Friday, February 29, 2008

Envisions Doom and Gloom

Neither retail nor tourism are growth industries in the future of the U.S. economy.

The U.S. consumer is under assault from all sides: the value of the U.S. dollar is dropping dramatically, in part due to the unsustainable international trade deficit, the out-of-control U.S. budget deficit, and worst of all because of the over $9 trillion U.S. national debt, which has increased by well over 50% in the last six years.

Real income adjusted for inflation has been slipping for years. To compound the issue, as U.S. manufacturing jobs disappear overseas, all that are left are lower-paying "service" jobs.

U.S. consumers are facing the additional burden of out-of-control health insurance and health care costs, which are eating up more and more discretionary income. Add to this the increasing price of energy, which is a direct result of the drop in value of the U.S. dollar, and U.S. consumers are facing a "perfect storm" with no light on the horizon.

The U.S. economy is undergoing a fundamental shift which will forever reduce our standard of living. Expenditures which are not absolutely positively needed will out of necessity be reduced. People simply will not have money to waste on consumer goods and trips that they can no longer afford.

This is not fiction; these changes have already begun. As time goes on, it WILL get worse.

Convention Center End Game

The casino is going to be a VERY hard sell. Yes, Dale High and LNP will play hardball, and we'll hear all kinds of noise about how high our taxes will go if the casino isn't brought in. And it will be messy: Wachovia will have to foreclose on the convention center and turn it into private ownership (and likely sell it to High for pennies on the dollar; High will be hailed as a hero in the media for "saving" downtown Lancaster) before it can be turned into a casino.

But public opposition will be vocal and widespread. What SHOULD have happened eight years ago will be overwhelmed by conservative Lancaster County sentiment.

I expect Lancaster City officials to play hardball, also. I am sure that the casino promoters (Dale High?) will have to make some kind of deal with Lancaster City and the School District of Lancaster before government officials sign off on the deal. I believe that the casino will be required to pay a LOT more than just real estate taxes - likely a cut of the take - in exchange for permission to open a casino.

It is likely that whatever it costs the casino to operate in Lancaster City will result in at least holding the line on taxes in Lancaster City and the SDoL, and possibly even a token reduction.

Money for 441 Re-routed to Crossings Interchange

When THE CROSSINGS was proposed, I attended quite a few of the meetings in Manheim Twp.

When the package was passed with Mr. Tom Smithgall at the helm, Manheim Twp. passed the project with a TEXT amendment meaning that the Center AND the highways to and from, in and out all have to be funded and opened at the same time. There was no promise to expand the bridge over 30 on Harrisburg Pike etc.

Also, the real estate around this project has become worthless for residential.

This week at the Commissioners' meeting, Mayor Lutz from Columbia pleaded with the Commissioners to help him reinstate funding for the relocation of the 441 bypass that had been promised by the powers that be to be completed by 2012. This bypass is the lifeline to Columbia and really needed as they are coming alive downtown, and investors are projecting to the future with anticipation that 441 will be relocated.

The Mayor was informed last week that the money is no longer available. WHERE DID IT GO? I STOOD UP AND TOLD THEM WHERE IT IS GOING — TO THE CROSSINGS. AND WE DO NOT NEED MORE SHOPPING.

Columbia needs the bypass to save the town and it will be an economic boom come true. It fulfills the comprehensive plan of the county etc. Is this state and federal government not bought and paid for?

PLEASE keep a watch on this my friends because High almost got away with TAKING FROM THE POOR AND GIVING TO THE RICH. These Commissioners are going to see this in their face from me every week until that money goes back to Columbia instead of disappearing.

As for The Crossings, supposedly Wegman's [super market] and K Mart are going to be big players plus high end stores of some kind. This is just another High saying I am going to do this project no matter what.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Quiz on double speak

Question: Which large developer, power broker, and corporate welfare recipient publicly states the following about his latest project?

"Market research shows that Lancaster is under-stored and that significant revenues are being lost by consumers traveling out of town to shop at venues unavailable here. The retailers that would participate in this kind of center will complement the existing independent shops and cultural activities by adding to the comprehensiveness of the kinds of experiencesa vailable in Lancaster County."

Answer: Dale High, of his Crossings project on his official Crossings website.

