Monday, September 29, 2014

Columnist dismisses challenge to Tea Party puppet

Utility work on River Street in Hackensack, near the mothballed headquarters of North Jersey Media Group and The Record, made driving difficult last week.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Staff Writer Herb Jackson of The Record is a veteran who is assigned to Washington, where he writes the NJ/DC column, which you'll find on Page 1 today.

In recent years, Jackson has mastered the art of slipping a dagger into any Democrat who challenges one of Congress' most conservative members -- and twisting it.

Rep. Scott Garrett, a six-term Wantage Republican whose district now includes liberal Fair Lawn, Hackensack and most of Teaneck, is a puppet of the Tea Party and against just about everything, especially social programs.

Money talks

Today's column reports Garrett and his Democratic challenger, attorney Roy Cho of Hackensack, began running TV ads this month (A-1).

But Jackson is dazzled by Garrett's fund raising, nearly $3.2 million, compared to Cho's expected $900,000, and he's already called the race on that basis alone.

Jackson never mentions Garrett's initial opposition to federal aid for Sandy victims or his desire to delay eligibility for both Social Security and Medicare, starting with people born in 1958 and after.

Cut health care

Nor does he discuss Garrett's plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act -- which has given health insurance to tens of millions who never had it -- and boost defense spending to $699 billion in 2022.

Jackson has so much pull in Washington he couldn't even get an interview with Garrett, who doesn't announce where he is campaigning and hasn't agreed to debate Cho.

What kind of reporter is Jackson when he doesn't even report Garrett's mean-spirited policies and positions, as listed on the congressman's own Web site?

See: I'm Scott Garrett, and I hate people

Crystal balls

Today's Jackson column is long-winded -- typical of The Record's white, middle-age columnists.

So, he saves the knockout punch for the last paragraph after reporting Cho's charge that Garrett is even against federal spending to repair the transportation network relied on by 1 million people in Bergen County alone.

"It's an argument Garrett's challengers have been making since 2002," fortune teller Jackson reports. "And so far, none has come close to succeeding."

The Nov. 4 election will decide representation in the boomerang-shaped 5th District.

Here is a post I wrote in 2012 on how The Record and Jackson treated Adam Gussen, then-Teaneck's deputy mayor, the previous Garrett challenger:

Nobody at The Record knows his name

Hackensack news

On the Local front today, Staff Writer Todd South reports Al Dib, Hackensack's legal analyst and historian, has unearthed information that "averts wrangling" over development of a 4.3-acre parking lot near Forschini Park, as the headline puts it (L-1).

South still hasn't done a follow-up to his story on a group of Democrats who propose to change the form of government and switch to partisan elections in an effort to regain the power they lost in 2013.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Law may bar Hackensack foes from getting on ballot

At the Hackensack Street Festival on Saturday, two women turned the Main Street pavement into their own private dance floor, above and below.





By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The 1923 law under which Hackensack's government was formed bars initiative and referendum, such as the proposal to return to partisan elections put forward by administration critics.

In what appears to be an attempt by Democrats to regain the power and patronage they lost in 2013, a group has proposed partisan City Council elections every two years, and allowing residents to introduce or repeal ordinances.

"Then what's the point of having a government?" said Teaneck Councilman Mohammed Hameedudin, the township's former mayor. 

The group, Hackensack Citizens for Good Government, is trying to get 4,000 signatures to put the proposed government change on the ballot.

But the 1923 Municipal Manager Form of Government law doesn't permit such a referendum, city officials say. 

The Council-Manager Form of government is said to be the most widely used form of government in the United States, despite limited use in New Jersey, including Hackensack.

I spoke briefly with group spokesman Ray Dressler on Saturday, when he was trying to gather signatures at the Hackensack Street Festival.

Dressler didn't say how many signatures he has on the petition, and nothing appeared in The Record today, a day after a long story on the group's proposed referendum. 

However, Dressler acknowledged the group is largely made up of Democrats while most members of the City Council are Republicans.



The aroma of shish kebab, above; fish balls, below, and other ethnic food tempted people strolling along Main Street.

Filipino fish balls ($2 a skewer) were served with a sweet or hot chili sauce.



The street menu of Citrus Cafe, one of the restaurants on Main Street.
Martial-arts students showing their form.

Unusually warm weather encouraged strolling.

