Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Page 1 stories speak volumes about broken government

"Baring Our Soles" is an exhibit at the Johnson Public Library in Hackensack, above and below, sponsored by the Center for Hope and Safety, formerly Shelter Our Sisters, which helps battered women in Bergen County.


You know we are mired in deep doo-doo when James P. Fox has been able to move easily between the public and private sectors without raising any ethical concerns.

Today, a Page 1 story in The Record argues whether Fox, the state's transportation commissioner and former lobbyist for United Airlines, broke the law simply by attending a public meeting where the airline was mentioned (A-1).

Below that on one of the dreariest front pages in weeks from Editor Martin Gottlieb is another story on our broken election system, which is driven by special interest money.

I can see the death of Yogi Berra taking up a big part of Page 1, but why is his funeral and photos of former Yankees out front today and not in Local or Sports?

Local news

Staff Photographer Marko Georgiev's enterprise photo of a flooded parking lot reflecting a cloudy blue sky on L-3 today is what readers want to see more of.

It's far better than all of those shots of rollover and other non-fatal accidents with captions that tell you absolutely nothing about the possible cause, names of those involved and whether any charges were filed.

Still, on most days, local Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza can't seem to put out a local-news section without relying on such photos as well as a heavy dose of police, fire and court news.

Food news

Page BL-2 in the Better Living section today shows you how far The Record has declined in the years since the paper folded an entire section devoted to food; downtown restaurants, shops and caterers; recipes and related news.

Clueless freelancer Kate Morgan Jackson of Upper Saddle River strikes again with another unhealthy recipe, Chicken Francese, which certainly doesn't need three tablespoons of artery clogging butter to taste great (BL-2). 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Hackensack is paying new attorney as much as Christie

During a spirited discussion of tax breaks for downtown apartment developers on Monday night, Hackensack Board of Education Attorney Richard Salkin was uncharacteristically deferential when he addressed City Council members; City Manager David R. Troast, left front; and Alexander H. Carver III, right front, the new city attorney, a job Salkin once held.


Alexander H. Carver III, who is Hackensack's new city attorney, is being paid a flat rate of $175,000 a year -- or $10,000 more than his salary when he left the Superior Court bench in 2013.

He also is making as much as Governor Christie, who picked the last Hackensack city attorney, Thomas Scrivo, to be his chief counsel in Trenton.

In addition to the maximum of $175,000 a year, Carver and his firm, Harwood Lloyd, will be paid legal fees associated with litigation, according to The Record.

Three-quarters of The Record's story today is filled with Carver's exploits as a Superior Court judge "who pulled no punches," but doesn't mention the city will pay him and his firm at a rate of $150 an hour (L-1).

When Scrivo was city attorney in 2014, Hackensack removed two city managers and a public relations consultant, running up legal bills topping $200,000 in six months.

During the Zisa years, Hackensack routinely paid its city attorney more than $250,000 a year, one official said.


Do you hear mooing?

Most of the discussion and debate on the appointment of Carver, as well as tax abatements for downtown apartment developers, occurred on Monday during the Committee of the Whole meeting, which started at 6:30 p.m.

When City Council members convened for the regular meeting at 8 p.m., they ran through more than two dozen resolutions read off in rapid-fire fashion by the city clerk before they were open to public discussion and then a council vote.

Members of the public, such as City Council candidate Richard Cerbo, were limited to 5 minutes each, but could have spoken longer at the COW session.

City tax breaks

On Monday, the Hackensack City Council approved the introduction of two resolutions designating the redevelopers of 150-170 Main St. and 210 Main St.

Other resolutions were introduced to grant the apartment and retail developers tax abatements of 30 years and 25 years, respectively.

Cerbo, son of a former mayor, addressed the council, saying "10 years [of tax breaks] is plenty."

But Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino said the apartment and retail projects would never get built without the longer abatements, also referred to as payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT).

Canestrino noted the land and buildings at 150-170 Main St. are paying tax revenue of $228,277 a year, compared to the first-year payment of $802,605 after the project is completed.

