Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thoughts on the Western Monmouth Freeholder Candidate Forum

For the record, I offer the picture of me on the left with Freeholder Lillian Burry and Freeholder Candidate Gary Rich (Thanks Rhoda!) as proof I was in attendance bright and early Saturday morning at the Western Monmouth Freeholder Candidate Forum in Manalapan. "Erik" was not in attendance to the best of my knowledge so as he spews his non-sense in anonymity, please consider he/she may not be very well informed.

Also, before I get into my notes, do know a fellow event-attendee (whose name I'll withhold the name since I'm not he wants his name posted... but he's Wilma's husband *wink wink*) thanked me for this -- using my real name online. I introduce myself to people I know, and don't know, as James Hogan-Long Branch, using the same real name I use here and I'm as blunt and honest in person as I am when I write; I don't hide, I don't try to force people to agree with me or preach but I certainly don't hide and the things I say and the things I type online are the things I'll say in a room of people as well. If you did hear me introduced by any other name, I blame "Uncle John", aka John Costigan, who introduces me to people by my Irish name "Shamus", which I find oddly humorous in the sense that "Shamus" is slang for a private investigator and I do like to think part of my responsibility to local voters and readers here is to investigate the goings on of our party and report back. "Shamus" it is John!

So on to the event. The event was very well attended. I didn't try to take an actual head count but I would estimate 40-50 people in attendance. If my number is off, I would say it's more likely to be off in the low direction and there were more than that. It wasn't just numbers, it was a "who's-who" of numbers. Freeholders Clifton, Burry, and Curley were all in attendance as well as Sheriff Golden, who led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Surrogate Rosemarie Peters who is up for re-election this year. Former Freeholder Anna Little was also in attendance and many of the usual names and faces I see at most county events were all in attendance. If there is or was bad blood between anyone, I didn't see it and can confirm there were no shouting matches or fist fights, no one had to be asked to leave and, to the best of my knowledge and what I saw, no one was vocally rude or disrespectful to any of the candidates or other party members. I can also confirm that I asked several people if there was a fix that I could get in on and all had the same response "if there is a fix, I don't know about it!". Again, I saw no backroom deals, payoffs, bribes or other pressure from anyone to support anything. The whole forum and process from my perspective was very fair and open and I didn't see anyone turned away and denied the opportunity to have their platform heard as I perceived my case in 2008.

The forum itself was moderated by Millstone Municipal Chairman Steve Lambros, who really seemed to go out of his way to make sure that the event was fair. The format allowed for a 20 minute Q&A session with each candidate while the other candidates were out of the room. Each candidate was given 2 minutes to introduce themselves, asked the same six questions and given 2 1/2 minutes to answer each question. Any time left over/not used for questions was given as more free talking time at the end of the Q&A session. At the forum and to the best of my knowledge, the potential candidates in alphabetical order, the same order they were heard from, are:

Andrew Lucas - Manalapan Mayor
George Newberry - Wall Township Counsel/Former Mayor
Gary Rich - Spring Lake Township Counsel
Bob Walsh - Howell Township Mayor

Being oddly and rarely unprepared (without a good notepad) I didn't write down each of the six questions or make specific notes on the answers so I only offer these very general opinions and urge those interested in learning more to attend the next candidate forum which I believe is March 10th in Ocean Township. If you need more information, let me know and I'll get all of the details and post here.

Andew Lucas -- I was very impressed with Andew Lucas' ability to think about each question and give a reasonable and rational answer. He has a very professional look about him and speaks in a way which sounds like he knows what he's talking about and you should listen. While that may sound vague - for those of you who have met me, you'll know I'm a terrible public speaker - lots of uhhs and umms, I stutter... none of that with Lucas - he speaks very sure and very confident of what he says. The one thing I did note is that Lucas seems to have a very academic/predicable approach to politics. I believe he was the only one who named exact departments and items to cut, which may or not be reasonable/possible and in the best interest of the people, or he could have already done the research and be correct. I just don't know, but he seemed very confident (which can be good or bad) in his opinions and maybe promising to gut or change specific department will turn off certain groups of voters and/or set him up for failure if those departments simply can not really be downsized or cut.
Bonus Factor: Lucas has won his election in Manalapan, which he claims is a 2:1 D town 3 times. Lucas may really bring new/extra votes to the line in the general election and help the races at the top of the ticket or any municipal races that end up below him.