People who attended the festival had to park blocks away, because shoppers parking was reserved for VIPs. This Upper Main Alliance lot on State Street remained largely empty on Saturday afternoon. Police officers were assigned to keep out residents and visitors.


Today's boring paper

When you have to flip back to The Record's Sunday Opinion section for something interesting to read, it makes you wonder what the editors were thinking when they made up Page 1 and the Local news front.

Brigid Harrison isn't even a staffer, but she exposes another one of Governor Christie's mean-spirited policies (O-1).

Lately, the opinions of this political science professor go against the tide of the largely positive coverage the GOP bully receives from the paper's Trenton staff and its fawning editorial writers.

In her second paragraph, Harrison notes "Christie's willingness to placate national conservatives in order to boost his shot at the GOP presidential nomination while defying the will -- or best interests -- of New Jerseyans."

To keep residents from seeing cuts in food stamps of up to $90 a month, states have increased heating assistance to qualify the hungriest citizens for a "Heat and Eat" program, Harrison says.

But New Jersey is among four states that have refused to do so, even though Democrats in the Legislature have urged Christie to allocate unused energy funds so 160,000 can avoid the food stamp cuts.

Jeeter Schmeeter

The Page 1 hysteria over Derek Jeeter's retirement continues today, and even Columnist Mike Kelly gets into the act on the Opinion front, where his outdated, shit-eating-grin photo defies readers.

The front-page story on street gangs in Paterson might engage readers, if Christie hadn't written off the city in 2011 and cut state aid, forcing Silk City to lay off 125 police officers and dismantle an anti-gang unit.

For the first time since the 2011 layoffs, The Record attributes them "to a combination of mismanagement of the city budget and cuts in state aid," while carefully omitting Christie's name (A-9).

Alzheimer's column

The Road Warrior column today is packed with numbers, percentages and other data from a poll on road safety and distracted driving (L-1).

Rewriting a poll is a real disservice to commuters, especially those who take mass transit, which Staff Writer John Cichowski has largely ignored in the 11 years he has masqueraded as the Road Warrior.

If the past is any guide, Cichowski, who exhibits symptoms of early Alzheimer's disease, wasn't able to accurately transpose most of the numbers from a press release.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

New Hackensack reporter isn't asking hard questions

At first blush, a proposal to change Hackensack's form of government, hold City Council elections every two years and allow residents to vote on repealing ordinances belongs in the toilet.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Buried in the Local section of The Record today is a long story on changing Hackensack's form of government that raises a lot of unanswered questions.

Staff Writer Todd South reports opponents of the mayor and other City Council members -- calling themselves Hackensack Citizens for Good Government -- are seeking 4,000 signatures on a petition to get their proposal on the ballot (L-3).

South, the new Hackensack reporter, says "defenders of the current administration charge that the group is linked to the government that was swept out of office in May 2013 and is trying to take back the City Council."

He said, she said

But nowhere does South ask Ray Dressler, identified as spokesman for the new group, if that is true, and whether he and others are allied with the Zisa family, local Democratic Party chairwoman Lynne Hurwitz and members of the Zisa-backed school board.

In fact, the Zisas and Hurwitz aren't even mentioned in the story.

'Zisaville'

The Zisa family ruled Hackensack for decades, and former Police Chief Ken "I Am The Law" Zisa is under house arrest as he appeals his 2012 conviction and 5-year prison sentence for official corruption and insurance fraud.

Under the Zisas, the city was referred to derisively as "Zisaville," and the Borg family's North Jersey Media Group abandoned Hackensack, taking its flagship paper with it and speeding the decline of Main Street.

'The committee'

South, the reporter, refers to Hackensack Citizens for Good Government as "the petition committee," and identifies its members as Dressler, Frank Rodriguez, Pargellan McCall, Ralph Rivera, Clara Krejsa and Rachel Velez.

But the story doesn't identify them further or say whether they are affiliated with a political party, an important detail given the group's proposal to return to partisan elections.

A Facebook page for Raymond Dressler says he lives in Hackensack. Dressler is the construction official in Mahwah, the same job he once had in Franklin Lakes.

City Democrat 

Another member of the group, Pargellan McCall, was appointed chairwoman of the Hackensack Housing Authority in 2004, when the Zisa family was in power, and is a former school board member.

