Farance Charges Local Roosevelt Island Main Street Wire Newspaper With Conflicts Of Interest, Bias, Inaccurate Reporting And Manipulating News For Benefit Of Some Residents
Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Island House Common Council Member Frank Farance writes:
In the March 22, 2014 issue of the Main Street WIRE, the Editor Dick Lutz singles out three RIRA Common Council members who are doing their best, which includes making transparent much of the problems to the rest of the organization's members (the residents). In other words: do legitimate and substantiated points deserve expulsion proceedings and a (bogus and erroneous) talking-down from the Editor of the newspaper whose staff is influencing the news, and doing it secretly? (not!)Mr. Lutz, Mr. Katz, Ms. Helstien, Ms. Polivy and Mr. Evans were offered an opportunity to respond and rebut the allegations made by Mr. Farance. All declined to do so.
Dick Lutz had no problem printing complaints about Keith Guerra (including some unsubstantiated complaints about him taking small favors/food, which turned out to be false). But it was all in the name of Openness, Fairness, and Transparency, right? So why are the complaints about Guerra not considered The Politics Of Destruction? Yet, genuine and legitimate complaints concerning Openness, Fairness, and transparency against the RIOC Board, RIRA, etc. are considered The Politics Of Destruction?
Truly, Dick Lutz has poor journalistic standards, he doesn't fact-check his reporting, he and his reporting suffer from racial/ethnic bias, he (along with others) manipulate the news and RIRA committees, and he has his own significant conflicts of interests that can question his ability to report objectively/truthfully on the Island. Rather than take up many pages, you can see the full details on the RI Blog at the page "http://tinyurl.com/wirerebuttal".
The WIRE's April 26 Editorial, Dick Lutz has doubled down on this double standard with a No Complaints Against Volunteers Or Their Motives policy for its Letters To The Editor. It's a double standard because the WIRE finds it acceptable to write an editorial incorrectly attributing motive (Politics Of Destruction) to three RIRA Common Council members (volunteers), including myself, yet us residents are prohibited by WIRE policy to raise questions about Openness, Fairness, and Transparency of elected members that represent our community, regardless of their volunteer status. Consistently, I have expressed concerns about Openness, Fairness, and Transparency -- resident or not, volunteer or not. Furthermore, the WIRE inoculates itself from criticism by touting (opposite page of its editorial) the WIRE staff are volunteers and, thus, would also be shielded from complaints about the WIRE staff and the WIRE's problematic reporting and journalistic ethics.
Or said differently, as residents read the WIRE they get incomplete or inaccurate reporting where one's scratches his/her head thinking: I Don't Know The Whole Story, clearly there is a story, there are holes in the WIRE's reporting, and I wish someone would tell us what is going on (transparency) since these organizations purport to represent us. Because of the ongoing efforts to quash reporting in many fronts (the WIRE, certain old-timer RIRA Common Council members, etc.), residents reading the WIRE continually get the impression there are key parts that are not being reported.
Here are some highlights:
1. The WIRE manipulates the news, example #1: The discussion in Matt Katz's 2011 redistricting testimony did have a racial/ethnic bias, and four elected officials responded with letters to the WIRE. But it was Dick Lutz who contacted the officials to ask them to withdraw their complaints because the WIRE did not have space to print them. Meanwhile, that same week Dick Lutz was requesting RIRA Common Council members (via E-mail forwarded by Matt Katz) to provide ADDITIONAL letters to the WIRE to counter Helen Chirivas and the RIRA Housing Committee's complaint about racial/ethnic bias in the WIRE and the Katz redistricting testimony, i.e., the WIRE says it has no room for complaints against Katz or the WIRE, but has lots of room to complain about Chirivas. At the RIRA meeting, Sherie Helstien motioned to table the Housing Committee report, which Matt Katz quickly acknowledged, and there was no possibility discussing this. The WIRE and Katz, via a kinda quid-pro-quo where they covered for each other, successfully quashed the community hearing about legitimate concerns concerning racial/ethnic bias. So to those who say Write A Letter To The WIRE, that's a bunch of baloney: you'll get WIRE staff (Lutz, Katz, Helstien, etc.) working against you.
