STATEWIDE - Not to overstate things in the slightest, but this November's election could be the most important in our country's history. As one particular top-tiered candidate is already yelling "Fraud!," it is vital that New Jersey not mess how it conducts the election. Gov. Phil Murphy certainly knows the stakes; he is still trying to figure out if the general election will be in person or through the controversial vote-by-mail system. Murphy promises to provide some guidance by the middle of August, as county election coordinators eagerly await some direction. New Jersey is salivating at the opportunity to vote; the issue is ensuring we all get counted - pandemic or not. 

STATEWIDE – The economy has flung off a cliff, crashing in a fireball into a deep ravine. OK, maybe there is some editorial license here, but how else can you possibly describe an economy that dropped 39.2% in one fiscal quarter?  Yup, there was this free-fall from April to June across the country, with no comparison in the history of the United States. As this is a happy little newsletter, let’s focus on silver linings: Economists think there can be a sharp rebound for this quarter, ending in September, if there is just some way that we can control the coronavirus and give our businesses a fighting chance at survival. It seems to all begin – and end – with everyone just wearing those masks.

STATEWIDE – Here's a real shocker: New Jersey’s roads are awful. Yep, they’re bad, bumpy and perilous. And they are all ours. Number-crunchers at CoPilot.com analyzed a slew of federal data, confirming we’ve got good reason to white-knuckle it behind the wheel. They say 42.4% of our state highways, county roads and bridges are dreadful, the nation’s third worst behind Rhode Island (47.9%) and California (46.2%). While New Jersey drivers pump a 41.4-cent per gallon gas tax into our state’s $2 billion transportation trust fund, 34% of that money is not spent on roadwork. Why? Because New Jersey ranks #1 for siphoning its gas taxes to subsidize other stuff, like NJ Transit. And we will reserve comment on that for another day.

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NEW PROVIDENCE – One of Gov. Phil Murphy’s favorite catchphrases is now a beer. If you’re guessing it’s “knucklehead,” you’d be wrong. Sure, that’s far funnier and catchy, but it's already taken. So, News12NJ says the Untied Brewing Co. is naming it’s latest lager, “Data Determines Dates.” This ho-hum name is a tribute to words Murphy often cites during his regular coronavirus press briefings. All that alliteration might make it a tongue-twister to say as you belly-up to a bar. So this new brew is available only on the company's website.

PATERSON – Restoring one of the nation’s last Negro league ballparks could be a home run for Mayor Andre Sayegh, who says it will help revitalize this city. But to rebuild Hinchliffe Stadium, developers want major league tax breaks for a new senior citizen apartment complex and a parking garage they would build next door. Instead of paying property taxes, developers would give the city a measly $64,000 for starters, annually increasing to $120,000 over 35 years. The Paterson Press says that the deal is striking out with the City Council. But, Sayegh says getting Hinchliffe restored would pump tons more revenue into the city. A national landmark with 10,000 seats, it is one of six Negro National League stadiums still miraculously standing. Opened in 1932, the stadium was home to the New York Black Yankees and New York Cubans. It’s been crumbling, especially since it closed in 1997.

BRIEFING BREATHER

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website devoted to “Zombie Preparedness.”

STATEWIDE — While we are limited in our spectator sports these days, our politicians are at least giving us some live action. Yesterday, Democrats pushed through a resolution to put a question on the ballot in November asking voters to delay redrawing legislative district boundaries for two years. They said late-arriving census data (delayed because of the pandemic) makes it impossible to redraw on time. You can guess how Republicans took that: Cries went up of being “extreme,” “shameful,” even “racist,” reports NJ Spotlight. Also, the Dems “are trying to kill a fly with a sledgehammer.” That gem was according to state Republican chair Doug Steinhardt. The GOP have interesting allies in opposition to the maneuver — several progressive groups who say a delay will be a disadvantage to minority voters in some way. Guess voters we’ll have to decide.  

STATEWIDE – As we careen toward the opening of this upcoming school year – which may prove to make the 2019-20 year an absolute cakewalk – the story must certainly include the plight of teachers and staff who need these jobs. We have already heard about teachers writing their wills, about teachers’ unions threatening labor strikes and the individual stories of school employees who already have health concerns, for either them or their family members. What the teachers are asking for appears simple and rationale: A safe working environment. No one disagrees. The pressing question: Can that really be guaranteed?

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – At first, it made sense. In this summer of “Karens,” why not offer them a special promotion? So, Domino’s decided to offer free pizza to customers “named Karen that aren't, well, 'Karens.'” The concept: honor Karens who don’t conform to the awful stereotypes of a "Karen" - a term fueled online as criticism of entitled white women who act insensitive in public, often in the context of racism or refusal to wear a face mask. So…free pizza for the first 100 Karens! Well, as you can imagine, this didn’t go well. Domino’s quickly retracted the insensitive promotion, following immediate, sharp online backlash that called on the chain to give free pizza to racial minorities struggling with economic losses from the pandemic. "We wanted to bring a smile to customers who are doing the right thing -- Karen the nurse, Karen the teacher, Karen the mum," the chain said, in an apology on Facebook. “We are sorry.”

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

It was this day in 1912 that the U.S. government prohibits any and all movies and photos of prize fights.

WORD OF THE DAY

Deracinate – [dee-RASS-uh-nayt] – verb

Definition: To remove or separate from a native environment or culture

Example: Maybe if I deracinate every other plant in my bed, the others won’t further wilt.

WIT OF THE DAY

“Truth is hard, propaganda is cheap.”

-DaShanne Stokes

TODAY'S TRUMPISM

“Drug prices will soon be lowered massively.”

-Donald J. Trump

WEATHER IN A WORD

Cooler

Editor’s Note: We reported yesterday morning about those strange Chinese seeds that have been arriving in the mail. We urged recipients to discard them. That was incorrect.

Rather, email a photo of the seeds to SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov. Then, mail them to USDA APHIS PPQ, Attention: Gregory Soto, 1500 Lower Road, Linden, NJ 07036. Write down your name, address, phone number and email address and insert that paper in your package. If you have already planted or discarded seeds, please email Gregory.t.soto@usda.gov.