BRIGANTINE — Carter Doorley stood at the top of the lifeguard stand at the city’s jetty and blew a whistle to get everyone’s attention.
About 50 people gathered on the beach to watch him surf, or join in on catching some waves.
Carter made his speech short and sweet and thanked the crowd for coming out to support him.
“Let’s go surf!” he yelled, before running to get his board.
Carter, a 9-year-old from the city, surfed 100 days in a row and hit his 100th day Sept. 1. He set his goal in the spring during quarantine during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I said to my mom, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool?’ and she said, ‘Yes,’” he said. “And then every day she’s been helping me. I surf for at least an hour so I can have as much fun as I can.”
The young surfer, who picked up the sport when he was 5, surfed every day — come rain, shine, rip currents or Tropical Storm Isaias.
“I was extra careful,” he said. “I had my dad, he’s a lifeguard, be there with me so if I get sucked out he can help.”
He always checked the weather radar if he knew rain was in the forecast to schedule his surfing time accordingly. And when it was time to surf, he walked to the beach every day with his dad, Andrew.
“If (the waves) were big or questionable I would be right there, or one of the other lifeguards,” Andrew said.
To keep track of how many days he surfed, Carter had his mom, Dawn, help him set up an Instagram account where he posted a video of himself surfing every day.
“He actually started this because of quarantine,” Dawn said. “He couldn’t go anywhere and the beaches never closed. So he was like, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I surfed 100 days before school started.’”
She said it was the perfect way for her son to get out of the house but stay away from others during the pandemic.
“When you surf it’s pretty much a solitary sport, so we were like, ‘We don’t have anything else to do, so go ahead,’” Dawn said.
While Carter celebrated the milestone — 100 straight days of surfing —on Sept. 1, he didn’t stop there. As of Monday, he’d continued his streak and was on day 106 and still going.
His Instagram, Carter Catches Waves, is monitored by his mother and had 327 followers as of Friday.
One resident following his journey was Brigantine resident Christina Perry.
She and her husband often come down to the beach in the morning to surf. They’re trying to get their 3-year-old son, Logan, interested in surfing, but he wants no part of it, she said.
“But then Carter is (Logan’s) favorite surfer, and he absolutely loves coming down and watching Carter,” she said. “He’s always talking about Carter, his favorite surfer. To a little kid, Carter is a surf legend already.”
And it was impressive to watch him set a goal like this, she said.
“It’s cool to watch him progress,” Perry said. “He always knew how to surf, but to watch the progression to see how much he’s improved, he’s just killing it out on the water now. And to see a 9-year-old be that committed to something is cool. It’s inspiring.”
Dawn said that Carter has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and that surfing has been a “phenomenal sport for him.”
“This has kept his interest, and he’s been excited every day. So for other parents who have kids with ADHD, it’s definitely worthwhile to look into,” she said.
And what does Carter love about surfing?
“Just catching waves and having fun,” he said. “I’m proud of myself, and my friends are proud of me for hitting my goal. I’m trying to surf until school starts.”
With schools in Brigantine starting the year remotely, Carter will try to surf every day until at least October.
To commemorate his 100th day, he wanted to have the biggest wave party, which is when surfers all catch the same wave. While not many caught the same wave, about 30 surfers went into the ocean with him to celebrate.
One of those surfers was Brigantine’s newly appointed mayor Vince Sera.
“He’s been just an inspiration to everybody,” Sera said. “It’s really impressive. I don’t know too many surfers his age, or any age, that have surfed that many days in a row. He set a goal, he put his mind to it, no matter what the weather was like, what the conditions were like, he found a way to get out here and do it.”
Having a boy like Carter inspire so many people to come together is just what the city needed, Sera said.
“It reminds us of all the joy that goes on in this world,” he said. “I’m just really excited for Carter, and I’m hoping he goes for 200.”
In what will surely be remembered as one of the most unique seasons in the history of the Jersey Shore, Mother Nature and Gov. Phil Murphy both came through for visitors and businesses during the Labor Day weekend.
Near-perfect weather for beach days and boardwalk strolls, combined with the resumption of indoor dining on Friday, allowed for the summer of 2020 to close on a high note.
Or, at least as close to a high note as it could get in the midst of a global pandemic.
“It was as good as can be expected, given the conditions,” said Anthony Catanoso, owner of the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. The three-day holiday weekend gave the pier a “good little bump,” at the unofficial end of summer, he said.
