Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Readers question Page 1 column on house without driveway

Posters in the "My County Poster Contest" were on display today in the lobby of the Bergen County Administration Building in Hackensack, above and below.




By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

You've seen those houses -- on the edge of Route 17 or next to railroad tracks -- and wondered why would anyone buy and live in them.

The same question could be asked of Ken Klabouch, who lives in a house with no driveway and has to jump through many hoops to comply with Midland Park's ban on overnight parking, The Record reports today.

Is it any surprise Klabouch can't sell the place (A-1)?

Surely, I'm not the only reader questioning why Staff Writer John Cichowski thinks this real estate story has anything to do with his responsibilities as a commuting columnist.

Cichowski took over the Road Warrior column more than a dozen years ago, and quickly turned his back on bus and rail commuters, and drivers who faced mounting congestion at the Hudson River crossings.

Instead, he specialized in reporting on waiting times at the MVC, potholes, teen drivers and highway lighting, and wrote column after column quoting state police statistics on fatal accidents -- though he rarely transposed the data accurately.

How far is Klabouch's house from an NJ Transit bus stop, does Midland Park have rail service and could the place be ideal for a young couple who want to reduce their carbon footprint?

The clueless Cichowski doesn't say.

Memorial Day

Staff Writer Paul Berger did a fine job covering the Memorial Day ceremony at the monument to war dead in Englewood on Monday (L-1).

He ignored the speeches, and focused on Olga Mosciaro, 88, who has organized the parade "since the days she was a secretary in the city's Police Department detective bureau 30 years ago."

Berger's readable story noted the woman's white hat "barely poked above the lectern."

Korean drivers

The gee-whiz photo on L-2 today only adds to the poor opinion of Korean-American drivers held by many people.

The caption notes the large "SUV wound up on top of another vehicle ... when a parishioner at the Korean Presbyterian Church of the Palisades in Old Tappan lost control of the vehicle." 

What does "lost control" mean? Was the driver elderly, and did he or she mistake the gas pedal for the brake pedal -- a common problem among seniors, whether they are Korean or not? 

The Record's editors made no effort to find out, and in the process smeared the reputation of Korean drivers.

Monday's paper

Page 1 on Monday reported that eight residents of Midland Park -- a 1.5-mile-square borough with about 8,000 residents in the 1960s -- were killed in three years of the Vietnam War.

The story was by Staff Writer Todd South, a Marine veteran of Afghanistan.

As I read the story, I wondered whether this was the first time The Record had reported the heavy toll.

Nothing on the front page indicated the moving story was anything but the result of great reporting, but when readers turned to the continuation page, they finally saw the truth.

The story was based on the work of another Marine veteran, Paul Chepurko, a Hawthorne resident who self-published a book on the eight soldiers from Midland Park, "Small Town-Big Sacrifice II" (Monday's A-6).

Was the story deliberately written or edited to leave mention of Chepurko to the continuation page?

Monday, May 30, 2016

Honoring veterans in a downtown that has seen better days

The Wendy's fast food restaurant on Palisade Avenue in downtown Englewood closed about six months ago after the landlord asked for a rent increase the franchise owner considered exorbitant. The building across the side street -- once a Victoria's Secret -- has been empty for years.

Close to a dozen stores are vacant on both sides of the street along a four-block stretch of Palisade Avenue, above and below. 






Continental Army reenactors making some noise during the Memorial Day Parade in Englewood today. The parade seemed shorter than in past years. A rumor circulated that morning showers forced cancellation of the annual event.

Englewood's Grand Avenue was on the retreat route followed by Gen. George Washington after British troops crossed the Hudson River and scaled the Palisades.

Monday's parade included drum corps, above and below.




Englewood's EMS squad.

City police officers and firefighters led the parade.

The parade began at the monument and turned left on Dean Street.
One of the classic cars in the parade was this chopped and channeled Mercury passing City Hall.

-- VICTOR E. SASSON

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Columnist ignores Hackensack -- the capital of voter apathy

After the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor went out of production at the end of 2011, the automaker introduced the Police Interceptor Sedan, above, based on the sixth-generation Taurus. Safety defects in the old model may have killed officers in Teaneck and Paramus: Did Crown Vic kill two police officers?


