Sunday, May 22, 2016

Piling on decades-long tradition of demonizing mass transit

On Boulevard East in West New York, passengers boarding a local NJ Transit bus to Manhattan on a weekday morning in late March found standing room only.

An NJ Transit train pulling into the Anderson Street station, one of two rail stations in Hackensack.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

At least The Record has been consistent in decades of negative reporting about bus and train service to Manhattan from northern New Jersey.

It began more than 20 years ago with two front-page stories on "highways of the future" by a transportation reporter who ignored screeching brakes and noisy engines on NJ Transit commuter buses.

Then, the editors went on the warpath against extension of NJ Transit's pollution-free light-rail service to Englewood and Tenafly.

And in the last year or so, the paper's transportation reporters don't seem to be reporting anything but how many "billions of dollars" will have to be spent to replace the antiquated mid-Manhattan bus station and expand rail service to the city.

Page 1 stories today and Saturday also emphasize how transportation spending is mired in politics.

Sadly, readers haven't seen anything about the tremendous societal benefits of taking commuters out of their cars -- from less traffic congestion to fewer deaths from auto emissions to greater worker productivity.

Today's so-called analysis of NJ Transit's "problems" is especially bad, because Staff Writer Christopher Maag again ignores Governor Christie's war on commuters, and his deep cuts in state operating subsidies -- cuts that forced the agency to raise fares (A-1). 

The headline uses "NJT" for NJ Transit, eve though that has never been recognized as an acronym for the state mass-transit agency.

Bridgegate probe

Staff Writer Jeff Pillets was once of the first reporters to understand that the George Washington Bridge scandal would be as damaging to Christie's reputation as Watergate was to President Richard Nixon, who was hounded out of office (A-1 and O-1).

But no reporter has been able to show that Christie at least knew about the Bridgegate conspiracy during his successful 2013 campaign for a second term.

Deep in today's front-page story, Pillets and reporter Dustin Racioppi report that Christie aide Regina Egea and the governor are "believed" to have deleted text messages they exchanged as Port Authority officials testified to a legislative committee looking into the lane closings (A-4).

Local news?

The Local section delivered to Bergen County readers today includes stories from West Milford, Wanaque, Woodland Park, Pequannock and Ringwood (L-1 to L-7).

The Borgs and North Jersey Media Group save money on newsprint by printing only one section, but cheat Bergen readers out of the local news they deserve.

Meanwhile, The Record continues to chronicle the violent death of every animal in North Jersey. 

Today, eight paragraphs are devoted to a Morris County golfer who killed a goose (L-3).

Road Warrior John Cichowski today reports on "better training" for motorcyclists, not a ticket blitz to penalize them for disturbing the peace (L-1).

What about better training for elderly drivers like Cichowski who too often mistake the gas pedal for the brake pedal? 

Split personality

On Fridays, Staff Writer Elisa Ung's reviews are supposed to take a critical look at new restaurants.

But on Sundays, her uncritical Corner Table column does little more than promote chefs and restaurants, as in her glowing profile of Fortunato Nicotra of Paramus (BL-1).

Those Sunday columns are a disservice to reader who want more -- not less -- information about how the food they eat was raised or grown.

On BL-2 today, the First Course feature pushes za'atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend, that costs the equivalent of $80 a pound when purchased online.

That same mixture is available at Fattal's and other stores in the bustling South Paterson neighborhood of Paterson for about $8 a pound. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Wacko racist Trump stumps with Plump to pay GOP debts

A horse and carriage returning along Prospect Avenue from the Hackensack High School Prom Show Off on Thursday night, above and below.




By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

In a joint appearance with Governor Christie, Donald Trump's subliminal messages to "Make America Hate Again" and "Make America White Again" went over big in Lawrenceville on Thursday night.

More than 1,000 people paid $200 each to see the apparent Republican presidential nominee, and hear his promise to build a wall along the Mexican border, The Record reports today.

A private, $25,000-a-ticket fundraiser went toward more than $300,000 in legal bills from the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal exclusive of the $10 million taxpayers forked over to get Christie off of the hook (A-1 and A-8).

Exploits vulnerable

Meanwhile, faced with another big budget gap, Christie is once again exploiting the most vulnerable, and plans to cut millions from charity care (A-1 on Thursday).

An editorial today (A-18) carefully avoids mentioning that a tax surcharge on millionaires Christie has vetoed at least tree times would nearly cover the $1.1 billion revenue shortfall.

What else would you expect from Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin, who has the filthy rich owners of the Woodland Park daily breathing down his neck? 


A Saturday Night Live skit shows crackpot Donald Trump and a humiliated Chris Christie conferring on a vice presidential candidate to run with the apparent Republican presidential nominee in November -- anyone but Christie.

Trump picks Dr. Ben Carson, right.

