmer, vice president of Sustainable Morristown, urges council to endorse a national carbon tax, Aug. 7, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Some may question the science. But after last week’s ferocious storm uprooted trees through the center of Morristown–the latest in a series of destructive local storms since Tropical Storm Irene in 2011–town officials are not among the deniers.

'BELIEVE IT': Mayor Tim Dougherty, left, discusses climate change, while Assistant Town Attorney Elnardo Webster II listens, Aug. 7, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
‘BELIEVE IT’: Mayor Tim Dougherty, left, discusses climate change, while Assistant Town Attorney Elnardo Webster II listens, Aug. 7, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“For those who don’t believe in climate change, believe it,” Mayor Tim Dougherty said at Tuesday’s council meeting, where he commended public works crews, police and firefighters for their response to what he described as Friday’s “tornado.”

His remarks preceded a unanimous council vote endorsing a national carbon tax aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists warn that rising global temperatures will bring disaster in this century if the trend is unchecked.

The council also authorized a 10 percent fee, from a developer tax, for the nonprofit Morris Arts to oversee creation of public art at redevelopment sites.

And officials heard emotional thank-you’s from Kevin McNally, father of late State Trooper Brian McNally, and from former Councilwoman Margret Brady, whose husband Wendell died in June.

‘THESE STORMS ARE VIOLENT’

Tuesday’s symbolic resolution, presented by the Morristown chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby and backed by the nonprofit Sustainable Morristown, is meant to persuade Congress to impose a “revenue-neutral carbon tax or fee” on the extraction, production or import of fossil fuels.

Morristown firefighters say a driver escaped serious injury when this tree crashed onto his vehicle, Aug. 3, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
A teenaged driver miraculously escaped serious injury when this tree crashed onto his vehicle, Aug. 3, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Revenues collected from such fees would be distributed evenly to all U.S. households, to help them offset the higher costs of fuels they would need for commuting, heating their homes and so forth.

Tariffs would be imposed on countries that do not take similar measures to reduce greenhouse emissions.  About 40 countries and 20 cities and provinces worldwide now have such policies, according to the World Bank.

Although the resolution passed 5-0 (Councilmen Michael Elms and David Silva were absent), there were some caveats.

While supporting the concept, Councilman Robert Iannaccone, one of two Republicans on the council, emphasized the mechanism for imposing carbon taxes must be determined at the national level.

Councilman Stefan Armington, a Democrat, urged the municipality to back its words by reducing Morristown’s carbon footprint. The council called for a local “climate action plan” when it adopted a resolution last summer  supporting the 2015 Paris climate accord –a 195-nation agreement President Trump pulled out of.

“We need to show residents we have skin in the game,” Armington said.

Dougherty said global action is necessary. Nothing will change in the United States, he said, until citizens “change Congress” by voting out the GOP majority.

In the meantime, the Mayor said, Morristown must seek ways to minimize danger from falling trees — one motorist was killed in June and another narrowly escaped injury on Friday — while bracing for weather events of increasing frequency and intensity.

“These storms are violent. They come out of nowhere,” Dougherty said.

Morristown police said two persons sustained 'traumatic injuries' when this car was crushed by a tree on Ford Avenue, June 18, 2018. Photo by Barry Howard
The driver of this car died after it was crushed by a tree on Ford Avenue, June 18, 2018. Photo by Barry Howard
‘TERRIBLE’ ART

The council voted 4-1 to give Morris Arts a slice of developer funds to oversee creation of public art.  Immediately, that will amount to $20,000 for the nonprofit to guide projects at the new Fox Rothschild triangular law office, and at an apartment complex planned next door at Market and Bank streets, according to town Administrator Jillian Barrick.

Developers of those ventures each agreed to pay $100,000 for public art under a “One Percent for Art” plan announced by the Mayor in 2016.  Tuesday’s resolution dedicates 10 percent of such payments to Morris Arts.

Iannaccone cast the lone dissenting vote, noting that Morris Arts is a county-wide organization and suggesting establishment of a local committee instead.

Morris Arts will seek input from town residents and officials, Barrick said. Armington praised Morris Arts for community outreach during creation of its Gateway Totems — twin pillars celebrating Morristown’s immigrant history.

One Percent for Art refers to a tax of one percent of capital costs, to a maximum of $100,000. Soon after announcing it, Dougherty said, he realized an outfit like Morris Arts was essential to its success.

His opinion about some “terrible” proposed artwork clashed with the art community’s view.

“I knew right away I wasn’t the one who should be making decisions about what is proper art,” Dougherty said, getting some laughs from the council.