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The Record's front-page column today largely avoids focusing on North Jersey's local elections, where voter apathy is at its worst.

In fact, Columnist Mike Kelly seems horrified that "in some ... towns, voters [are] asked to cast ballots in a school board election in April, a council election in May and the primary on June 7" (A-10).

Of course, Kelly doesn't tell readers they can apply for mail-in ballots that allow them to vote in any election -- from school board to president of the United States -- from the comfort of their own homes.

He quotes an expert saying voters are turned off by "the increasingly negative tone of politics" (A-10), but doesn't acknowledge The Record and other media report little else.

Family rule

In Hackensack, Cliffside Park, Englewood Cliffs and other towns, apathetic voters have allowed one family to rule their towns for decades.

In April, a tiny minority of the 20,000 registered voters in Hackensack -- once known derisively as "Zisaville" -- elected two Board of Education candidates backed by former four-term mayor Jack Zisa and his brother, Ken, the disgraced former police chief.

No one from The Record, including Kelly, reported on the issues in the election or bothered to identify the Zisas as the backers of "Team Hackensack."

A total of 1,300 residents voted in the Hackensack school election. Municipal elections usually are decided by about 3,500 voters -- this in a city of 44,000. 

Wacko Donald Trump

Readers still are confused over whether Kelly is a reporter, opinion columnist or just burned out after decades of pounding a keyboard.

Today's column is way too long, and, believe it or not, Editor Deirdre Sykes publishes a second Kelly column on the presidential election on the front of Opinion (O-1).

In the Page 1 column, Kelly refers to Donald Trump as "the developer and reality television star" (A-10).

Carl Golden, a former mouthpiece for two Republican governors in New Jersey, seems dazzled by Trump's apparent success in winning the GOP presidential nomination (O-1).

Neither acknowledge the billionaire candidate is tapping into the deep-seated racism that has been most evident during the presidency of Barack Obama. 

In praise of Muslims

The Local front today carries another story on Syrian Muslim refugees who have succeeded in North Jersey (L-1).

Staff Writer Hannan Adely seems to be saying Muslims aren't the monsters they are made out to be by Trump and Governor Christie.

Adely's story describes "a large Syrian neighborhood known for its ethnic stores and businesses," but she doesn't tell readers she is referring to Paterson's vibrant South Paterson section.

Unhealthy food

Today and Saturday, The Record's food editor and writers continue to promote some of the unhealthiest food on the planet (Better Living section).

Readers see little reporting on whether the food Elisa Ung and others rave about is naturally raised or grown.

And they seem to be saying sugar, butter, full-fat cheese, bacon and other ingredients are really good for you.

On Saturday at least, Ung included veggie and shrimp burgers as she gushed over White Manna and other low-quality hamburgers.

Why was she writing about burgers on Saturday?

It was her Pavlovian response to "National Hamburger Day" -- an event that probably was created by the nation's irresponsible beef industry.

Obama in Japan

On Saturday, over a front-page photo of the president hugging a Japanese survivor of the atomic bomb, The Record declared:


"FROM ENEMIES TO ALLIES FOR PEACE"

Huh? 

That's not news. Japan and the United States became  "allies for peace" decades ago.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Breaking news: Borough's files are moved out of storage

Are these directional signs unique to New Jersey? This one is on Grand Avenue in Englewood.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Staff Writer Mary Diduch of The Record did her best today to elevate a routine contract dispute into an important local news story, reporting "it's not something one witnesses every day" (L-1).

In fact, readers do see the Woodland Park daily scrambling to assemble a comprehensive local news report, and usual failing, as the editors do today.

A story on 1,100 file boxes being returned to Bogota Borough Hall shouldn't be leading the Local news section.

For even more compelling local news, see the L-3 photo of a Ridgewood employee cutting a fallen tree limb "that blocked traffic" on Thursday morning.

Home rule

There is so much wrong with the home-rule system of government in North Jersey -- including the ruinously expensive duplication of services -- the editors should never, ever run out of important local news.