She also is a Democratic committeewoman, suggesting that many of the most vocal opponents of the City Council are members of the party thrown out of power in 2013.

Clara Krejsa is listed in the story as another member of the group, and a Web site called Spokeo Inc. lists a Clara A. Krejsa, 77, of Hackensack, and actually shows a satellite photo of her home on Mary Street, near Route 80.

The group plans to gather signatures today at the Hackensack Street Festival on Main Street.

New reporter

South has covered at least two contentious meetings of the Hackensack City Council, and he failed in those instances to identify critics as being affiliated with the Zisa-backed school board, including two members who ran unsuccessfully in the 2013 City Council election.

The reporter previously worked in Tennessee, and doesn't seem to understand the ruthlessness of Jersey politics.

The worst kind of reporter to assign to Hackensack --where political factions are out for blood -- is one who doesn't bother digging for critics' real motivation.

That's especially the case at The Record, where the lazy, incompetent local assignment editors have been out to lunch for several years when it comes to Hackensack, the paper's home for more than 110 years. 

Today's paper

Page A-2 lists two more embarrassing corrections of stories that appeared in the Local section, which should be renamed the Loco section for saying Bogota Mayor Tito Jackson is running for re-election.

He is running to keep the job he was appointed to last November.

On the Local front, a story on a turnpike crash in Ridgefield Park that killed a tractor-trailer driver lacks even basic information on what caused a Jeep driver to lose control and hit a barrier (L-1).

Was the driver speeding, did a tire blow or did something on the vehicle break? 

And there is not a word on the resulting traffic backups, which were reported on TV news as stretching back to where the truck and car lanes merge in Newark.

For the third day in a row, the Local editors fill their columns with a single car crash photo and caption with no information on the cause (L-3).

There are more than 10 stories or photos in today's Local section with police, court and other Law & Order news, and even one story about the police.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Christie's own panel says he's failed on pension reform

With many businesses closed and residents off from work, the Jewish New Year effect was evident on Cedar Lane in Teaneck on Thursday afternoon, above. But some employers, including The Record, refuse to give Jewish employees paid time off for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The Record's editors couldn't bring themselves to put the story on Page 1 today, but a panel named by Governor Christie says the GOP bully has failed miserably to reform the public-employee pension system.

And the two Trenton reporters assigned to the story jumped through hoops to soft pedal the criticism from the nine-member panel (A-3).

"The report played down the impact of reforms passed in 2011, which Christie has held up as a model for other states [italics added]," Staff Writers John Reitmeyer and Melissa Hayes say.

Tax hike pushed

The lead paragraph emphasizes the "attention grabbing figures" offered by the panel:

"Every New Jersey household would have to write a $12,000 check just to close the $37 billion gap in pension funding ... and the state would need to double the amount of tax money dedicated for all benefits to 20 percent of the state budget."

To close a "$90 billion drain on future budgets," one of the options is "additional tax revenue" -- such as a surcharge on millionaires -- "something Christie states is not an option," according to the story.

Need money for roads 

Despite mounting evidence Christie's rigidly conservative no-tax policies are wrecking the state economy, The Record's editorial editor refuses to urge the governor to back an increase in the gas tax.

"You aren't going to fix New Jersey roads and bridges without money," is the introduction to an editorial on the state's broken Transportation Trust Fund (A-12).

Besides ignoring the fund also pays for mass-transit improvements, the editorial wimps out on recommending a hike in the gas tax -- apparently out of fear that would alienate the car dealers whose ad revenue has made the Borg publishing family rich.

Big wheel

Is it just a coincidence the last name of Afzal "Bobby" Khan rhymes with "con" (B-1)?

A group of people who owned Porsches, Bentleys and BMWs allege Khan sold their cars on consignment, never paid them and never transferred the titles.

Khan's luxury car dealership, Emporio Motor Group, is on Route 17 in Ramsey.

Terra firma

Today, Staff Writer Elisa Ung gives 2.5 stars to Terra, an Englewood restaurant that opened in May next to bergenPAC, replacing the Grand Cru Wine Bar.

Or, as her poorly edited sentence says, "Terra opened ... in the site of the former Grand Cru Wine Bar [italics added]."

The owners, Ung says, are Steven Sotland, previously a managing partner of Grand Cru, and his wife.

But the review doesn't say whether Stephen and Jennifer Borg still have an interest in Terra, as they once did in Grand Cru.



