Friday, January 31, 2014

The Times ties Christie to GWB lane closures

Two of the three lanes to George Washington Bridge tollbooths, above, were closed in early September after an exchange of e-mails between members of Governor Christie's staff and his Port Authority appointee, leading to gridlock in Democratic Fort Lee and charges of political payback by the GOP bully.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
Editor

The New York Times Web site is reporting that Governor Christie knew about the George Washington Bridge lane closures "when they were happening" in early September.

The Times quotes David Wildstein, the high school pal Christie appointed to the Port Authority, which runs the bridge:

"The Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Friday that the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening, and that he had the evidence to prove it.
"In a letter released by his lawyer, the official, David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who was appointed with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as 'the Christie administration’s order' and said 'evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the Governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference' three weeks ago."

The Record's Web site published the story more than an hour after The Times report appeared today.


Christie hires $1,000-an-hour lawyer at a discount


Thursday afternoon rush hour on River Road in Teaneck, as seen through a dirty windshield.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
Editor

Taxpayers are beginning to learn how much they'll be paying for all of the high-priced legal talent flocking to the side of Bridgegate figures, including Governor Christie.

But don't expect The Record of Woodland Park to investigate a legal system with no ceiling on hourly rates that, in effect, restricts access to the courts.

Or discuss a system monitored by judges -- former lawyers -- who often reward the attorney far more than the client who has been injured or is a victim of discrimination.

How much?

Today's front page story on how much attorney Randy Mastro is charging Christie's office is so poorly reported and edited readers don't know his exact hourly rate.

Mastro is charging $650 an hour to represent the Governor's Office in a series of investigations into the George Washington Bridge lane closures in Democratic Fort Lee -- "a discount of more than 40 percent" (A-1 and A-6).

The story never gives Mastro's "normal rate," but says it is more than $1,000 an hour. And that doesn't include such expenses as postage, transcripts and other extras.

I don't know anything about this legal eagle -- or turkey -- but question the worth of a lawyer who charges around $35 for a 2-minute phone conversation with his client.

More lawyers

Another lawyer, Reid Schar, the former federal prosecutor advising the Legislature's probe, is charging $350 an hour, a fee first reported on Thursday by New Jersey Public Radio.

Also mentioned in today's story is Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's deputy chief of staff, who was fired after an e-mail showed she had plotted with the Port Authority:

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

The Record hasn't reported the hourly rate of her lawyer, Michael Critchley Sr., or whether taxpayers will be footing his considerable bill.

Not so super

Another Page 1 story reports "the economic boost to the region from the Super Bowl figures to be considerably smaller than more rosy estimates" (A-1 and A-6).

But The Record's front page today is wrapped in another "Super Bowl Special," an upbeat, 8-page section designed to distract readers from all the negatives associated with pro football -- from a culture of inebriation to sexual slavery to a concussion crisis.

Sells her soul

Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung gives 2 stars to the misnamed Recovery Room in Westwood, where the burger, topped with bacon, ham, cheese and mayo, is designed to send customers across the street to Hackensack University Medical Center at Pascack Valley (BL-16).

Ung doesn't explain why the "sole Veronique" ($19.95) is made with cheaper cod.

The real Riotto?

Today's Hackensack Chronicle reports one of four police officers, who sued the city and then-Police Chief Ken "I Am The Law" Zisa in 2009 and settled for $2 million, has been reinstated as a lieutenant.

The first paragraph identifies him as "Vincent Riotto" and the photo with the story is labeled "Anthony Riotto."



Thursday, January 30, 2014

N.J. Public Radio: Why is Christie so secretive?

The Modern, a 47-story apartment building under construction in Fort Lee, overlooks the Chris Christie Memorial Local Access Lanes to the George Washington Bridge, below.




By VICTOR E. SASSON
Editor

New Jersey Public Radio says The Record's top lawyer is calling the Christie administration the most secretive in decades.

Jennifer A. Borg is being quoted today in the report on WNYC-FM, whose Web site calls the story "Chris Christie's 18 State Secrets."

Matt Katz of New Jersey Public Radio reports:
"The release of subpoenaed documents that exposed the Christie Administration's involvement in Bridgegate show how the Governor's Office has been keeping its decisions and expenditures quiet despite laws that require official business to be made public. Here's 18 ways Christie and his officials have blocked access to information."

The big lie

On Jan. 19, 2010, the day Chris Christie was sworn in, the new governor pledged, "Today, a new era of accountability and transparency is here." 