Take a look at a letter to the editor from Michele Talamo, a Cliffside Park resident who is upset over high taxes and the "oppressive" cost of living (A-18).

Talamo is opposed to just about everything -- from a proposed hike in the gas tax to raising the minimum wage to $15.

Of course, the real problem is in Cliffside Park, where one family has ruled for decades, as was the case in Hackensack.

Yet, The Record's local news staff has ignored the attempted political comeback of former four-term Hackensack Mayor Jack Zisa and his brother Ken, the disgraced former police chief.

This year, the city's mayor and council members --who defeated a slate of Zisa allies in May 2013 -- are estimating that a citywide revaluation will deliver $400 in tax savings to most homeowners.

Casinos

Atlantic City's disastrous experience with casinos doomed the expansion of gambling to North Jersey long before all the recent stories about a state takeover.

Still, The Record can't stop promoting passage of a November referendum that North Jersey residents are expected to soundly reject.

As you'd expect of a former sports reporter, Staff Writer John Brennan claims a conference he covered "gave the give-and-take ... the feel of the opening round of what figures to be a hard-fought battle until voters go to the polls" (A-1).

Readers can expect The Record's editors to continue to insist the constitutional amendment has a chance of passage, even though it's headed for defeat.

Dining puzzle

Staff Writer Elisa Ung usually devotes a paragraph or two to the chef or cook, but in today's Informal Dining review, she doesn't say who prepared the food at ReBAR in Lodi (BL-14).

The review also is unusual in that her meals there didn't end with a couple of artery clogging desserts.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sensationalism drowning out questions from local taxpayers

The Hackensack City Council and city manager are reviewing proposals to privatize sanitation pickup for a projected savings of $850,000 a year. Officials also may hire a public relations firm, Vision Media of Secaucus, to promote downtown redevelopment at an undisclosed cost. The Record hasn't covered those issues or asked why Board of Education President Jason Nunnermacker, below in hoodie, falsely claimed the school budget cut local property taxes. 




By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Today, the desperate editors of The Record exploit the anguish of a mother -- who suspected her son committed anti-Semitic acts -- to sell newspapers and distract readers searching in vain for local news.

Large photos of a tearful Denise Rivas, mother of Lodi defendant Anthony Graziano, are splashed all over Page 1 and the continuation page in the kind of sensational trial coverage you'd expect to see in a trashy tabloid (A-1 and A-8).

Local news?

On the Local news front today, Editor Deirdre Sykes continues to scramble, grabbing at crime news, a college graduation, animal-rights activists and the expansion of the Islamic Center of Passaic County (L-1).

In fact, there is so little local news from Hackensack and many other towns, Sykes had to plug a huge hole (half of a newspaper page) with a Dean's List (L-6) -- a crutch she has used for many years.

Meanwhile, the business editors couldn't find enough news in Bergen and Passaic counties, so they ran with the closing of the Saks Fifth Avenue store at the Short Hills mall -- far out of the circulation area (L-7).

Wednesday's paper

On Wednesday's front page, transportation writer Christopher Maag tried to whip readers into a frenzy over "waste" and "lapses in security" at Newark Liberty International Airport.

And Port Authority reporter Paul Berger threw crumbs to long-suffering commuters who ride buses to and from Manhattan on the completion of a new midtown terminal (2023 to 2026).

Berger is another in a long line of Record reporters who decline to question officials running the massive bi-state agency on their refusal to add exclusive bus lanes at the Lincoln Tunnel or expand PATH service to Bergen County.

On the Local front, Road Warrior John Cichowski dredged up a 2008 incident, but the introduction was so long and boring, readers fell asleep before he made the point that "driving drowsy" is as dangerous as drunk driving.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Daily focus on partisan politics is big disservice to readers

This morning's dismal weather can't dampen the memory of Monday's bright sunshine at Skippy's Hand Car Wash in Fort Lee.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I didn't think The Record's front page today could be any more boring than an A-1 on Monday dominated by "vaping" and a drone strike in Afghanistan.

But like her predecessor, Editor Deirdre Sykes outdoes herself on finding Page 1 stories that are of limited relevance to the vast majority of North Jersey  readers.