2. The WIRE manipulates the news, example #2: Lutz correctly recalls that I lost to Katz in the RIRA 2010 elections. For Katz and I the election was mainly argued over RIOC 2010 elections: I though they should be held, as scheduled, and I complained about the secret meetings of the Maple Tree Group - MTG (which is now called the RIRA Legislative Subcommittee - LSC); meanwhile Lutz (and other WIRE staff) were voting in these secret meetings, which had the effect of cancelling the RIOC 2010 elections (among other pitfalls). In June 2011, the Governor appointed Sal Ferrera to the RIOC Board, and that whole MTG group went ballistic. Katz's gambit had failed spectacularly: there were no candidates because those MTG people manipulated the elections process. Instead of having candidates to advocate, the Island was left with the idiotic position of explaining why we chose to cancel the RIOC 2010 elections. A huge loss of credibility for the democracy / self-governance efforts because, in fact, thanks to Dick Lutz, Matt Katz, and several other WIRE staffers, the elections were manipulated. And done secretly.
3. The WIRE manipulates the news, example #3: It's like Summer of 2010 all over again. These latest shenanigans of the RIRA LSC include secret meetings where letters to legislators advocating positions on Island legislation:
- the RIRA LSC committee had secret meetings (essentially, facilitated via private E-mail discussions)
- there are no minutes of RIRA LSC meetings
- the RIRA LSC committee is presenting itself as representing the Island in legislative matters yet there was no input from the community, RIRA Common Council, or the Government Relations Committee
- there was no possibility for the community to participate in this RIRA LSC effort
- the letter was signed by the "chair" of the RIRA LSC committee when no such appointment of chair had occurred
On top of that you have Matt Katz (former RIRA President), Ellen Polivy (former RIRA President), Sherie Helstien (current RIRA VP), and Dave Evans (Chair of the Constitution and By-Laws Committee), and none of them know that these meetings, discussions, and decisions need to be made in publicly held meetings? Or said differently, with the exception of Evans/Polivy, the committee (Ashton Barfield (chair), Linda Heimer, Vicki Feinmel, Matt Katz, Sherie Helstien) is comprised of and led by WIRE staff?
Dick Lutz seems to focus on Helen Chirivas, but she has been reporting much of these unpleasant facts. Lutz's response looks like retaliation against Chirivas for exposing the almost-all-WIRE committee secretly meeting and presenting itself as the legislative committee that represents Roosevelt Island.
4. The WIRE has low journalistic standards, example #1: It doesn't fact check. Lutz implied that Joyce Mincheff quit RIRA and as RIRA Secretary because of my E-mails. Not true. This has been the third or fourth time Mincheff has quit RIRA, including the prior term under Matt Katz when she didn't like Katz, and the second time (I believe) she quit as RIRA Secretary. Had the WIRE investigated Mincheff's repetitive quitting, a clearer explanation would have been had that Ms. Mincheff has quit many times.
5. The WIRE has low journalistic standards, example #2: In an on-line complaint against Chirivas, Lutz takes a video sound bite out of context to try to make a point, but the full videos need to be posted so the community can see what had actually occurred, including the shenanigans of the LSC meeting. The WIRE has not provided the videos. Additionally, Lutz's complaints are unsubstantiated in a variety of ways (just like the expulsion proceedings against me). See the link above for more details.
6. The WIRE has significant journalistic conflicts. My understanding of Lutz's explanation is that the WIRE, while a For-Profit business, is operating out of the Rivercross Community Room, and that the WIRE have access to the space for free, but Rivercross rules only allow access to the space for organizations, not to For-Profit businesses.
Based upon his explanation, if someone were to complain to the Rivercross management or the Rivercross Board, he would lose his space. Thus, avoiding complaints is essential to Mr. Lutz having free access to the operating space of the Rivercross community room, right? All it takes is just ONE complaint, right?
So if the WIRE were to report something unpleasant about (say) the Rivercross privatization, in which approximately 360 apartments stand to cash out with hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in profits, including some Rivercross Board members who stand to gain millions of dollars in profits, and the Editor's own apartment with cash-out benefits -- then it is reasonable to believe the WIRE cannot report objectively/comprehensively or reveal the complete truth because the WIRE's operations might be at stake, and much of the WIRE's main staff are from Rivercross (Dick Lutz, Ashton Barfield, Linda Heimer, Vicki Feinmel, and a handful more) who might suffer financially in less profit-taking in the selling of their apartments.
In other words, the WIRE journalistic conflict of interest arises from multiple interests, such as financial and operational. Which means that reporting on broad swath of RIOC/Island issues (Rivercross/etc. ground leases, board members' conflicts of interest, billion-dollar debt/liability, assessments, etc.) could be both unpleasant and unprofitable for fellow Rivercross residents, including much of the WIRE staff.
Thus, there are serious questions about the objectivity, truthfulness, and completeness about the WIRE's coverage of our community.