Of course, one might ask why a developer would build a shopping center in an area (Manheim Township) that is intended to draw shoppers out of a district (downtown Lancaster) where he is building another project.

And if any of you could interpret the second sentence in the quoted text above, I'd appreciate it. I guess I needed to take even more advanced literacy courses because that to me sounds like George Bush on his speech writer's day off.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Can we really be of help?

In an article posted on on Wednesday, February 27, 2008, former County Commissioner (and current LCCCA board member) Sharron Nelson is quoted as saying:

"Our much-maligned Convention Center can capitalize on that if we work together to make it a success."

Would someone PLEASE explain exactly what "WE" can do to make the hotel and convention center project "a success"???

Contractually, all marketing and booking for the project is controlled by Interstate Hotels and Resorts:

"21 Operation of Convention Center. The Authority hereby authorizes and engages Manager as its exclusive agent to act as the operator and manager of the Convention Center during the Management Term, with exclusive responsibility and complete and full control and discretion in the operation, direction, management and supervision of the Convention Center."

Contracts and agreements for conventions and meetings are ALWAYS made directly between the event organizer and the convention center manager. People who are considering downtown Lancaster as a venue for their event aren't going to consider the opinion of local residents when deciding where to hold their event; their decision will be based on marketing materials, salesmanship, and contract negotiations with Interstate Hotels.

Some months ago, I personally asked Brian Sparacino from Interstate Hotels what influence the public can have on the project. After dancing around the subject, he clearly admitted that the public has NO influence over bringing convention or meeting business to the taxpayer-financed convention center.

Sharron Nelson is doing the people of Lancaster City and County a great disservice by perpetuating the fiction that "WE" can have any kind of effect at all on the "success" of the hotel and convention center project.

Fewer Students, More Crime

Lancaster Newspapers has not reported one of residents' chief grievances with F&M – the significant crime increase that has arisen since nearly 400 students have moved from the neighborhood into the new dormitory on Harrisburg Pike. At the planning commission meeting Feb 20, several residents noted increases in vandalism, burglary, assaults, and drug-related crime in the past year. Much of this crime is believed to be due to landlords filling the glut of vacant housing with marginal residents.

This situation is particularly galling for me and other off-campus student landlords. In the fall of 2006 F&M met with landlords to advise them of their plans to relocate 400 students to the new resident halls on Harrisburg Pike. The landlords, although disappointed, were generally resigned to the decision. The one request landlords made was that F&M gradually phase in the change to avoid a flood of vacancies that would make it difficult for landlords to find quality tenants.

F&M not only ignored that request, but moved to lease the new housing immediately when they learned from landlords that student housing is leased 6 months in advance of the lease starting dates. This has resulted in the current high vacancy rate and a scramble to find good tenants.

Now in a market of excess supply, F&M is attempting to change the zoning laws that off-campus landlords have successfully lived with for 20 years. The top reasons given for this request are increased safety and control of the students. If this is truly F&M's goal, my suggestion is that F&M use Kevin Silverang's $17 million to build the on-campus dormitory they claim is in their 10 year plan.

Monday, February 25, 2008

F&M Misleads Public

Franklin & Marshall College (F&M) informed the public a couple of years ago that, at some future point, students would no longer be allowed to rent from private landlords. People who owned properties that were leased to F&M students made business decisions based on that information.

Recently, F&M disclosed to the public they have an exclusive arrangement with Kevin Silverang in which only his company will be allowed to lease properties off campus to as many as 240 F&M students.

The City of Lancaster is now being asked to alter zoning in order to grant Mr. Silverang liberties regarding the allowed number of occupants per property which will not be granted to other investors unless they enter into a similar exclusive arrangement with another institution of higher learning.

Interestingly, Mr. Silverang has purchased many of his properties from investors who had no idea that such an arrangement with F&M may exist.

Why should Mr. Silverang get such special treatment and privileges?

F&M has knowingly misled the public which may have resulted in property owners making business decisions to their own detriment and to Mr. Silverang's benefit.

Such unethical behavior by F&M should not be tolerated by the local community, especially since it pays little or no property taxes but receives many services from the local government.