George Newberry - I posted my notes on Newberry before. I really like the guy. I think he gives well thought-out answers and really understands the dynamics between people and issues well. However, and again, not to be negative, Newberry really came across as "boring" for lack of a better term and "not boring" isn't something you can teach. I'm boring, I know. Also, a few times he was speaking with his hands in his pockets, which means very little to me but body language says a lot to some people and hands in the pockets means hiding something. Again, I do want to stress, I really believe that Newberry has a very realistic grasp on the issues and a solid approach to addressing the issues, I'm just not sure he has that "it" factor like a John Curly or a Tom Arnone, who really stands out in a crowd.
Bonus Factor: Newberry has firm support from people I see working hard and working often. IMO, half or more of the people in attendance were there because Newberry sent a postcard inviting people there. This should not be overlooked. Newberry is the candidate who, IMO, can help the upticket and down ticket races the most with his campaign efforts assuming the funding for mailers he seems to have now is there later on and assuming the hard workers I see in his camp continue to be hardworkers.

Gary Rich - STAND OUT OF THE DAY. Without a doubt, Gary Rich was the standout candidate of this group with his ability to answer the questions and demonstrate a real firm grasp of both people and politics and be exciting and fun and professional and a real commanding presence. Do note that this is Rich's third time running for Freeholder and so I would say that if he couldn't outshine the new comers on their first County Freeholder Forum, I'd of been surprised. The only downside that I see for Rich is that he comes from a very small shore town where Republicans have lost two seats in the past two years and Rich has lost past Freeholder races. I'd be curious/concerned how much support he can really build and if he'd be able to pull in additional votes to help others on the line or if he'd just be along for the ride.
Bonus Factor: Again, Rich really stands out as the guy in the group who knows how to talk and be exciting and still stick to principles. He also has some good name recognition from past county wide races. On issues alone, at this point, Rich would be my choice (as if I mattered), but again, the general population may not vote on issues alone and if Rich can't get his message out and can't win in his hometown, where he stands on the issues might not even matter if he won't be able to win county wide.

Bob Walsh - This guy has "it". Art at MMM posted a link to this story about Chris Christie, read it (it's long) and then come back, please. In the Lonegan vs Christie days, I was on team Lonegan because Lonegan seemed to be talking about the issues. He seemed to understand the issues and have some ideas to solve some problems. Meanwhile Christie just stuck to a very specific general theme and told stories to relate to people and get their support and I've said it before and I'll say it again, Christie has really won me over with his attitude, bluntness and approach to dealing with people and issues. Bob Walsh is NOT Chris Christie, but Bob Walsh seems to have a VERY similar style to Christie. Walsh doesn't look or sound like the other candidates when he speaks, he doesn't always give a direct answer that exudes confidence and understanding of the issue at hand. But what he seemed to do was be able to relate a personal anecdote that demonstrated that he's aware of the issue and faces the same issues and understands both sides of the proverbial coin and then gives a vague high-level answer. I'd really love to look for Walsh to sharpen his tone and appearance and be our candidate, but I'm not sure others will see, or even agree, with the likeness in approach to Christie that I see or think is there nor can I be sure that Walsh will be able to sell himself and build the grass-roots support like Christie did.
Bonus Factor: Howell is huge and Howell has some very dedicated, hardworking people who I'm certain will work extra hard for their local candidate. Walsh recently/still has some personal family issues that he is dealing with but he seems to be dedicated to public service and is a very likable, relatable guy. If others see the likeness to Christie, that I think is there, expect Walsh to gain traction fast with the people who supported Christie, and there are plenty of them and grow a solid supporting cast of workers.

So all of that is my $0.02. We have four GREAT candidates for Freeholder which demonstrates the growing depth on the Republican bench. We also had a very civilized, well run, fair forum for all of the candidates to present their opinions and while I could tell from the expressions and interest on some faces in the crowd as some candidates spoke that some minds well already made up before anyone said a word, the forum itself was very fair and well organized. There were no "gotcha" questions and certainly no "fix" in place for anyone.