But Borg, North Jersey Media Group vice president and general counsel, says the Christie administration has been "more secretive" than any other administration she has dealt with in the last 20 years.

Bridgegate e-mails

For example, Katz reports, Christie officials responded to The Record's request for correspondence on George Washington Bridge lane closures by saying none existed.

Only subpoenas from the Legislature were able to obtain e-mails from David Wildstein of the Port Authority, which runs the bridge, to Michael Drewniak, a former Star-Ledge reporter who is Christie's foul-mouthed chief spokesman and spin doctor.

The subpoenas found the Governor's Office "was intentionally or unintentionally violating the Open Public Records Act," Katz says. 

Three other "state secrets," Katz reports, are:

  • How much taxpayers are spending on the lawyer representing Christie in various "abuse-of-power investigations."
  • Who paid for a trip the governor took to Dallas last year.
  • Christie's commissioner of community affairs, Richard Constable III, has ignored questions on why the state fired a $69 million contractor responsible for distributing $780 million in Sandy housing aid.  


Read the full report at the following link: 

Chris Christie's 18 State Secrets

Today's paper

The Record today is silent on the New Jersey Public Radio investigative report.

And there is nothing in the paper about a Star-Ledger report that the Democratic mayor of Belleville endorsed Governor Christie's election to a second term last year two weeks after the GOP bully personally pushed "his senior staff to provide a Sandy grant to build a senior citizen housing complex" in the town (see Sandy story on A-3).

A Star-Ledger editorial today charges Christie "used Sandy money as a political slush fund."

More good publicity

In fact, The Record today is wrapped in a special Super Bowl section, a testament to the power of the National Football League's publicity machine.

The upbeat, 8-page section crowds out any mention of the league's concussion crisis and the many brain-damaged pro football players who suffer dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

In contrast, today's Local section carries only three pages of municipal, police and court news, and three pages of death notices. 

Shafting commuters

The dominant Page 1 story today is about NJ Transit trademarks, but continues the Woodland Park daily's practice of ignoring the quality of bus and rail service or whether the agency can guarantee commuters a rush-hour seat (A-1).

In a front-page column, Charles Stile claims Christie "nearly leaped out of his shoes four years ago" at word New Jersey would get its first Super Bowl -- impossible for a man who weighed nearly 400 pounds (A-1).

On the Local front, a Turkish-born American citizen who was sentenced to eight years in prison for sexually abusing a sleeping woman on a Phoenix-Newark flight says he will never complain about flying economy again (L-1).

On L-3, Rutherford joins Hackensack in canceling a Super Bowl-themed winter festival, citing a lack of sponsors -- more evidence the big game will have far less economic impact in New Jersey than predicted.

Food-shopping news

The Record's feature writers, including its star restaurant reviewer, rarely discuss the origin or quality of food.

For years, the paper's consumer columnist, Kevin DeMarrais, has compiled a  monthly survey of supermarket prices, though he continues to ignore organic and naturally grown or raised food.

On Wednesday's L-8, the first Business page, DeMarrais reported that Great American Seafood-brand frozen tilapia fillets are being sold in a bag with an American flag logo, but that the fish is farm raised in China, Vietnam and Thailand.

Though that kind of warning is welcome, The Record's Business section spends far too much of its time mindlessly promoting fast-food restaurants, supermarkets and other food businesses.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Editors join Republicans who sit on their asses

This winter's crop of potholes has blossomed on Euclid Avenue, near Summit Avenue, in Hackensack, above and below. Other big potholes are on Euclid, near the railroad tracks, and on the Anderson Street Bridge to Teaneck.




By VICTOR E. SASSON
Editor

Barack Obama delivered one of the best speeches of his presidency on Tuesday night, but hundreds of congressional Republicans greeted his call to action by sitting on their asses.

And today, The Record's editors imitate those do-nothing conservatives by running a lame Associated Press story that calls the State of the Union address "the opening salvo in a midterm election fight for control of Congress" (A-1).

Aren't readers sick and tired of reporters obsessed with the next election, whether it is this year or two or three years away?

Why doesn't the media report on whether Obama's proposals are good for the country or focus on the greedy Republicans' war on the middle class?

Health, wages, women

AP reporter Julie Pace, one of the many hacks working for the wire service, begins the Page 1 story by claiming President Obama was seeking "to energize his sluggish second term."

