STATEWIDE – It took away all of the professional sports worth watching. It took away Broadway theater and our favorite news affiliate. It took away countless parties, events, fundraisers, vacations and anything else we eagerly anticipated this spring. But perhaps coronavirus went just a little too far by taking away the food and beverage sampling at Trader Joe’s “until further notice.” Now, we officially know this coronavirus is painfully serious, as the 16 grocery stores in New Jersey are citing “increased precaution” in banning us from tasting the premium coffee, the mushroom risotto or the crunchy potato pancake with a sour cream dollop. Why even leave the house anymore? Perhaps that’s the point.

TRENTON – Admit it quietly — or even shout it from the mountaintop: You think you could do a far better job of drafting a state budget for New Jersey than those mooks in Trenton. Coronavirus or no virus, this is budget season and Gov. Phil Murphy has proposed a $40.85 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2021. His fellow Democrat (but political nemesis) Senate President Steve Sweeney has already said “nope” to plenty in the governor’s plan, and legislators have begun their own yellow-pad doodlings. NJ Spotlight has an interactive budget calculator that lets you make the big decisions on revenues and expenditures. Find out if you’re a bigger spender or a better saver than your elected leaders. See if everything adds up at NJ Spotlight.

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NEW BRUNSWICK – The stock market has lost $11.5 trillion in value in the past couple of weeks, but what really bothers basketball fans is that we will never really know how great this Rutgers team really is. The team was yanked off the court just minutes before tip-off in the Big 10 tournament. So, we will never know if they could beat the University of Michigan when it really in counts. We will never know what seed the team would have gotten in the NCAA tournament and we never will know how far this glorious group of guys would have gotten, perhaps even to the Sweet 16. Yes, the health of our basketball players is the primary concern, unlike the Rutgers football team, which could never catch anything.

BRIEFING BREATHER: George Washington spent 7% of his annual income on booze.

LONG BEACH TWP – Lifeguards visiting from abroad will get a cheap place to hang their whistles this summer. But, of course, taxpayers are footing the bill. Town officials are borrowing $1.5 million to buy and remodel the old Long Beach Inn so lifeguards from Australia, the UK and Europe can live at a deep discount (or maybe for free). Mayor Joseph Mancini says it’s a nice perk since lifeguards only earn $12.50–$15.75 an hour and all that sunscreen, flip-flops and rent can get really expensive. He tells The Sandpaper that buying the Long Beach Boulevard motel is “an absolute necessity” to keep lifeguards from abroad working into September, after most of his town’s 185 lifeguards head back to college, tanned and ready to learn.



TRENTON – When a backyard battle over bamboo ends up in front of our state Supreme Court, you can guess those seven justices are having a slow day. Yet they still set legal precedent. In a battle between Cherry Hill neighbors, one family cut down a huge crop of 20-foot-tall bamboo trees when their neighbors weren’t home. The bamboo-lovers accused the tree-killers of illegal trespass, of ruining their privacy and forcing them to look at an “ugly house” next door. The Courier Post says justices decided that the aggrieved bamboo-lovers needed to show those missing bamboo trees diminished their property values in order for their illegal trespass claim to stick. They couldn’t. Luckily, for them, bamboo grows super fast.

ATLANTIC CITY – Tear that thing down! That is the message from all corners of the city, following news that the fast-decaying Trump Plaza is a health risk for anyone who dares to meander by. The hulking mass of failure is literally falling apart, with panels dropping 15 stories to the ground. The city is going to court, demanding that the building – mercifully shuttered in 2014 – finally be taken down. The specific request is for one tower to be leveled, as the thing is an imminent hazard, an eyesore and a wall between the city and the Atlantic Ocean. It was built at a time when a very greedy, selfish and conceited casino mogul figured if someone wanted to enjoy an ocean view in Atlantic City, they should pay him dearly for the privilege. We won’t mention names.

A dilapidated fountain filled with fetid water on the property of a shuttered Trump casino (Photo: Bruno Tedeschi)

HAMILTON – What's so darn secret here? That’s what town officials are wondering after they found out that the former mayor, Kelly Yaede, made eight cops on her security detail sign nondisclosure agreements. She apparently didn’t want any of them spilling the beans about any “sensitive information” they saw or overheard. The Trentonian learned about her use of NDAs, dating back to 2015, but the paper hasn’t pried loose any juicy details (yet). Yaede tells the tabloid that NDAs are “standard practice” used by mayors since the 1960s. She said a few former Mercer County mayors suggested she use them, but she couldn’t name even one when reporters pressed her. We can only guess she got sworn to secrecy.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

HARLAN, IOWA – A man challenged his ex-wife to a sword fight instead of wasting a Shelby County judge’s time with a child custody dispute. As you might expect, the judge wisely denied this 40-year-old Kansas man’s formal court motion for a “trial by combat” to carve up his 38-year-old former wife. The Des Moines Register says the man also gallantly suggested his wife’s lawyer could be her stand-in, vowing to “rend (both) their souls from their bodies.” Calling the man’s request “concerning to this court,” the judge ordered him to undergo a psych evaluation and banned him from seeing his kids without (hopefully armed) supervision.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

It was on this day in 1988 that Bill Cosby won the People’s Choice Award - a decision that has not aged poorly in any way.

WORD OF THE DAY

Byzantine – [BIZ-ǝn-teen] – adjective

Definition: Of, relating to, or characterized by a devious and usually surreptitious manner of operation

Example: No free samples at Trader Joe’s? What Byzantine behavior!

WIT OF THE DAY

“The most important quality for an investor is temperament, not intellect.”

- Warren Buffet

TODAY'S TRUMPISM

“If the Dow Joans [sic] ever falls more than 1,000 points in a single day, the sitting President should be “loaded” into a very big cannon and shot into the sun at tremendous speed! No excuses!”

-Donald J. Trump (Feb. 25, 2015)

WEATHER IN A WORD: Clearing

THE NEW 60
A Jaffe Briefing Exclusive
by Andy Landorf & John Colqhoun