Eyes really are rolling today at the Atlantic City package, which includes what must be the 100th reprint of a tedious Charles Stile column on Governor Christie's reputation of crafting "bipartisan deals" (A-1).

Meanwhile, Sykes buries major Christie vetoes of measures on Port Authority reforms, guns and the diversion of open-space funds (A-7).

The Woodland Park daily has stopped counting the GOP bully's vetoes, but they must be approaching 500 -- surely a record for any New Jersey governor. 

See an Eye on The Record post from early this month:

Christie's vetoes are going uncounted


Bipartisan politics

Sykes continues to cover Trenton in strictly bipartisan terms, and Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin doesn't have the balls to cut through the politics and urge passage of laws and taxes that will be good for New Jersey.

It's as if readers haven't grown weary from the national media's relentless focus on politics when reporting the stalemate in Congress and the long, boring presidential campaign.

Corrections

Two long corrections appear on A-2 today, but nothing is being said about two incorrect photo captions on L-3 of Monday's local-news section.

The staging of a photo at the Great Falls to celebrate the anniversary of St. Paul's Episcopal Church of Paterson is bad enough.

But the caption writer claimed church Executive Director Richard Williams is "looking" at the proclamation -- when clearly he is not.

A second photo showed the Greek food festival at St. George Orthodox Church in Clifton under a meaningless over line that apparently is a play on the phrase "back to the future."

"BAKLAVA TO THE FUTURE"

Even if you excuse that idiocy, the caption writer claims the Greek delicacies sold at the festival were "washed down with good, strong coffee."

What nonsense. Small cups of pre-sweetened Greek, Turkish and Arabic coffee are enjoyed at the end of the meal or with pastry.

Local news?

The Local front today recalls World War II heroism in France, but is dominated by the gee-whiz tale of a serial bank robber who has outwitted the FBI for nearly a year (L-1).

Law & Order stories fill much of the section (L-2, L-3 and L-6).

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Piling on decades-long tradition of demonizing mass transit

On Boulevard East in West New York, passengers boarding a local NJ Transit bus to Manhattan on a weekday morning in late March found standing room only.

An NJ Transit train pulling into the Anderson Street station, one of two rail stations in Hackensack.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

At least The Record has been consistent in decades of negative reporting about bus and train service to Manhattan from northern New Jersey.

It began more than 20 years ago with two front-page stories on "highways of the future" by a transportation reporter who ignored screeching brakes and noisy engines on NJ Transit commuter buses.

Then, the editors went on the warpath against extension of NJ Transit's pollution-free light-rail service to Englewood and Tenafly.

And in the last year or so, the paper's transportation reporters don't seem to be reporting anything but how many "billions of dollars" will have to be spent to replace the antiquated mid-Manhattan bus station and expand rail service to the city.

Page 1 stories today and Saturday also emphasize how transportation spending is mired in politics.

Sadly, readers haven't seen anything about the tremendous societal benefits of taking commuters out of their cars -- from less traffic congestion to fewer deaths from auto emissions to greater worker productivity.

Today's so-called analysis of NJ Transit's "problems" is especially bad, because Staff Writer Christopher Maag again ignores Governor Christie's war on commuters, and his deep cuts in state operating subsidies -- cuts that forced the agency to raise fares (A-1). 

The headline uses "NJT" for NJ Transit, eve though that has never been recognized as an acronym for the state mass-transit agency.

Bridgegate probe

Staff Writer Jeff Pillets was once of the first reporters to understand that the George Washington Bridge scandal would be as damaging to Christie's reputation as Watergate was to President Richard Nixon, who was hounded out of office (A-1 and O-1).

But no reporter has been able to show that Christie at least knew about the Bridgegate conspiracy during his successful 2013 campaign for a second term.

Deep in today's front-page story, Pillets and reporter Dustin Racioppi report that Christie aide Regina Egea and the governor are "believed" to have deleted text messages they exchanged as Port Authority officials testified to a legislative committee looking into the lane closings (A-4).

Local news?

The Local section delivered to Bergen County readers today includes stories from West Milford, Wanaque, Woodland Park, Pequannock and Ringwood (L-1 to L-7).

