Friday, April 29, 2016

Editors serve local readers warmed-up old news on Page 1

GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS: The bridge connecting Anderson Street in Hackensack and Cedar Lane in Teaneck, above, reopened this week ahead of schedule, but only one of the two original lanes is available. Now, westbound lanes are closed for interim repairs until the entire bridge can be replaced. My guess is that will be in 2050.

With the reopening of the bridge, Hackensack residents on Wednesday reacquainted themselves with the joy of driving through Teaneck's Cedar Lane business district, where construction closed two lanes, above. Other hazards include 80-year-old drivers going 10 mph, and aggressive police officers in unmarked cars enforcing the crosswalk law and 25 mph speed limit.


Readers are shaking the sleep out of their eyes and checking the date on Page 1 of The Record, where most of today's stories are warmed up old news.

And where is a story delivering real news on Governor Christie being more unpopular than ever?

It should be on the front page, but it's buried on A-4, as you'd expect from the only major New Jersey daily that refused to call for his resignation after he endorsed racist Donald Trump in the GOP presidential contest.

Editor Deirdre Sykes and Managing Editor Dan Sforza really flop today with this deja-vu edition, recalling all of the no-news Local sections they scrambled to put out before being promoted to run the entire paper in January.

Local news?

Readers turning to Local today find a second, long story about the embarrassing public celebration for a Hackensack police officer who became the first black captain, only to fail part of the exam and return to his previous rank of lieutenant (L-1).

Meanwhile, Staff Writer John Seasly finally reports on the $104 million spending plan for city schools, but his story appears on the front page of the weekly Hackensack Chronicle, which is delivered with The Record on Fridays.

Seasly interviewed Louise Davis, the school district's business administrator, about the budget and $79.1 million tax levy -- both of which he ignored before a tiny minority of voters OK'd them on April 19.

The Chronicle also carries a Page 1 story on Hackensack City Council approval of a smaller $100.4 million municipal budget.

The city tax levy increase is 2.5 percent -- less than half of the 5.6 percent tax hike for the schools.

Saving newsprint

Publisher Stephen A. Borg continues to cut expenses on the backs of long-suffering Bergen County readers.

Today's Local section includes six major stories from Passaic County (L-1 to L-6), including another in a series of long pieces exploring "the policy positions of candidates in Paterson's May election for City Council" (L-6).

Keep in mind the Woodland Park daily never explored the issues in the April 19 school board and budget election in Hackensack, Bergen's biggest district, where the Zisa family backed two of the three winning candidates.

Let's hope Borg isn't using his newsprint savings to spruce up his $3.65 million McMansion in Tenafly.

Oil v. butter

Today's Good to Excellent review of Lili's Bistro in Washington Township includes a surprisingly superficial discussion of the kitchen's "light hand with oil and butter" (BL-16).

Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung never tells reader whether she means heart-healthy extra-virgin olive oil or less desirable vegetable oils, most of which contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Why limit extra-virgin olive oil in cooking or salads or as a substitute for butter with bread? 

And why even review a restaurant in far-off Washington Township, then tell readers it's not appropriate for a "destination dinner"?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Readers get more slanted reporting on Teterboro jet noise

This Teterboro Airport-bound business jet was among several I saw passing low over homes and an elementary school in southwest Hackensack on April 18 -- two weeks after a new flight path was supposed to keep aircraft away from nearby Hackensack University Medical Center and Prospect Avenue high-rises.

The Fanny Meyer Hillers Elementary School is in the neighborhood, which hasn't seen any relief from aircraft noise.


The Record's front page today and this past Monday reports a new flight path to keep noisy corporate jets away from Hackensack never went into effect on April 4.

That wasn't news to residents of southwest Hackensack, where business jets heading for Teterboro Airport continue to skim the roofs of Prospect Avenue high-rises and Hackensack University Medical Center.

In fact, Staff Writer Paul Berger, who wrote tens of thousands of words on the flight-path change before April 4, was clueless until he was contacted by Hackensack gadfly Regina DiPasqua, who was quoted on Monday's front page:

"They are still flying very low," said DiPasqua, who lives near the airport and hadn't noticed any difference in jet noise that drowns out conversation and television.

"You can read the numbers on the plane," she added.