Meanwhile, the city's annual street festival is set for Saturday from 10 a.m. t0 6 p.m., rain or shine.

Among the entertainment is Village People. 

Today's paper

Nearly six years after he took office, Christie says he is open to raising the gas tax and creating a stable source of funding for the Transportation Trust Fund (A-1).

His refusal to raise the second-lowest gas tax in the nation helped drivers, even though logically they should pay for repairing the roads and bridges they use.

But the GOP dictator moved decidedly against mass-transit users by killing the Hudson River rail tunnels, and stood by when the Port Authority refused to expand bus operations into Manhattan.

He also cut state subsidies to NJ Transit, forcing the agency to raise fares and cut service.

The Record's coverage of mass transit is so sophisticated a reporter today refers to NJ Transit's sleek, electrified light-rail system as "trolleys" (L-3).

And, like Christie, the Woodland Park daily has paid far more attention to drivers and driving, as evidenced by a dozen years of Road Warrior columns largely devoted to no other topics.

Hackensack Costco

The Record today is reporting Costco Wholesale is planning to convert its Hackensack warehouse to "a more specialized business center" after the store closes Oct. 13.

A bigger Costco is scheduled to open in Teterboro on Oct. 14.

In October 2014, the same reporter said the Hackensack Costco would be closing permanently, making the 14.8-acre parcel available for redevelopment.

So much for the reliability of The Record's business reporting.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Touting bacon, editors ignore abuse of pigs, health issues

The W-brand of uncured bacon sold at Trader Joe's in Paramus comes from pigs raised without antibiotics that have proven harmful to humans. Today, The Record urges readers to eat as much bacon as possible, even if it is pumped full of additives and preservatives.


If you're a big fan of the Mets or some of the unhealthiest food on the planet, you'll find a couple of alternatives to the 10th straight day of Pope Francis coverage on the front page of The Record.

Francis did accomplish a minor miracle:

Coverage of his Philadelphia appearances seems to have completely pushed mention of Governor Christie out of the paper today.

New bus depot

An editorial on A-12 today criticizes the Port Authority for delaying a decision on a new bus terminal in midtown Manhattan.

The editors continue to ignore a short- and long-term solution to delays at the antiquated depot, as outlined by commuter Richard Scala of River Edge:

"Unless the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey commits to dedicating an entire Lincoln Tunnel tube (not lane) for buses and installs a westbound exclusive bus lane in the evening rush hour ... future generations will endure the same commuter woes as their parents and grandparents," Scala said in a letter to the editor (Saturday's A-13).

Bacon obsession

The mistreatment of pigs on factory farms is well-known, but freelancer Kate Morgan Jackson of Upper Saddle River could care less.

Today, on the Better Living cover, she is back with more unhealthy recipes, this time for artery clogging bacon, one of the foods blamed for sudden heart attacks (BL-1 and BL-2).

"I'm glad bacon is getting so much love and attention," the clueless Jackson says of pork industry promotions, "but as far as I am concerned, every day is bacon day."

Click on the following link to see a shocking video from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals:

Bacon in 60 Seconds Flat

Sunday, September 27, 2015

No man has said so much, only to be ignored by so many

Even on a Sunday, lanes on Anderson and River streets in Hackensack were closed, this time for work by PSE&G. One lane of South River Street near the county jail also was closed for replacement of the sidewalk and curb. Also closed are the Court Street Bridge and West Fort Lee Road in Bogota.


Readers looking for relief from the 24/7 coverage of Pope Francis get hit over the head today by another crappy baseball column on Page 1 of The Record.

That's played next to a Washington Post story on the partisan political paralysis in Congress, now dominated by conservative Republicans (A-1).

The piece at the bottom of the front page on the gender gap in coaching youth sports seems like an afterthought (A-1).

And it raises questions about why Editor Martin Gottlieb doesn't commission a similar story on the gender gap in print journalism.

Pope in Philly

The A-1 story on Francis in Philadelphia is the ninth straight day his Cuba and U.S. visits have been played on the front page of the Woodland Park daily.

It's doubtful anyone in power is going to act on anything he said in New York or Philadelphia.

