Good Tuesday morning!
People who work at news publications are as flawed as anyone else. We make mistakes. Sometimes we use poor judgment. Maybe even make offensive jokes. We don’t ask readers and viewers to trust our reporting because we’re perfect. We ask them to trust it because we try to hold governments and organizations to account and we seek transparency.
And that’s where the problem is with The Asbury Park Press’ handling of a sexist photo caption, which also used a derogatory term aimed at Jewish women that if not understood correctly would appear to impugn Japanese people. Yes, it was a big problem. By Monday morning, Executive Editor Paul D’Ambrosio had apologized.
People being people, things like this are going to happen, and you can argue these things are particularly likely to slip through the cracks at places like Gannett, where the staff has been gutted over the last 15 years or so. But the publication’s apology did not reveal who wrote the caption and what happened to them. And D’Ambrosino told me in an email that he couldn’t comment further because it’s a personnel matter.
These are basic questions that any reporter at the Asbury Park Press or other publication would demand an answer to if it were another institution. So let’s try to hold ourselves to the same standard that we hold others to.
Now hopefully the headlines I’ve written below don’t offend anyone too badly.
WHERE’S MURPHY — In cyberspace for a 4 p.m. “Virtual roundtable on violence and discrimination against Asian-Americans.” Media: Univision Radio at 3:30 p.m.
CORONAVIRUS TRACKER: 2,608 newly-reported positive PCR tests for a total of 767,583. 28 more deaths for a total of 21,666 (and 2,515 probable deaths). 1,921 hospitalized, 409 in intensive care. 1,240,282 fully vaccinated, or about 14 percent of the population.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The Asbury Park Press released a short sighted apology that does not even begin to describe how something of this low caliber can be written and published for the public to see. The public needs to know why this language was written in the first place, and how the paper’s system allowed for it to be published.” — State Sen. Vin Gopal
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Former Morris Dem Chairman Lew Candura, Jefferson Health’s Lisa Morina, MWWPR’s Kathleen O’Brien. Missed yesterday: The Jersey Journal’s Joe Albright
ON THE FAST TRACK — Senate committee rejects pension bill, but Sweeney moves it along, by POLITICO’s Katherine Landergan: A bill that would give county and local officials oversight over their contributions to the state pension system appeared on the Senate Budget Committee‘s agenda Monday after it failed to advance out of another committee just hours earlier, a move that sparked immediate outcry from union leaders. “Why a bill like this that could have such a dramatic and possibly devastating effect on the overall pension system has clearly been fast-tracked without any emergent need to do so — [it] makes us more than a little suspicious,” said Fran Ehret, the incoming New Jersey director for the Communications Workers of America New Jersey. “There’s no reason to rush to vote on this bill in committee, or on the floor.” The CWA represents about 55,000 state, county and municipal workers across New Jersey.
DONALD NORCROSS MUST’VE MISSED THIS — “Strings attached: The Biden relief package could pose problems for the state’s economic recovery plan,” by NJ BIZ’s Daniel J. Munoz: “The package includes $350 billion in state and local aid, of which New Jersey is getting more than $6 billion to cover expenses related to the pandemic and make up for revenue losses. But a provision in the law limits how states can use corporate tax breaks to attract businesses, prohibiting states from using federal aid to provide tax cuts. Under the ARP, states ‘shall not use funds … to either directly or indirectly offset a reduction in the net tax revenue … resulting from a change in law, regulation or administrative interpretation during the covered period that reduces any tax (by providing for a reduction in a rate, a rebate, a deduction, a credit, or otherwise) or delays the imposition of any tax or tax increase.’ The U.S. Treasury Department must still promulgate regulations to implement the law, a process that could take months. But the rule and any potential restrictions on state tax breaks will be in effect until 2024, according to the bill.”
RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT — “Somerville loses legal fight to fire high school teacher who moved out of NJ,” by MyCentralJersey’s Mike Deak: “A Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Somerville Board of Education seeking to fire a teacher who had moved out of state in violation of state law. Judge Thomas Miller has ruled that a provision of the New Jersey First Act, which requires all public employees to move into the state within a year of being hired, is unconstitutional. Miller, who serves as assignment judge in Vicinage 13 which includes Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren counties, wrote in his 77-page decision that a waiver provision in the law is ‘unconstitutionally vague.’ The law’s standard that a waiver for the residency requirement be given only because of ‘critical need or hardship’ is ‘likely subject to a different interpretation by virtually every person who considers it.’”