Slanted coverage

Today's coverage reports the Federal Aviation Administration says it will be another six weeks before the new flight path goes into effect, requiring pilots to begin following Route 17 in northern Bergen County (A-1 and L-1).

In the weeks before the initial start date of April 4, Berger quoted officials in Mahwah and other towns, bitching and moaning that noisy jets would be flying over their communities and schools.

I never saw similar reporting from Hackensack after moving in 2007 to the city's Fairmount section, which is under the noisy landing paths of both Teterboro and Newark Liberty International airports.

Nor has The Record quoted residents of Teaneck and Englewood in recent years about aircraft noise from Teterboro jets.

Hackensack news?

Staff Writer John Seasly has a follow-up today to the announcement by Hackensack Police Director Mike Mordaga that he is leaving the job on May 16 (L-1).

Seasly has written more stories about the city's Police Department than any other agency.

However, the reporter continues to ignore Hackensack schools and Board of Education.

Fort Lee readers will find a story on their school budget and tax hike on L-3 today, but Seasly never reported the March 1 adoption of Hackensack's much larger school budget or any details.

The $79 million tax levy to support a $104 million school budget was approved last week by a tiny minority of the 20,000 Hackensack residents who are registered to vote.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Zisa-backed school trustees sworn, editors could care less

On the public Hackensack River walkway behind Pep Boys, city of Hackensack garbage cans were brimming on Sunday. An old Costco Wholesale shopping cart and other metal parts were left near a second can, below.


Hackensack residents won't find a word in The Record today about the swearing in of two school board members backed by the Zisa family -- a curse the city can't seem to shake.

Instead, Editor Deirdre Sykes resorts to another gee-whiz photo and story on Page 1 -- this one about lightning hitting a tree and igniting a Glen Rock house next door to the assistant fire chief (A-1).

All's well that ends well, I guess.

Mordaga leaving

Sykes and Staff Writer John Seasly do have Hackensack news today, but it has nothing to do with the city's failing elementary schools, a ballooning school budget or the attempted political comeback of former four-term Mayor Jack Zisa and brother Ken, the disgraced police chief.

Instead, they lead Local with the expected news that Mike Mordaga, a decorated police officer and detective, is leaving as the city's $150,000-a-year civilian police director after three years in the job (L-1).

Mordaga took over in February 2013, several months after a jury convicted Ken Zisa of insurance fraud and official misconduct charges.

The insurance fraud charge was thrown out by an appeals court, but the former police chief still faces a retrial on the official misconduct charge. 

The city, which has abolished the position of police chief, also has spent more than $8 million defending and settling police officers' lawsuits against Ken Zisa, who also was a Democratic state Assemblyman.

Team Hackensack

The reporter forgets to mention that Jack and Ken Zisa were prominent backers of Team Hackensack, which saw two of its three board candidates sworn in on Tuesday night in the high school media center.

The Zisas even went so far as improperly obtaining the addresses of teachers union members, and sending them letters inviting them to a Team Hackensack barbecue at the home of Anthony C. Zisa, Ken's son, who is a high school teacher.

Francis W. Albolino
 (Credit: Hackensack Board of Education)

24-year veteran

In a broadcast of the Board of Education meeting, board President Jason Nunnermacker praised Francis W. Albolino for 24 years of service as a board member or president and presented him with a plaque.

However, Nunnermacker didn't list a single accomplishment by Albolino, who retired from the volunteer position on Tuesday night.

Truck hits tree

Of course, it's possible that Seasly covered Tuesday night's Hackensack school board reorganization, but that local editors ordered the story held for breaking news -- a garbage truck hitting a tree in Ridgewood (L-3).

Page 1

Sykes continues to run state and national politics on the front page in place of real news, long after readers have gotten sick and tired of reading about the presidential campaign (A-1).

Still, The Record's story doesn't mention Governor Christie again stood behind GOP front-runner Donald Trump's left shoulder as the billionaire racist declared victory in five more primaries on Tuesday (see Chris, Donald and Mary Pat).

The Woodland Park daily is the only major newspaper in the state that failed to call for Christie's resignation after he dropped out of the race in February, and threw his support behind Trump.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

When incompetence is rewarded, readers are biggest losers

On weekdays, the parking lots at 150 River St., the old headquarters of The Record, are filled with cars from Hackensack University Medical Center, continuing the cozy relationship with North Jersey Media Group first established when Vice President/General Counsel Jennifer A. Borg sat on the hospital board. It's unclear how The Record can be objective about HUMC, a huge non-profit that increases the tax burden on every home and business owner in Hackensack. 

