Saturday, August 30, 2008

Present at the creation

I've been doing a little bit of research about the origins of the [convention center and]hotelproject....

The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Lancaster Alliance, the Lancaster
Campaign, and Tom Baldridge [former head of the Lancaser Alliance] were repeatedly mentioned in newspaper articles about the project during its origins.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Alliance the real local power

I agree entirely on the Lancaster Alliance issue...they are the real power in Lancaster County and have been involved from the beginning.

This brings to mind and clarifies yet another event in the long saga of this project. In August '99, just two months after any real detail was revealed about this project and one month prior to the vote on the tax, a meeting was held at the Southern Market. The meeting was “organized” by the Lancaster Chamber and was a forum where the hoteliers would have the opportunity to question representatives of Ernst & Young about the study…the sole basis for the project/tax. Remember, the entire text of that study had yet to be released, that was not done until September
14, 1999. At that time, only the Executive Summary had been made available to the general public.

A number of hoteliers attended that meeting in hopes of delving deeper in to that report. A court reporter was retained by one of the hoteliers and was present to record the session. While lame duck Chamber Chairman Dan Witmer looked on with a blank stare and without saying a single word, an attorney appeared in the room. That attorney informed the group that the meeting would not take place unless the court reporter left. While little was revealed about exactly whom he represented, the attorney was Scott Spencer with Stevens and Lee…surprise, surprise, surprise. I
can only assume that he was on the Lancaster Alliance’s dime at the time.

Editor's Note: Years later when NewsLanc's publisher read the entire marketing report, it was found to be relatively negative. And, of course, it only dealt with the market potential, not with how feasible the project was financially.

Semi-pro Patriots football team seeks McCaskey stadium

Dear Editor,

My name is Ronald B. Sultzbach. I am writing this article in concurrence with my business partner Michael Weiler. We are the co-directors of the Atlantic Coast Patriots minor league football organization. (non-profit)

The purpose of this communication is bring light to some facts. And hopefully answers to some questions.

In 2006 I started the Atlantic Coast Patriots organization. My goal was to bring affordable sports entertainment to Lancaster PA. I felt it would be a great compliment to the exsisting baseball team. The Patriots joined the newly formed spring minor league (East Coast Football Alliance). The league consists of 20 teams on the east coast. The Patriots are the only team in PA.

I contacted JP McCaskey and they said we could not play there. It would damage the field. I was surprised at the answer and moved on.....We played our first season at Hershey Park Stadium and paid in full approximately 25,000 dollars in field rent and had a .500 season. In the off season we had to find another field.

The weather in the spring caused risk to us. If it rained or snowed it would crush our 400-500 fan draw. And with that level of rent, we could not risk it again.

In January 2007 , we contacted McCaskey again with the same request..... and got the same answer --NO ! Surprisingly, Millersville university and Hempfield high school was in favor of the football in their community.

Now I understand that McCaskey does not have an all weather field. Our pockets were deep enough to cover any field wear and tear, not to mention - we have insurance that covers our football events. Also we can re-schedule if weather is obstacle on certain game dates.

Again, we got a couple hundred fans for our 6 home games this season. We are non-profit and McCaskey sits in the core of the city. Our business plan reflected many benefits to the community.

In the 2007 campaign we posted a 9-3 record.

We have many JP McCaskey athletes on our team and college grads from the Lancaster -Lebanon football league. I went to Wickersham, Lincoln, McCaskey (88') and Stevens State School of Technology. So, I understand the landscape of the city and the challenges to the community.

My co-director Mike Weiler also graduated from McCaskey in 1989.

We are very passionate about this effort. I am a financial professional and Mike is an electrician/ machine maintenance mechanic. He also heads up the Penn Manor Junior football and cheerleading program (director).

I played quarter back at McCaskey and Stevens Tech as well as 15 yrs of Minor league football exp. as a player and head coach.

I understand that football alone will not drive the business . Since the players are not compensated and not NFL caliber skill level across the board. Our community efforts in the off season will earn the respect and credibility needed to fill the stadium every Sunday at 2pm in the spring. Listed below are some of the community efforts by the Patriots.