Three U.S. Supreme Court justices -- Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, all conservative Catholics -- boycotted Francis' speech to a joint session of Congress.

Many conservative Republicans basically said Francis should mind his own business instead of urging the eradication of poverty, reforming immigration and slowing climate change, among other issues the GOP refuses to budge on.

On Saturday, Mike Kelly's A-1 column on Francis in Manhattan appeared under this sub-headline:

A busy day
of spreading
'good vibes' 

Local news?

Today's Road Warrior is like so many written by Staff Writer John Cichowski, who hijacked the commuting column a dozen years ago (L-1).

His piece on traffic deaths is filled with mind-numbing statistics, and sheds no light on the daily nightmare North Jersey commuters face, whether they drive or take a bus or train.

The Local front is dominated by a big photo and story on a motorcycle accident that injured rap star Fetty Wap in his hometown of Paterson (L-1).

On second reference, he is referred to as "Fetty Wap," not just "Wap," in contrast to normal practice.

The small photo and caption on naming of a footbridge to honor Harold Bloom, former principal of Hackensack High School, is the first coverage of anything to do with schools in the city for at least a year, if not longer (L-1).

VW drivers

The Business front today reports on Volkswagen drivers who feel betrayed by the automaker's illegal diesel engines, installed in 11 million cars worldwide (B-1).

The story comes six days after The New York Times did the same reaction piece to heavy air pollution from so-called clean diesels, interviewing former Record photographer John Decker, among others.

Business reporter Richard Newman managed to interview another former Record staffer, Olga Wickerhauser of Fleminton. 

Business is eight pages today, but readers find only only one other staff written story, which makes you wonder what the section editors do all week for their inflated salaries.

Hidden meaning

On the Opinion front, I got a kick out of hidden meaning in the headline over yet another Kelly column on Francis:


The veteran reporter has been an opinion columnist for more than two decades now, but he rarely has any opinions or message for readers.

South Korea

Is the ban on South Korea travel stories over (T-1)?

On the Travel cover today, the Washington Post piece on Seoul ends an apparent ban imposed by Travel Editor Jill Schensul, a vegetarian and dog lover, that dates to at least to the late 1990s.

It's significant that Schensul didn't travel there herself.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Christie helps Camden again, but still ignores Paterson

This block of Forest Avenue off of River Road in Teaneck is another street that hasn't been repaved for eons, even though residents pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation.


Governor Christie is up to his old dirty political tricks again in Camden, where he unveiled a $1 billion waterfront project.

And The Record's editors and reporters are swallowing his B.S. hook, line and sinker (A-3).

How's that for a mixed metaphor to describe the story by Staff Writer Melissa Hayes?

In a bubble

Hayes, who is assigned to cover the GOP bully and his so-called presidential campaign, inhabits a bubble.

How else could she report that Christie on Thursday claimed:

"The news media were skeptical when he took office and reached out to Democrats. He said there were allegations of backroom deals."

The Record's chief political columnist, Charles Stile, was never skeptical of Christie's claims of cooperating with the Democrats who control the state Legislature.

Stile has filled numerous Page 1 columns with that preposterous notion, as recently as a few weeks ago.

More B.S.

Then, Hayes has the gall to quote Christie saying:

"Political leaders in this state have decided to drop their R's and their D's and instead put forward their NJ's. We care more about our state than we care about our party."

How could Hayes not challenge such nonsense, when on the next page readers see a banner headline reporting the Senate has failed again to override a Christie veto (A-4)?

"As in all the other tries in the past five years, the Democrats ... were unable to get the necessary support from Republicans ....," The Record notes.

Missing from the story is the total number of vetoes Christie has exercised (more than 350), and his political retaliation against Democrats like the mayor of Fort Lee, triggering the Bridgegate lane-closure scandal.

Why not Paterson?

Hayes story doesn't explain why "Christie has made revamping Camden a cornerstone of his governorship" while allowing Paterson and the rest of New Jersey go to hell (A-3).

In the 2010 census, Camden didn't even rank in the top 10 of communities with the biggest population, but Paterson was the third most-populous city behind Newark and Jersey City.