Thursday, September 25, 2014

Leave it to Christie to slow mass transit, not expand it

Q
NJ Transit adds cars to its trains to handle increased ridership, but many platforms are too short to accommodate them, such as this one in New Brunswick.
If police are going to search commuters' bags, that would worsen an already agonizingly slow commute on weekday afternoons for North Jersey residents who catch buses at the Port Authority's antiquated midtown Manhattan bus terminal, above.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

When it comes to the overburdened mass-transit system, Governor Christie has been consistent, doing everything in his power to kill any attempt to expand it and speed the commute for hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents.

At the same time, he's refused to raise the state gasoline tax (10.5 cents per gallon) -- the second lowest in the nation -- to revitalize the trust fund that pays for road and mass-transit improvements.

Today, The Record reports Christie joined New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in announcing plans for heightened anti-terrorism measures, including more police at mass-transit hubs (A-6).

On Page 1, Columnist Charles Stile again sounds like he is in Christie's pocket, peddling the ficiton our GOP bully has "bipartisan credentials" to burnish (A-1).

Legislative ignorance

Meanwhile, even the majority Democrats in the New Jersey Legislature are afraid of proposing a higher gasoline tax as the price dips below $3 a gallon.

Staff Writer Christopher Maag should have led his story on a Trenton hearing with the ridiculous remarks of Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, a woman I have previously admired (A-3).

"...I'm worried about the average family with four kids and two SUVs that spends $140 a week filling up their tanks," Oliver is quoted as saying. "If the gas tax is increased, what's the impact on them?"

Oliver apparently knows nothing about cars, especially how SUVs use more gas and are not considered as safe as smaller vehicles, as well as how they contribute to climate change.

Any family concerned about high fuel costs certainly wouldn't own two of them, and would trade in at least one SUV on a far more fuel-efficient vehicle.

SUV owners also drive more aggressively and speed more than owners of smaller vehicles -- on the parkway and turnpike, they menace slower drivers -- and get away with it because of lax enforcement.

Page 1 today

The Times-like front page today holds little interest for residents of Hackensack and many other towns.

There is municipal news in the paper today as the Local section's assignment editors and reporters finally got to work on Wednesday.

But it's unclear what Staff Writer Todd South does between the Hackensack City Council meetings he has covered.

Just puzzling

The big photo on L-1 today shows a woman staring into her phone as two police officers survey the damage to a demolished Chevrolet Traverse in Ridgewood.

Staffer Tariq Zehawi didn't bother finding out whether the woman was given a summons or what caused the crash, and the Woodland Park newsroom apparently didn't care either.

The drive-by photo is another example of the trivial filler that has been used by the desperate Local editors for years.

Readers would prefer to see the talented photo staffs' enterprise work, even weather photos, than an endless procession of non-fatal crashes and rollovers and photo captions with no information.

Too little, too late

Many weeks after the start of utility work and other construction work on Route 46 in Little Ferry and local streets, what's the point of today's Road Warrior column (L-1)?

The only bit of useful advice from Staff Writer John Cichowski is buried: 

Check the Web sites of PSE&G and municipalities for road and street closures.

A couple of paragraphs would have sufficed.

Second look

The Wednesday food page in Better Living is a far cry from the Wednesday food section Publisher Stephen A. Borg folded not long after he took over.

Now, Wednesday's BL-2 is largely devoted to promoting restaurants and local chefs, such as Adam Weiss of Due, a Ridgewood restaurant that received 3.5 out of 4 stars and a rare Page 1 promo from The Record last week.

In COFFEE WITH THE CHEF, Weiss, who is 37, talks about his love for Twix bars, salting pasta water "like the ocean" and molten chocolate cake.

If the paper's older readers followed his example, they would end up in the hospital.

The Record always provides a pronunciation guide to the name of the pricey restaurant, Due ("do-ay") lest some might think it rhymes with "doo" as in doo doo.

The pasta recipe from clueless freelancer Kate Morgan Jackson on Wednesday's BL-2 includes a half-cup of artery clogging heavy cream and 4 ounces-plus of full-fat blue cheese.

Where do I throw up?


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Seniors see sunlight, crime as local news and more

Gen. Enoch Poor, a Revolutionary War hero, died in Hackensack on Sept. 8, 1780, and was buried two days later at the First Reformed Church on Court Street, above, with full military honors and with Gen. George Washington, Lafayette and other senior military leaders in attendance. Today, his spirit lives on a couple of blocks away in General Poor's Tavern on Main Street, below.