These booths for attendants were built after NJMG landed a two-year $777,660 contract through July 2015 to accommodate the cars of jurors, attorneys and visitors in the River Street lots during construction of a Justice Center and parking garage near the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack.


Less than a week before North Jerseyans have to make hefty quarterly property tax payments, the pages of The Record are filled with anything but local news.

Editor Deirdre Sykes' front page today has readers choking on state and national politics, sports and $2 gas (A-1).

And only a day after Page 1 reported the unexpected death of Teaneck Mayor Lizette Parker at 44, Sykes is so bored with the story she demotes the tributes and outpouring of grief to the Local front (L-1).

There isn't much else in the local-news section today except Law & Order news (L-1, L-2, L-3 and L-6).

You have to wonder why after the death of Parker on Sunday and Prince at 57 just last Thursday, the clueless Sykes hasn't assigned a story exploring why so many blacks die young.

In fact, why hasn't the paper's chief medical writer, Lindy Washburn, proposed such a story instead of wasting nearly two full Sunday pages on a man who is awaiting his second heart transplant in 20 years?

The damage of focusing on such medical freaks is that readers never learn tens of thousands of people who have cardiac surgery every year feel better than ever and go on to leave productive lives. 


As head assignment editor, Sykes and sidekick Dan Sforza ran Local for years, scrambling to fill holes in the local-news report with accident photos, minor fires, crime and court news, and the Dean's List. 

As if to reward their incompetence, Sykes and Sforza were promoted in January, she to editor of the entire paper and he to managing editor, though all he seems to be "managing" is his free time.

Their promotions followed the elevation of Liz Houlton to six-figure production editor after she left a trail of typos and errors in Food and other sections when she was running the features copy desk.

Gannett bid

On the first Business page today, the editors censor a story on newspaper publisher Gannett offering to buy some of the nation's biggest newspapers (L-7).

Gannett owns six daily newspapers in New Jersey, and is rumored to have made offers to the Borg family for The Record.

Today, the editors don't mention those Gannett papers, just like the Woodland Park daily never reported they and the Star-Ledger called for Governor Christie to resign after he endorsed racist Donald Trump for president.


As the business story reports, Gannett long has been associated with cost-cutting and "shedding jobs" after acquiring newspapers (L-8).

But The Record's publisher, Stephen A. Borg, has done that on his own in the past decade.

Those moves include shifting the printing of The Record and Herald News to Rockaway Township, and firing more than 50 printers; a major newsroom downsizing in 2008 and the abandonment of Hackensack in 2009.

The downsizing saw the departure of employees who had worked for The Record for 20, 30 or more years.

Those cuts were made several months after Borg got a $3.65 million mortgage from his family's North Jersey Media Group for the purchase of a Tenafly McMansion, where he lives with his wife and four sons.

Freeze on raises

In the last few years, Borg froze newsroom raises and, more recently, stopped replacing reporters who leave the paper.

All of that has contributed to a drastic decline in the accuracy, quality and quantity of local-news coverage.

A recent example was how Sykes and Sforza ignored the candidates and issues in last Tuesday's school board and budget election in Hackensack, the biggest school system in Bergen County.

Meanwhile, the Borgs anticipate selling nearly 20 acres along River Street to an apartment developer after the Hackensack City Council declared the parcel in need of redevelopment, and awarded a multi-year tax break to the buyer. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Medical freak doesn't tell readers heart disease is No. 1 killer

UNEVEN KEEL: At low tide this morning, the USS Ling was stuck in the mud of the Hackensack River and listing. The New Jersey Naval Museum is closed and not conducting tours of the World War II submarine, which is tied up to North Jersey Media Group property at The Record's old headquarters in Hackensack. According to rumors, Publisher Stephen A. Borg and NJMG Vice President/General Counsel Jennifer A. Borg can't agree on the company's role in saving the sub.

The Borgs, owners of NJMG, are planing to sell land along River Street in Hackesack to an apartment developer, including parking lots. It isn't known whether the family also will sell Borg Park, where the sub and museum are, and land where a diner now operates.


You'd never know heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States from medical coverage in The Record.