Rally for Peace On March 15th

LANCASTER, PA – Lancaster County citizens, veterans, religious groups, scholars, civil rights advocates, and civic organizations will gather on the Fifth Anniversary of the start of the Iraq War at Binns Park and then march to Southern Market.

Participants and feeder marches will converge on Binns Park at 12 noon. Ushers will then lead a march through the streets of Lancaster arriving at Southern Market by 2 PM. At this time, LCPJ will feature a live feed from the Winter Soldier program of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).

The day will end with a candlelight vigil on the old Courthouse steps at 7 PM.

For more information on the events of March 15th, email

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Concerning "Are Convention Centers Overbuilt?"

HVS was the firm that the LCCCA brought in to refute the findings of Heywood Sanders following his visit to Lancaster.

Editor's Note: Sanders contended convention centers were overbuilt and especially advised against the convention center project.

Calls for "Get Cooking," Not "Rehashing"

What I am saying is that NOTHING has been done or is being done to hold any of the people accountable for past overspending, non accountability, etc. So here we are asking questions and rehashing the past when the future is running away with more of the same. I cannot believe that everything done in the past cannot be brought to someone's attention for discipline.

The newspaper just keeps on chugging out what they want, these three new Commissioners have the public thinking that the last board left the county in a mess; the Sunshine Act was broken BUT the newspaper did not blink an eye.

I am saying let us stay in their faces on current issues as last week in hopes that some type of media helps out. Not one person got their hand slapped for all the overspending and non-disclosure on the Center.

Show me how talking about it will do any good. The Attorney General's office or someone that can translate the Hobbs Act needs to get cooking rather than more talk.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

NewsLanc "Pitching Streetcars" Article Inaccurate

A recent story had this sentence:

"Jack Howell is also President of the Lancaster Alliance, a consortium of local business leaders who seek to invest in the future of Lancaster."

It would be more accurate to write:

"Jack Howell is the sycophant-front man for the Penn Square Partners whose unholy alliance in this manifestation is in the form of a non-profit called Lancaster Alliance. In violation of the IRS code, this 501(C)3 solely advances the business interests of these very-much-for-profit companies AND allows them to reap the tax write-offs afforded for those giving to a charity."

Editor's Note: Published letters do not necessarily represent the view of

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Some People Seem Unable to See These Points

1. The previous Commissioners were flayed, at least one (probably two) was libeled on the front pages – "Guilty" "Guilty" "Guilty" for violating the Sunshine Act, even though they didn't violate the law.

2. The current Commission, after campaigning on the issue of "transparency and accountability" and holding a taxpayer-funded public meeting on the law, actually violated the Sunshine Act,: and there would've been zero coverage by LNP (whose representative [one of the Intell 5] personally witnessed the breach) had Ron Harper [of] not raised his voice.

3. The previous Commission (Shellenberger, Henderson) opposed the convention center.

4. The current Commission all received money from Lancaster Newspapers's business partner, Dale High.

5. Henderson received no money from High. Coincidence?

The point is that the current Commission was protected by the monopoly newspapers and Dale High for breaking exactly the same law!

This Commission, unlike the previous Commission, passed SIX unlawful resolutions. They had to re-hold an entire meeting because every resolution passed at the last meeting was not legally binding. And if it wasn't for Harper, the county would be facing some serious litigation based on those phony resolutions from the illegal meeting.

Was this Commission evil? No. Did they do the right thing by apologizing and admitting their mistake? Absolutely.

But, remember, the previous Commission apologized, admitted mistakes, held public meetings, and still were absolutely crucified because it was said (mistakenly) they broke the Sunshine law. That's what Jack Brubaker and [Dave] Pidgeon and good ol' Marv Adams were writing about. Hey, go back and look at the stories. The headlines were almost ALWAYS about the Sunshine "violation."

Both should not have been big stories, but one was because of Lancaster Newspapers's bias. This was an opportunity to point this out on the record.

Sunshine Act Violation

What a Commissioners' meeting this AM. It ended at 12 and the Sunshine Act was shoved down their throats. Ron Harper did a wonderful job as well as Chris Hart Nibbrig.

District Attorney's Excuses

[Craig Stedman] could investigate the [Jonathan Luna murder] case if he wants.