SOME AGAIN FORCED TO FIND EXCUSES NOT TO VISIT LOVED ONES — Murphy issues guidance to free up indoor visits at New Jersey nursing homes, by POLITICO’s Sam Sutton: New Jersey is giving nursing homes and long-term care facilities the green light to allow residents to receive indoor visits, matching guidance issued by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services earlier this month. Family members and residents of long-term care facilities have been pushing Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration for months to loosen restrictions on indoor visits, citing the mental health strain of prolonged isolation. But with Republicans having painted a Cuomo-sized target on the administration over its handling of outbreaks in long-term care, Murphy and state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli have been slow to unwind any restrictions designed to eliminate the spread of Covid-19.
HOSPITALS — “The decline in COVID patients has stagnated. What does that mean for New Jersey?” by The Record’s Lindy Washburn: “As in the earlier waves of the pandemic, most of the patients who are sick enough to be hospitalized now are older, with conditions such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure that put them at higher risk of severe illness. But fewer come from long-term-care facilities, because of the successful vaccination campaigns there. And with very rare exceptions, people who have been vaccinated or previously had COVID and were reinfected have not needed hospital care. ‘But then we see people who are inexplicably ill,’ said Dr. Joseph Duffy, chief medical officer at St. Joseph’s Health, where 124 COVID patients were hospitalized at the Paterson and Wayne hospitals on Friday. ‘The book is still being written on this virus.’ Hospitals are nowhere close to being overwhelmed, their executives say. But they are wary. A premature easing of social restrictions and a variant of the virus that eludes the defenses of current vaccines could spell trouble.”
MANY MASTROS LOST — “A year after Gov. Murphy shut everything down, N.J. businesses are still reeling,” by NJ Advance Media’s Sophie Nieto-Munoz: “The pandemic knocked New Jersey off its course, and the state is having trouble bouncing back. The state’s unemployment rate peaked at a historic rate of 16.2% and was 7.9% in January compared to the nation’s average of 6.7%. And the leisure and hospitality industry took the worst hit, losing over 26% of jobs, and devastating tourist-driven economies like Atlantic City, which had the highest unemployment rate in the country in July. It won’t get better until restrictions start to lift and vaccines ramp up, economists agree. But the economic road to recovery will be longer than the medical path, and could get worse if it’s not treated as seriously soon.”
VIN GROWPAL — Gopal introduces home grow bill as Democrats weigh loosening draconian penalties, by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman: Signs are beginning to emerge that New Jersey’s notoriously strict laws against growing cannabis may soon loosen now that the drug is legal in the state. State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) has introduced legislation that would allow New Jerseyans to grow recreational cannabis at home — the first member of his party to do so. And the lead lawmaker who pushed marijuana legalization, Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), says he’s willing to examine allowing some sort of home grow, or at least loosening penalties. Gopal on Thursday introduced the bill, NJ S3582, which would allow people 21 and older to grow up to six plants for recreational use or up to 10 plants for medical use. A single household would not be permitted to have more than 12 plants growing.
TOMMY CHONG FOR HEALTH COMMISSIONER — “Murphy ‘open-minded’ to more drug decriminalizations,” by New Jersey Globe’s Nikita BIryukov: “Gov. Phil Murphy said he was willing to consider decriminalizing other drugs after the state finally completed its push to legalize marijuana, though it’s not clear he’ll take up the cause anytime soon. ‘I’m open-minded to hear their arguments,’ Murphy said at Monday’s virus briefing. ‘But I think we’ve taken a big step, and I want to get that step embedded as my personal opinion and get this right before we consider any further steps.’”
LAKEWOOD — “N.J. school district suspends vice principal after COVID outbreak that sickened 8 staffers,” by NJ Advance Media’s Steve Strunsky: “The vice principal at an elementary school in Lakewood has been placed on administrative leave while the district reviews whether contact tracing procedures were followed surrounding a COVID-19 outbreak that officials said sickened eight staffers last month. Lakewood’s teachers union, which has been at odds with the administration over its decision to implement fully in-person learning this year, accused the board and school officials of using the vice principal as a scapegoat.”