The Sunday edition's Page 1 takeout on a medical freak who is awaiting a second heart transplant in 20 years certainly doesn't hammer home that message.

Frank Bordino, 70, is atypical, and has little in common with the hundreds of North Jersey residents who get new heart valves or have as many as five coronary bypasses every month.

Despite the tens of thousands of words devoted to him, readers are no closer to understanding the genetic, dietary and other factors that cause heart attacks.

That's a colossal waste of space.

And there isn't much else to engage readers today.

Boring politics

The front page offers two boring pieces on New Jersey and national politics, including another story on a presidential campaign we're sick of reading about (A-1).

Staff Writer Christopher Maag is no longer assigned to cover NJ Transit, judging by his Page 1 stories today and Saturday on "portable churches," and New Jersey's high suicide rate, respectively.

Still, Maag's suicide story is incomplete, failing to explore whether the hike in suicides is tied to Governor Christie's continuing war on the middle class.

Local news?

Today's local-news section leads with a story from Hackensack, where Prospect Avenue high-rise residents have declared victory over a plan for a medical-waste disposal plant near them (L-1).

Those Hackensack residents are mostly seniors, and today, Road Warrior John Cichowski continues to ignore the challenges facing them and other older drivers (L-1).

They are probably wondering what Cichowski's coverage of the driving test for teens has to do his column's commuting mission or anything else relevant to their lives.

June candidates

Today, the editors list candidates in the June 7 primaries for county and municipal offices (L-3).

Let's hope that unlike a similar listing of April school board candidates, we'll be seeing stories on the issues involved before we have to vote.

New Yorkers?

On the Opinion front, Mike Kelly offers another boring column on the battle for the hearts and minds of New Yorkers in last week's Democratic presidential primary (O-1).

Hey, Mike, you're working for a major New Jersey paper. Why are you covering New York?

Bergen County readers aren't interested in New Yorkers or even the Atlantic City residents you also wrote about recently.

They want you to explore local issues, including colossal voter apathy, and the attempted political comeback of the Zisa family in Hackensack.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Editors giving Hackensack residents very short end of stick

Behind Hackensack High School, an eye-level tree branch has the potential to injure a parent, student or other pedestrian, especially if he has his head down as he walks up the inclined sidewalk and doesn't see it.


Today's edition of The Record has Hackensack residents again turning pages to find news of their city, the most populous in Bergen County.

Way back on L-3, in Local, they'll find a story about a Hackensack police lieutenant who won't be the city's first black captain, as expected, because he failed part of the exam.

That's certainly embarrassing, but some readers question why Staff Writer John Seasly seems to enjoy rubbing in the failure of the officer, James Prise, who will remain a lieutenant.

At the same time, he or one of his editors is responsible for dropping from the story the title, first name and middle initial of City Manager David R. Troast. 

Only "Troast" appears three times in the story. 

This is the same reporter who misspelled the last name of Richard L. Cerbo, who spoke at this week's council meeting and appealed for a tax cut.

New reporter

Seasly took over the Hackensack beat this year, and mostly has covered City Council meetings, writing about downtown development, the city budget, the Police Department and other related news.

He's completely ignored the biggest school system in Bergen County, and didn't cover the issues or candidates in this week's Board of Education and school budget election.

Of course, Seasly may not be the one to blame at a newspaper that has been editor-driven for decades, and now is being led so poorly by Deirdre Sykes.

Like many young reporters at The Record, Seasly takes his marching orders from an assistant assignment editor, who remains anonymous, spends most of his or her time sitting behind a computer and may not know anything about Hackensack.

Korean BBQ

Today's "Good" to "Excellent" review of a Korean barbecue restaurant has Staff Writer Elisa Ung again displaying her ignorance of the harmful antibiotics, growth hormones and low-quality feed used to raise the vast majority of beef in the United States.

That's a disservice to readers who might actually believe that any meat labeled "prime" also is, as Ung says, "high-end" or "better quality" (BL-16).

What would truly make the meat superior is if it came from cattle that were grass fed, and were raised without antibiotics and hormones, but as usual, Ung doesn't say. 

And the restaurant, Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong in Palisades Park, loses points for using gas grills, not the more authentic charcoal.

Ung also omits mention of whether the restaurant requires you to buy two orders of meat, pork or poultry (at $22.99 to $35.99 each) in order to have them cooked at the table, as most Korean BBQ places do.