Legal fees

Stories on a $15 million lawsuit settlement and a $2.2 million jury award today and Thursday don't mention that the plaintiff's lawyers are expected to take at least one-third of that for payment of legal fees and expenses (A-1 and L-1).

Attorney Samuel L. Davis, who won the $15 million deal, represents Juliana Valdez, now 13, who had 22 surgeries after her foot was mangled by an escalator at a Paramus mall in 2013 (A-1).

Should any lawyer who worked on one case part time for three years be paid more than $5 million?

Rare victory

Another Page 1 story today reports a rare victory in the battle to get Ford Motor Co. to remove all of the 166,000 tons of toxic paint sludge dumped 50 years ago in Ringwood (A-1).

Borough officials "have suspended plans to build a recycling center on top of a mountain of contaminated soil," The Record reports.

Still, there is no mention anywhere in the story that the "Ramapo Lenape tribe" (A-8) are a mixed-race people who have been discriminated against for hundreds of years.

In previous stories, The Record has called them "low income." 

Scott Garrett

In all the years Staff Writer Herb Jackson has been covering Rep. Scott Garrett, D-Wantage, today might be the first time he's described him as having "the most conservative record in the state's delegation" to Congress (A-1).

Josh Gotthheimer, the Democrat challenger in November, goes further, calling Garrett a key member of the racist Tea Party.

Readers want to know why Jackson, the so-called Washington correspondent, has never mentioned Garrett's Tea Party credentials.

'To die for'

One thing I learned in many years of copy editing for The Record is to avoid using the word "die" in a headline over a food piece.

But that didn't stop the copy editor who handled Elisa Ung's Informal Dining Review of a takeout-only deli in Fair Lawn.

"Heroes to die for"

Could that be "to die from"?

Ung tells readers nothing about the cold cuts used in the hero sandwiches except they are "imported" or from stores in "the famous Arthur Avenue Italian neighborhood in the Bronx" (BL-14). 

Big deal.

What readers really want to know is whether the meat in the cold cuts was naturally raised and is free of nitrates and other preservatives that have been linked to cancer.

Under her puzzling rating system, she awards the deli, A Family Affair, only two out of three stars, meaning "if you're nearby, a must-eat."

So, I guess Ung is saying if you live in Hackensack, Englewood, Wyckoff, Mahwah, Wayne and many other towns, don't bother.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

City Council rebukes school official who claimed he cut tax

Hackensack Board of Education President Jason Nunnermacker (he's the one with the double chin) hiding from the camera at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, above and below.




By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Hackensack Board of Education President Jason Nunnermacker was being dishonest when he claimed at a public meeting that school officials "cut taxes for the average homeowner by $214," city officials said Tuesday night.

Near the end of a long City Council meeting, Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino said Nunnermacker "had absolutely nothing to do" with potential property tax cuts from a citywide reassessment of home values.

Apropos of nothing, Nunnermacker rose to speak at the May 3 City Council meeting and declared:

"On the superintendent's behalf, we cut taxes for the average homeowner by $214 -- under my presidential leadership." 

(A week later, Nunnermacker announced at a school board meeting that Superintendent Karen Lewis had been suspended with pay for reasons he didn't disclose.) 

Cites revaluation

On Tuesday night, Canestrino, speaking for the mayor and council, said the citywide revaluation is the "sole reason" some homeowners could see a total cut of about $400 in city and school taxes.

School taxes make up 44% of the total property tax bill.

Canestrino noted the reassessment lowered the value of one-third of the homes in the city, one-third stayed the same and one-third went up.

She also noted the school board approved a $4.2 million hike in the tax levy that a tiny minority of registered voters approved in the April 19 election.

The $79 million tax levy supports an overall budget of $104 million, higher than the city's own. The hike in the city tax levy was $2.1 million -- half of the board's increase.

The Record didn't bother covering the issues or the nine candidates in the school board election or report on the budget in any detail.


Councilwoman Deborah Keeling-Geddis, right, again led the city's African-American community in criticizing officials for the embarrassing Lt. James Prise promotion. Councilman David Sims, second from right, left the meeting to take care of a personal matter before Keeling-Geddis read a statement and audience members, including clergy, spoke.


Lt. James Prise

Staff Writer John Seasly of The Record covered Tuesday night's City Council meeting, but his story in the Local section today doesn't report any of Canestrino's comments about Nunnermacker (L-1).

Nor does Seasly report that City Councilwoman Deborah Keeling-Geddis again led members of the city's African-American community in criticizing officials for promoting police Lt. James Prise to captain, only to return him to his original rank when it was learned he failed the oral portion of the state civil service exam.

Prise was the city's first black police lieutenant and was heralded as its first black captain at a March 8 ceremony in City Council Chambers.

City Manager David Troast said Prise's promotion was "provisional" pending the results of the oral exam, but he still thinks he was the right choice to lead the Police Department after the retirement of Police Director Mike Mordaga.