Pace -- and The Record's Lindy Washburn -- have completely ignored the many success stories during the troubled roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.

Health insurance policies for members of my family and for current North Jersey Media Group employees are providing the same coverage for less -- more than $150 a month less in my case.

Obama called on Congress to "give America a raise" by enacting a federal minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, and also asked lawmakers to finally end pay inequality for women.

I didn't see that on The Record's front page.

Ignoring concussions

Super Bowl coverage appears in every section for yet another day, including a front-page report on depressed ticket and hotel-room prices (A-1, L-1, BL-1 and S-1).

There is an upbeat story on pro football players visiting children in their native Paterson (L-1), but don't miss the nostalgic tabloid on "New Jersey Super Bowl Legends."

Nowhere in today's special section is there any mention of whether Rutherford native Stan Walters, Frank Winters of Union City, Bob Kratch of Mahwah and other linemen suffered brain damage, dementia or early Alzheimer's from playing pro football.

The section appears the day after PBS re-broadcast its two-part Frontline documentary, "League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis." 

Did Marty Gottlieb or any of the other Record editors see the documentary or are they just sitting on their asses day in and day out, twiddling their thumbs?

Jersey politics 

Today's front page also carries the second day of an expose on how Port Authority Chairman David Samson and Governor Christie's brother, Todd, are benefiting from a $256 million renovation of the Harrison PATH station (A-1).

Sampson, a Chris Christie appointee, voted to approve the project.

An editorial on A-12 expresses outrage, but isn't this the way Jersey politics works on the regional, state and local level?

In Hackensack, members of a public-private partnership called the Upper Main Street Alliance are promoting downtown redevelopment, salivating over all of the money they will make from sale of land they own.

The reform City Council, meanwhile, is passing ordinances giving tax breaks for more apartment development, never pausing to ask whether there is room in the overcrowded schools (L-3).


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Finally, here is Super Bowl news to celebrate

Miller's N.J. Ale House on Route 4 in Paramus didn't call Fish for a seafood delivery. Imagine the possibilities: Bully Beef Building Maintenance, Pork Barrel Electricians and Lamb & Lion Plumbers.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
Editor

If you can survive the boring front-page Tara Sullivan column on an assistant pro football coach with the improbable last name of "Studesville," there is really big Super Bowl news in The Record today.

Woody Johnson, the filthy rich owner of the Jets, who play in New Jersey but refuse to drop New York from their name, says it would be at least a decade before we could possibly see another Super Bowl in the Garden State (L-1).

First "Studesville," which sounds like "Studsville," and then "Woody," undoubtedly a phallic reference.

Isn't that grand? A respite of 10 whole years before the vast majority of readers have to wade through all this upbeat crap about pro football in every section of the Woodland Park daily.

In the interim, readers can only hope The Record does a little tougher reporting on wealthy team owners' response to compensating football players for all of the brain injuries they suffer (A-8 editorial). 

Mass hysteria

Let's hope the Page 1 "expose" about Port Authority Chairman David Samson's ties to a luxury apartment development doesn't derail a $256 million reconstruction of a nearby PATH station in Harrison that he approved (A-1).

The PATH project would be one of the few improvements in a commuter-rail system that has languished under the Port Authority's well-known anti-mass transit policies -- a story The Record won't touch.

More Bridgegate

A Page 1 Charles Stile column and an A-3 story on the legislative probe round out today's Bridgegate scandal package.

Everyone involved seems to have received subpoenas except Governor Christie himself (A-3).

In his usual awkward style, Stile says Christie's staffers "have been hit with subpoenas" and the governor "has been served a heavy dose of comeuppance."

We also learn Christie "stormed into Trenton four years ago vowing to follow the advice of his 'tough as nails' Sicilian mother" that it is better to be feared than loved.

Still, Stile won't call Christie a "GOP bully," the name he has earned just about everywhere else.

But his Sicilian mother also must have given young Chris a love for pizza.

He became as soft as lard, if you believe the governor's claim he knew nothing about his staff plotting in early September to close George Washington Bridge local access lanes in Democratic Fort Lee.


Mahwah tax cut?

On the Local front, Mahwah residents who opposed a 600,000-square-foot shopping center at Routes 17, 287 and 87 were decades late in citing "traffic, environmental and quality-of-life issues" (L-1).

And given all the nincompoops elected or appointed to run Mahwah and every other home-rule town in North Jersey, residents probably can't even expect any property tax relief when the project is completed.