And most important, as I said when I wrote about Newberry, it will be interesting to see who Lillian Burry would like to run with, and while some county committee members or chairs might disagree with me, I think her opinion on who gets the line with her, is more important than my personal opinion just as it'll be interesting to see if John Curly and/or Arnone and Clifton get behind any specific candidate because who they work with and who joins the face of the Republican Freeholder Board will have a direct impact on them in their next election cycle.

March 10th is another day, my opinion and recommendation to my chairman is still undecided, not that my chairman has to vote my way at the screening committee or my fellow committee members will agree with anything I say or think.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Where else would you get USA Leather?

This picture was sent to me by a good friend who saw the tag on his neighbor's jacket while helping the neighbor out with some computer tasks.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chatting with George Newberry at the LBRC Meeting Thursday Night

Maybe I'm offending the Highlands Republican Club for blogging this, or violating some other non-existant by-laws, but George Newberry, who is exploring his options and looking to challenge Amy Mallet for her Freeholder seat was a guest at the Long Branch Republican Committee's monthly meeting Thursday night. George is the first of hopefully many candidates to come meet with us and hopefully more will follow.

My personal notes on George are below, hopefully I'll have a chance to have a similar chat with any other possible candidates prior to my chairman going to vote for one and hopefully my notes are accurate. If something doesn't sound correct, assume *I* got it wrong, not George and give him a call to discuss the issue; he seems to be a very open and honest guy. My notes below pickup following the prayer/invocation of the meeting (my chairman doesn't begin meetings with a Pledge of Allegiance....)

So my chairman mostly ignored George (and Christine Hanlon, who is our Monmouth County State Committee Rep) and just plowed ahead into reviewing a district map/voter lists to try to fill seats, which is an effort that has been ongoing, with no progress from them for months (I did bring on three new committee members Thursday night, hopefully I'll bring 3 more on next meeting).

So while they were reviewing maps instead of talking to Christine or George, I asked George about the two (seemingly minor) issues that I/others had but seemed to fester in comments on Art's blog:
1) Why the same PO box as the Lincoln Day event?
A) George formed an ELEC account for his "testing the waters"/exploratory committee and Mary Fran Lane is his treasurer. The PO box DOES NOT belong to the county committee but is a PO box owned/used by Mary Fran/John.

From what George went on to say, Mary Fran is the treasurer for various other candidates (and I think the county?). Having heard his explanation, it really seems like a complete non-issue and makes perfect sense. I'm not sure if/why/how anyone would hold this against him, that is, I'm not sure that George using a respected and reputable treasurer (or the county using a respected and reputable treasurer) is a bad thing.

2) What with the Union tie to IBEW local 400, where Eric Houghtaling of Neptune Democrat fame is also a member?
A) George has been a member for 25+ years, and knows of Eric, but George is a Republican. He said he's been through their meetings and propaganda but his brain is wired Republican and their "persuasion committee" has not persuaded him in 30 years. He cites his life-long Republican registration/votes and elections. He also (maybe rightly?) notes that via his union tie, he may be able to bring labor votes to the Republican line that traditionally go to Ds.

Aside from those questions, he was also asked about towns receiving State Aid (ie, towns taking taxpayer money gathered by the state and then re-distributed), and if he accepts that aid? George explained the roots of most of that state aide as being the Public Utility Franchise Tax where JCP&L/NJNG/etc have substations, etc in town and those taxes USED to be paid to the town and then spent in town, now those taxes are collected by the state and then paid back to the town, in the form of state aide. I think overall he says to accept that state aid because it's aid due to the town anyway. Seems reasonable to me, but again, maybe I need to do more research to confirm this is the real case/story. So i'd say George is ok with state aid, but would prefer if local taxes stayed local.