The Borgs and North Jersey Media Group save money on newsprint by printing only one section, but cheat Bergen readers out of the local news they deserve.

Meanwhile, The Record continues to chronicle the violent death of every animal in North Jersey. 

Today, eight paragraphs are devoted to a Morris County golfer who killed a goose (L-3).

Road Warrior John Cichowski today reports on "better training" for motorcyclists, not a ticket blitz to penalize them for disturbing the peace (L-1).

What about better training for elderly drivers like Cichowski who too often mistake the gas pedal for the brake pedal? 

Split personality

On Fridays, Staff Writer Elisa Ung's reviews are supposed to take a critical look at new restaurants.

But on Sundays, her uncritical Corner Table column does little more than promote chefs and restaurants, as in her glowing profile of Fortunato Nicotra of Paramus (BL-1).

Those Sunday columns are a disservice to reader who want more -- not less -- information about how the food they eat was raised or grown.

On BL-2 today, the First Course feature pushes za'atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend, that costs the equivalent of $80 a pound when purchased online.

That same mixture is available at Fattal's and other stores in the bustling South Paterson neighborhood of Paterson for about $8 a pound. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Wacko racist Trump stumps with Plump to pay GOP debts

A horse and carriage returning along Prospect Avenue from the Hackensack High School Prom Show Off on Thursday night, above and below.




By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

In a joint appearance with Governor Christie, Donald Trump's subliminal messages to "Make America Hate Again" and "Make America White Again" went over big in Lawrenceville on Thursday night.

More than 1,000 people paid $200 each to see the apparent Republican presidential nominee, and hear his promise to build a wall along the Mexican border, The Record reports today.

A private, $25,000-a-ticket fundraiser went toward more than $300,000 in legal bills from the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal exclusive of the $10 million taxpayers forked over to get Christie off of the hook (A-1 and A-8).

Exploits vulnerable

Meanwhile, faced with another big budget gap, Christie is once again exploiting the most vulnerable, and plans to cut millions from charity care (A-1 on Thursday).

An editorial today (A-18) carefully avoids mentioning that a tax surcharge on millionaires Christie has vetoed at least tree times would nearly cover the $1.1 billion revenue shortfall.

What else would you expect from Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin, who has the filthy rich owners of the Woodland Park daily breathing down his neck? 


A Saturday Night Live skit shows crackpot Donald Trump and a humiliated Chris Christie conferring on a vice presidential candidate to run with the apparent Republican presidential nominee in November -- anyone but Christie.

Trump picks Dr. Ben Carson, right.

Legal fees

Stories on a $15 million lawsuit settlement and a $2.2 million jury award today and Thursday don't mention that the plaintiff's lawyers are expected to take at least one-third of that for payment of legal fees and expenses (A-1 and L-1).

Attorney Samuel L. Davis, who won the $15 million deal, represents Juliana Valdez, now 13, who had 22 surgeries after her foot was mangled by an escalator at a Paramus mall in 2013 (A-1).

Should any lawyer who worked on one case part time for three years be paid more than $5 million?

Rare victory

Another Page 1 story today reports a rare victory in the battle to get Ford Motor Co. to remove all of the 166,000 tons of toxic paint sludge dumped 50 years ago in Ringwood (A-1).

Borough officials "have suspended plans to build a recycling center on top of a mountain of contaminated soil," The Record reports.

Still, there is no mention anywhere in the story that the "Ramapo Lenape tribe" (A-8) are a mixed-race people who have been discriminated against for hundreds of years.

In previous stories, The Record has called them "low income." 

Scott Garrett

In all the years Staff Writer Herb Jackson has been covering Rep. Scott Garrett, D-Wantage, today might be the first time he's described him as having "the most conservative record in the state's delegation" to Congress (A-1).

Josh Gotthheimer, the Democrat challenger in November, goes further, calling Garrett a key member of the racist Tea Party.

Readers want to know why Jackson, the so-called Washington correspondent, has never mentioned Garrett's Tea Party credentials.

'To die for'

One thing I learned in many years of copy editing for The Record is to avoid using the word "die" in a headline over a food piece.