Lots of questions

An L-2 story about a bank robbery doesn't explain why Valley National Bank on Dean Street in Englewood had $66,000 in its vault. 

Was it expecting a run on the bank or laundering large amounts of cash from illegal activities?

Another story on L-2 doesn't say Paterson laid off police officers in 2011 after Christie cut aid to poor cities, leading to a rise in crime in an already violent community.

The only photo of Christie in the paper today appears on  L-3, where he is seen trying to overcome his love for pizza in a table tennis game at the Boys & Girls Club of Newark.

Who won?

You won't find the outcome in the story or the 
photo caption.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Pro football keeps on dumping on New Jersey

On Route 4 in Paramus this morning, I didn't see any signs of the Super Bowl 'frenzy' that was headlined so prominently in The Record. At 8:30 a.m., the sun wasn't even shining.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
Editor

The teams set to clash in this Sunday's Super Bowl are partying in New York City, but sleeping in a Jersey City hotel.

That way, pro football can continue to take a dump in the Garden State as it perpetuates the fiction the game is being played in the Big Apple.

The scam hasn't worked: Ticket prices are depressed, and the economic benefit of the game will be far less than claimed.

What 'frenzy'?

You wouldn't know that from the "frenzy" being whipped up by Editor Marty Gottlieb and his tribe of lazy, incompetent assignment minions (A-1, A-3, A-6, A-8 and L-1).

The mindless Super Bowl coverage almost crowds the Bridgegate scandal off of Page 1 for the first time in a couple of weeks (A-1).

And the best story in the paper is below the fold: Staff Writer Patricia Alex's piece on the "very public suicide" of Madison Holleran, 19, of Allendale.

"...Young adulthood can be emotionally tricky, even perilous," begins her third paragraph, which lays out all of the challenges faced by young people in five hard-hitting sentences.

Readers rarely see this kind of good writing on the front page, which is hogged by The Record's burnt-out columnists, including Mike Kelly, John Cichowski and Charles Stile. 

Rest of paper

Is there anything else of note in today's edition?

On A-3, a story reports that nearly 9,000 volunteers will help Super Bowl visitors navigate the New York-New Jersey region.

And on L-1, another story says Theresa Flores, "a warrior against human trafficking," is on a rescue mission in advance of the big game in East Rutherford.

On the Better Living cover today, The Associated Press report on the Grammys doesn't tell readers many of the Sunday night performances by Beyonce, Taylor Swift and others were just awful (BL-1). 

More screw-ups

On Sunday's Business front, one of the photo captions was misplaced. It should have appeared above the photo of event planner Camille Cerria, not below (B-1).

On Sunday's L-3, Stile's column erred on when Stuart J. Rabner, New Jersey's chief justice, worked with Chris Christie in the U.S. Attorney's Office, according to an Eye on The Record reader.

Stile reported they worked together from 2002 to 2007, but the reader says Rabner left "right after [Jon] Corzine was elected" governor in 2006.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Christie speaks 'loudly' and acts like 'a big dick'

Cedar Lane and River Road in Teaneck on Thursday afternoon.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
Editor

Governor Christie's insults, vetoes and mean-spirited budget cuts have earned him the title of "GOP bully" everywhere but at The Record.

In April 2011, Christie urged the media "to take the bat" to state Sen. Loretta Weinberg of Teaneck for collecting a taxpayer-funded pension while making $49,000 a year as a legislator -- even as one of the governor's Democratic allies was guilty of far greater abuse.

Today, the Woodland Park daily compares Christie's attacks on "shadow government" -- unelected authorities, boards and commissions -- to his exploitation of the patronage, lucrative employee perks and a lack of public accountability at the Port Authority (A-1).

For example, David Samson's law firm has seen its legal and lobbying work increase tremendously since Christie appointed the lawyer to the unsalaried position of Port Authority chairman, according to National Public Radio.

Christie regards Samson as "a father figure," WNYC-FM radio reported last week. They met when Christie was U.S. attorney and Samson was state attorney general.

Bridgegate, football

During the lull in the Bridgegate scandal, The Record is desperately trying to keep the story alive until the Legislature's investigation begins (A-1, L-1 and O-1).

At the same time, Editor Marty Gottlieb continues to squander space on the front page and inside the thin Local section to cover the upcoming Super Bowl (A-1, B-1 and L-3 today and Saturday).

The big game will attract drunks, perverts and gambling addicts, inconvenience hundreds of thousands of non-fans and line the pockets of wealthy team owners. 