In fact, The Record's editors have never questioned all of the attention Christie has paid to Camden compared to Paterson, were gun violence claimed the lives of four innocent young people in less than a year.

Campaign lies

In Camden, Christie has tried "to improve the schools, reduce violence through a regional police force and bring businesses back to the city," Hayes says, noting they are among the governor's "talking points" on his doomed quest for the GOP presidential nomination (A-3).

That may fly in Iowa and New Hampshire, but in Paterson, Christie is a dirty word.

Pope Francis

The Record assigned at last seven reporters, one staff photographer and an unknown number of editors to Pope Francis' arrival in New York on Thursday (A-1, A-8, A-9 and L-1).

An eighth reporter is in Philadelphia, where Francis goes next. 

How many reporters will be assigned to follow-up on how none of the pope's initiatives -- from eradicating poverty to immigration reform to easing climate change -- will ever become a reality in the United States as long as conservative and Tea Party Republicans control Congress?

Today, the main story on Page 1 reports the pope sent "a remarkable message of empathy ... to my Muslim brothers and sisters" after a stampede killed more than 700 in Mecca.

Trump, Carson

Of course, the leading contender for the GOP presidential nod, Donald Trump, has for years demonized President Obama, and questioned whether he was born in the United States.

And at a recent town hall meeting, Trump didn't contradict a speaker who said Obama is a Muslim.

And the Uncle Tom named Ben Carson, who is second in the polls, said a Muslim should never become president.

Going to Totowa?

I wonder how many Bergen County residents are going to jump into their cars and drive to Totowa on horrendous Route 80 for dinner at Ristorante Benissimo (2.5 out of 4 stars on BL-16)?

I am so tired of all the Passaic County restaurant reviews from Elisa Ung, who can't seem to find anything but Italian-American or Turkish food out there.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pope's visit won't change poverty, immigration and politics

Construction workers adding hundreds of apartments overlooking traffic on Route 4 east in Englewood. Meanwhile, the city's downtown merchants haven't been helped much by the thousands of people who already live in buildings on both sides of the highway.

This storefront on North Dean Street, near Palisade Avenue, Englewood's main business street, has been vacant for months.


With Governor Christie running New Jersey and other uncharitable Republicans controlling Congress, Pope Francis' message of hope and unity will fall on deaf ears.

You have to wonder why The Record and other media have been publishing hundreds of thousands of words and images for a full week now on Francis' first visit to the United States (A-1, A-6, L-7).

A big break in that coverage is the death of Yogi Berra, but you won't find the best story about the Yankees legend on the front page or in the Sports section today (A-1 and S-1).

On Page 1, sports Columnist Bob Klapisch's first line is an instant turnoff:

"This was way back in the early 2000s...."

On the Sports front, Columnist Tara Sullivan can't wait to tell readers about "my few, if memorable, intersections with Yogi...."

For the most moving story about Yogi, see Jay Levin's piece on his Montclair neighbors, who recall Berra as a regular guy.

The story is on the front of the Local section under a great headline:

"His home field since 1958"

Other news

Also on Page 1 today, Staff Writer Shawn Boburg is telling NJ Transit bus riders a new Manhattan terminal one block west of the current hub will take 13 years to build and cost $9 billion (A-1).

But there's not a single word in his long account about the easiest way to ease delays at the antiquated terminal now -- running two express bus lanes into the Lincoln Tunnel during the morning and afternoon rush hours. 

In the years Boburg has been covering the Port Authority, he has written little about the bi-state agency's rail and bus operations. 

Ken Zisa

On the Local front, Staff Writer Todd South is reporting a judge is giving the lawyer for Ken Zisa and an assistant prosecutor four months to prepare for a motion to dismiss the remaining charge of official misconduct against the former Hackensack police chief and state assemblyman (L-1).

Four months?

Our glacial legal system is a national disgrace that seems designed to line the pockets of defense attorneys, impoverish defendants and deny many others access to the courts.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Second look: 9/11 photo, IRS scam, Fidel, climate change

Richard L. Cerbo speaking at a Hackensack City Council meeting on Sept. 1. Cerbo, son of a former mayor, is running in a special Nov. 3 election for an open council seat under the banner of "We can do better." His name appears first on the ballot, which lists three other candidates.