Lancaster Rec- kids football camp- fall 2006
Fundraising effort- Lancaster City Fire Dept- Statue fund (donation table)
Fundraising effort - Lancaster City Fire Dept - flag football game ( statue fund)
Rocky Springs Bowling fundraiser (monthly) -statue fund
Veterans recognition- at all home games.
VFW support efforts
Most recently- Military appreciation night (concert ) Mountville PA
See pictures on homepage of our website!


717 629-1692 for questions.

I plan on going to the Lancaster School District board meeting on September 16th.
at 7pm present my offer to
them and bypass the High School..........since they don't have a Athletic Director now.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A City Transformed

The book brings back many good memories about the Lancaster I grew up around. We lived in the county but I looked forward to my parents taking me to the city to shop and go to the movies. Lancaster was a good place with police directing traffic and nickel bags of soft pretzels, not the $1.50 pretzel of today.

There is something big that is planned for this city that is slipping under the radar and is only known by a few of the upper class. They want the city to be a haven for the poor in certain sections of the city as well as other parts being patrolled by a private non profit bicycle patrol.

I sure hope I live long enough for the new book A City Transformed 1980 - 2020.

Keep up the great work and keep digging.


...a brief visit yesterday ...and a quick look at the loading area: it's worse than I thought from my view of the drawings. Nothing of consequence will be able to get in and out.

Take a look yourself, and imagine a 53 foot trailer .... amazingly inadequate.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Finders keepers, losers weepers?

There is no other explanation for a newspaper putting a black grandmother's picture on their front page for allegedly "stealing" a hundred dollar bill from a casino floor. I don't care if she's an SDoL school board member. Her arrest was racist and LNP putting her on their front page was unbelievably racist...

Editor's note: Our sense was the article put to question the judgment of the casino security personnel rather than the school board member. Who wouldn't pick up off the floor a hundred dollar bill in a crowded area? A NewsLanc staff member found two fifties together on a New York street corner and donated it to charity. Others do the same thing with found money.

Rep. Sturla's newsletter is recyclable

Rep. Sturla's newsletter paper is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC; certified for responsible forestry. Recyclable paper was used in the past, but it became costly because it created too much waste due to its inconsistency on the press. Thus, the paper was switched to FSC-certified.

The FSC logo is not on the newsletter because it requires certain fees that would be counterproductive to cost-saving measures.

Rep. Sturla does use recyclable paper for his letterhead.

Spending tax money recklessly

I attended a one time showing at the airport cinenma sponsored by a group of US financial leaders: Peterson, Buffett and three others. If you Google on to IOUSA you will get the idea. These five men have formed a foundation and last evening, across the US at 8 EST, their movie was shown in selected theaters as well as a live pannel discussion about the economy.

EVERY smart city, county and state are laying low to see how this recession is weathering out. As I sat there with a few other friends, here we are in Lancaster County, spending like there is no tomorrow.

We are buillding a $200 million CC. We are going to install Trolley Cars to travel in a rectangle to suppossedly conserve energy and have better air quality as well as move the thousands that are going to come to see our new CC. The County gave the city via the state $750,000 Wednesday for surveliance cameras, streetscape and parking; $100,000 for a study along with Manheim twp for parking and service shopping around the railroad station area.

What is happening to all the homeowners that can not afford to pay their taxes now? When the money is needed to support these and other crazy projects our bureaucrats will just raise taxes.

Until we get responsible elected officials that are willing to make the hard decisions to help us get out of this mega million dollar hole we are in, it seems Lancaster County is on an island of its own and does not feel that we are in a recession.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Traffic congesion is indeed a big issue

Yes, the [proposed steet car] route is nearly useless, especially since it wuld not connect to peripheral parking (just the existing parking garages and LGH.) And in order to work, the trolley would have to run tracks on the INSIDE of the circle to not cross traffic, and the cars would have to board from
the LEFT side.

I am still appalled that Gil Smart states that the congestion of traffic from trolley stops is not an issue....he (they) are seeking to defuse one of the most visible of the arguments that most folks can imagine. at 5:21 AM

Monday, August 18, 2008

Trolley idea is insane

Lancaster's Trolley will run where? Lancaster is not New Orleans, Cincinnati, Denver or Charlotte. Lancaster has got so much infrastructure problems coming down the pike that a Trolley will suck up any monies that are needed to deal with these problems.