Restaurants, caterers and hotel companies are among the few that will fight over the remaining scraps (B-1).

It's a real stretch

In Bridgegate coverage, Staff Writer John Cichowski makes a desperate attempt to compare a mobster's bribe to then-Fort Lee Mayor Burt Ross in the 1970s to Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer's allegation that Lt. Gov. Kim Guadano sought favors for a developer or risk losing Sandy aid (A-1).

The developer is represented by Samson's law firm, and investigators want to question Samson about e-mails regarding the politically inspired September closure of George Washington Bridge access lanes in Fort Lee. 


Also on A-1 today is a photo of Bridget Anne Kelly, the deputy chief of staff Christie fired after disclosure of her e-mail to the Port Authority: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."


Kelly, who lives in Ramsey, looks older than in previous photos, and she is accompanied by Michael Critchley Sr., a prominent criminal defense lawyer who probably is charging her $400 to $500 an hour.


The Record still has not reported whether Critchley and all of the other lawyers flocking to the sides of Bridgegate figures will be paid with taxpayer funds. 


Old news made new

Cichowski's Road Warrior column on L-1 today is filled with breaking news about decades of gridlock in Fort Lee caused by drivers who seek short cuts to the bridge through borough streets (L-1).

This is a variation of the story that runs every year or so when Paramus residents who oppose the end of Blue Laws complain they can't get out of their driveways because of mall traffic.


The Record and the greedy Borg publishing family hate these residents for denying the paper new revenue from full-page ads promoting Sunday sales.


Mall gunmen

On A-4, a story on a gunman who killed two at a Maryland mall is an ugly reminder of the lack of security at Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus and the Mall at Short Hills (A-2) -- a story The Record won't touch.


The photo of heavily armed officers (A-4) -- like those taken at the Paramus mall on Nov. 4 -- brings home how much taxpayers spend on local police departments that always seem to show up too late to prevent random shooting or killing.


Saturday's paper

The headline over Saturday's Page 1 story on Christie's limited appearances since his State of the State address says:


"Christie takes quiet turn"


I can see  "stays out of sight," but "quiet turn"?

Similarly, a reader noted in a letter to the editor published on Saturday's A-13 that an editorial used "hone in on" instead of the correct "home in on."


More 9/11 news

Saturday's Page 1 is dominated by a Mike Kelly column on the price of admission to the long delayed 9/11 museum that should have run in Travel in view of its limited appeal to North Jersey readers. 

Why spend money to enter the museum when there is no admission charge to go and see the two reflecting pools in the footprints of the Twin Towers?

Travel Editor Jill Schensul piece on saving money during a European vacation would have been better, if she had mentioned credit cards that don't charge a foreign currency transaction fee of about 2% (T-1).

Last word

Comedian Bill Maher had lots to say on Friday night about how conservatives love bullying.

During the New Rules segment of his HBO show, Maher noted:

"Somehow, we've gone from Teddy Roosevelt's 'Speak softly and carry a big stick' to Chris Christie's speak loudly and be a big dick."


Friday, January 24, 2014

Editors go to bat for drunks, perverts and gamblers

Hackensack's 2014 Recycling Calendar arrived today -- 24 days into the new year -- inserted into my home-delivered copy of The Record. Better late than never, I guess, but it's a good thing it wasn't inserted into Thursday's paper, which wasn't delivered.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
Editor

The Record today delivers more hand-wringing by the editors over whether Super Bowl fans will see the Garden State's best face.

An editorial complains that NJ Transit "is not showing signs of improvement less than two weeks before the Super Bowl" (A-18).

The Woodland Park daily taking the state's mass-transit agency to task for the quality of its bus and rail service is rare, and I cannot recall another instance in the past decade.

N.J. needs column

Every New York City paper, including the lofty Times, has had a subway column examining the quality of service in minute detail.

But Dan Sforza and the other lazy local assignment editors wouldn't be caught dead taking a bus or a train.

So, it has never occurred to any of them to tell a reporter to ride NJ Transit and report on problems, such as standing room only on packed trains and buses during the rush hour.

Toilet bowl

The Super Bowl is expected to bring an unprecedented number of drunks, sexual perverts and gambling addicts together in one place on Feb. 2 in East Rutherford.

In recent weeks or months, The Record has complained that the Route 3 widening won't be finished in time or that the ugly retail-entertainment complex near the stadium won't be repainted before the big game.