In Ocean City, Rebecca Blake, of Pompton Lakes, Passaic County, was packing up the family’s car for the ride home after a long weekend.
Blake’s family has owned a beach house in Ocean City for nearly 30 years, and she’s spent summers there most of her life.
“No question, this year was different,” she said. “But all things considered, it wasn’t that bad.”
Blake said this weekend was a much different experience than Memorial Day weekend, when nearly everything was still closed because of COVID-19. Restaurants and amusements were open — albeit limited — which made things feel “a little more like normal.”
“We played mini golf, went to the beach, got ice cream at night,” Blake said. “Really, we just decided before we came that we would have a good time no matter what. It’s all about making the most of the situation.”
Other visitors to the shore felt the same. DeMante Reynolds and Jessica Aldmore, both of Philadelphia, said their visit to an Atlantic City casino over the weekend was “great.” The couple stayed at Tropicana Atlantic City and enjoyed what was offered, including outdoor eating and, of course, a little gambling.
“I won a bunch (of money) playing all weekend,” Reynolds said, with a wry smile and holding up a wad of bills with a crisp $100 bill on the outside. “I’ll probably leave with nothing, but it’ll be worth it.”
Aldmore, who said she plans to start nursing school in the fall, was impressed with how seriously the casino appeared to be taking the health crisis.
“I felt comfortable everywhere we went, except on the Boardwalk at night,” she said. “People were acting a little crazy, not really wearing face masks. One night out was enough for me.”
Alfred Higgins, of West Chester, Pennsylvania, said people on the Ocean City Boardwalk were “pretty good,” about wearing masks and keeping a distance, with a few exceptions.
He said he noticed a lot of “younger people” — Higgins is a 73-year-old U.S. Navy veteran — were not following the rules about wearing a mask when social distancing was not possible.
“It gets packed at night and people are really close together,” he said. “We stayed away after the first night, because no one seemed to care all that much (about wearing a mask).”
For some who were out and about on the unofficial “last day of summer,” the best was yet to come.
Luanne and Daniel Humphrey, of Longport, were all smiles when asked about Labor Day weekend.
“My favorite part is the Tuesday after,” said Luanne Humphrey. “It’s the start of my favorite time of year — locals’ summer.”
Voters will be asked to decide on three ballot questions in November, but only one — about whether to legalize recreational marijuana — has garnered much attention.
The other two ask if New Jersey should extend tax breaks to veterans who didn’t serve during wartime, and if it should delay legislative redistricting if the U.S. Census is late with its data.
This year, legislators expect it to be late because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Redistricting is an issue way below most people’s radar, yet it has a really significant impact on our democracy,” said John Froonjian, executive director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University. “It really has major implications for representative government, how representatives are chosen and who is eligible to represent you.”
Data from the latest U.S. Census is used every 10 years to redraw legislative districts, based on population changes and the evolving makeup of communities.
The ballot question asks if the state Constitution should be changed to delay redrawing districts if Census data is not available by Feb. 15 of any year ending in the number one. That would include 2021, when all 120 seats of the Legislature are up for election.
As the party of incumbents in the state legislature — Democrats greatly outnumber Republicans in both the Assembly and Senate — Democrats stand to benefit by keeping the districts the same for another election, Froonjian said.
Sen. Christopher Connors and Assemblyman Brian Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove, all R-Atlantic, Ocean, Burlington, called the delay “a Trenton-power play meant to keep control in the hands of the few and protect the status quo. ... Sadly, this would also mean a continuation of policies that make New Jersey even more unaffordable for taxpayers who are already struggling to make ends meet.”
They were among the majority of Republicans who did not vote to put the question on the ballot, and who are opposing its passage.
Census data has been delayed in the past, Froonjian said, and the Legislature delayed the date for the primary election, historically held in June. In 2011, for example, New Jersey delayed the primary three weeks to allow enough time to redraw districts.
“The redistricting process is always hard fought and always fraught with political, racial and social justice implications,” Froonjian said.
A 10-member apportionment commission, made up of five Democrats and five Republicans, comes up with new legislative maps for the state.
“Both sides want to draw boundaries that create districts with just enough of their party to be in the majority in the largest number of districts possible,” Froonjian said. “They always battle to a standstill, and the state Supreme Court Chief Justice appoints the 11th member.”
That person picks which map the state will use.