With another front page dominated by Pope Francis' first visit to the United States, I'm taking a second look today at recent photos and stories that made their own big splash in The Record.

The photo on the front page the day after the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America was simple and moving:

A father flanked by his two sons, all wearing first-responder uniforms, bowing their heads as they looked at the name of a relative at the memorial in lower Manhattan (A-1 on Sept. 12).

Tall and short

But another photo from the same staff photographer, Chris Pedota, showed a rare gathering of officials at the ceremony, including Governors Christie and Cuomo and the former and current mayors of New York City (A-8 on Sept. 12).

Cuomo is only a few inches taller than Christie, who stood next to him, but I'm sure I wasn't the only reader who was reminded of how much more he has done for the people and economy of New York than the GOP bully has done for the Garden State.

Christie's regressive policies and unbending conservatism are the principal reasons New Jersey remains in the shadow of New York and so many other states.

Yet Editor Martin Gottlieb continues to assign several reporters and editors to Christie's so-called presidential campaign while largely neglecting the state's downward spiral.

Cars v. buses

At the other end of the photo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio towers over his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg may be short, but more than any other previous mayor, he tried and succeeded in taking back the city's streets from cars, and failed only in getting drivers to pay a special toll for entering Midtown.

That story was ignored by The Record, even though tens of thousands of North Jersey residents were affected by the relentless spread of parking meters, red-light cameras, bike lanes, bike-sharing stations and other restrictions.

In New Jersey and at The Record, the car is king, as can be seen from more than a decade of Road Warrior columns examining driving and drivers from every possible angle while ignoring mass transit and related commuting issues.

Mounting traffic congestion at the Hudson River crossings, despite higher tolls, increases pollution and speeds climate change, but the Port Authority hasn't been criticized for refusing to expand rail and bus service into Manhattan.

It's not clear whether that coverage has anything to do with all of the advertising from car dealers and manufacturers in the Woodland Park daily, revenue that is helping to keep the Borg family's North Jersey Media Group afloat.

IRS scams

Kudos to Staff Writer Chris Harris for his riveting expose on IRS scams in New Jersey, including a sidebar recounting his phone call "with a group of IRS scammers," that led the paper on Sept. 18.

I may have missed it, but Harris could have made the point the Internal Revenue Service always sends notices about back taxes or tax underpayments by good, old-fashioned snail mail.

So just hang up if you get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS.

Cuba coverage

The coverage of Cuba and Pope Francis' visit to the largest island in the Caribbean was especially weak (last Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday), principally because most of it was handled by long-winded Columnist Mike Kelly, who was sent to Havana.

Much of his reporting sounded like an echo of what The Record published the last time a pope visited Cuba.

However, the photos with his columns were supplied by a freelancer, not a staff photographer, in another sign the Woodland Park daily is cutting corners.

One story Kelly didn't cover was the meeting of Francis and Fidel Castro.

Castro, 89, has often been demonized by the media, especially in the years when The Record assigned two Cuban exiles, Miguel Perez and Liz Llorente, to cover the onetime Cuban leader.

Climate change

I chuckled when I read a Washington Post story on The Record's A-6 on Monday reporting "the two [Francis and Fidel] ... discussed their mutual concerns about climate change."

That same day, the editors gave front-page coverage to owners of gasoline-engine cars who spend many thousands of dollars to lower them.

Yet, I have yet to see equal time on A-1 for owners of purely electric vehicles and others drivers who are trying to help the environment.

Every time the price of gasoline drops, The Record trots out a celebratory story on how much drivers are saving, but ignores the impact of more driving on pollution and climate change.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Editors are calling all Catholics and ignoring the rest of us

Teaneck Road and Forest Avenue, where two lanes merge into one, is one of the many traffic bottlenecks in Teaneck that frustrate motorists.


The Record's front-page coverage of Pope Francis' visit to Cuba and the United States drones on today for the fifth day in a row.