Why wait for the weeks or months before Super Bowl to bitch about them? Don't residents deserve better?

New Jersey's image has always sucked and we have always lived in the shadow of New York, but it doesn't help that the wealthy owners of the Giants and the Jets refuse even to acknowledge their teams play in the Garden State.

And Governor Christie has so politicized traffic that the state has become a laughing stock again.

Running in place

Today's paper doesn't add a thing to the Bridgegate scandal, especially Mike Kelly's lame column on Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, one of the Democrats who have complained about the GOP bully's muscle flexing (A-1).

His lead paragraph is a turnoff:

"Dawn Zimmer sits in a chair in a quiet, sun-splashed conference room next to her mayor's office on the second floor of Hoboken's City Hall."

At least the burned-out columnist didn't have her "gazing" out the window or into the distance or whatever, as he has had so many other subjects in the past.

With an intro like that, readers fully expect the reporter with the shit-eating grin will tell them next where City Hall restrooms are located.

More Super Bowl

Page 1 has a Super Bowl weather story, and four more game-related stories appear inside Local (L-3) and on the Sports front (S-1), which is where they all belong.

All this fuss over a game that isn't expected to improve the state's limping economy or affect its higher-than-the-nation unemployment rate.

Great photo

Kudos to freelance photographer Boyd A. Loving for capturing the moments after the driver of an SUV knocked down a 45-year-old pedestrian who was in a marked crosswalk in downtown Ridgewood (L-1).

This photo is so complete it almost looks posed, with even the driver standing outside her vehicle with her hands clasped as she looks serious and concerned.

As usual, no one is identified, likely a good thing here, because the photo, showing the Korean-American woman who was issued a summons for failing to yield to a pedestrian, plays into the stereotype of Asians being bad drivers.

Weather news

Today's Local section continues coverage of this week's "bitter cold," but nowhere will readers find interviews with people who have to work outside, such as New Jersey's unsung gas jockeys.

In Hackensack news, Staff Writer Hannan Adely reports former City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono will receive a $74,683 sick-and-vacation-day payout, while ousted City Clerk Debra Heck is getting a payout of "nearly $32,000" (L-1).

Lo Iacono also is guaranteed payment of his annual salary up to June 14. He was paid $170,516 a year -- about $5,000 less than Christie.

Butter fish

In Better Living, Staff Writer Elisa Ung gives a good-to-excellent rating to Memoire in Ridgewood, where the kitchen overcooked or burned at least three of the dishes she sampled ($16 to $35 each).

The restaurant also shortchanges customers by serving a fillet of artificially colored farmed salmon for $24, and topping it with artery clogging butter (BL-16).


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Are taxpayers footing huge Bridgegate legal bills?

The Modern, a 47-story residential building under construction in Fort Lee, overlooks the three George Washington Bridge access lanes at the center of Governor Christie's biggest crisis since he took office in 2010.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
Editor

The print edition still hasn't hit my driveway, so I turned to NorthJersey.com for the latest developments in the Bridgegate scandal.

Everybody is hiring highly paid legal heavyweights to represent them, but I can't find a word about whether taxpayers are going to be stuck with the bills.

Governor Christie; Bridget Anne Kelly, the deputy chief of staff he fired; and David Samson, chairman of the Port Authority, have retained new counsel, presumably to defend their official actions.

Are we poorer?

So, does that mean we have to pay the bills? What about the outside lawyer representing the state Legislature's joint investigative panel?

Kelly sent an e-mail to one of Christie's cronies at the Port Authority in August, saying, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

The access-lane closures on the George Washington Bridge caused gridlock in the Democratic borough in what is widely viewed as political retribution for Mayor Mark Sokolich's refusal to endorse the governor's reelection. 

Borgs get richer

The Record's print edition was several hours late on Wednesday, even though local streets had been cleared of snow.

At 1 this afternoon, today's paper is nowhere to be found.

We can thank the cut-rate, rinky dink delivery system the Borgs have used for eons, exploiting low-wage workers who have to hold two or three jobs to make ends meet.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Marty Gottlieb has little to show for 2 years at the helm

This morning, a path had been cleared so commuters wouldn't have to climb over the snow at a bus stop across the street from Sears in Hackensack, above, but that wasn't the case at another bus stop around the corner on Anderson Street, below.




By VICTOR E. SASSON
Editor

This month, former New York Times editor Marty Gottlieb is celebrating two years at the helm of The Record of Woodland Park, and readers can only guess at what he lists as his accomplishments.

