Sunday, November 8, 2015

Editors offer nothing to explain outrageous local tax bills

Home and business owners all over North Jersey are paying their fourth-quarter property taxes this month, gritting their teeth as they write checks for many thousands of dollars. At The Record, editors are still catching up with the results of Tuesday's election; they're paying absolutely no attention to why local taxes are so high and ignoring calls for reform.


Long-suffering local property tax payers are staring dumbly at The Record's Sunday edition, especially the enormous amount of space devoted to the health problems and high medical bills of a wealthy state assemblywoman from River Vale (A-1, A-6 and A-7).

If you think that story is overdone, the fawning piece on Governor Christie's TV popularity uses an "Analysis" bug in an attempt to distract readers from the shameless, far-from-objective promotion of the GOP loudmouth (A-1 and A-3).

And what possible relevance to life in North Jersey does the meeting of the leaders of China and Taiwan have (A-1)?

Another F.U.

Martin Gottlieb, the arrogant New Yorker who has been running the Woodland newsroom since early 2012, has delivered another elaborate F.U. to readers, just as they are paying their inflated local property tax bills.

In Hackensack, where the tax collector gives taxpayers until the 10th of the month to pay bills usually due on the first, residents continue to seethe over the enormous tax-giveaways to developers.

NJMG benefit

The Borg family's North Jersey Media Group, publisher of The Record, is expected to benefit from a 25- or 30-year abatement as part of ambitious downtown rehabilitation plan.

That tax relief will make NJMG's 19.7 acres along River Street far more attractive to an apartment developer, and likely bring the Borgs a higher price.

During the recent election campaign, City Council candidate Richard L. Cerbo called for tax abatements of only 10 years, but I don't recall seeing that reflected in The Record's coverage.

Nor was Cerbo ever quoted when he called for Hackensack University Medical Center, Bergen County, Fairleigh Dickinson University and other tax-exempt entities to give back to Hackensack in other ways.

In the final insult to readers, The Record didn't issue an endorsement of any local candidates before last Tuesday's election.

Local news?

Today's Local section doesn't even reflect that this month is tax time in North Jersey's inefficient home-rule communities.

You can read between the lines of a story on Palisades Park, where residents are still upset over the 5-year contract for Police Chief Benjamin Ramos, who once lost his police officer's job for assaulting his wife (L-1).

Ramos is now police chief at the outrageous salary of $174,557, only a few hundred dollars less than that no-show Christie. 

And there are more than 65 other police chiefs in Bergen County alone. No wonder there are Dunkin' Donuts everywhere.

Us against them

In her column on whether a no-tip policy will ever come to North Jersey, chief restaurant critic Elisa Ung doesn't even address the biggest flaw of the antiquated system (BL-1).

Profit-hungry restaurant owners love the system because it allows them to pay the wait staff as little as $2.50 to $3.50 an hour, and pits customers against servers, not owners.

So, if the menu lies about that "red snapper fillet" you order, your only recourse is to stiff the waiter.

Sometimes, Ung sounds more like an apologist for owners than a critic who is supposed to be in the corner of restaurant goers.

Maybe, it's all that restaurant advertising revenue that is doing the talking.

How we vote

The headline on the Opinion front promised much more than the Mike Kelly column delivered:

"It's past time
to overhaul
the way we vote"

Kelly merely reviews proposals to get more voters to cast ballots, and doesn't even mention mandatory voting or endorse any of them (O-1).

Of course, Kelly holds the news media blameless for voter apathy, even though the Woodland Park daily didn't even bother endorsing any local candidates.

And Kelly is silent on The Record's endless coverage of politics and fund-raising over issues -- two of the biggest voter turnoffs.

Clunky headlines

"Mountains to climb"

This headline appears today over an A-1 photo of Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, who appears to be wearing mountain-climbing gear.

But, as the caption notes, she is rappelling from a building in Woodland Park.

What it doesn't say is that the building is where The Record is now headquartered after more than 110 years in Hackensack.

So, the headline sounds good, but is meaningless.

Another clunky headline appeared on Saturday's front page:


Even though the crappy story from Tribune News Service doesn't tell you whether the Keystone XL pipeline would be built on or under the ground, saying the president "shoots down pipeline" is confusing visually and a stretch.

Both headlines and so many others reflect a laziness that has developed since six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton has been supervising the copy editors who write them.

She has the last say, so why do so many bad headlines get into the paper?

Paterson violence

A front-page story on Paterson's "worst night of gun crime in recent memory, with four shootings and multiple armed robberies and carjackings all within 10 hours," described another too-little, too-late response from police (Saturday's A-1).

Instead of questioning the commitment of Police Director Jerry Speziale to protect city residents, a Record editorial a few months ago praised how he has supposedly controlled crime.

And The Record still refuses to question why Christie has reorganized policing to fight crime in Camden while ignoring the gun problem in far-more-populous Silk City.

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