OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

ON THE RAILS - For all the crappy service, many NJ Transit riders are seething. So expect them to have little sympathy for the struggling rail line, which can't even collect all the fares on its chronically overcrowded and understaffed trains. The New York Times reports more than 240,000 fares weren't collected last year, according to the labor union. That's about $5.5 million in lost revenue. Meanwhile, after a couple of recent derailments, NJ Transit is looking at nearly $1 million in charges from other transit providers because of cross-honoring. It's easy to just beat up on NJ Transit, but it's in desperate need of money and attention. It's too vital to fail.  

NEWARK - It seems like a bad joke. But an 18-year-old program to help prepare low-income Newark students to succeed in college is in jeopardy. Why? Because NJIT didn't double space its federal grant application for $1.25 million over the next five years. The application was rejected, NJ.com reports, prompting NJIT to perhaps sacrifice the program that serves 65 students at various city high schools. The university is rightfully appealing, based on an argument of common decency and reality. Likely the U.S. Department of Education will not be swayed by this blurb, written in single space. 

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LINDEN - There's a little slice of hell reserved for anyone who torches playground equipment. Now the Linden cops are looking for the culprits who thought they would set fire yesterday to the playground at Wales Park. There was heavy black smoke from the burning plastic as firefighters quickly knocked down the blaze. But the entire place was a goner, with $80,000 in equipment melted. Now, Little Johnny is asking Mommy: "Why did they burn down my playground? What did I do wrong?" City detectives are all over this, Little Johnny. They'll find who did this to you.

CLINTON - Last week, the media was all ga-ga over this question: Who stole the life-size, 250-pound Ronald McDonald statue from a local McDonald's? We still don't know, but it was returned on Friday. The county prosecutor won't say who took it, and is just telling us it was found, OK? The statue wasn't damaged, and now the franchise owner says he'll make sure the statue is bolted down, refurbished and repainted. Apparently, at this point, we'll assume Ronald just walked away. Maybe to score a date with Wendy or pal with the Halal Guys.  

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS 

CORVALLIS, OR - Unclear what exactly Oregon State University chemists were up to, but they mistakenly created a new color for the Crayola box. Chemists were heating up their chemicals, hoping to find some new materials they could use for stuff, when Boom! - they somehow discovered a striking new pigment, known as "YInMn" blue. Crayola jumped all over it, as its little customers really, really like the color blue. So, now, the big question: What the heck does Crayola call it? No clue, but you can make suggestions on Crayola.com through June 2, with the big decision announced in September.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY 

Happy Birthday, 007. It was this day in 1963 that the world got its first look at super-spy James Bond, with the release of "Dr. No," performed by a relatively unknown Scottish actor, Sean Connery. (Producers originally wanted Cary Grant for the role.)

WORD OF THE DAY 

Tetchy - [TETCH-ee] - adjective 

Definition: Irritably or peevishly sensitive, touchy  

Example: Didn't like today's issue? Seems you're getting awful tetchy. 

WEATHER IN A WORD 

Mixed 

FROM THE MAILBAG 

In response to this blurb: 

FREEHOLD - Monmouth County apparently has oodles of cash to throw at a new, official county seal. Freeholders have proudly unveiled their nifty new emblem, depicting a farmer and his trusty plow. The previous version - which nobody likely glanced at since it was created in 1798 - looks like a coffin in a church graveyard or maybe a boat, The Asbury Park Press suggests. Sounds like a simple switch, right? It's not. It means replacing piles of county flags, signs and plaques, vehicle decals, letterhead and even shoulder patches on county employee uniforms. Expect sticker shock. 

Dear Jaffe Briefing, 

I thought I would provide you with the information that appeared to be missing from your take on the launching of the new Monmouth County seal. The new seal was designed in-house by two staff members in the Department of Public Information and Tourism (zero cost). The letterhead we use for the majority of county departments and officials is produced in house (zero additional cost); we send limited letterhead out-of-house and that will only be done once on-hand supply is low. 

The replacement of county flags is currently being done because we had a pending flag order already in the works (no additional money) and we just switched out the art; the seal will be replaced on uniforms, decals, vehicles as they need repair or maintenance. This is phased in work which will be performed as needed. NO sticker shock, just smart budgeting. 

Jennifer M. Nelson 
Director of Communications 
Monmouth County