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|NJ Transit admits the safety of rail crossings and tracks can be improved.|
Editor Francis Scandale has finally pulled his swelled head out of you-know-where and produced a strong North Jersey front page for a change.
But what didn't change today is how officials continue to give flood victims the shaft, and how Staff Writer John Brennan manages to get his Meadowlands stories on Page 1 -- for the third time this week -- no matter how exaggerated or insubstantial.
Flood of excuses
The lead A-1 story reports that no action will be taken on two flood-aid bills until after the Nov. 8 election, because all 120 members of the Legislature will be out campaigning.
Brennan, a small-brained former sports reporter, is known to obsessively talk up his business stories with top editors until the only way to shut him up is to agree to put his highly promotional pieces out front.
In contrast to Brennan's fluff, the best story on A-1 today is an apparent change of heart by NJ Transit toward pedestrians who get mowed down by trains at unmanned crossings or along unfenced tracks.
Those victims, including three teenagers killed on Oct. 2-3 in Wayne and Garfield, are called "trespassers" -- a label the agency uses liberally in an apparent attempt to limit its liability.
But Jim Simpson, the state transportation czar who heads NJ Transit's board, said "a joint task force" will study adding transit police to guard some crossings, in addition to new signs, warnings, lights and fences.
Unfortunately, the assignment desk turns out an upbeat story that puts the agency in the best light, failing to tell readers what a big change in attitude this is on the part of a normally inflexible NJ Transit.
For decades, the state agency has maintained a hard line against victims, aided and abetted in recent years by a scolding John Cichowski, the inept Road Warrior columnist.
Also on A-1 today, the Paterson City Council is weighing whether to hold Mayor Jeffrey Jones in contempt for refusing to answer questions about Hurricane Irene overtime.
But shouldn't the story tell readers whether residents have the power to remove Jones from office? And why does the editorial on A-22 stop short of calling for his ouster?
Scandale has been ignoring the occupy Wall Street protesters as best he could, but by putting a photo of them on A-1 today, he got screwed by his own early deadlines.
Just after midnight -- long after he went to sleep and the paper was put to bed -- the park's owner told the city it was postponing a cleanup scheduled for this morning.
After such a strong Page 1, the Local front is even more disappointing than usual, with a huge, space-filling photo of a gee-whiz traffic accident that injured a 17-year-old girl.
Unable to generate local news, head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes specializes in berating her staff photographers to produce many similar photos, reducing them to ambulance chasers.
Check his cavity
Cichowski continues to stray far from his L-1 commuting column, reporting today on the strip-search case involving a Burlington County driver that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
The editors should conduct a cavity search on Cichowski in an effort to find his brain.
Pages L-2 to L-5 are devoted to higher education news.
In Better Living, Staff Writer Elisa Ung gives an Ethiopian restaurant a good-to-excellent rating. Unfortunately, Mesob is in Montclair, and like me, many readers won't drive that far for dinner out.
Where are the new, interesting restaurants in Bergen and Passaic counties?Mesob has been open since 2003.