Most of the lazy editors and burned-out columnists he inherited are still in place, including the error-prone Road Warrior, Staff Writer John Cichowski.

Except for a renewed focus on Hackensack's municipal affairs (L-1), the Local section often is dominated by police news and accident photos, no matter how minor.

If it wasn't for the Bridgegate scandal, the paper would still be acting as if it had been hired by Governor Christie to do his public relations.

Today's paper

The GOP bully was sworn in for a second term on Tuesday after winning the Nov. 5 election -- the lowest turnout of any gubernatorial contest in state history (A-1).

Given how Christie has waged war on the middle and working classes, isn't it sweet that an "intense winter storm" canceled "the image-building ball at Ellis Island" (A-1).

Longer stories

Gottlieb is known for often handling Page 1 stories, which have grown in length and complexity, not unlike what appears in The Times.

But the level of editing by The Record's assignment and copy desks is so low that the front-page has become known for tortured, poorly written paragraphs that have more twists and turns than an old river.

Mediocre editors

The merger of The Record and Herald News newsrooms brought on board a number of mediocre editors who have dumbed down content, including photo captions and headlines.

Fact-checking is almost non-existent, and for every correction published on A-2, readers know there are five or six more that will never be acknowledged.

Day after day, news and feature stories are published with huge holes, and even basic information is missing.

Today, for example, an interesting story on spices that appears on the Better Living front discusses AK Market in Paterson, but readers can search high and low and not find the shop's address or telephone number (BL-1 and BL-5).  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A half-assed assessment of Christie's first term

Route 17 in Paramus, above, and the view through a streaked windshield, below, after about four hours of snowfall today. Municipal crews from Hackensack to Ho-Ho-Kus and Englewood to Elmwood Park will do their usual sloppy job of making streets safe for drivers and pedestrians, but The Record's lazy assignment editors, including Dan Sforza, will merely shrug their shoulders, as their predecessors have for decades.




By VICTOR E. SASSON
Editor

Slapping an "ANALYSIS" bug on today's lead story allows The Record to present a slanted picture of what Governor Christie accomplished in his first term.

The account by Staff Writer John Reitmeyer of the paper's State House Bureau emphasizes "compromise with the Democrats who control the Legislature," and ignores the GOP bully's war on the middle and working classes (A-1).

Rediscovers vetoes

Christie's pledge to "make full use of my veto pen ... to shape legislative and budget policy" is mentioned on A-4 for perhaps the first time since he made it in 2010.

But last year's veto of a hike in the minimum wage, three vetoes of a tax surcharge on millionaires, cuts in funds for women's health care and other mean-spirited budgeting have been redacted by Wrongmeyer.

There also appears to be a major editing error in this long, tortured and poorly written paragraph on A-1 today:

"And amid legislative inquiries into lane closures at the George Washington Bridge -- the biggest crisis of his political career -- and as mayors, including those running Hoboken and Jersey City, accuse Christie of using hardball tactics, his talk of bipartisanship has been replaced by accusations that Democrats have a political ax to grind."

Of course, it's Christie and other Republicans who are grinding political axes to use on Democrats, including Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee.

Four months late

Why is this story appearing on the day Christie is inaugurated for a second term? Wouldn't even this slanted account have been more useful in the weeks or months before the Nov. 5 election?

Two stories related to the Bridgegate scandal also appear on Page 1 today, including Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno's adamant denial that she used federal Sandy aid as a political weapon in Hoboken.

What else could she possibly say in response to charges by Democratic Mayor Dawn Zimmer that Guadano pushed a redevelopment project represented by Christie crony David Samson, chairman of the Port Authority?

The Record has called on Samson and the other unsalaried commissioners to resign in the wake of the Bridgegate scandal. 

Brain-dead editors

On the Local front today, The Record reports a young Hispanic couple whose bodies were found inside a garaged car had sought "privacy," but closed the overhead door and left the car's engine running until the fuel tank was "bone dry." (L-1).

That scenario was obvious to thousands of readers who saw Monday's A-1 account, which called the deaths of Melissa A. Pereira and Jorge E. Rodriguez a complete mystery.

One has to wonder whether the Sunday assignment editor and copy desk supervisor who helped prepare Monday's story are brain dead.

More errors

On L-3 today, Kwasi Mendoza, 28, who died in the crash of his car in Englewood, is described as a "legal clerk." The proper phrase is "law clerk."

