TRENTON – New Jersey already celebrates Clarence Clemons Day and Danny Devito Day. So, it really just seems like a matter of time before there is Bruce Springsteen Day. And, faster than a car down Thunder Road, the state Legislature is considering a resolution that would deem the big day as Sept. 23, the Boss’s birthday. The resolution is courtesy of Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, who happened to see “Springsteen on Broadway” and apparently enjoyed it very much. “Every song tells a story of the struggles and dreams of the people of New Jersey,” she says. Expect many other “days” to follow for such music icons as Frank Sinatra, Jon Bon Jovi and Whitney Houston. Heck, with so much talent, we may run out of “days” on the calendar.

OFF THE RAILS – NJ Transit is certainly never one to disappoint, but let’s still say a scathing state auditor report is worth noting. Somehow, some way, NJ Transit is spending $500 million to install a federally-mandated, much-needed safety system, and it looks like it’s not going to be fully installed by the December 31 deadline. What then? If NJ Transit doesn’t meet its deadline – even after throwing piles of commuter cash at the problem – it could face heavy fines, to the tune of $27,000 a day, NJ.com reports. The auditor is also peeved that NJ Transit is not prioritizing repairs on 47 bridges with poor or bad components. Oh, and on-time performance of the trains is pitiful. Gov. Phil Murphy notes, “We still have a lot more work to do.”

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MAHWAH – The mayor faces a firestorm of controversy after admitting to the media he got drunk at a township employee’s Jan. 10 house party, removed his pants and passed out on his host’s bed. Mayor John Roth told The Record it’s “a private matter.” But, that private matter has turned into a huge public mess. His behavior has come under fire from state Sen. Loretta Weinberg. And, some of the 20 town employees at the party wrote a letter, alleging Roth’s hunt for whoever “leaked” party details has created a “toxic and hostile workplace.” They demand he apologize or resign. Now, the Township Council has its labor attorney investigating. The council can only censure the mayor, not remove him from office. But, none of this looks good for Roth, who plans to run for re-election this year against a very lucky opponent. Get ready for some memorable campaign mailers.

BRIEFING BREATHER: Two-thirds of the world's eggplant is grown in New Jersey.

AT COLLEGE – Less than half of the students at New Jersey colleges are now able to finish in four years. An extra year or three can translate into a crushing student debt — which is understandable, given that the average tuition at the state’s four-year public institutions is $14,500, not including room and board. Our elected representatives in Trenton think a new law is needed to push these kids into real life with some level of urgency. They’ve devised S-791, a bill that would require students to develop and file with their schools a plan for finishing their studies within some reasonable time, NJ Spotlightreports. It would also ask college officials to monitor their progress, as they certainly need the classroom space for the next crop of freshman with the full intention of finishing school in say, five or six years. 

MILLTOWN – Hours before the Super Bowl kickoff, “Milltown Mel” is to predict whether we see an early end to winter. Yep, Sunday is also “Groundhog Day!” Over the past dozen years, Mel has emerged as the Garden State’s preeminent prognosticator. Weather-watchers think Mel is often more reliable than his famously furry rival, Punxsutawney Phil. TAPinto Milltown says Mel’s fans will gather at 6:45 am Sunday outside the American Legion Post for free donuts and coffee before his forecast. And, just maybe, his handlers will offer some guesses about 49ers v. Chiefs. That’s good for local bookies, still open for action.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

PUNXSUTAWNEY, PA – There’s more thrilling Groundhog Day news, if that could be possible. There’s talk of a robotic rodent to replace the real one, ending a tradition that dates back to the 1880s. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) think Punxsutawney Phil should retire, perhaps to a quiet burrow on a pleasant little farm. They say poor Phil “has no idea what’s happening” when he’s “dragged out of his hole and held up to flashing lights and crowds.” (oh, c’mon) In a letter to Groundhog Day organizers, PETA suggests “a cutting-edge animatronic groundhog to predict the weather using artificial intelligence.” Phil’s handlers disagree, telling the Punxsutawney Spirit: “Phil lives better than the average child in Western Pennsylvania,” in a climate-controlled, light-regulated zoo attached to the local library. Kudos to PETA for stealing headlines to promote its agenda, once again.

INDONESIA - We already know that marijuana is kosher – but is meth halal? Indonesian police report a local, self-appointed imam (who has escaped from police custody several times) declaring methamphetamine allowed under Islamic dietary laws, and eagerly selling it to students. The Suara Jatim Post reports Ustaz Ahmad Marzuki, a teacher at a boarding school in Java, apparently saw nothing in Muslim religious law against using and selling meth with/to his students, which he said “increased [one's] drive to study and read the Qur'an.” Indonesian police strongly disagree, and he's now facing 20 years behind bars and a fine of 10 billion rupiah, or $750,000. No word yet on what other recreational drugs are suddenly deemed halal. 

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

It was this day in 1990 that the world’s largest McDonald’s opened in Moscow. McBorscht, anyone?

WORD OF THE DAY

Macabre – [mə-KAHB] – adjective

Definition: Having death as a subject

Example: I have a macabre sense of humor, especially when it comes to Quentin Tarantino films.

WIT OF THE DAY

“Sanity calms, but madness is more interesting.”

― John Russell

TODAY'S TRUMPISM

“A lot of very good people were taken down by a small group of Dirty (Filthy) Cops, politicians, government officials, and an investigation that was illegally started & that SPIED on my campaign. The Witch Hunt is sputtering badly, but still going on (Ukraine Hoax!).”

- Donald J. Trump

WEATHER IN A WORD: Mixed

THE NEW 60
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by Andy Landorf & John Colquhoun