“In 1990, the Census appointee chose the Republican map and Republicans dominated both houses of Legislature for years to come,” Froonjian said. “The next two, the 11th member chose the Democratic maps, and now Democrats dominate both houses.”
The veterans question on the ballot asks: Do you approve amending the (state) Constitution to give a $250 property tax deduction to veterans who did not serve in times of war … (and) to give a 100% property tax exemption to certain totally disabled veterans who did not serve in times of war?
The Office of Legislative Services estimated that about 53,274 peacetime veterans would qualify for the $250 annual tax deduction, costing the state about $13.6 million in the program’s first year.
Another 6,781 totally disabled peacetime veterans are estimated to live in New Jersey, with about 4,340 paying property taxes, according to the OLS. If each paid the average property tax bill of $8,767, the program would have a $38 million price tag.
Those funds would have to be made up by other nonexempt taxpayers, since the veteran would get a total exemption, according to the OLS.
Bob Frolow, the director of Atlantic County Veterans Affairs, said military service outside of wartime is also important for U.S. security.
The $250 property tax deduction may be a relatively small amount of money, he said, but it shows a level of gratitude to all veterans.
The 100% property tax deduction, which would be available to the surviving spouse of a qualified veteran, would make a bigger difference in someone’s life, he said.
“Whatever money they get for their injuries isn’t much,” Frolow said, so not having to pay a New Jersey property tax bill would be a substantial savings.
In 2019, voters passed a constitutional question extending the property tax breaks to veterans who live in continuing care communities.
TRENTON — Add voting to the list of routines shaken up by the coronavirus pandemic this year.
Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer and the traditional kickoff to campaign season, though many already have been closely watching electoral politics for months. New Jersey is embarking on its first-ever mostly mail-in general election, but Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s plans for balloting face a legal challenge from President Donald Trump’s campaign.
That injects some uncertainty into what voting will look like: Could the federal judge hearing the case side with the Trump campaign and order traditional, in-person voting at machines?
The case has yet to be heard, and that has led Democrats, Republicans and political experts to advise voters to think about how they’ll cast their ballot regardless of the outcome.
“I think it’s really important that every voter has a plan for what they’re gonna do,” said Micah Rasmussen, the director of the nonpartisan Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.
Murphy ticked off four options: vote by mail; drop your ballot in one of at least 10 drop boxes per county, take your mail-in ballot to a polling place on Election Day, or vote provisionally in person on Nov. 3.
Republican Assembly Leader Jon Bramnick, who said he wants the state to permit traditional in-person voting at a booth, had one word of advice: “Vote.”
He added that people could hold onto their ballots until Election Day if they wanted to wait for the chance at traditional voting — which isn’t guaranteed and is not currently an option. Or they could follow one of the options Murphy outlined.
A guide to this November’s election in New Jersey:
HOW TO VOTE THIS YEAR
Every registered voter in New Jersey will receive a ballot in the mail with a prepaid return envelope beginning Oct. 5, according to Secretary of State Tahesha Way, the state’s top elections official.
Once voters get their ballots, there are several options:
The ballot can be completed and returned in the mail.
Voters can take their ballot to a drop box in their county. There are to be at least 10 per county, the governor has said.
Voters can also take their mail-in ballot with them in person on Election Day and turn it in to an official poll worker.
Voters can go to a polling place and cast a provisional paper ballot, which will be counted only after officials determine the voter’s mail-in ballot hasn’t also been cast.
WILL THERE BE TRADITIONAL MACHINE VOTING?
Not at this point, except for those with disabilities who need them to cast their ballots. Murphy has cited the coronavirus as the cause for the shakeup, but the GOP is fighting to restore some level of in-person voting.
“We go into motor vehicles, we go into the supermarket, now we go into restaurants,” Bramnick said. “People should have an option to vote in person in a private voting booth.”
Murphy has said that, like the school year, the election would not be regular because of the outbreak.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Murphy first signed an executive order in mid-August setting up the mostly mail-in election, but the lawsuit from Trump’s campaign in U.S. District Court challenged it as a “usurpation” of the Legislature’s powers and on other grounds.
If there are fraudulent votes sent by mail, they dilute the ballots of others and deprive them of the “equal protection” of the law guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, lawyers for the Trump campaign argued.
In response to the lawsuit, the Democrat-led Legislature passed a law codifying Murphy’s executive order, which Murphy signed in late August.
The case hasn’t gone before a judge yet in U.S. District Court, and it’s unclear whether the president will update his challenge.