By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The Record today publishes a rare photo of Senior Bergenitis, a species that inhabits every corner of Bergen County, but is rarely shown in public.

A Page 1 photo captures sun-splashed "dancers enjoying the song 'Shout' at the Bergen County Senior Citizen Picnic" on Tuesday in a Paramus park (A-1 and L-3).

The Woodland Park daily often portrays seniors as little more than inhabitants of nursing homes and critical-care facilities, and generally turns a blind eye to age discrimination in the workplace and in the media.

You have read far more about autism than Alzheimer's disease in The Record.

The paper's chief restaurant reviewer has eaten tons of butter and sugar, and its freelancers have published numerous artery clogging recipes of no interest to many seniors.

It's hard to understand how The Record generally ignores seniors when this is the group with all the money.

People over 55 buy the most cars, and travel lavishly. Yet, coverage is aimed at the young, who don't even read the paper.

Local crime news

Peter J. Sampson, the hard-working Bergen County Courthouse reporter, has three bylines on the Local front today, part of an onslaught of Law & Order news throughout the section.

With 70 towns in Bergen County alone, you'd think the lazy local assignment editors could come up with more municipal news, such as the impact on residents and businesses of all the tax-exempt property in Hackensack.

Evidently, Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza are bored with their jobs. 

The same could be said for Liz Houlton, the six-figure production editor who allows numerous errors, bad captions and clunky headlines to get into the paper.

Publisher Stephen A. Borg could cut those three, and save a ton of money.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

After shooting, Paterson officials won't talk to Mike Kelly

Traffic was tied into knots today at Main Street and Center Avenue in Fort Lee, where noisy utility work is driving people who live and work in the neighborhood crazy. Police positioned a patrol car to funnel motorists into a single Center Avenue lane. The engine was running, but the only occupant was a large teddy bear in the back seat.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Even the great Mike Kelly couldn't get Paterson Mayor Joey Torres and Police Director Jerry Speziale to comment on the apparent drive-by shooting that killed Nazareh Bugg, 14, a high school freshman, as she walked to a takeout restaurant.

Kelly's musings on breaking news usually appear on Page 1, but today, The Record leads the Local front with his column, including a factual error in the second sentence (L-1).

"On another patch of cracked Paterson sidewalk, where another teenage girl had been murdered in another drive-by shooting, the mothers gathered on Monday," Kelly reports.

Genesis and Nazareh

Putting aside that Kelly has been churning out crap like this for more than 20 years, Genesis Rincon was only 12 when she was killed on July 5; she wasn't, as Kelly says, a "teenage girl."

The follow-up to Nazareh's shooting appears on Page 1 today, and an editorial is on A-10, but neither raises the question of what a 14-old-girl was doing on Paterson's violent streets a few minutes before midnight on Saturday.

Nor does Kelly take any notice. He's too busy documenting "cracked sidewalks" in Paterson.

And The Record just can't bring itself to call Torres and Speziale a pair of official disgraces for allowing the cold-blooded murder of another innocent minority young girl so soon after the first. 

Paper is last again

A short story on Governor Christie losing 85 pounds since having lap-band surgery in February 2013 is from The Philadelphia Inquirer, which, in turn, quotes The New York Times (A-6).

Unfortunately, anyone who lives in New Jersey and isn't a multimillionaire like Publisher Stephen A. Borg are big losers, too, since Christie took office in 2010.

Taxing hospital

Staff Writer Lindy Washburn again fails to report a big reason  for Hackensack University Medical Center's financial health.

HUMC rang up $1.4 billion in annual revenue (L-1), but as "a non-profit," it pays no taxes on more than $180 million in property it owns in Hackensack.

That gives city residents big headaches.

Two other big tax-exempt entities in the city are Bergen County and Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Meanwhile, the Costco Wholesale in Hackensack will remain open after a new warehouse store is completed in Teterboro in November 2015, meaning no loss in property taxes to the hard-pressed city. 

See:

Good and bad news at Hackensack Costco Wholesale

Causes of death?

Local obituaries usually list a cause of death, but that information is missing in two of them today (L-6).