Avoiding Violation of Sunshine Act

The solution is simple: [Traveling commissioners should] bring a chaperone. That's what any parent would do to keep the kids from jumping into bed and violating ... "something."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Current Sunshine Act is What is Wrong

CONTRIBUTOR: "Let me see ..... three commissioners - in ONE car - traveling together by themselves to their national convention - what is wrong with this picture??? "

EDITOR: What is wrong is that the Sunshine Act is a noble concept to avoid back room decisions but an impractical way of operating government, as it would be for conducting any other business.

Officials should be permitted to discuss anything at any time. But decision should require a motion at one public meeting and a vote at two subsequent public meetings. This would allow the media and the public an opportunity to participate and respond.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Re Sunday News's Article on Commissioners' Violation of Sunshine Law #2

I asked myself that same question. But then again, EVERYTHING in county government is OR has the potential to be related to the convention center. Anyone in opposition or who asks questions is portrayed as a "know nothing" or a public nuisance. After all if LNP is doing it, it has to be right! They have been in Lancaster for so many years ... they want to save our city!!!!

What is kind of "funny" about this is the new commissioners made a BIG deal about bringing in this group and having a training time with the public invited to understand the Sun Shine Law. Just weeks after being informed, they didn't even know the guidelines for what the county code requires for a canceled meeting and rescheduling a meeting... a basic component of not breaking the Sun Shine Law.

Oh, it was an honest mistake? I thought these two ran as being qualified and knowledgeable of running county government.

I know two former commissioners who were directed by their then legal counsel, who had YEARS of experience, to be a part of a meeting, and were fined and publicly crucified for breaking the Sun Shine Law.

What is the difference???? Oh, that's it ... the new commissioners support the convention center!!!

Re Sunday News's Article on Commissioners' Violation of Sunshine Law

From the [Feb. 17 Sunday News] article:

"Harper, who in the past has lodged lawsuits when he feels shut out of public meetings or is denied public records, has been a frequent presence at commissioners' meetings. He's also been a vocal critic of the proposed convention center and hotel on Penn Square."

Exactly what does being a critic of the "PROPOSED" hotel and convention center have to do with this article?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Sign of Desperation?

I stopped my LNP subscription nearly a year ago. Two weeks ago I received a mailing saying I was going to receive a complimentary trial subscription to the Intell, to encourage me to subscribe. (You know subscriptions are down when they give a zero-cost sample.)

Then I got an automated phone call saying the complimentary subscription had begun, and the robot asked if I had received my first issue. (I hung up the annoying call before it concluded) That was last Friday. I have yet to receive a paper. No matter....

But for LNP to use give-aways to sell subscriptions appears to be rather desperate.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Unhappy with newspapers

I canceled my newspaper subscription today. They asked why and I gave the following reasons:

1) I felt the newspaper was very biased with information especially regarding the convention center project and the previous board of county commissioners. As a result, I do not have confidence in the accuracy of information presented by the newspaper.

2) I am not comfortable in contributing to the profit of a company that has such low ethical standards.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Concerning Nuremberg Trials

What kind of ignorant fools are editing that rag of a newspaper!?! (Just to be clear, I'm referring here to the Intelligencer Journal).

Editor's note: In defense of the Intell, their editorials are usually good and, except when its owner's interests are involved, so is the rest of the newspaper. In the matter of the Nuremberg Trials, it is a matter of a little bit of knowledge being a dangerous thing.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

College Row Parking Meters

Today, in driving on Harrisburg Pike, I noticed that parking meters have been placed in front of part of College Row. Why did the City put in meters when there is free parking for shoppers behind College Row? This strip of F&M property could and should have been made into a shoulder lane (that cars could pull into when an ambulance/fire truck approaches). If cars are parked there, there is no place for cars to pull over when they hear a siren and see flashing lights.

A shoulder lane also could also have served as a bike lane. (A resident of Columbia Avenue, who is a biker, addressed his concerns as a biker in a letter to Mayor Gray, who gave no response to those concerns, saying only that the median is designed to "alleviate some of the congestion on Harrisburg Pike.")

