Daily Archives: October 21, 2009

Letter: Like Cream Sean Byrnes Rises to the Top on Merit

Growing up in Vermont, we used to get milk delivered in glass bottles; always at the top was a big layer of cream that had risen. In awe of the effect, we would whip it for strawberry shortcake.

Whenever I hear the truism, “Cream rises to the top,” I think of that experience and have regularly seen that it really does happen: excellent people are recognized as such by their peers and given leadership roles.

I have seen Freeholder candidate Sean Byrnes rise to the top on his own merit. He has been recognized by very different newspapers. The triCityNews had a handsome front page picture and great review, even though they were supporting a Republican. The Asbury Park Press recently gave a glowing review and recommendation for this brilliant but humble man. The article disclosed how deeply he has already researched in detail the county finances and found ways to save our money.

In any direct interactions with him I have always found Sean to be honest, approachable, knowledgeable, fair, forthright, and helpful. I have been amazed at his bravery when I have heard him speak calmly but forcefully as he provided transparency at township committee meetings about what was really happening.

I am convinced that Sean Byrnes, the cream of the candidates, will be our next Monmouth County Freeholder, and I expect him to rise further. My only reservation is that we need him on the Middletown Committee. Nevertheless, I urge you to vote for him for Freeholder, where he can have a larger effect.

Carolyn Schwebel
Leonardo, NJ

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Filed under Carolyn Schwebel, Letters, Sean F. Byrnes

Jim Grenafege, Candidate For NJ State Assembly For District 13 Answers 10 Questions

Middletown resident Jim Grenafege, a Democrat, is running for a seat in the NJ State Assembly
out of District 13.
Mr. Grenafege is the third candidate to respond to my questionnaire so far. Rick Bolger Assembly Candidate for district 11 was the first followed by Independent candidate Sean Dunne who is also running in the 13th.
Reading through Mr. Grenafege’s answers, it struck me at how well thoughtout his answers were. I thought that if he was given the space to answer the APP Tax Crush questions the same way that I have given him here, he would have certainly gained the APP’s endorsement over Amy Handlin or Sam Thompson.

1. What is your motivation for seeking a seat in the NJ State Assembly and can you tell us a little about yourself?


Operation Bid Rig exposed a corrupt person on the Middletown Township Committee, which motivated me to become actively involved in trying to influence the workings of local government. My dissatisfaction with soaring property taxes and how public business was being conducted grew as a result of my perception of a lack of openness, transparency, leadership, effective management and genuine commitment to serve more than just special political interests. I was asked to run locally last year and was invited to run at the state level this year.
I have business experience as a consultant and corporate human resources manager. My broad professional experience acquired working for major corporations includes employee relations, labor relations and management development. Over the course of my career, I have partnered with corporate executive officers, and senior and middle managers. I have a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University and an M.A. from Montclair State University. I am committed to tax and ethics reform.

2. As you meet residents throughout your district what seems to be the greatest concerns they are expressing and how do you plan to address them?


Almost everyone I meet is overwhelmed with property taxes; and disgusted with corruption and mismanagement at all levels of government. Many residents comment on isolated ineffective leadership and a lack of good jobs. Reducing the size and cost of government by eliminating positions; freezing salaries, capping benefits and changing pension entitlements are necessary tax relief requirements. Changing how education is funded is critical: Michigan implemented an approach that cut property taxes in half. Corruption is addressed by imposing severe financial and incarceration penalties; term limits; technological transparency and mandatory ethics training for all employees and outside service providers.

3. What do you hope to accomplish once you are elected to the State Assembly?


Reduce the size and cost of government, and create an ethical transparent culture focused on serving public needs and not the wants of special external and internal interests. Create an economy and jobs aligned with 21st century needs. Environmental imperatives cannot be ignored. Clean energy is very important and clean water is critical to our well being in the immediate future.

4. What is it that makes your district unique and how does that uniqueness impact your campaign?


A significant portion of the district lies along the Bayshore, so there are infrastructure issues around flood control management that must be addressed.

5. If elected, how would your professional background enhance your ability to be an effective State Assembly representative?


I have always worked in client and customer sensitive roles in industries with a strong emphasis on service. I am an innovative leader with strong facilitation skills, which enhances my ability to work collaboratively with diverse interests to set goals and design action plans to achieve desired results. My private sector business experience, especially my work as a corporate human capital manager and career management consultant is particularly germane in this uniquely challenging employment and economic environment.

6. Do you have any thoughts on how to contain the growth of state government?


Cap salaries and benefits. Implement a hiring freeze and reorganization — led by professionals who have been successful with similar projects in the private sector — that includes agencies and authorities, which initially reduces the overall size of government, by 15%. Remove the perks and benefits that attract people to government employment for self-serving reasons. Term limits for elected as well as appointed officials, should produce representation that is committed to public service.

7. Is there any aspect of state government that you believe there is a need to be expanded upon?


Yes. There needs to be an initiative that will create greater transparency in government through the use of technology. At all levels of government residents need to have on-line access to see how their tax dollars are being spent. It is time to televise state; county and municipal representatives at work.

