Being More Aware of Our Dangerous Trees


By Siva Jonnada

A woman was killed in June when a tree fell on her car while she was driving on Ford Avenue in Morristown.  A news article only mentions the injuries, but she died a few days afterward.

We live in an area where there are many older trees on our properties and throughout our town.  Because we have had numerous storms in the last several years, many of these trees have been weakened and are in danger of falling.

In my own voting District 14, many residents have been complaining about the state of the trees in Burnham Park and that neither Morristown and Morris Township are doing enough to resolve the problem.  I attended a contentious meeting hosted by Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty that also was attended by Morris Township Mayor Peter Mancuso.  Some progress has been made, but there are still some complaints.  Part of the problem is determining whether any remedies fall within the charter that the Burnham family made when they deeded the property.

Recently, Mayor Mancuso and fellow Township Committee members, Bruce Sisler and Cathy Wilson, walked through the Burnham Park “Green Strip,” a heavily wooded, triangular-shaped field. Most of this area resides in Morristown, but a portion belongs to the township. Township Administrator Peter Quinn and Public Works personnel were there to explain both the short-term and long-term goals dealing with the green strip. As we walked through the area, we noticed many fallen trees and others that had sustained storm damage. The most pressing concern were those trees that were leaning toward the roadways and that pose an immediate hazard.

They also discussed the imminent danger of the emerald ash borer, which has been infesting ash trees over the past few years.  Although the emerald ash borer has not infested the ash trees in the township, it’s only a matter of time before they do.  Trees in nearby Somerset County already have been affected.  However, ash and other trees are plagued with problems aside from this particular pest.

I had to cut down two trees that have been on my property for over 50 years. The damage from recent storms had been so severe that this was the only remedy. Thankfully, both trees were in my backyard, away from pedestrians and drivers. Yet, the news of the recent fatality, plus the damage to power lines from the snowstorms this year, had made me more aware of my surroundings. I now look up more often to see the condition of the trees and their limbs, hoping nothing will fall on anyone.

The utility at which I used to work had a dangerous tree program. The company would inspect all vegetation along the right-of-way of their powerlines. JCP&L also has a program of inspecting and trimming vegetation along the right of way. It would be a good idea for residents to learn more about and to comment on JCP&L's program for reducing dangers from trees.

While there is much natural beauty in our town, we should also be aware of our surroundings and the perils of nature.

Siva Jonnada is a member of Morris Township Democratic Committee and is the Democratic district representative for the township’s District 14. The viewpoint expressed in this blog post is not necessarily an official position of the Morris Township Democratic Committee.

Putting the Township Back on Track

Morris Township Committee candidates Mark Gyorfy (right) and Jeff Grayzel 

By Mark Gyorfy

Morris Township made me who I am. I cherish the memories I have of growing up here. From spending Saturdays at the baseball field or weeknights at the pool during the summer, Morris Township was an ideal place to grow up; I want to ensure that it continues to be so for future generations. Unfortunately, the trajectory of where our town is heading threatens the character of the place we know and love.

Giving back has always been important to me. I began volunteering at the hospital and then went on to become a volunteer firefighter for the Morris Township Fire Department. Dedicating my time to the fire department has been a gratifying way to serve the community and shaped me into the person that I am today: someone who cares for the community he knows and is passionate about.

Continuing my dedication to public service, I studied counter-terrorism and government in college and went on to advise a New Jersey member of Congress on homeland security, veterans’ affairs, and financial services policy. Seeing firsthand the lack of action and sense of urgency in Washington, I realized that sparking change to bring about good government doesn’t start from the top-down, but from the bottom-up.

In many ways, Morris Township’s governing body has been plagued with the same do-nothing attitudes prevalent in Congress. Morris Township residents deserve elected officials who work as hard as they do and who will keep residents’ interests top of mind, rather than those of special interests. Our community deserves someone who will fight to protect our open spaces, improve our parks, and communicate directly with residents.

I love Morris Township and have been serving its residents for the past decade as a firefighter. Now, I am breaking out of my comfort zone to fight for the community that has meant so much to my life by running for Township Committee.

As a ticket, Jeff Grayzel and I bring experience and a community-oriented perspective. We will:

  • fight for open government that communicates with residents and takes their input;
  • demand smarter planning to limit over-development;
  • work with surrounding communities on shared services; and
  • control speeding on our local streets and improve pedestrian safety.

Leveraging my experience on Capitol Hill, I will also fight to bring more of our hard-earned tax dollars back to Morris Township by fighting for grants to help lessen the burden on our budget.

Planning a path forward for our community shouldn’t be beholden to the old guard and status quo of years passed. With the Township Committee election victories of Democrats Cathy Wilson and John Arvanites in 2017, Morris Township is adjusting course. But it needs a forceful gust this November to get us back on track.