From Havana, Columnist Mike Kelly managed to push around tens of thousands of words about Cuba on Saturday, Sunday and Monday without discussing the impact of the decades-long U.S. trade embargo on the island's economy.

GOP bully

In other news, political Columnist Charles Stile is back with another effort to keep Governor Christie's struggling presidential campaign alive (A-1).

"Christie isn't showing any signs of leaving this race anytime soon," Stile reports, basing his conclusion on interviews with "political analysts" (A-4).

Readers say...

Of course, readers became disgusted with Christie months ago, but The Record's lazy assignment editors aren't about to interview any of them.

Their only forum is Your Views (A-8), where letters to the editor appear:

"His refusal to pay for the special costs for his security detail during his presidential run while allowing our state to further decline is inexcusable," says Vince Giovinco of Mahwah.

"The governor should stay home and run the state."

Hackensack news

In Local, the editors managed to find room among all of the Law & Order and Passaic County news for a story about Hackensack (L-1).

For the second year in a row, the state has approved a long-term bond that allows the city to settle another portion of an estimated $30 million in property tax appeals, Staff Writer Todd South reports.

Pope in N.Y.

On Monday, The Record's transportation reporter provided more tips and advice to commuters (and people going to see the pope) than has ever appeared in the paper at any one time.

Also on Monday's front page, The Record focused on drivers who pour tens of thousands of dollars into their cars to get them to ride inches above the ground.

As if that isn't bad enough, the story was assigned to Christopher Maag, the transportation reporter.

If commuters wonder why their awful experiences on NJ Transit buses and trains rarely make the paper, the answer may be that the editors think of a horse race, low riders and other fluff as "transportation" stories.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Stale Cuba reporting distracts from Christie's 'dictatorship'

11:30 a.m. FRIDAY: Getting a new driver's license at the state motor vehicle agency in North Bergen took about an hour from when I got on line behind a dozen other people, above, outside the building in a shopping center at 90th Street and Bergenline Avenue. Last Tuesday, I went to the Lodi agency, but was told the wait was at least 2 hours.
12:10 p.m. FRIDAY: I waited on an even longer line inside the building to have my documents checked, then was in sight of the camera, above. After my photo was taken and I paid with a credit card, I had to wait about 10 minutes more for the making and laminating of the license itself. The clerk said I may be able to renew by mail when my 4-year license expires in 2019. 


When a pope visits Cuba, Editors like Martin Gottlieb of The Record and reporters like Mike Kelly always manage to find a long-suffering island resident who complains about the lack of free elections and yearns for democracy.

Yet, on the third day of Kelly's stale reporting from Cuba, The Record is silent on how special-interest money, a gullible media and voter apathy have made a mockery of free elections in the United States, including New Jersey.

Despite inheriting a Democratic majority in the state Legislature, Governor Christie has managed to get his own way and wage war on the middle class by executing more than 350 vetoes since early 2010.

And despite all his bluster, Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, a Democrat from Camden County, has failed to overturn a single Christie veto.

The GOP dictator won his first term by promising to lower property taxes and save millions through consolidation of inefficient local governments, but accomplished neither.

Page 1 news?

Local readers don't find much to interest them on Page 1 today unless they are Catholic or Rutgers football fans (A-1).

From Havana, Kelly files a rewrite of the stories The Record published when other popes visited Cuba.

The first pope to visit Cuba, in 1998, was John Paul II, so what it meant by the use of "historic visit" in front-page coverage today of Pope Francis' trip to the biggest island in the Caribbean?

Pope Benedict XVI also visited the island in 2012.

Local news?

Why does a fundraiser for the Girl Scouts get such big play on the Local front today?

It's because they staged their "rappelling fundraiser" in the same Woodland Park building where The Record and Herald News rent space for a newsroom and executive offices, though there is no mention of that (L-1).

That meant the lazy local assignment editors didn't have to move a finger to send a reporter and a photographer to cover "the big story."

After The Record moved to 1 Garret Mountain Plaza from Hackensack in 2009, the number of stories and photos on nearby Route 80 accidents and other neighborhood happenings rose dramatically.