All those poles sticking up in the median certainly have not beautified this area. Why couldn't the City have placed the no-crossing signs on the sidewalk curb in front of College Row? Someone said that John Fry always finds the most expensive solution to fix simple problems.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Median strip indeed interferes with emergency vehicles

F&M College, supported by the City's Public Works department, a few weeks ago constructed a concrete median strip in the middle lane of 3-lane, 2-way Harrisburg Pike, between College Square and College Avenue.

This median strip - which has several poles and signs protruding from it and will soon contain shrubbery — blocks cars and larger vehicles from using the middle lane. This is a state highway and has no shoulders on either side that vehicles can use to get out of the line of traffic. Since there is usually traffic – heavy at certain times of the day - on this stretch of roadway, the middle lane previously was used as an emergency lane for ambulances, fire trucks and other early responder vehicles. It also served as a stacking turning lane, which eased traffic congestion as vehicles making turns onto Race Ave. could move earlier out of the through-traffic lane during peak times of traffic.

On Sunday afternoon, Feb. 3, I walked to the Iron Hill Brewery at College Row on Harrisburg Pike, which faces this median strip. Two young women were seated on a bench beside the Brewery. In answer to my question, they told me that they are F&M students and live in College Row. I immediately asked what they think of the median strip.

One of them said, “It causes a lot of back-up traffic in the middle of the day. Ambulances have a lot of trouble getting through because there is no middle lane.” The other student agreed with her remark.

I told them that Mayor Gray had written to a resident of Columbia Ave. that the purpose of the median strip is to “ease congestion”. This student had a strong response, “It’s doing just the opposite.”

At this point, a young man joined them (who appeared to be a couple years older than the women) and I asked him if he is connected with the College. He said he is a student. I asked him what he thinks about the median. He said, “It makes it safer to cross [the highway]. We [students] can stand on the median now to cross.”

The women told him that the college doesn’t want students to cross in the middle of the block and mentioned the new no-crossing sign on a pole in the middle of the median strip. I asked them if, before the median strip was built, they had ever gotten an email from college officials telling them, for their own protection, not to cross in the middle of the block. They said they had never gotten such an email. I asked them if they ever got an email encouraging them to use the overhead bridge, and they said they never received an email about that either.

They talked about the slow and unpredictable walk / don’t walk signals at College Ave., College Square and Race Ave. They said that they didn’t think that the reason for the median strip was student safety (else why wouldn’t the college, from the beginning of the school year, have addressed student crossing habits and done something about the obsolete walk / don’t-walk signals, as well as painting crosswalk markings at College Square, where there are none?) They said that they thought the real reason for the medians with shrubbery is “to make all of this [area] look more appealing”.

(I was reminded of Goal Two in the 2004 Campus Master Plan: “Present an inviting arrival experience through gates and sequences with beautiful edges and thresholds.” Is this the underlying and unstated reason for the median?)

These students knew that the overhead bridge is going to be taken down, but did not know that a second median strip between College Square and Race Ave. has already been approved by the City and PennDOT. Neither did they know that a third one between College Avenue and the entrance to the Barnstormers Stadium is being considered.

What these students were saying confirms what some city residents had been saying for months to the City and to PennDOT, but local and state officials alike disregarded these concerns and approved the project, and in so doing placed private benefit over public interest.

Earlier in the afternoon, I saw for myself how this median strip is affecting ambulances.

I was standing on the corner of Harrisburg Pike and College Ave., and I saw an ambulance with flashing lights in the east-bound lane and approaching College Square. Being Sunday afternoon, traffic was light and there was only one car in this lane, in front of the ambulance. Because of the median strip, the ambulance had to share this single lane with the car. The car cleared the median strip, and the ambulance veered around the car into the short left turn lane, barely clearing the curb at the end of the strip. The ambulance clearly had to slow down because of this one car. One can only imagine how much time would have lost if this had been at one of those times that the College student spoke of, “when traffic is backed up.”

Before the median strip went in, I often witnessed ambulances, with sirens sounding and lights flashing, go straight down the middle lane of this stretch of Harrisburg Pike – which is the most direct route between the Health Campus and LGH. Emergency vehicles no longer have that option, thanks to F&M’s and the City’s “improvements” on Harrisburg Pike.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Not Enough Detoxification Beds

Tonight [Jan. 28] at the meeting of the Drug & Alcohol Commission, I raised the issue that there were not enough detox beds in Lancaster.