COMRADES — “Montclair public schools have lost 459 students during the pandemic,” by The Record’s Julia Martin: “According to documents submitted by the school board in its suit against the union, 459 students have left the Montclair public schools in the past year, with more than 117 transferring to private schools. The drop comes after years of increases — enrollment in 2020 was 6,670 — and despite a pandemic real estate boom that has brought an influx of young families from New York City. The suit blames the decline on the ‘delay in restoring in-person instruction,’ which it says is causing ‘irreparable harm to students.’ More than half of the students who transferred out of the Montclair public schools in the last year were of elementary age, according to the lawsuit. Younger students tend to fare more poorly with online learning than older ones.”
PATERSON SCHOOL BOARD THANKS JERSEY CITY FOR SOFTENING THE BLOW — “Paterson taxpayers face average $155 hike in proposed schools budget,” by The Paterson Press’ Joe Malinconico: “City homeowners face a $155 average annual tax increase under the proposed 2021-22 school district budget that gained preliminary Board of Education approval last week. For the first time in several years, the district’s proposed budget would not require layoffs or educational program reductions, said Business Administrator Richard Matthews. The district was able to avoid such cuts with the help of extra COVID-19 funding as well as reduced operating costs stemming from the pandemic shutdown, officials said. During his budget presentation on Wednesday night, Matthews said Paterson’s school tax levy — the total amount to be collected in taxes — would rise from $54.5 million to $61 million, an increase of almost 12%.”
THEY HAVE MORE TIME ON THEIR HANDS NOW THAT THEY CAN’T ARREST PEOPLE FOR WEED — “Jersey City police unions holding up plans to introduce CCRB ordinance, officials say,” by Hudson County View’s John Heinis: “Jersey City’s two police unions are holding up plans to introduce an ordinance that would ultimately lead to the creation of local civilian complaint review board, officials said at today’s council caucus meeting. ‘Since the last time we spoke about CCRB at our council meeting, the city did receive a correspondence from the police unions’ attorney and our law department has prepared a response for that,’ explained Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley, a co-sponsor of the measure along with Ward E Councilman James Solomon. After initially coming up with separate proposals last year, the two colleagues were poised to introduce a compromise measure last month that would’ve included 11 board members – six chosen by the council – subpoena power, and a ‘trigger mechanism.’”
CHOCOLATE SYRUP BRAND ASKS CATHOLIC SCHOOL TO PLEASE CHANGE ITS NAME — “Salesians religious order that runs Don Bosco Prep faces multiple sex abuse lawsuits in NJ,” by The Record’s Abbott Kolof: “At least five sex abuse lawsuits have been filed over the past 15 months against the religious order that runs Don Bosco Preparatory School in Ramsey, a group that has faced a significant number of accusations in other parts of the country but that so far has received little attention in New Jersey. The eastern province of the Salesians of Don Bosco, a Catholic order headquartered in New York, has published on its website a list of 40 members who have been credibly accused of abusing children. At least 22 were assigned to work in New Jersey at some point in their careers, including 10 at Don Bosco Prep. Most recently, a transgender woman alleged in a lawsuit filed this month that she was sexually assaulted by a religious brother who was her algebra teacher at Don Bosco Prep in the 1970s. The teacher, Michael Brinkman, who now lives at a Salesian residence center in Florida, had not been included in the order’s list of accused brothers.”
GOOFBALLS BRIDGE — “Oops: New ‘Geothals Bridge’ sign goes up on Staten Island Expressway. Drivers fume over misspelling,” by The Staten Island Advance’s Kyle Lawson: “If you frequent the New Jersey-bound lanes of the Staten Island Expressway, you may recently have noticed something not-quite-right about a prominent road sign. About a quarter-mile before the Richmond Avenue exit, a sign for the Goethals Bridge reads ‘Geothals Bridge.’ The spelling error was noted Saturday by a Facebook user who quipped, ‘great job guys’ The sign, which also directs traffic to the Outerbridge Crossing, is among 19 new fixtures on the state’s Department of Transportation property scheduled to be replaced incrementally. A spokesman for the state DOT said Sunday he was looking into the matter.”
IF YOU DON’T HELP THEY’LL SALA-MEANDER — “Volunteers help salamanders cross NJ roadways,” by The New Jersey Herald’s Bruce A. Scruton: “It’s time for the salamander migration, a seasonal event most people never see because it takes place under cover of darkness on warm, rainy nights. But in a handful of select places, human volunteers organized by Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, will be giving these foot-long amphibians a helping hand to cross the road. The effort, which has been ongoing for a couple of decades, is to give the slow-moving salamanders a boost to cross a busy road as they migrate down hillsides, following the snowmelt to vernal pools.”