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The Wrap: Auto Theft, Grocery Inflation, Doom Loops

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64aeaf0768557.image.jpg

By Herald Staff

Get ‘The Wrap,’ our take on the news of the week, in your inbox every Tuesday. Sign up at https://bit.ly/HeraldNewsletters.    

July 1016  

Auto Theft  

Just months ago, Gov. Phil Murphy called auto thefts in New Jersey an epidemic. Murphy signed a package of bills meant to combat the scourge.  

The numbers from the state Attorney General’s Office give ample evidence of the problem. In 2019, the state had 11,989 vehicles stolen, or an average of 33 per day. In 2022, the number of vehicles stolen had jumped to 15,650, or 43 per day, an increase of 31%. 

What state officials called a “troubling rise in auto thefts” became a cause for legislative action 

The series of bills signed July 7 strengthen penalties for auto theft, especially for repeat offenders. They remove the presumption of pretrial release for persistent offenders, as well. They criminalize illegal use of vehicle master keys and redefine the law with respect to leaders of auto theft networks.  

Critics of the new laws argue that they will reverse the progress of racial and criminal justice reform. Murphy dismisses those arguments, calling the bills a smart “tweak” on bail reform. 

Attorney General Matthew Platkin praised the bills for the “additional tools” they provide law enforcement in combating auto theft. The state had already initiated an Auto Theft Task Force led by the State Police.  

Grocery Inflation  

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that, in June, grocery inflation dropped below 5% for the first time since early 2020. Food inflation is still running higher than the overall inflation rate, which is pegged at 3%. Less than a year ago, in August 2022, grocery inflation was running at a stunning 13.5% year-over-year.  

For those who are still feeling the pain at the cash register, remember that these numbers say the grocery inflation is slowing, not that prices have returned to preinflation levels 

Food banks remain under pressure. Buying habits remain altered, with people avoiding the more expensive organic products, looking to the cheapest alternatives in many categories, and focusing on essentials.  

The fact that rising prices overall are slowing does not mean some areas are not still increasing at a higher pace. Government reports suggest that cereals, flour, and flour products and nonalcoholic beverages are not showing the same moderation as the overall numbers.  

Even with moderation in grocery inflation, BLS data shows that consumers may be paying 40% more for a common basket of items than they did in 2019.  

While grocery inflation is largely explained by factors like labor shortages, supply chain disruption, and even the bird flu epidemic, there is also an element of corporate greed. Several major meatpacking companies racked up over $300 million in fines for price fixing. Data from the Northeast region, which includes New Jersey, shows overall grocery inflation, in June, at 4.7% year-over-year, but with cereals and baked goods up 7.9% and fruits and vegetables up 6.6%. 

The feds say your grocery bill will continue to rise but at a slower rate for much of 2023.  

Doom Loops  

Adding to the debate over climate change and how to address it is a new study by two London-based think tanks, Chatham House and the Institute for Public Policy Research, which argues that we may be entering a stage that scientists call doom loops.  

Doom loops are circumstances where the present level of catastrophe emanating from climate change becomes so costly and requires such high levels of resource allocation that it draws resources away from addressing direct causes, like lowering of emissions, producing more catastrophe.  

A June 22 report in the journal Nature goes so far as to warn that doom loops caused by reaching “climate tipping points” could begin as early as 15 years from now in 2038.  

The phrase doom loops was grabbed by the world news media from the Washington Post to the India Times. The debate is already beginning as the doom loop scenario drops into the partisan battles raging over everything from alternative energy policies to gas stoves.  

Meanwhile, regardless of one’s position on man-induced climate change, visible signs of something afoot are in the July 35 reports that the Earth experienced its hottest days ever recorded, catastrophic rain fall that could cost billions in damages in the Northeast, and the presence of heat domes in the West. The intense rainfall that flooded Vermont this week is being called a 1-in-100year storm unlike any that state has experienced. 

Happenings  

The homeless and the odor of marijuana were topics of discussion when the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce hosted a Cops and Coffee event. 

Avalon residents may be facing the first increase in water and sewer rates since 2018. The borough council heard a report on a proposed new rate structure. 

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) has commissioned a feasibility study from Rutgers University on the use of tides and ocean currents as generators of renewable energy. 

Avalon Council tapped Greg Johnson, of its Planning and Zoning Board, to fill the seat vacated when John McCorristin left the council for the mayor’s office. The seat will go on the ballot in November. 

Upper Township is forming a committee to look into the possible regulation of rentals, especially short-term rentals obtained through online apps. 

The Cape May County Board of County Commissioners is seeking answers to questions about the power outage that paralyzed the Wildwoods over a busy summer weekend. Power was restored with temporary equipment, with some businesses saying they lost power again intermittently as the utility works to make the repairs permanent. 

Ørsted has sued Cape May County for failure to authorize needed permits regarding roadwork for transmission lines that will cross county land.  

Stone Harbor’s administrator has declared the Third Avenue property purchased to meet affordable housing requirements “unrentable.” The question is not about the borough’s ability to complete repairs, but rather about whether that is the best course of action given that the property must now be elevated. 

The county filed opposition to the Atlantic Shores South Environmental Impact Plan. The Atlantic Shores wind farm would be mostly off the coast of Long Beach Island. The county argues the cumulative impact of the wind farms off the New Jersey coast has not been assessed.  

Colorado State University has revised its forecast for the 2023 Atlantic basin hurricane season to a predicted above average likelihood of named storms. 

The NJBPU has proposed a decarbonization plan, which has critics arguing the board has gone well beyond its authority. 

Wildwood High School students are successfully growing their graphics design program, as they take on real-life business clients. 

Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian supported the call for a protest on the beach in his town aimed at opposing the state’s offshore wind initiative. The protest was part of a socialmediainitiated event occurring at beaches up and down the coast. 

North Wildwood and the state Department of Environmental Protection continue to be at odds on work to repair city beaches.  

The Cape May Point Science Center is now involved in a program to track horseshoe crabs in an effort to better understand what is needed in habitat restoration to benefit the horseshoe crab population. 

Spout Off of the Week 

Wildwood – People complain about trash and clogged inlets. I for one walk my block every morning to pick up bottles and trash along my whole block. I have been doing this since day one (2007) of buying my property. The amount of tire hazards alone will help keep our neighbors safe from flats. It gives you exercise and cleans your street to keep this stuff out of our inlets. Try it, it’s fun and you never know what interesting things you will find.  

Read morespoutsatspoutoff.capemaycountyherald.com.   

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