In response to comments from the audience that the City Council should issue a public apology to Prise, Canestrino and Mayor John Labrosse said officials have apologized a number of times, but that The Record hasn't reported any of them.

Censorship

A front-page story today reports that Bergen County had one of the state's 191 "apartheid schools," or "schools where 1 percent or less of the student population was white," according to a 2013 Rutgers University report.

But even though a Record reporter added material to the story from The Associated Press, that district isn't identified (A-1).

"Apartheid schools" certainly would fit the elementary and middle schools in Englewood, where desegregation efforts in the last decade have focused only on Dwight Morrow High School.

Over the years, Dan Sforza and other Record reporters assigned to Englewood have routinely ignored the city's dysfunctional school system.

Then, Sforza spent many years as a local editor who assigned reporters to cover stories in Englewood before he was promoted to managing editor this year.

Staff Writer Mathhew McGrath, who covers the city now, has written about education, but never reported the city's elementary and middle schools have few white students nor has he asked the superintendent what, if anything, he intends to do about that.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

As Bridgegate case drags on, lawyers are having last laugh

Parts of Main Street outside of downtown Hackensack have been repaved, as have other streets, but State Street and a narrow stretch of River Street still give drivers a rough ride.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The latest delay in releasing the list of "unindicted co-conspirators" in the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal serves only to line the pockets of the many lawyers involved.

Governor Christie alone has managed to spend more than $10 million in taxpayer funds on his law firm's elaborate stonewalling of public suspicions that he was involved in the September 2013 dirty trick against Fort Lee's Democratic mayor.

Christie's lawyer, Randy Mastro, actually had the balls to announce he was lowering his hourly fee to $650 from $1,000.

Despite the obvious bias of Mastro's final report, The Record has time and again pointed to it as evidence Christie did nothing wrong.

And the Woodland Park daily allowed WNYC-FM and other media to take the lead in keeping track of Mastro's bloated bills to the Governor's Office.

Three-year delay

Now, the trial of Bill Baroni, who was the Port Authority's deputy director, and Bridget Anne Kelly, then deputy chief of staff to Christie, is set for this September -- three years after the event.

David Wildstein, a Christie crony on the Port Authority, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy last May, and is expected to testify against Baroni and Kelly.

We can only guess at the huge legal bills facing this trio, and whether they had to take second and third mortgages on their homes.

Silence on fees

High legal fees deny many people their day in court.

That doesn't trouble The Record or North Jersey Media Group, which has deep pockets and doesn't hesitate to finance such First Amendment cases as trying to make public the list of people who weren't charged in the lane-closure scandal.

At the same time, the editors also have done their best to hide just how much lawyers get from multi-million dollar jury awards and settlements by simply not reporting them.

And when is the last time you saw a story reporting that a plaintiff is paying $200, $300 or $400 an hour for representation or that a criminal defendant might have to come up with a $10,000 retainer to get a lawyer to appear in court with him? 

Law-firm merger

The Record stays silent on legal fees even as it promotes a Hackensack law firm that has been paid handsomely to represent NJMG in everything from age-discrimination lawsuits to copyright infringement cases.

A story on the Saturday Business page reported Pashman Stein is merging with Walder Hayden of Roseland, but didn't identify the Hackensack firm as the one that's favored by NJMG Vice President and General Counsel Jennifer A. Borg.

Local news?

The Record's Local front today includes three sensational court stories, and two more appear on L-3 along with crime news.

Yet, two local obituaries were buried on L-5, including one for the Fort Lee man who ran Zabar's deli counter.

"To the legions who shop at Zabar's, the Upper West Side specialty food emporium, Harold Horowytz was the prince of pastrami, the king of corned beef, the lord of lox," Staff Writer Jay Levin wrote.

Below the Horowytz obituary, Levin reported the death of Allen Wahlberg, a longtime Ho-Ho-Kus councilman.

So, Horowytz and Wahlberg are treated the same as Madeleine LeBeau, an obscure French actress whose obit also is played on L-5.

Bias against Obama

What motivated The Record's editors to take a pot shot at President Obama in the coverage of his speech to Rutgers University graduates on Sunday?

The reporting I saw elsewhere was overwhelmingly positive, but The Record's main Page 1 story on Monday ended on a surprisingly sour note.

What exactly was the point of quoting a parent, Vince Zangli, saying he "couldn't be more disappointed in the last eight years," a clear reference to Obama's two terms in office?

Of course, that is consistent with all of the attacks on Obama by Christie and Record Columnist Mike Kelly.

Still, many readers are asking whether Zangli, Christie, Kelly, the editors and the reporter who quoted the parent are motivated by racial animus against the nation's first black president.

Coach Christie?

And why didn't The Record and other media question Christie's excuse for boycotting Obama's speech.

Who believes that fat slob's claim that he has coached his son in baseball "since he was 7 years old," and wanted to see him pitch his last college game?