Missing pages?

Today, the Business editors publish a "reporter's notebook" on the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce's first business summit (B-1).

Staff Writer Hugh R. Morley managed to cover a dozen speakers, "some saying the state faces an emergency situation, and even a 'crisis'," without once mentioning Christie.

Did Morley lose pages of his notebook or did the Woodland Park editors sanitize his story on B-1 today?

Opinion columns

On the Opinion front, don't bother with a second rambling Kelly column on the pope's visit to Cuba, but do turn to Brigid Harrison's piece under the headline:

"Christie learns where pandering gets you"

"The man who spoke about putting the country's domestic house in order occasionally comes home to New Jersey to a ransacked and ramshackle state, with little vision for how we can get our own house in order," Harrison says of Christie on O-2.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Editors don't dare compare daily Cuban life to violent U.S.

Lane restrictions on Main and Anderson streets, above, and Main and Passaic streets in Hackensack on Thursday and Friday had many drivers going in circles.


The biggest laugh line in Mike Kelly's Page 1 column on Cuba today is that many young people are "mired in low-wage jobs and unable to buy homes."

But isn't that exactly what The Record has been reporting for months about fast-food workers in the United States who have been calling for a minimum hourly wage of $15?

Kelly and Editor Martin Gottlieb, who sent the reporter to Havana, don't dare compare daily life on the Caribbean's biggest island to New Jersey and the rest of the United States (A-1).

No gun problem

For one thing, Cubans don't live with the kind of rampant gun violence that has taken so many innocent lives on the streets of Paterson, and in schools, churches and malls across the country.

Cuban youth aren't dying from the heroin overdoses that have become an epidemic in affluent Bergen County.

The 1956 revolution also ended discrimination against black Cubans -- the kind of equality that continues to elude black Americans -- and built schools and clinics in rural areas that had none.

Kelly does mention free universal health care and education in Cuba, but readers won't find a comparison of the two economic systems (A-8).

A Cuban friend standing next to one the beautifully restored American cars that tourists see all over Havana.

Low cost of living

Cuban wages are low, and so is the cost of living.

When I last visited the island in 2004, one of my hosts was paying rent equal to $1.35 a month, and after 30 years he became the owner of the apartment in Central Havana.

A typical monthly water bill in a Havana walk-up was 25 cents. A pound of tomatoes was 5 cents, and the government issued coupons for free food, toilet paper and other commodities.

For Cubans, tickets to the famed National Ballet were 10 cents, and they would often resell them to tourists for $10, the going price at the box office.

In 2006, The Wall Street Journal cited a study that estimated Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces controlled more than 60% of the island's economy -- from owning hotels and restaurants to leasing offshore lots for oil exploration.

In one of my visits, I saw a farmer's market in Havana selling organic vegetables grown by the military.

Greed victory

Also on Page 1 today, the Christie administration handed a victory to Avalon Bay, the real-estate investment trust that used cheap wood construction in an Edgewater apartment complex that burned down in January (A-1).

New building codes taking effect on Monday won't require more sprinklers, including in attic spaces; masonry firewalls between apartments (not buildings, as The Record says), and other improvements sought by residents, firefighters and lawmakers (A-8).

Bergen news?

Four major stories and two briefs from Paterson appear in the Local section delivered to Bergen County readers today (L-1, L-2, L-3 and L-6).

Readers looking for important local news on Page 1 were shut out by Gottlieb, who gave a sports columnist free reign to write about baseball.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Hackensack Democrats try to claw way back into power

In June, Board of Education Attorney Richard Salkin conferred with Lynne Hurwitz, who runs the Hackensack Democratic Organization, which suffered a humiliating defeat in the 2013 City Council election. Salkin lost his second job as municipal prosecutor as a result.

Board of Education President Jason Nunnermacker is hoping to take back one City Council seat for the Democrats in a special November election, even though he was a member of the losing sate in 2013. The Record has done a poor job of exposing the partisan rancor that has dominated meetings for more than two years.


