OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

ON THE RAILS - As weary, hesitant, harried and worried commuters approach their local train station this morning and give a silent prayer that somehow their train will actually appear somewhat on time, the problem is much bigger than basic incompetence. The Northeast Corridor needs about $28 billion or so in repairs to its antiqued equipment, which 750,000 people or so depend on each day to get around safely. Yet, our President, in all his wisdom, is cutting back on Amtrak funding and slashing grants for the proposed Hudson River rail tunnel, The New York Times reports. What does it all mean? Derailments, delays, and millions of dollars in wasted man hours. Like on April 14, when the NJ Transit train was stuck in a tunnel for hours. The obvious solution: Fund Amtrak.  

TRENTON - It's about all location when it comes to deciding the fate of a retail business. So, some red flags are being raised because of the City Council decision, unanimously voting to pay a $5,000 "bonus" to up to 10 merchants who open businesses on East State, Warren or Broad streets, to create a cluster of stores. Kudos to city leaders for the effort, but creating a downtown from nothing is a much, much bigger endeavor, including marketing, lighting, special events and all the other amenities that keep people coming back.  

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BASKING RIDGE - The historic oak tree - where George Washington and Marquis de Lafayette were fabled to picnic under to discuss the Revolutionary War - is finally coming down this morning. The white oak, which has lived in six centuries, can no longer be saved. But it is not so easy to take down, as there will be 17 careful cuts today to avoid disturbing all the colonial-era graves at its base. Tree enthusiasts shouldn't be saddened; one of the tree's acorns has already grown into a 25-foot white oak, thriving in the same graveyard at the local Presbyterian church.

STATEWIDE - Leaving the car running? The house unlocked? Your wallet sitting on a park bench? No worries! New Jersey is apparently safer, with less crime. The number of criminal acts dropped by 5 percent or so last year, the State Police reports. Violent crime was down around 4 percent and the crime index has dropped by more than 25 percent in the last six years, according to early data, the Attorney General reports. Murders are slightly up and rapes are up by 7 percent, but other stuff is down. Collectively, apparently, good news.  

BELLEVILLE - Couldn't get to D.C. for to see the cherry blossoms? You're in luck, but act fast. This Essex County town prides itself on having nearly 8,000 cherry blossom trees, triple the number in our nation's capital. At least for now, at this moment, many of these delicate flowering trees are in glorious bloom. Skip work, ignore the kids and blow through all those red lights, as this once-a-year spectacle will be gone within days, or perhaps by lunch. 

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS 

KNOXVILLE - Assume the class runs from 9-5, when University of Tennessee students can learn all about Dolly Parton as part of an honors history class. Called "Dolly's America," students are actually earning real college credit to learn all about the well-endowed singer. The school attempts to justify this Mickey Mouse course as, ahem, "a lens through which to examine modern Appalachian culture." Can't wait for the chapter in which the class studies the movie "Rhinestone," and the talent duo of Dolly and Sly Stallone. Where else can you find writing like: "All right, we'll go to your place and you can show me your organ. But I'm warnin' you, it'd best be havin' music comin' out of it."

THIS DAY IN HISTORY 

A very busy Massachusetts Legislature on this day in 1989, declaring it "New Kids on the Block Day." 

WORD OF THE DAY 

Lacuna - [luh-kyoo-nuh] - noun 

Definition: a gap of missing part in a logical argument  

Example: My essay was considered by the professor as nothing less than an astonishing lacuna in basic understanding. 

WEATHER IN A WORD 

Thickening