And Arthur "Bub" Tramontin, who died at 94, is called "part of a two-wheel dynasty," but a photo shows him sitting on a motorcycle with three wheels.



Monday, September 22, 2014

Read all about Paterson's deadly present, glorious past

The Bergen County Courthouse, the fifth such building in Hackensack since the city became the county seat in 1710, has a dome modeled on the U.S. Capitol. Unfortunately, this grand building, a new Justice Center going up nearby and all other county property is tax exempt, shifting a crushing burden onto residents and business owners.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Where is Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale, who grabbed headlines as Passaic County sheriff, the No. 2 cop at the Port Authority and police chief of a bankrupt town in Alabama?

In fact, why can't the Paterson police do anything to stop rampant gun violence, which took another innocent "young life" late Saturday night, according to a Page 1 story in The Record today?

Nazareh Bugg, 14, "was walking with friends along Clinton Street, less than a block from the basketball court she dreamed would be her way out of Paterson," the lead paragraph reports (A-1).

The Woodland Park daily says Paterson added police officers after the fatal July shooting of Genesis Rincon, 12, but still had "about 100 fewer than were employed before a 2011 layoff of 125 officers" (A-6).

Lousy reporting

Tomorrow, readers can expect Mike Kelly to write a front-page column, trying to find the "lesson" in the 14-year-old's death, and an editorial writer will wring his or her hands over gun violence in Silk City.

But don't expect the paper to report Governor Christie has the blood of Genesis and Nazareh on his hands, because his state-aid cuts forced the poor, largely minority city to lay off the 125 officers.

Officials in hiding

The paper's reporters couldn't even get Speziale to comment on Saturday night's shooting, and Mayor Joey Torres "could not be reached for comment."

"Paterson police issued a news release with few details," said the story, which was reported and written by three staffers and the editor of the Paterson Press.

This kind of reporting is pathetic, but typical of The Record since Publisher Stephen A. Borg took over and cut costs and veteran newsroom workers.

Purple prose

The story is written to hide its many reporting flaws:

"Soon after gunshots pierced one of the last nights of summer, 14-year-old Nazareh Bugg lay dying in the arms of a friend, as police arrived at the scene of yet another shooting that took the life of a North Jersey youngster" (A-1).

What moron wrote that? "North Jersey youngster"? 

North Jersey largely repudiates Paterson, Passaic and other communities filled with black and Hispanic residents, and racists in Saddle River and other wealthy towns aren't shedding any tears over the teen's death.

City's glorious past

On the Local front today, a story reports Cooper family descendants gathered on Sunday to celebrate Paterson companies that made thousands of diners (L-1).

But there is not a single reference to the city's violent and bloody present or how Christie, other politicians, Speziale and the police have turned their back on residents.

Update

The story was poorly edited, and the day of the shooting wasn't mentioned until the continuation page (A-6), where "late Saturday" appeared in a caption.

Like many readers I assumed it took place on Sunday.

In the text on A-6, the time of the Saturday shooting was given as 11:26 p.m.

Why was Nazareh and her friends allowed to stay out so late? The story is silent on that question.

Climate change

More than 300,000 people demonstrated in Manhattan on Sunday, demanding official action on climate change (A-1).

But North Jersey Media Group's objectivity on the issue is suspect, given all of the advertising revenue the publishing company reaps from automakers and dealers.

Fifteen years after Honda introduced the first hybrid car in America, consumer still have few affordable hybrid or all-electric cars to choose from.

Mass transit

Christie killed a pair of new Hudson River rail tunnels in 2010, "citing potential cost overruns," The Record reports today (A-1).

But Staff Writer Christopher Maag's detailed update on replacement tunnels and other mass-transit improvements continues to emphasize the high cost without giving equal time to the potential benefits.

The paper has done its best to ignore crowded trains, buses and midtown Manhattan's gridlocked terminal, as well as how little the Port Authority has done to expand mass transit.

Still, shouldn't every story on the high cost of new rail tunnels tell readers how many cars will be taken off the road, reducing gasoline consumption, pollution, traffic congestion and lost productivity, and put a dollar amount on the benefits? 

Feeling powerless

Crews have been tearing up streets in Hackensack and many other towns for several weeks now, but a story on the Local front today reports "first steps" in a plan to safeguard the power grid (L-1).

On L-3, a chart says the start date of gas-main replacement in Hackensack is "to be determined."