Behind the facade of Hackensack's non-partisan City Council elections, the two major parties battle for the hearts and minds of an apathetic electorate.

Only 3,000 to 4,000 votes are cast in the May balloting every four years in a city with about 20,000 registered voters.

Now, the city's Democratic Organization is trying to claw its way back into power after its entire slate went down in defeat in 2013.


Bergen County Democrats were part of the political establishment that kept the Zisa family in power for decades, filling jobs with loyal party members and contributors.

In a message to Bergen Democrats, Lynne Hurwitz, head of city Democrats, is asking for financial support to elect Board of Education President Jason Nunnermacker to a vacant seat on the council.

Nunnermacker was part of the Open Government slate, allied with the Zisas, that lost the May 2013 election to reformers who ran under the banner of Citizens for Change.

Council critics

Since losing the election, Nunnermacker, former running mates and fellow board members have appeared at nearly every meeting to attack the reformers, including Councilwoman Rose Greenman, who resigned, setting up the special Nov. 3 election.

In her message, Hurwitz claims Nunnermacker "has dedicated himself to improving his hometown," but provides no specifics.

Other candidates on Nov. 3 are Richard L. Cerbo, the son of a former mayor; businessman Jason Some, who was appointed to fill Greenman's seat; and Deborah Keeling-Geddis, a teacher's assistant in the city schools.

Any of them have greater appeal than Nunnermacker, 38, an attorney some Democrats refer to as "a turkey."

Today's paper

Editor Martin Gottlieb again devotes most of Page 1 today to two of The Record's burned-out columnists (A-1).

Writing from Havana, Staff Writer Mike Kelly perpetuates media stereotypes of the Cuban Revolution.

But Kelly didn't find any political prisoners.

Instead, he focuses on pianist Angel Cabo, who left the island because he needed "more freedom to choose the songs he wanted to play" (A-7).

The Record's copy desk dusted off a photo over line the paper used the last time a pope visited the Caribbean's biggest island in 2012:

"Pope's visit raises curtain on Cuba"

After putting together this non-story, Kelly likely will go in search of Jo Ann Chesimard, a New Jersey fugitive and a central figure in many of his previous columns.

Christie's 'brand'

Meanwhile, it's hard to believe Gottlieb would allow Columnist Charles Stile to report Governor Christie is campaigning for president as a defender of the middle class without challenging the GOP bully in print (A-1).

Gottlieb and Stile are being irresponsible by not listing all of the programs and policies Christie has used in his war on the middle class in New Jersey, and his repeated veto of a tax surcharge on millionaires.

Stile's columns often are the print version of the sound bite that dominates TV news.

Christie is allowed to go unchallenged when he claims the middle class are "getting plowed over by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton" -- exactly the opposite of their record.

Local news?

There are few municipal-news stories in Local today to tell readers how well or how poorly their towns are being run in return for all those property taxes they pay.

Except for the centerpiece on new immigrants, including a man who left Cuba nine years ago, the entire Local front today is devoted to Law & Order developments and settlement of a lawsuit against the Teaneck Public Library director (L-1).

Englewood schools

On L-3, no one asked the new superintendent in Englewood what he will do to integrate the elementary and middle schools.

Instead, Robert Kravitz was praised for his management and business skills, including starting a company that sold desserts to local restaurants.

Staff Writer Kim Lueddeke doesn't say where Kravitz lives, whether he has children and where he will send them to school.

Kravitz has been superintendent of the Englewood Cliffs district since 2012.

Sugar puzzle

Freelancer Julia Sexton warns readers that the chef at Grange in Westwood has given the New American menu "a sugary, pan-tropical spin."

One dish, Floribbean Shrimp, is made with spiced rum and pineapple cream sauce ($12).

The delicate flavor of the shellfish, Sexton explains, "struggled to be heard in all that sugar" (BL-16).

Yet, one of the two dishes she recommends in the 2-star review is creme brulee "whose warm crust of caramelized sugar yielded with a pleasing crack."

Sexton is no better than Elisa Ung, the dessert-obsessed chief restaurant critic.

With both, the legions of diabetic readers also are struggling to be heard.