He was also asked about County Parks/Seven Presidents OceanFront Park (in Long Branch)/beach access. He didn't get into County parks, he told me it's a bigger topic he'll research and we can talk about another night, but he seemed to be of the opinion that the towns have to collect beach badge fees to cover the cost of beach cleanup/moving sand, etc. LB used to have a few places where you can get onto the beach for free, those places no longer exist, so as a local/town issue, many people are annoyed at the taxes they pay, and they pay the "use tax"/badge fee to get on the beach. I'm not sure that George addressed the fact that LB taxes DO go to the beach area, and the badge money/"use tax" helps that - but clearly even people in LB who don't use the beach are paying for it, where people a town over in Eatontown or whatever that don't use the beach aren't paying for it in their taxes, or paying the use tax. So I'd say that George accepts the cost to use/fund the public beaches - I'd be curious to talk to him again/get more information on the costs/usage of county parks (one thing I forgot to note is that at the Wolf Hill County Dog Park -- the park "closes" at 8... because I guess at night dogs could damage the grass or something? seems silly to close the dog park but maybe there is good reason, I just don't know)

And, most important to me, he was asked about his position, even though it doesn't seem like it's an issue that the Freeholders could address (unless maybe the Freeholders could somehow get the Sheriff's department to handle permit issues instead of the state police?) on 2A rights. George is an NRA member, or at least gets the American Rifleman magazine which he had handy, he's been to the NRA headquarters/range in VA, seems to be a gun owner, and/or used to be a gun owner and generally he seems to understand how/why Right To Carry is not only a fundamental right, but is also useful in addressing crimes. I'd noted to George that as municipalities cut police budgets, the police unions are suggesting that the budget/staff cuts "put the public in danger" and explain how they'd be unable to do their jobs, which leads me to think that my own safety and security is my responsibility and the police can't do it, which lead us to a brief discussion on the Castle Doctrine, etc. I also noted to George that there is no public shooting range in Monmouth County, but there is the private police academy range (I think??). George notes that part of the issue in NJ is that guns have been banned/regulated so much and for so long that the general perception is that they must be bad and it's a perception issue that is difficult to overcome. Overall, George seems to be a very pro-2A candidate, which means a lot to me and a few people in my local district.

He was also asked about the always popular county jail costs/issue - that is cost to house federal inmates "at a loss". George (again, maybe rightly, I don't know the answer) notes that if federal inmates weren't housed there (even at a loss), then the cells remain empty and are just be a bigger loss as they'd be bringing in no income, but there would be some expense to maintain those cells/staff for them. He also noted the always popular option/calls for privatizing corrections officers at the jail but again (seemingly rightly) notes that there is (officially or unofficially) information obtained by corrections officers, passed on to the sheriff, passed on to other law enforcement agencies and acted on. George notes that private workers may not be as comfortable cooperating with law enforcement. So I'd say George is AGAINST privatizing the county jail.

George was also asked if he's spoken to the other freeholders about being their running mate/fellow board member. George said he had a very positive meeting with Lillian Burry but we didn't talk specifics of those talks/meetings. He said he's worked closely with Tom Arnone in the past when Tom was mayor of Neptune City. He hasn't met/talked to John Curly. For the record, I REALLY like John Curly as a person and as a representative and the things John seems to stand for so John Curley's opinion/willingness to work with George is important to me. George did say something about working with or talking with Rob Clifton but I don't remember the answer/details and didn't take good notes. I'll leave it up to others to obtain George and/or Rob's relationship if they are interested.

As other random notes, George overall seems like a reasonable and rational individual. He carries pocket Constitutions and hands them out which I think says something positive. He has nice business cards which gives a very professional appearance. He also seems to have some older, classic cars and a classic truck so being a car-guy, I share some interests with him.

Hopefully our LB muni chairman reaches out to any other interested parties/candidates for offices and invites them to the next meeting as it will be the last meeting before the screening committee votes, which I'm told is scheduled for March 26. It'd be nice to see/think that any potential candidates will reach out to the committees and the CC people will get a chance to ask their questions, do their own reviews and provide fact based input to their chairman, who should vote in accordance with the CC members. OR, if the nominating process becomes "open", then I'd hope that the CC people have the opportunity so that they can vote based on facts, not vote based on George using a PO box that matches the lincoln day po box, or being a union member.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Armed Citizen! Will NJ ever pass a Castle Doctrine?

I smiled when I read this story about Jack Crawford, a 72 year old man from Florida who was attacked in his own home by three bat wielding young men. Mr. Crawford pulled his .22 pistol and shot two of the three men who were trying to illegally enter his home and cause him harm, as well as, presumably, rob him of his possessions.