But that didn't stop the copy editor who handled Elisa Ung's Informal Dining Review of a takeout-only deli in Fair Lawn.

"Heroes to die for"

Could that be "to die from"?

Ung tells readers nothing about the cold cuts used in the hero sandwiches except they are "imported" or from stores in "the famous Arthur Avenue Italian neighborhood in the Bronx" (BL-14). 

Big deal.

What readers really want to know is whether the meat in the cold cuts was naturally raised and is free of nitrates and other preservatives that have been linked to cancer.

Under her puzzling rating system, she awards the deli, A Family Affair, only two out of three stars, meaning "if you're nearby, a must-eat."

So, I guess Ung is saying if you live in Hackensack, Englewood, Wyckoff, Mahwah, Wayne and many other towns, don't bother.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

City Council rebukes school official who claimed he cut tax

Hackensack Board of Education President Jason Nunnermacker (he's the one with the double chin) hiding from the camera at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, above and below.




By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Hackensack Board of Education President Jason Nunnermacker was being dishonest when he claimed at a public meeting that school officials "cut taxes for the average homeowner by $214," city officials said Tuesday night.

Near the end of a long City Council meeting, Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino said Nunnermacker "had absolutely nothing to do" with potential property tax cuts from a citywide reassessment of home values.

Apropos of nothing, Nunnermacker rose to speak at the May 3 City Council meeting and declared:

"On the superintendent's behalf, we cut taxes for the average homeowner by $214 -- under my presidential leadership." 

(A week later, Nunnermacker announced at a school board meeting that Superintendent Karen Lewis had been suspended with pay for reasons he didn't disclose.) 

Cites revaluation

On Tuesday night, Canestrino, speaking for the mayor and council, said the citywide revaluation is the "sole reason" some homeowners could see a total cut of about $400 in city and school taxes.

School taxes make up 44% of the total property tax bill.

Canestrino noted the reassessment lowered the value of one-third of the homes in the city, one-third stayed the same and one-third went up.

She also noted the school board approved a $4.2 million hike in the tax levy that a tiny minority of registered voters approved in the April 19 election.

The $79 million tax levy supports an overall budget of $104 million, higher than the city's own. The hike in the city tax levy was $2.1 million -- half of the board's increase.

The Record didn't bother covering the issues or the nine candidates in the school board election or report on the budget in any detail.


Councilwoman Deborah Keeling-Geddis, right, again led the city's African-American community in criticizing officials for the embarrassing Lt. James Prise promotion. Councilman David Sims, second from right, left the meeting to take care of a personal matter before Keeling-Geddis read a statement and audience members, including clergy, spoke.


Lt. James Prise

Staff Writer John Seasly of The Record covered Tuesday night's City Council meeting, but his story in the Local section today doesn't report any of Canestrino's comments about Nunnermacker (L-1).

Nor does Seasly report that City Councilwoman Deborah Keeling-Geddis again led members of the city's African-American community in criticizing officials for promoting police Lt. James Prise to captain, only to return him to his original rank when it was learned he failed the oral portion of the state civil service exam.

Prise was the city's first black police lieutenant and was heralded as its first black captain at a March 8 ceremony in City Council Chambers.

City Manager David Troast said Prise's promotion was "provisional" pending the results of the oral exam, but he still thinks he was the right choice to lead the Police Department after the retirement of Police Director Mike Mordaga.

In response to comments from the audience that the City Council should issue a public apology to Prise, Canestrino and Mayor John Labrosse said officials have apologized a number of times, but that The Record hasn't reported any of them.

Censorship

A front-page story today reports that Bergen County had one of the state's 191 "apartheid schools," or "schools where 1 percent or less of the student population was white," according to a 2013 Rutgers University report.

But even though a Record reporter added material to the story from The Associated Press, that district isn't identified (A-1).

"Apartheid schools" certainly would fit the elementary and middle schools in Englewood, where desegregation efforts in the last decade have focused only on Dwight Morrow High School.

Over the years, Dan Sforza and other Record reporters assigned to Englewood have routinely ignored the city's dysfunctional school system.