Lifelong Morris Township resident and volunteer firefighter Mark Gyorfy is a Democratic candidate for Morris Township Committee. Mark works in the financial services industry, and he previously served as a congressional staff member. More information on Mark can be found at

Climate Action Here in Morris Township


Clean energy advocates Dan and Shannon Falkner enjoy the green surroundings.

By Dan and Shannon Falkner

If you’ve been feeling a bit beaten down by climate news at the national level, here’s a bit of good news to cheer you: There is much we can do here at the local level to fight for clean energy and push our region toward a greater renewable energy supply. In fact, New Jersey just may be the perfect state to pioneer the clean energy revolution from the ground up. Here’s why.

First, New Jersey has a deregulated energy market, which means that we aren’t beholden to one behemoth energy company as our only energy provider; third-party energy suppliers compete in the energy market to attract customers, and many of them are offering competitive rates for renewable energy to attract customers.

Now, before you think this is one of those telemarketing-style pitches hitting you up for a great deal, we should clarify: Individuals shifting their own households to clean energy is not a feasible solution to the climate crisis. We just aren’t going to convince enough people to do the work to make the shift on their own.

As climate activist Bill McKibben has so eloquently articulated, for too long, we’ve bought into a narrative that tells us that our individual choices will be enough to change the world. That may sound lovely, but it’s exactly the kind of message that fossil fuel companies want us to promote. Individualist thinking shifts us away from collective political action, which can be mighty effective at ending the business models fossil fuel companies have profited from. It also keeps us spinning our wheels on how to “green” our own little lives, which basically ensures that traditional sources of energy (oil, coal, gas) remain intact while we fret over how to afford those solar panels.

The second reason that New Jersey is the perfect state for a clean energy transition is that it encourages a very specific kind of collective action to move us toward more renewable energy in our power grid: the Renewable Government Energy Aggregate. Municipalities are allowed to form an “R-GEA” to pool residents’ energy use and bargain with energy suppliers on behalf of all residents to secure a greater portion of renewable energy for the town. Doing so A) increases the portion of renewable energy in the power mix, and B) reduces the cost that residents pay for energy because of the collective purchasing power the R-GEA wields.

The best part is that, as more towns form R-GEAs, a clear signal is sent to energy suppliers that the market wants more renewable energy, and the suppliers will then invest in more renewable energy infrastructure, thus speeding up our transition to clean power.

Dan and Shannon Falkner are Climate Reality Leaders with The Climate Reality Project. Through their work with Climate Reality, Dan and Shannon work to educate the public about the dangerous implications of climate change and the solutions at hand to address the crisis. Shannon is also involved with Citizens Climate Lobby, Morristown Chapter, where she advocates for carbon fee and dividend legislation. She teaches high school English and often writes about both education and climate. Dan served for nine years on active duty in the US Navy as an SH-60 Seahawk helicopter pilot, and he currently serves as a reservist, a role in which he interviews prospective students for his alma mater, the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. He has an MBA from Columbia Business School and a background in finance, specifically in energy markets. Danny currently works for a Fortune 15 company developing business solutions based on machine-based learning. They live in Morris Township with their four-year-old son and their dog. The viewpoint expressed in this blog post is not necessarily an official position of the Morris Township Democratic Committee.

Booker Inspires 150 at Event for Sherrill


Mikie Sherrill (far right) and Sen. Cory Booker pose with the Rothman-Hankin Family. Below, they take a "selfie" with her campaign staff.


By Samantha Rothman

My husband, John Hankin, and I recently had the pleasure of hosting the General Election Kick-Off Campaign for Mikie Sherrill for Congress with a special guest, Senator Cory Booker.  With over 150 people in attendance, and many others donating to this special fundraiser, we were able to raise over $40,000 to help Mikie win and #FliptheHouse!

Even with the high temperatures, the crowd was energized and engaged as Senator Booker roused our spirits with his moving words.  He spoke passionately about how we are living in a time when the very morals our Country was founded on are in jeopardy.  He asked very simply: What will you do in this moment?  I know I felt inspired to keep working toward victory this fall!

However, as Senator Booker so beautifully articulated, this struggle for our democracy isn’t about “Democrats” or “Republicans.”  It is about respecting human decency.  He reminded the audience of how wrong it was when former Governor Chris Christie was attacked for hugging President Obama during the Sandy Crisis and how wrong it was when fellow Democrats attacked him when he crossed the aisle to hug his fellow senator, John McCain, when McCain returned to Congress after his brain cancer diagnosis was announced.

I urge all of us in the coming months to remind ourselves of Senator Booker’s message as we seek to engage Independents and yes, Republicans.  That it is the values of the Democratic Party that inspire us to be members of this organization.