So why were Salem, State and other streets closed starting in August? Was other work being done?

And this afternoon, police had River Street, in front of The Record's mothballed headquarters, down to one lane in each direction, and a deep trench had been cut into the pavement.

As a service to readers, this story should have been reported earlier, and the local editors could have done a better job coming up with a schedule of the work to warn drivers. 



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Editors in no hurry to know what causes voter apathy

The First Reformed Church in Hackensack also is referred to as Church on the Green. The plaque notes, "Early records of this pioneer Dutch church, dated 1686, mark it as the second oldest in New Jersey."


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The front page today marks a new low in The Record's we-don't-know-what-else-to-write-about coverage of New Jersey.

Three years and a month before the next election for governor, Columnist Charles Stiles does his best to bore Sunday readers with speculation on who will run to replace Chris Christie.

But, as far as I can tell, The Record has ignored the contest for the 5th District seat in Congress that will be decided on Nov. 4.

Last November, according to NJ.com, the GOP bully won a second term "in a landslide, but the election drew the lowest voter turnout ever for a governor's race: 39.6 percent." 

The special election that sent Cory Booker to Washington "recorded the lowest voter turnout of any statewide election, at 25.4 percent," according to the Web site.

Local apathy

In Hackensack, City Council elections draw less than a fifth of the 19,000-plus registered voters, and school board elections are decided by even fewer residents.

Fairview Mayor Vincent Bellucci Jr., a veteran, wrote a letter to the editor to express his concern "over low voter turnout election after election."

The letter, which appeared on Saturday's A-13, said:

"This Election Day, rather than being apathetic, or lazy, wouldn't it be great to show our veterans that we truly appreciate their service and that the ultimate sacrifice of giving their lives is not forgotten by exercising our right to vote?"

Editorial apathy

Bellucci doesn't explore the cause of voter apathy, but just one look at the front pages of Saturday's and Sunday's papers show the editors of The Record are far from blameless.

Page 1 on Saturday was dominated by the NFL domestic violence "scandal," and two other major elements explored a surplus of deer and the sentencing of an ex-diner manager who tried to hire a hit man (A-1).

Today's front page has an equally ridiculous mix of stories -- football, parking meters, White House security and spanking -- just seven weeks or so before the next election (A-1).

Meanwhile, Stile and other members of The Record's Trenton staff, have written endlessly about the political impact of Christie's war on the middle and working classes in New Jersey.

Most editorials discuss the dying New Jersey economy without mentioning Christie policies or even his name.

Scott free

Has The Record covered the second attempt in recent years to unseat Rep. Scott Garrett, the deeply conservative Republican in the 5th District, which includes Hackensack, Fair Lawn and parts of Teaneck, among other towns?

The last challenger, then-Teaneck Mayor Adam Gussen, had a hard time getting his photo in the paper, let alone a profile.

In 2012, The Record's Herb Jackson decided the winner in a story reporting that Garrett, a Tea Party sympathizer who has helped bring Congress to a standstill, raised the most campaign cash.

Now, I can't recall a recent story about Roy Cho, a Democratic lawyer from Hackensack, who is Garrett's opponent in the Nov. 4 election.

What does Garrett stand for? How about Cho? What are the issues in the campaign, and how will New Jersey be affected?

Lazy, bored editors

Do The Record editors even know their proper role in an election?

In the last couple of decades, the lazy assignment editors have reduced coverage of local and school board elections.

If seats are not contested, The Record ignores the race, not even bothering to discuss the issues at stake.

Friday, September 19, 2014

As state economy implodes, Christie tries to hide the truth

A photo caption in The Record's Better Living section on Thursday incorrectly locates the statue of General Enoch Poor "at the Bergen County Courthouse" (BL-8), contradicting the caption on the section cover, which gives the correct location, Court and Moore streets in Hackensack, below, across the street from the courthouse.

For some reason, The Name-Dropper column on the Revolutionary War general doesn't mention General Poor's Tavern on Main Street, a watering hole that was the scene of many newsroom going away parties before The Record left Hackensack in 2009. 


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Today's front-page news that Governor Christie is hiding lagging tax-revenue data follows by one day The Record's lead story on New Jersey's weak job market, lower incomes and higher poverty rates:


N.J. recovery lagging

Yet an editorial today doesn't even mention Christie's name, but urges "New Jersey lawmakers to put politics aside" (A-12).

