Thursday, May 1, 2014

Christie the manipulator, Hackensack High roaches

Student art from Bergen Arts and Science Charter High School displayed at Johnson Public Library in Hackensack, above and below.


Governor Christie has been a master manipulator of the media ever since he took office more than four years ago, and The Record's editors, columnists and reporters have been his chief dupes.

For months, the GOP bully's $33 billion budget plan has been endangered by shortfalls of hundreds of millions of dollars, principally due to his refusal to tax the wealthy (A-1).

But The Record's reporters are still waiting for the press releases detailing programs cuts Christie will make by the June 30 deadline to balance the budget on the backs of the middle and working classes, as he has done since 2010.

Don't such reporters as John Reitmeyer, Melissa Hayes and Charles Stile have sources in state government departments that can tell them about anticipated cuts?

Now, Christie is playing the blame game to explain away the drastic decline in tax revenue, just as he has for every crisis his administration has faced, up to and including the George Washington Bridge lane-closure/political-retribution scandal (A-1 and A-3).

Tabloid news

A sensational story on today's front page is designed to sell papers.

The follow-up to a double suicide leap from the George Washington Bridge doesn't say whether drug addicts Nickie Circelli and Gary Crockett, her boyfriend, were holding hands when they jumped (A-1).

It also is unclear from the stories whether the 11 a.m. Monday double suicide affected traffic on the bridge, which has gained worldwide exposure from the Christie administration's lane closures last September.

Suffern, N.Y., police say the couple stole money from Circelli's uncle, William Valenti, then killed him during an argument over the theft.

Today's A-1 story and Wednesday's gee-whiz account on the Local front is a lot of coverage of a couple who lived way outside the circulation area.

What is bigger news -- that the Little Ferry Circle floods decade after decade or that a highway collapsed near Pensacola, Fla.? 

Why is the Florida photo on Page 1, and the North Jersey weather story and flood photo buried on the Local front?   

Race for ratables

The lead story on the Local front today doesn't mention what is obvious to every resident of North Jersey's inefficient and wasteful home-rule communities:

Borough officials' approval of LG's 143-foot corporate headquarters atop the Palisades in Englewood Cliffs is a naked grab for tax ratables (L-1).

At 9 feet per story, the building would be nearly 16 stories high.

On the first Business page today, there is no mention of Englewood, where the construction of downtown apartments has done little to prevent vacant storefronts and high turnover among Palisade Avenue merchants (L-7).

Staff Writer Joan Verdon, whose byline is most often seen on stories about highway and mall retailers, reports "real estate experts" say the key to reviving downtown Hackensack and Paterson "is to get more people living downtown."

Roach patrol

Meanwhile, a student at Hackensack High School reports the building's basement cafeteria was invaded by a "horde of cockroaches" during Wednesday's heavy rain.

Students jumped up from their lunches, screaming, and headed for the exit, he said, adding that roach and mice sightings are nothing unusual in the old building.

The food is so bad many students eat or buy lunch elsewhere, including at nearby pizzerias, Starbucks on Essex Street and the cafeteria of Hackensack University Medical Center.

Editorial hemorrhoids

The Record has done its best to ignore Hackensack's Board of Education and food service in the schools.

Before the school board election last month, the Woodland Park daily didn't bother telling readers anything about the four, unchallenged candidates or report what they stood for, and residents didn't receive any campaign mailings.

It is believed that in the last month alone, Deputy Assignment Editor Dan Sforza acquired a couple of new hemorrhoids from sitting on the toilet reading tabloids and ignoring local news.

Staffers make blog

Better Living today debuts a new feature -- Name-Dropper -- to give readers "the lowdown on some of the people whose names you see on public statues, memorial plaques, park signs, highways and even some local streets around North Jersey" (BL-1).

The first piece is on Paul J. Foschini, who was mayor of Hackensack in 1933 and from 1937 to 1953. Today, his name is on a 28-acre park near The Record's old headquarters in the city.

The editors took freelancer Jeffrey Page, a former staffer who was the original Road Warrior columnist, out of mothballs for the new feature.

Page also wrote reviews of so-called budget restaurants before that column was dropped last year, likely a good move for his waistline if not for his bank account.

Throughout the profile for some reason, the City Council in Hackensack is written in lower case: "city council."

Sampson, Markos

Another change that has been evident recently is assigning Peter J. Sampson to cover the busy Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack (A-1).

It's not known whether Sampson is filling in for a vacationing Kibret Markos or has replaced Markos, who could be seen smoking outside the 10 Main St. courthouse entrance several times a day.

Sampson is a veteran reporter who once worked for United Press International at the federal courthouse in Newark, where he also covered the U.S. Attorney's Office.

He also covered the federal beat for The Record.

Second looks

Page 1 reported matter of factly on Wednesday that drivers are "zipping along -- often at speeds exceeding 75 mph" on the Garden State Parkway near two Route 17 exits in Paramus.

The reporter didn't bother saying the speed limit there is 55 mph or that state police have apparently stopped enforcing the law along the entire length of the parkway and turnpike.

Bad photos

Also on Wednesday, I was struck by the reptilian image of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and the thumbnail photo of Tara Sullivan, a sports columnist reporting on the NBA's lifetime ban of the racist (A-1).

Sullivan's lopsided smile -- and Columnist Mike Kelly's shit-eating grin -- suggest that a single thumbnail photo doesn't really fit all subjects.

PA change?

Other Page 1 news on Wednesday -- Governor Christie naming former Attorney General John Degnan to be chairman of the Port Authority -- doesn't address the need to break away the bi-state agency's transportation functions.

The Record refuses to cover commuting by train and bus or call on the Port Authority to expand its PATH system or express bus lane into the Lincoln Tunnel.

Bill the driver?

On Wednesday's Local front, the duplication of emergency services in North Jersey, where property taxes are rising steadily, is evident in the photo of more than a dozen police and fire vehicles that responded to a single-vehicle crash.

This despite non-life threatening injuries suffered by an unidentified Garfield woman, 30, whose SUV broke through the guardrail on the parkway in Woodcliff Lake.

If the woman was texting or speeding before the crash, she should be billed for the emergency response.

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