8. Why should residents of your district trust you to represent them in the legislature?


I am not a career politician primarily concerned with re-election who is financially tied to special interests and hidden agendas. I set high standards and expect and deserve the same from elected and appointed public officials. Most of all I require integrity and ethical behavior of myself and those that I work with.

9. Why do you identify yourself as a Democrat as opposed to a Republican or Independent?


I am a Democrat with an Independent orientation. What appeals to me the most about the Democratic Party is its being anchored in the middle-class, its commitment to cultural diversity and reducing poverty, supporting those who are most vulnerable in our society, and its commitment to protecting the environment and our natural resources.

10. Is there anything that is important to you that hasn’t been asked, that you would like to address?


There is deep need to get more citizens involved in the democratic process at all levels of government, especially at the local level. If people want to have an impact on how their taxes are invested in maintaining and improving the quality of life they expect and deserve, then they must do more than vote at every given opportunity; they need to show-up regularly at local government meetings and demand accountability from their elected employees.

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Filed under 13th Assembly District, Democratic Candidate, Jim Grenafege

13th District Assembly candidates cite economy, corruption in election campaigns

From NJ.com-

Two years ago, Republicans in Monmouth County had a tough fight on their hands as voters threw their support behind many Democratic candidates in a backlash against corruption charges touching a number of local and county Republican officials.

Still, in the 13th Assembly District, covering parts of Monmouth and Middlesex counties, Republican incumbents Amy Handlin and Sam Thompson hung on to their seats.


This year, independent candidate Sean Dunne and two Democrats, Robert Brown and James Grenafage, seeking Assembly seats in the 13th District have to contend with voter disgust over high property taxes and a collapsed economy — issues Republicans have pinned on Gov. Jon Corzine, the head of the Democratic ticket.

“People are upset with government as a whole,” said Brown. “We’ll be lucky if 50 percent of the voters come out in this election.”

But Brown said Democrats have made enough inroads into Monmouth County politics the past two years — he points to the first Democratic-controlled freeholder board in 23 years — to give him and his runningmate a good shot at unseating the incumbents.


Heading into Election Day as relative unknowns, the three challengers are trying to paint Handlin and Thompson as has-beens who have failed to respond to the needs of their constituents, particularly during the economic crisis.

For their part, Thompson and Handlin are telling constituents a vote for Democrats is a vote to continue Democratic policies they say have made life miserable for the average New Jersey resident.

“If they think the country, the state, the county or the town is going in the wrong direction, I should think they should feel there’s a need for a change,” Thompson said. “The Democrats have been in charge.”

A retired communications director for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, Thompson, 74, said he’s in full agreement with former state treasurer John McCormac’s assessment that New Jersey has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. He said the state needs to prioritize its spending and think twice before providing funding for such things as stem cell research or local theaters.


“We’re the loyal opposition,” he said. “Most of the things they’re unhappy about we’ve been fighting against.”

Handlin, seeking her third term, got her political start in 1987 with her election to the Middletown Township Committee. Elected to the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders in 1989, she held that seat until winning her state Assembly seat in 2005 after defeating longtime Republican incumbent Joseph Azzolina in the GOP primary.

An associate professor of marketing at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, Handlin, 53, has positioned herself as a corruption buster who has sponsored several pieces of legislation aimed at tightening laws governing political contributions and strictly curbing dual office holding.

She touts a constitutional amendment to limit the growth of the state budget to the rate of inflation and she supports a two-thirds vote of the state legislature to impose new taxes or raise existing ones.

She also wants state government to submit all bond and borrowing proposals to voters for approval.


Brown, 54, is a former Old Bridge police officer-turned attorney. He retired from the force after being shot in the hand and the shoulder by an assailant and uses his law practice to help disabled public employees gain disability benefits.

Grenafege, 60, is a career transition consultant who said the limping economy has made job creation and retention a priority for him and Brown. They’ve proposed expanding NJ STARS, a program providing tuition assistance for college students in certain areas of study, for advanced degrees.

They want the state to explore obtaining renewable energy through wave power and advocate redirecting a portion of revenue from the state sales tax to help reduce the school portion of property taxes.

Brown is pushing for an expansion of the “Senior Freeze” program, which freezes property taxes to certain residents over 65, to include empty-nesters.


Dunne, a Holmdel resident who has made anti-corruption the cornerstone of his campaign, calls himself “the best fighter that money can’t buy.”

He argues for term limits and contends his incumbent opponents have not pushed through meaningful legislation to combat corruption.

A graduate of James Madison University in Virginia, Dunne, 32, lived for nearly 10 years in Ireland, where he managed a sheep farm in County Kerry. A sociologist who has taken time off to write a book, Dunne participated in the European Union’s Rural Environmental Protection Scheme by advising farmers on how to use their land without damaging the local environment.
Dunne said he decided to get into politics because he doesn’t want to sit in an ivory tower when it comes to studying the ills of society. He said he wants to give voters a true third-party option.

“I strongly believe it can’t go on like this with the duopoly situation of Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “I have yet to meet someone who disagrees with my position — it’s getting people to move their eyes from the Republican, Democratic ticket. We need more choices because the choices are getting closer and closer together.”

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Filed under 13th Assembly District, Bob Brown, Jim Grenafege, NJ.com, Sean Dunne