Nor does she say whether non-meat eaters can order shrimp to cook at the table, wrap in lettuce leaves and enjoy with kimchi and other Korean side dishes. 

All in all, here is another review that smacks far more of promotion than journalism.

Hackensack Chronicle

The Record's poor job of covering Hackensack since a major newsroom downsizing in 2008, followed by North Jersey Media Group completely abandoning the city in 2009, is bad enough.

But the Hackensack Chronicle, the NJMG tabloid delivered with The Record on Fridays, is so stale the weekly is of little use beyond lining a litter box.

The Chronicle didn't cover the issues in Tuesday's school election or report on the attempted political comeback of the Zisa family, who backed two of the three winning candidates.

The lead story today is about City Council action at Monday night's meeting.

School election results won't appear until next Friday, if then.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

More sections today, but much less news taxpayers can use

The Fairmount School in Hackensack. In Tuesday's Board of Education election, a total of 1,290 residents out of 20,000 registered voters said "yes" or "no" to a $79 million tax levy in support of a $104 million budget for the schools. In unofficial results, the budget was passed with only 815 votes, even though school taxes are 44% of the property tax bill.


Why is The Record giving better play today to a slave who died more than 100 years ago than to a long-suffering, mixed-race people who live not far from the Woodland Park newsroom?

The story North Jersey should be reading appears below the fold on Page 1, playing second fiddle to abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who won't be appearing on the $20 bill until at least 2020 -- four long years from now (A-1).

The only reason the currency revamp is on the front-page is that every big news outlet is leading with it -- as Editor Deirdre Sykes continues to show her sagging rump to local readers.

Yet, the Ramapoughs have been battling for justice in and out of the courts for more than 40 years against Ford Motor Co. and government officials, who want to cap rather than remove 16,000 tons of contaminated material from their Ringwood neighborhood (A-1).

Environmental reporter Scott Fallon further stigmatizes the Native Americans today by describing their community as "low income."

History lesson

If Sykes had chosen a local story -- instead of a stale history lesson -- to lead the front page, she could have run the dramatic photo of Vivian Milligan getting down on her knees and begging a federal official to clean up her neighborhood, which Ford polluted starting in 1967 (A-8).

And NJ Transit reporter Christopher Maag should finally be writing about the lack of rush-hour seats on buses and trains -- not about the "largest overhaul of American currency in a century" (A-1).


Today's paper comes in five parts, if you include the throwaway Sports section.

But local news is hard to find in Local, which leads with the rescue of a dog from a Rutherford house fire (L-1).

There are four major stories on Teaneck (one on L-1, three on L-3), but Hackensack readers only get a poorly written and edited four-paragraph story on police promotions (L-6).

That story is from Staff Writer John Seasly, the reporter who misspelled the name of a Hackensack resident who called for a tax cut at the City Council meeting (see A-2 correction).

It's not clear why Seasly is writing about Hackenack police promotions, and ignoring a dozen or so Fire Department promotions that were announced in a ceremony at the Monday night council meeting he covered.

Clueless taxpayers

Seasly also hasn't done a follow-up describing the colossal voter apathy displayed once again in Tuesday's Hackensack school board and budget election.

That apathy may be rooted in The Record's stubborn refusal to cover the candidates or issues in the election. 

According to figures released today by Bergen County Clerk John S. Hogan, the vast majority of clueless taxpayers stayed home, and once again allowed a tiny minority to approve a $79 million tax levy that represents 44% of their overall bill.

They were even too lazy to fill out an application and have a mail-in ballot sent to their homes.

A total of 815 out of about 20,000 registered voters OK'd the tax levy, which supports a total budget of $104 million. Only 475 voted "no."

Englewood budgets

Sykes devotes only four paragraphs to adoption of a $62.1 million budget in Englewood, and a hearing for a $73.3 million school budget (L-2).

As in Hackensack, a reporter hasn't asked Englewood officials why the school budget and tax levy are higher than the municipal budget and tax levy.

Few white students attend the elementary and middle schools in Englewood, where officials have concentrated their desegregation efforts on Dwight Morrow High School.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Repeated errors make a mockery of younger Borg's motto

The Record's Local section this past Saturday ran a photo of the old Bergen County Jail, above, but the caption said: "An iron worker working to secure a beam at the construction site of the Bergen County Justice Center next to the jail in Hackensack on Friday." The photo, cropped to show only the top of the beam and the jail's turrets and parapets, confused readers who have watched the slow construction of the Justice Center, below.