Mr. Crawford is quoted as saying "They're lucky I let them live," he said. "The next time I'll kill them.". I for one hope there is no next time and these three criminals head to jail for a long time, and if they are ever let out, hopefully, they have learned their lesson and don't try again. But since that hope seems unreasonably optimistic, I'll also hope that Mr. Crawford gets himself a 9mm, or maybe even a .45.

For the record, Mr. Crawford is protected by Florida's Castle Doctrine. The Castle Doctrine effectively establishes your rights on four basic issues.

First, it generally establishes that an intruder in your home is there to cause death or great bodily harm to you and you may use any manner of force, including deadly force, against said person.

Second, it establishes you have no "duty to retreat". Technically, here in New Jersey, an armed home owner is expected to run away and leave his home to be ransacked by criminals.

Third, it establishes that use of said force against a criminal can not be prosecuted. Ie, if these three thugs return to Mr. Crawford's home and he murders the criminals, Mr. Crawford can not be charged with murder in their deaths.

Not unrelated, and Forth, it establishes that criminals and their families can not sue the would-be victim for injuring or killing the criminal.

NJ does not currently have a Castle Doctrine law established. Currently, in NJ, the law states that you are expected to "retreat to a safe place" and allow your home, your castle to be invaded.

Hopefully one of our Assemblyman will sponsor legislation to adopt a Castle Doctrine.

The full story, for future reference is this:

A 15-year-old boy charged in the baseball-bat beating of a 72-year-old man wiped away tears with a paper towel on Monday as a judge set his bond at $200,000 and told him he could face life in prison.

The boy, Earl Benard, is one of three accused in the armed invasion of Ferry Pass resident Jack Crawford's home Saturday night.

Crawford allegedly was holding a .22-caliber pistol when the three knocked on the door, then tried to force their way in.

Curtis Crenshaw, 18, and Nathaniel Nichols, 17, were both shot. Crenshaw was treated and released from Baptist Hospital; Nichols remains hospitalized.

Only last month, Benard was before Circuit Judge Ed Nickinson, accused of violating his probation on a litany of charges ranging from battery to burglary.

"We ask for high bond," Assistant State Attorney Marjorie Anders told Nickinson on Monday, noting Benard's already lengthy court record.

Benard's sniffles echoed over the courtroom's sensitive public address system. His mother was present for the hearing; she declined to comment afterward.

Benard is due back in court on Feb. 18 and is to be charged as an adult.

Across town at adult court in the M.C. Blanchard Judicial Building, Crenshaw appeared before Circuit Judge Michael Allen.

He held his hand to his left rib cage, where he had been shot. The judge set his bond at $300,000 and ordered him returned to court Feb. 24.

Allen noted three burglary arrests on Crenshaw's juvenile record that date back to 2008.

Nichols appeared before Nickinson via teleconference from the hospital. He's under guard there and will go to jail upon his release.

The three are accused of forcing their way into Crawford's home in the 3300 block of Raines Street about 8:50 p.m. Saturday and hitting him in the head with the bat.

After the shooting, they ran away.

About 40 minutes later, Adam Simoneaux, 25, identified as Crenshaw's and Nichols' roommate, and Haley Nida, 18, dropped Nichols and Crenshaw off at Baptist Hospital for treatment of the gunshot wounds, arrest reports say.

Nida and Simoneaux told investigators that they received a phone call that Nichols and Crenshaw were shot and needed to go to the hospital.

Despite being near Sacred Heart Hospital, they took their bleeding friends to Baptist Hospital more than five miles away, Pensacola police Capt. Paul Kelly said.

The two wounded suspects told investigators they were robbed and shot near the Days Inn motel, a story that was quickly dispelled, Kelly said.

Kelly said an investigation into the events leading up to the home invasion is continuing.

Crenshaw's mother, Louise White, appeared at her son's hearing. She said she didn't approve of her son's current living situation but can't control him at 18.

The three suspects all are charged with armed home invasion robbery and aggravated battery on a person over the age of 65.

On Monday, Crawford, a tough-talking former truck driver, sported a large gash, held together with staples from the top of his head to the middle of his forehead.

He was wearing more than a dozen gold rings on his hands and several gold chains around his neck. Asked whether he thought all of that gold made him a robbery target, he shrugged his shoulders.

"They're lucky I let them live," he said. "The next time I'll kill them."