IN OTHER BUSINESS…

Bike-sharing proposals are on the town’s radar.

In a brief pitch on Tuesday, representatives of TransOptions extolled the health- and environmental benefits of connecting Morristown, Morris Township and Madison with advertising-branded bicycles for common use.  The council invited TransOptions to return with more details.

Morristown also is reviewing fee policies for use of public spaces.

As the Morris County seat, the town is a hub for rallies, protests and charity events. A $50 deposit is required for the bathroom key at Lidgerwood Park–site of Thursday’s Road to Change tour stop–but Councilwoman Alison Deeb inquired about other security costs incurred by the municipality at such gatherings. The administration may propose changes soon, Barrick replied.

‘A BIG HEART’

Morristown resident Kevin McNally held himself together while remembering his son, State Trooper Brian McNally, killed in May while driving home from Marine Reserves duty in Pennsylvania.

“We’d like to thank the town of Morristown for its support, its caring, and the prayers for Brian and our family,” he said, speaking for his wife Barbara, a teacher at Morristown High School who did not attend the meeting, and the rest of “our clan.”

Hundreds of State Troopers and Marines came to Morristown for the funeral of the Afghanistan veteran. His father had special thanks for the Mayor and Councilman Iannaccone, Police Sgt. Brian LaBarre and Capt. Darnell Richardson, and “Coach Pete” — Police Chief Pete Demnitz, Brian McNally’s youth baseball coach and career mentor.

“Thank you for having the strength to come before us,” Council President Toshiba Foster told the grieving father.

Marines at funeral of State Trooper and Marine Reservist Brian McNally, May 30, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Marines at funeral of State Trooper and Marine Reservist Brian McNally, May 30, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Margret Brady also expressed thanks for the public outpouring after her husband of more than 60 years passed away. Wendell Brady’s memorial service drew a big crowd to Willow Hall last month.

“I was so overwhelmed by the kindness and thoughtfulness of everyone who came to help…you have a wonderful community with a big heart,” Marge said.

Then, in a pivot that would have made her husband smile, she raised a number of issues, including a $250 ambulance bill (after insurance) from Atlantic Health for a two-block ride to Morristown Medical Center.  The Mayor promised to look into the matter.

Members of  Morristown Medical Center's Community Health Committee receive proclamation from Morristown Tim Dougherty ahead of Sept. 8, 2018, Community Health Day. From left: Cindy Flowers, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc, Morristown Alumnae Chapter; Gwendolyn Rippey, manager for Community Health, Morristown Medical Center; Cherylann Dorsey, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Pi Theta Omega Chapter; Ana Berrio, St. Margaret's Church;  Maria Vargas, also with church. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Members of Morristown Medical Center’s Community Health Committee receive proclamation from Morristown Tim Dougherty ahead of Sept. 8, 2018, Community Health Day. From left: Cindy Flowers, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc, Morristown Alumnae Chapter; Gwendolyn Rippey, manager for Community Health, Morristown Medical Center; Cherylann Dorsey, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Pi Theta Omega Chapter; Ana Berrio, St. Margaret’s Church; Maria Vargas, also with church. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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10 COMMENTS

  1. @ “the Truth”, open your eyes about Morristown. Accept and understand that times are changing and that includes retail, shopping habits, desired housing, entertainment options, and demographics.

    Jeff’s numbers may be “off” but his point is spot on.

  2. Well, Jeff, you are wrong. A city has 100,000 residents or more. Morristown doesn’t even qualify as a “large town” which starts at 20,000 residents. If you are so gung-ho for city life, go live in one. Some of us don’t want Morristown to become “Hoboken West.”

    Oh, and Morristown was *not* in serious decline 15 years ago. I have lived in and around Morristown for most of my life, and it was just fine in the late 90s. In fact, you have to go back to the 70s for the only “sketchy” time in Morristown, when the Hollow was the Hollow.

  3. Morristown isn’t a town, it’s a small city. It’s also the regional urban center for northwest NJ.
    15 years ago or so it was in serious decline. The dusty old “George Washington-slept-here” stuff was totally worn out. Thankfully, community leaders and developers have injected new life into the community. Boy, have they ever! Residents no longer have to go somewhere else if they want to do something fun. It’s all right there.
    Motown is now a destination. Traffic? Yup, but that is the sign of a healthy community. The only thing worse than traffic is no traffic.
    I hope the development continues. I’d love to see some downtown highrises with more corporations moving in. Let’s see what the next 15 years bring.