Is the beam shown in Saturday's L-3 photo part of a pedestrian bridge that will connect the new building to the Bergen County Courthouse? The Record's caption didn't say. Another photo caption, on Saturday's L-2, described a BMW as a Toyota. 


It's right there under the masthead on Page 1 of The Record every day:


Publisher Stephen A. Borg, who took over from his father nearly a decade ago, made a marketing decision to replace The Record's original motto:


Borg followed with several big, money-saving decisions that resulted in less local coverage -- especially of Hackensack -- and a rising number of errors, which has eroded North Jersey readers' trust in the Woodland Park daily.

Monday's paper carried a story on a nationwide poll that found:
"Trust in the news media is being eroded by perceptions of inaccuracy and bias .... Nearly 90 percent of Americans say it is extremely or very important that the media get their facts correct." 

Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy

Literally hundreds -- if not thousands -- of errors have appeared in the Road Warrior column since the "trusted source" motto was adopted, and few of them have been corrected by six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton or Editor Deirdre Sykes.

Sykes handpicked Staff Writer John Cichowski to write the column starting in September 2003. 

In recent years, corrections of hundreds of editing and reporting errors by others have appeared regularly on A-2, but The Record rarely corrects an error unless someone calls to complain.

The message drummed into journalism students is "accuracy, accuracy, accuracy," especially when it comes to spelling names.

A perfect example is a story in the local-news section today by Staff Writer John Seasly, who covered the Hackensack City Council on Monday night:

The reporter quoted a resident, and made sure to describe him as someone "who regularly attends the meetings," but misspelled his last name.

Richard L. Cerbo, whose father was a former Hackensack mayor, is the one who called for a tax cut in comments before the council approved a 2016-17 budget of $100.4 million.

Seasly wrote, "Rich Serbo" (L-3).

The entrance to Hackensack's main recreation center, the M&M Building on Holt Street, where voters cast ballots on Tuesday in the city's Board of Education election. I saw three voters ask for someone who spoke Spanish, but none of the 10 or so poll workers did. One poll worker barked in English, "Just go in there [the voting booth] and vote." Poll workers are paid $200 for the day. Most are seniors who have nothing better to do with their time than sit on their asses all day as their contribution to democracy.

School election

In addition to outright errors like misspelling someone's name, the errors of omission erode readers' trust in The Record.

At Monday night's council meeting, Seasly was asked why he didn't do a story on the Hackensack school election, especially the issues involved and the attempted political comeback by the Zisa family, which backed three of the nine candidates.

The reporter said a story was scheduled to appear on Tuesday, the day of the election, but none did.

Today, The Record's coverage of the results in 10 towns devotes the least space to Hackensack, even though the city has the most students and the biggest school budget, not to mention the most candidates.

Voter apathy

Of course, the story Seasly missed is that voter apathy and the status quo ruled the day, with only 795 of about 20,000 registered voters approving the $104 million Hackensack school budget.

A total of only 1,293 residents voted on the $79 million tax levy, which supports an overall school budget that is higher than the municipal budget.

Mail-in ballots weren't counted Tuesday night, but unofficial results show that:

Two Zisa-backed candidates, incumbent Timothy J. Hoffman and former trustee Modesto Romero, were elected along with incumbent Lara L. Rodriguez, who was on another slate (with only 727, 604 and 711 votes, respectively).

(I reported the affiliation of the candidates incorrectly when this was first posted. The Record reported Rodriguez's vote total incorrectly in Wednesday's paper.)

Seasly never reported that school taxes represent nearly half of the total property tax bill or that the ballot was confusing, with candidates' names appearing randomly without numbers or such identification as "Citizens for Better Schools" or "Team Hackensack."

Today's paper

Even though Borg and Sykes continue to ignore Hackensack, they are doing a bang-up job of publicizing medical miracles at Hackensack University Medical Center (A-1).

Borg's older sister, Vice President/General Counsel Jennifer A. Borg, once served as an HUMC board member.