I had a young woman show up drunk at my church. I took her to Lancaster General, which is a block away from the church. She was refused at General because they do not have any detox beds. I was told to take her to Regional. I took her to Regional. Regional refused her because they did not have enough detox beds.

The woman had a large knife; and was threatening to kill herself. I called Crisis. The worker at Crisis that answered the phone told me that I may not "302" the young woman. The worker told me that Glenn McCarty, Director of Crisis, refused to authorize a "302" because the woman was voluntarily seeking help by coming to church; and allowing herself to be driven to the hospital. I was told by the hospital staff at Regional that I may drive the young woman myself two hours away if I wanted. This was when the young woman was drunk, and passing out. I had no idea of her criminal background. I was alone. The woman had a large knife which the security guard at Lancaster General handed back to her. I would like to know, "Why was it my job to drive the woman 2 hours away?"

I have also had a similar poor experience at White Deer Run. A woman had called a hotline. Two women spent three hours talking with this woman. The woman agreed she had a problem with alcohol. However, the intake person at White Deer would not take the woman, because in the intake person's estimation the woman "was not ready for treatment."

When I brought up this lack of service at the D&A commission meeting, my comments were dismissed as being off the topic. Mr. Kastner would not answer my questions about the effectiveness of current programs such as Gaudenzia, White Deer Run, the Gatehouse, and Lancaster County Prison.

At the meeting, Mr. Kastner was quick to introduce an increase in tax on beer. Mr. Kastner will introduce the motion for an increase on the tax for beer from $0.08/gallon to $0.16/gallon. He would like the entire increase to fund "education of youth about alcohol." He would like the entire increase to go to the Pennsylvania Association of County Drug and Alcohol Administrators. And that the money that is currently funding the Single County Authority not be diminished in any fashion.

I brought up the very pertinent research of Dr. Linda Frisman. Dr. Frisman has found that women that are placed in drug rehab tend to fail. Women, who commonly have trauma histories, that were placed in a single program that combined drug rehab with mental health and trauma counseling were found to be successful.

There is a very poignant case of a woman in Lancaster County. She spent nine months a year in Lancaster County Prison every year from the time she was 18 until she was 26 years old. She had substance abuse issues as she had sold enough illicit drugs in Lancaster to purchase and own a townhouse. It would seem more prudent for the County to place this young woman in ONE effective treatment program for nine months; rather than to foot the bill for her being in Lancaster County Prison for 7 years at $15,000/year. There ARE currently EFFECTIVE treatments available for men and women in Pennsylvania that have 85% to 95% success. Teen Challenge in Rehrersburg, Berks County, is one of those programs.

Mr. Kastner said that we have a drug court that handles these cases. This is NOT true. The Drug Court only handles a very limited amount of cases every year - about 75 at most at any one time. Mr. Kastner estimated that there were approximately 50,000 addicts in Lancaster County. There are 6,000+ people that go thru Lancaster County Prison in a year. Drug Court does not have the capacity to solve this problem.

The bureaucracy in Lancaster is greedy for more tax money, when they are not even effectively using the funds they are given now. The bureaucrats would rather see an addict go in and out of prison and rehab every year for twenty years; as it guarantees them a salary. It did not appear from the meeting that Mr. Kastner's salary was tied to the effectiveness of the programs, and the outcomes of those programs. A CEO that was in charge of a $2M budget would be more tightly reviewed by his board. I would ask that the long-term effectiveness of Lancaster County D&A programs be reviewed; and that Lancaster County examine better alternatives than incarceration for women that have substance abuse and mental illness.

No Authority Funds for Investigation

As a part of the bond sale agreements, the LCCCA is allowed no more than $58,500 a month for its own operations, including all legal fees. That's not enough money to operate the LCCCA, pay its staff and expenses, and do everything else it is expected to do. Right now they are making ends meet ONLY because they're not paying an executive director out of their operational budget.

The reason for this is so they couldn't afford an investigation into past dealings, or any legal representation for re-negotiating existing agreements. When the final financing package was designed, Darcus and Hixson made certain their successors had NO room whatsoever to work for the best interests of taxpayers.