More than two days after the crash, The Record still hasn't asked police whether speed or alcohol was a factor in the crash of Mendoza's Lexus at 3 in the morning on Saturday, near a cemetery.

On Sunday, Staff Writer John Cichowski wrote another error-filled column on Bridgegate, according to a concerned reader who maintains the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers.

"In his Jan. 19 column, the Road Warrior continues with his congestion of mistakes about the Fort Lee toll-lane closure scandal, while mistakenly reporting about traffic and pedestrian safety in Fort Lee.
"All six of the Road Warrior columns that have addressed the toll-lane closure have contained extensive mistakes, which contradict many other news reports, including The Record's."

See the reader's full e-mail to managers and editors, and keep in mind none of his previous e-mails led to corrections by the most-error prone reporter at the Woodland Park daily:

Road Warrior closes access lanes to accuracy


Monday, January 20, 2014

It's Christie's way or the highway -- not the bridge

Governor Christie is weathering a storm over closure of two of the three access lanes to the upper level of the George Washington Bridge, above. Haven't New Jersey's elected officials always used asphalt and traffic for political purposes? In some Hackensack neighborhoods, many streets have remained unpaved for years, even decades.

Are these the traffic cones Christie once joked he had set up to close Fort Lee's bridge access lanes? Why don't police dust them for his fingerprints?



By VICTOR E. SASSON
Editor

The planning, execution, cover-up and public-apology phases of the Bridgegate lane blockages have passed.

After Governor Christie took a powder to Florida, his allies went on the attack, questioning the motives of the Democratic state lawmaker who has led the investigation (The Record's A-1).

For the first time in 12 days, the Woodland Park daily's front page is dominated by other news -- a column on the teams going to the Super Bowl and a woefully incomplete story on the tragic death of a young Hispanic couple whose bodies were found in a garaged car (A-1).

Come on!

I glanced at the main headline on the front of the Sports section today, and found use of the word "come" in the big headline to be suspect (S-1).

And readers continue to be astounded by how little information Record reporters get from law-enforcement sources investigating suspicious or accidental deaths (A-1 and A-6).

Both Jorge E. Rodriguez, 24, of Garfield and Melissa A. Pereira, 25, of Wayne lived with their parents, so isn't it plausible they used a car in the garage of the woman's home for privacy?

Was the garage open or closed when their bodies were found? Was the car running inside the garage?

Why didn't The Record ask these and other questions instead of basing the story on an e-mail from Passaic County's chief assistant prosecutor?

GOP on the attack

This morning, I heard former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, demanding the recusal of state Assemblyman John Wisniewski, chairman of the panel probing closure of two of three Fort Lee access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in early September (A-1).

Giuliani claims Wisniewski is not impartial and has already said he doesn't believe Christie's version of events, including that he was blindsided by a close aid and cronies on the Port Authority. 

But Wisniewski isn't a judge, Christie hasn't been accused of any crime and the GOP bully hasn't even been subpoenaed.

Incredible claims

Of course, the lawmaker isn't the only one who doesn't find credible Christie's claim of being a victim.

The governor has been throwing his weight around since he took office in January 2010 -- from the racist dismissal of the state Supreme Court's only black justice to enacting his mean-spirited policies with intimidation, threats and vetoes.

Christie's "Reform Agenda," "Jersey Comeback" and "Partisan Compromise" have been thinly disguised battles in his war on the middle and working classes.

And critics can argue that Christie has ignored mass-transit improvements and used mounting traffic congestion as a way to suppress votes.

A recent study found people exhausted by their long commutes tend not to get involved in civic affairs or go to the polls.

In fact, the turnout in the Nov. 5 election that gave Christie a second term was the lowest of any gubernatorial election in state history.

Hits Democrats

So, isn't it plausible that during the campaign, Christie would retaliate against the Democratic mayors of Fort Lee -- home of the bridge -- Jersey City and Hoboken for not endorsing his reelection?

And that in Fort Lee, the natural way to do that was to cause gridlock in a borough that historically has co-existed uncomfortably with one of the world's busiest spans?

Cuckoo chefs

The Better Living cover features professional chefs urging home cooks to make chicken stock and basil pesto from scratch (BL-1 and BL-3).

If you make that a habit, when will you have time to earn a living? 

And with organic chicken stock and fragrant basil pesto available at Costco Wholesale, why would anyone in their right mind make them at home?