The sprawling medical center calls itself a non-profit, and as a result saves about $10 million a year in property taxes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hackensack, you can stop Zisa virus from infecting schools

A change in landing patterns ordered by the Federal Aviation Administration to keep noisy business jets away from Hackensack University Medical Center, as reported by The Record, hasn't brought much relief to city residents. This jet, with its landing gear down, was one of four or five to pass over southwest Hackensack homes and the Fanny Meyer Hillers School in about 30 minutes on Monday afternoon.

Many parents picking up their children at the Hillers School were unaware a Board of Education election is taking place today. The Record's local-news staff has ignored the issues or the attempted political comeback by the Zisa family. Three seats on the school board are up for grabs, and voters can say "yes" or "no" to a $79 million tax levy in support of a bloated $104 million school budget.


The powers that be don't want you to vote in today's Hackensack Board of Education and school budget election.

First and foremost are former Mayor Jack Zisa; brother Ken, the disgraced former police chief; their cousin, former City Attorney Joseph Zisa; and Ken's son, high school teacher Anthony Zisa.

The Zisas ruled Hackensack for decades, and stigmatized the small city with the accursed name of "Zisaville."

Now, they are attempting a political comeback by backing three Board of Education candidates under the banner of Team Hackensack. 

The world may be worrying about the Zika virus, but Hackensack fears the spread of the Zisa virus throughout the schools.

Three other candidates are believed to have the support of the political machine that propped up the Zisas for so many years before Citizens for Change, a slate of reformers, was elected to the City Council in May 2013.

This campaign flier urges voters to pick candidates 1-4-6, but someone ordered removal of the numbers on today's school ballot, below.

The ballot in today's election lists nine candidates for three seats on the Board of Education, center, and a proposition on the school budget, right.

Citizens for Change

Citizens for Change is supporting three other candidates, who call themselves Citizens for Better Schools:

Lawrence E. EISEN, Lancelot POWELL and Victor E. SASSON.

Their platform includes improving poor test scores and engaging parents in the education of their children.

Last week, the Zisas obtained the addresses of all of the members in the teachers union, and sent them an invitation to a Team Hackensack barbecue at Anthony Zisa's home, which was handed down from his grandfather, Frank C. Zisa, who was on the City Council for 16 years and mayor from 1977-81. 

Teachers union President Michael DeOrio blasted the Zisas, and called for "sanctions and/or discipline" for those involved.

The ballot

You need a PhD to figure out the ballot in today's school election.

Citizens for Better Schools is appealing to voters to pick candidates in positions 1-4-6, but someone ordered the numbers removed.

So, voters should look for candidates' last names in capital letters: EISEN, POWELL and SASSON.

Many residents also don't know they can vote on the school budget, which represents 44 percent of the property tax bill in Hackensack.

A tax levy of $79 million is up for a "yes" or "no" vote, but the total school budget is about $104 million.

The budget is bloated by administrators' salaries (some make nearly as much as or more than Governor Christie); legal fees and high rent for a Catholic school building.

A "no" vote would send the budget to the City Council, which has the power to trim it.

Campaign signs on Main Street in Hackensack.

Voter suppression

The powers that be have long conspired to suppress the vote in school elections by holding them in April, and not opening the polls until 2 p.m.

Today, the polls will be open until 9 p.m.

Although Hackensack has about 20,000 registered voters, only about 1,300 cast ballots in the last school election.

That apathy is fed by Editor Deirdre Sykes of The Record, which moved out of Hackensack in 2009.

Sykes was elevated to editor this year after many years of running the paper's local-news section.

Her distaste for local elections is well-known, and a couple of decades ago, she streamlined coverage of Boards of Education by reporting only on contested elections.

Now, she is ignoring even the hotly contested Hackensack school election.


At 2 this afternoon, when the polls opened, only a small sign indicated where voters should cast their ballots at Hackensack High School, above and below.

Most of the voters I saw between 2 and 2:30 this afternoon were seniors from the neighborhood, which includes many of the high-rises on Prospect Avenue.

Today's paper

Three of the four major elements on Page 1 today are what editors call "process stories."

None of them are news, just endless descriptions of the process of repealing the estate tax in New Jersey, electing a president and how the Supreme Court will rule on a better deal for undocumented aliens (A-1).

The fourth major story is an incredible waste of space describing the legal pissing match between a millionaire with 30 Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, and The Plaza co-op high-rise in Fort Lee (A-1).