Nor does the editorial question any of his policies, such as giving hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks to wealthy business owners and getting little job creation in  return.

If the Christie administration is hiding "precise figures for how much the state expected to see in taxes compared with what was actually collected" (A-1), then The Record's editorial also seems to be hiding the truth.

We know from a Page 1 story in The Record on Wednesday the GOP bully's conservative pledge not to raise taxes on his rich supporters has made him desperate to balance the state budget:

"Last year, Christie used $147.5 million of the $165 million from two previous Passaic River [pollution] settlements to balance the budget," Staff Writer Scott Fallon reported.

"And since becoming governor in 2010, Christie has taken $1 billion from clean energy money for the general fund."

Here's come the judge

A state Superior Court judge was making $165,000 a year in 2012, but today's story on judges coming in as early as 6 a.m., staying as late as 9 p.m. and working weekends doesn't say whether they are being paid overtime (A-1).

Assignment Judge Peter E. Doyne has blamed the problem on a quarter of the Bergen County judgeships going unfilled.

But what about litigious lawyers clogging the court docket with frivolous cases just to boost their already considerable annual incomes?

Editor dons kilt

Today's story on Scottish independence is a total waste of front-page space in a local North Jersey daily (A-1).

But Editor Marty Gottlieb actually sent a reporter to interview  "expats" in Kearny, way outside the circulation area, and ran another Page 1 story on Thursday.

Gottlieb, who came to The Record from a lofty position as international editor of The New York Times, has never understood the role of a local newspaper, especially in view of saturation coverage of international news by the electronic media.

Stomach turning

The Record's editors have turned their back on the consumer when it comes to covering restaurants and chefs.

Keeping restaurant ad revenue flowing into the coffers of North Jersey Media Group seems to have blinded them to restaurant patrons' many gripes, which I never see in the paper.

Look at today's rave review of Due in Ridgewood, described as "a refined Italian BYO," even though Chef Adam Weiss serves an inauthentic shrimp and grits, and charges $30 for the dish (BL-18).

Staff Writer Elisa Ung devotes two full paragraphs to Due's artery clogging desserts, which many readers avoid like the plague.

And the restaurant's supposed turnaround is actually heralded on Page 1 -- a first. Can the place really be that good?

Clueless food editor

More breathless coverage was published on Wednesday from none other than Food Editor Esther Davidowitz.

On the Better Living cover, Davidowitz's Behind the Kitchen Door praised Andiamo in Haworth and owner Don Dickstein.

On the next page, Davidowitz interviewed John Halligan of Park Steakhouse and Park West Tavern for Coffee with The Chef.

Davidowitz allows Halligan to say "the dish I'm most proud of" are "our steaks," but doesn't dare question him on whether they are raised naturally.

Later, he claims "we don't make a dime on the steaks we serve," and "I spend $100 a day on bread that we give away."

But there is nothing in the interview about the low wages he pays servers, putting the burden on customers to tip well or else, or the outrageous markup he takes on a glass of wine.

On the same page Wednesday, the FYI column appears to reprint a half-dozen restaurant press releases verbatim.

Restaurant gripes

See the August 2014 issue of Consumer Reports on the top gripes of people when they are dining out, including dirty tables, utensils or restrooms, and gratuities of 18% or higher automatically added to the bill.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed 1,003 adults nationwide in March 2014.

Ung, the paper's chief restaurant reviewer, recently dismissed Consumer Reports as the magazine "many of us use to buy a washing machine."

Hackensack news

On Wednesday's Local front, The Record reported the hiring of David R. Troast, 54, of Hawthorne as Hackensack's new city manager at a salary of $152,700.

The story doesn't say how much Troast's predecessors made, nor does it report that unlike them, Troast won't be commuting in a city owned car.

Former City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono was paid about $167,000.

Todd South, The Record's new Hackensack reporter, published background from previous stories, including errors and omissions.

He describes Troast from 2010 to 2013 as "city manager of Sparta," which is a township (L-1 on Wednesday).

Later, he reports, Troast was a "city planner" for the township of Sparta from 1996 to 2010, instead of the correct "township planner."

South also cites complaints from "many residents," without identifying some of the most vocal critics as being affiliated with the city Board of Education, including two members who ran unsuccessfully against the current City Council in 2013.