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.

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