  4. You have to be blind not to see the corruption and incompetence that has taken over morristown, legal fees paid by the town to hurt those who won’t give in to extortion, hand picked developers getting what they want. Judgements in the millions. Time is running out for these incompetent politicians.

  5. This was definitely not just a thunderstorm. Normal storms do not twist huge healthy trees out of the ground, lift objects up and deposit them elsewhere or follow a path that leaves places a few feet away untouched. What you call a dangerous twisting wind that appears without warning and destroys everything in its path is not as important as dealing with the fact that these events are occurring far more frequently as a result of climate change.

    On the issue of approvals granted for expanded development proposals and uses that will harm rather than benefit everyone but the developer and the Morris Arts treasury seems to also be occurring with greater frequency anymore. While the Morristown Police, Fire and Public Works departments have managed to go far beyond the call of duty to mitigate the results of the unusual storms, the only beneficiaries of the proposed extreme development is Morris Arts and the developers. The residents are left to suffer the resulting traffic jams, huge buildings destroying the character of their neighborhoods and the image of Morristown for generations to come.
    Many of us love the vibrant downtown and activities there, but do monster buildings really benefit the Town? How soon we forgot the harm created by permitting the hospital and HQ Plaza to change their designs and expand their size, leaving the Town with not just projects that changed the appearance of Morristown but left entire neighborhoods of homes and successful businesses to fail. Morristown is barely beginning to recover the losses from its prior poor judgment, can they afford to continue to repeat past mistakes while our government officials look the other way.

  6. I enjoy the reporting here but it is poor journalism and bad science to put a term like Tornado in this headline. In the sad trump era, where constant assualts on the media are common, news outlets must strive for accurate headlines and not post false headlines to be sensational. While this was a bad thunderstorm there was no tornado reported and putting factually untrue headlines in quotes does not make it right.

  7. On the subject of these summer storms, perhaps a risk assessment on the condition of large trees (that may have compromised root systems as the result of urban development) in town should be made. The Ford Road and St Peters tree incidents are two terrible stories in recent months.

  8. In today’s MorristownGreen 8/08/18 was this announcement…”The council voted 4-1 to give Morris Arts a slice of developer funds to oversee creation of public art.” The agreement with Morris Arts states that it agrees to assist the Town with the development and management of its public art installation process for pending and future redevelopment projects. That’s fine, everyone enjoys art. However, can’t help but suspect that the Mayor is going to bring back after 3 years and despite townwide opposition, what seems to be one of his favorite developments.ie. the storage units proposed on Morris Street in 2016..have a look at the history below…..hmm?…Let’s see what happens next…
    July 12, 2016 Proposed storage center draws huge crowd to Morristown town hall ..M’town Green… One of the largest crowds seen at a Morristown zoning workshop came out Monday to learn about a proposed storage center — and left planners with plenty of feedback to file away. One sweetener being offered is a 2,600-square-foot art studio, which would be run by the nonprofit Morris Arts.
    Jan. 19, 2017 Proposed Morris Street Storage Center Draws Big Crowd, Vigorous Discussion..M’town Green A self-storage center proposed for Morris Street is a creative way to make the street safer and friendlier town planners told residents. There were questions about traffic, noise, aesthetics, environmental cleanup, and potential loitering. An artist studio remains part of the mix.
    Feb 7, 2018 Morristown Storage Project Coming Out of Mothballs..M’town Green…Whatever happened to the controversial self-serve storage building proposed for Morris Street back in 2016? Morristown residents will find out Feb. 10, ,
    Feb. 10, 2018 Residents Try to Send Storage Project Packing at Morristown Council Meeting M’town Green The third time definitely was not the charm for the developer of a storage building on Morris Street. At the council meeting of more than two hours, residents vigorously objected to a four-story, 102,600-square-foot self-storage facility in a redevelopment zone adjacent to new apartments.
    May 23, 2018 Morristown Residents Try to Deep-Six Self-Storage, Again..Morristown Green
    It will be at least the fourth public airing of the plans. residents packed Tuesday’s Morristown council meeting to oppose the latest iteration of Hampshire Realty’s proposed self-storage facility for 175 Morris Street. Please do not build a storage facility and pretend it is a cultural asset, said a resident. Frank Vitolo, the project’s attorney, (member Morris Arts Brd of Trustees) said this was his seventh public presentation on the storage project over two years. One resident after another raised familiar concerns about the scale of the four-story structure, and moving vans clogging a busy two-lane street. I don’t care how you dress it up. It’s the scale, it’s the size, it’s the use, said another resident.

  9. The people should have a say as to whether they should be taxed. Add it to the November election as a referendum.

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