Then, Sforza spent many years as a local editor who assigned reporters to cover stories in Englewood before he was promoted to managing editor this year.

Staff Writer Mathhew McGrath, who covers the city now, has written about education, but never reported the city's elementary and middle schools have few white students nor has he asked the superintendent what, if anything, he intends to do about that.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

As Bridgegate case drags on, lawyers are having last laugh

Parts of Main Street outside of downtown Hackensack have been repaved, as have other streets, but State Street and a narrow stretch of River Street still give drivers a rough ride.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The latest delay in releasing the list of "unindicted co-conspirators" in the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal serves only to line the pockets of the many lawyers involved.

Governor Christie alone has managed to spend more than $10 million in taxpayer funds on his law firm's elaborate stonewalling of public suspicions that he was involved in the September 2013 dirty trick against Fort Lee's Democratic mayor.

Christie's lawyer, Randy Mastro, actually had the balls to announce he was lowering his hourly fee to $650 from $1,000.

Despite the obvious bias of Mastro's final report, The Record has time and again pointed to it as evidence Christie did nothing wrong.

And the Woodland Park daily allowed WNYC-FM and other media to take the lead in keeping track of Mastro's bloated bills to the Governor's Office.

Three-year delay

Now, the trial of Bill Baroni, who was the Port Authority's deputy director, and Bridget Anne Kelly, then deputy chief of staff to Christie, is set for this September -- three years after the event.

David Wildstein, a Christie crony on the Port Authority, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy last May, and is expected to testify against Baroni and Kelly.

We can only guess at the huge legal bills facing this trio, and whether they had to take second and third mortgages on their homes.

Silence on fees

High legal fees deny many people their day in court.

That doesn't trouble The Record or North Jersey Media Group, which has deep pockets and doesn't hesitate to finance such First Amendment cases as trying to make public the list of people who weren't charged in the lane-closure scandal.

At the same time, the editors also have done their best to hide just how much lawyers get from multi-million dollar jury awards and settlements by simply not reporting them.

And when is the last time you saw a story reporting that a plaintiff is paying $200, $300 or $400 an hour for representation or that a criminal defendant might have to come up with a $10,000 retainer to get a lawyer to appear in court with him? 

Law-firm merger

The Record stays silent on legal fees even as it promotes a Hackensack law firm that has been paid handsomely to represent NJMG in everything from age-discrimination lawsuits to copyright infringement cases.

A story on the Saturday Business page reported Pashman Stein is merging with Walder Hayden of Roseland, but didn't identify the Hackensack firm as the one that's favored by NJMG Vice President and General Counsel Jennifer A. Borg.

Local news?

The Record's Local front today includes three sensational court stories, and two more appear on L-3 along with crime news.

Yet, two local obituaries were buried on L-5, including one for the Fort Lee man who ran Zabar's deli counter.

"To the legions who shop at Zabar's, the Upper West Side specialty food emporium, Harold Horowytz was the prince of pastrami, the king of corned beef, the lord of lox," Staff Writer Jay Levin wrote.

Below the Horowytz obituary, Levin reported the death of Allen Wahlberg, a longtime Ho-Ho-Kus councilman.

So, Horowytz and Wahlberg are treated the same as Madeleine LeBeau, an obscure French actress whose obit also is played on L-5.

Bias against Obama

What motivated The Record's editors to take a pot shot at President Obama in the coverage of his speech to Rutgers University graduates on Sunday?

The reporting I saw elsewhere was overwhelmingly positive, but The Record's main Page 1 story on Monday ended on a surprisingly sour note.

What exactly was the point of quoting a parent, Vince Zangli, saying he "couldn't be more disappointed in the last eight years," a clear reference to Obama's two terms in office?

Of course, that is consistent with all of the attacks on Obama by Christie and Record Columnist Mike Kelly.

Still, many readers are asking whether Zangli, Christie, Kelly, the editors and the reporter who quoted the parent are motivated by racial animus against the nation's first black president.

Coach Christie?

And why didn't The Record and other media question Christie's excuse for boycotting Obama's speech.

Who believes that fat slob's claim that he has coached his son in baseball "since he was 7 years old," and wanted to see him pitch his last college game?