People like to talk about “machine politics” and while I too can be skeptical of “The Party,” what I have seen in the last year – the letter writing, the marching, the work of many neighbors coming together to change their communities – there is nothing “machine-like” about the course we are on together.  When Cory Booker and Mikie Sherrill spoke, it was with honesty and conviction.

Our job moving forward is to remember that here, in our Township, there are many people on “the other side of the aisle” who share our values, and we need to welcome them in.  They may never switch parties, but … they may vote off “their” line, and that’s all the proof we need that our message works and is inclusive!

Samantha Rothman is a longtime resident of Morris Township. She also lived in Morristown, where she served on the town's Environmental Commission for nine years. She is a graduate of Morristown High School, a founder of Grow it Green Morristown and a board member of the NJ Conservation Foundation. The viewpoint expressed in this blog post is not necessarily an official position of the Morris Township Democratic Committee.


It's Vital We Send Sherrill to D.C.

By Cece Kent

I urge every voter in New Jersey's 11th Congressional District to join me in supporting Mikie Sherrill.  Mikie represents what is the best in New Jersey values, having served her country as a Naval pilot and U.S. attorney

This will be no slam dunk election. Our opponents are desperate to keep this seat, which has been filled by Rodney Frelinghuysen for the past 24 years, in Republican control.

It is vital that NJ11th voters send a representative to Washington who will help counter the current administration’s damaging policies. President Trump and his accomplices have done much more in 18 months to undermine American democracy and harm New Jersey constituents than any other administration or institution. They have:

  • reduced our social safety net for the most vulnerable among us;
  • taken women's issues back decades;
  • refused to support shooting victims with reasonable gun control measures;
  • hurt NJ's economy by fighting the Gateway Tunnel;
  • increased income inequality for all but the top 1 percent with a tax bill that delivers 84 percent of its benefits to the richest individuals and corporations, while harming many "blue" state residents, including New Jerseyans, through state and local tax deduction limits;
  • raised the specter of human rights violations along our border by ripping children from their parents for the misdemeanor of entering our country illegally;
  • alienated our oldest and truest world allies while courting countries that want to harm our democratic way of life;
  • created trade conditions that hurt far more Americans than they help;
  • corruptly used their government offices to enrich themselves;
  • all the while, trying to change our value system from a truth-based, ethical culture to a flim-flam, con game where getting away with something for your own personal gain is totally justified.

Mikie will need all our support both with volunteer activities and fundraising to mount a successful campaign. Please help build the groundswell that will overtake our opponent and elect her.  For information on how you can help Mikie, check out

Cece Kent is a member of the Morris Township Democratic Committee and serves as the Democratic district representative for the township’s District 4. The viewpoint expressed in this blog post is not necessarily an official position of the Morris Township Democratic Committee.



The Land of Promise


By Siva Jonnada

I was walking through the Children’s section of the Morris County Library and came across a series of books shown in the photo.

Considering how immigration has become such a hot and difficult topic as of late, it’s always important to remember that almost all of us came from somewhere else. We are all proud to be American and all that it means to us, but we can also be proud of our ancestral heritage. There are many reasons why our ancestors (or we) left the motherland, but they all came to America for what she promised. It’s hard to believe that there are those amongst us who don’t realize this. When they hear news that thousands of people pass through our borders seeking asylum, they ask why!  Oddly, they never seem to wonder why their own family came here. They only want to make it much more difficult for others to follow. I find this thinking unacceptable.

America was, is and will always be the land of promise for many of us who are here -- and for many who will follow. Eventually (and I hope someday soon), we will overcome these lost years and bring back the spirit of promise. We will accept those who wish to make this land their home and are more than willing to contribute to its greatness.

This was how the United States grew into a great nation -- and how it continues to grow. In New Jersey alone, people speaking hundreds of different languages have come here from all across the globe. They have contributed greatly to our economic vitality and strong social fabric.  Their presence really shouldn’t bother anyone, and need I remind you that immigration has been happening in America since its beginning.

The old-timers will always look askance at the newcomers, but the newcomers will keep coming.  Benjamin Franklin had complained about the large number of Germans settling in Pennsylvania and wondered if they’ll ever learn to speak English and be a part of this great experiment. Guess what! They did, and their descendants are still among the most hardest working people.

Many followed, and they too did much the same. My own family arrived in the United States more than 50 years ago. We’re a part of this country, and no one will be able to convince us otherwise.

I still believe in the promise that is America, and I will continue to strive to fulfill that promise. These lost years will be overcome, and it starts when we remember that promise and continue to pass it on to the next generation.

Siva Jonnada is a member of Morris Township Democratic Committee and is the Democratic district representative for the township’s District 14. The viewpoint expressed in this blog post is not necessarily an official position of the Morris Township Democratic Committee.