This will run from the train station to Prince, from Prince to Vine, East on Vine and North on Queen back to the train station. What are these so called city residents that are in such great need of mass transit hoping to accomplish? What are they smoking or taking? The route itself is a joke.

A Trolley is insane. Jack Howell and his buddies could not get a real job if their lives counted on it! Tom Baldridge could not hold a real job either.

One day there will be heads rolling when the coffer is empty.

LGH should spend earnings more responsibly

To the author of the Lancaster General Hospital letter to the editor (published on August 15th), I refer to this passage from your letter:

"By the way, I'd rather see Lancaster General Hospital re-invest its profits into new buildings and medical technology in our community, creating jobs in our city, than to throw it to investors on Wall Street!"

Do you really think it is most responsible of the busiest, near monopolistic health care provider in the county, to continue overbuilding with such exorbitance as Italian marble floorings (in their new buildings)? Please agree with me that the profits for such a not-for-profit entity could and should be used toward patient care (see the Wall Street Journal article on Amish Health Care).

Your interpretation of LGH's new buildings, etc. are the just another way of spreading their profitability in a less responsible manner.

In other words, I would rather care for another citizen of the county than have to spend the money on waxing yet another Italian marble floor.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

More re origins of Convention Center

Interesting comment about the tax that was cheered. My experience has been,as I am sure yours was, that whenever a critical vote was taken by a public body to support the taxpayer-financed hotel and convention center project,the room was packed with people who had never attended such a meeting before.

Judging by the conversations among these people both before and after these meetings, it would appear that project supporters intentionally sent dozens of their own people to these meetings, in order to drown out the concerns of people who really care about what happens to our tax dollars.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Room for improvement

I enjoy your publication, but find the frequent major errors in grammar and syntax annoying.

You should strive to be better than 'they' are.

Your content is excellent; your presentation needs work.

Don't be mediocre.

Questions need for big F&M State grant

I just got Mike Sturla’s glitzy newsletter in which he lists 5 state grants "recently awarded to groups in the 96th district." Two of these are to F&M:
"$516,650 for sediment and nutrient monitoring related to legacy sediments and $164,033 for research and development."

This is a huge amount of money to a private institution that has a $400 million endowment, especially when compared to the $47,877 for the county’s recycling program. Exactly what is it to be used for?

Sturla’s newletter is printed on glossy, unrecyclable paper.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lancaster General Community Benefit Report

To the writer asking for specifics about Lancaster General, go visit Lancaster General Hospital's website. While not the most convenient site on the planet, it has a link to something they call "Lancaster General Community Benefit Report." It's at

I get a copy in the mail every year. The fall report has information about all of the outreach programs the hospital does every year. On page 19 of the spring edition, since you questioned about taxes, it notes that Lancaster General Hospital gave $1.2 million to the School District of Lancaster and another $1.2 million to Lancaster City. And they pay taxes on most of the other buildings it has throughout the county.

They're the best "taxpayer" the city has. Not sure why this is not reported in or elsewhere. (Editor's note: NewsLanc has reported it.)

By the way, I'd rather see Lancaster General Hospital re-invest its profits into new buildings and medical technology in our community, creating jobs in our city, than to throw it to investors on Wall Street!

Is LGH transparency too much to ask?

I was intrigued and at the same time befuddled by the letter in today's entitled "Did NewsLanc properly research LGH information?". Particularly, I am interested in the author of the letter listing the specifics of this statement "LGH annually publishes a report about the tens of millions it spends of Lancaster’s healthcare money in outreach to the community and payments to the city and [School District of Lancaster]".

I have been a Lancaster Country resident for many years and I do not see the tens of millions of dollars in outreach programs or to the school district. What I see are the profits of this not-for-profit hospital being re-invested in more buildings and medical offices throughout the county. Such examples of these new buildings include the newest building with 2-level catwalk on Duke Street as well as the new North Pointe Surgery Center on Oregon Pike, the explosion of mall-like growth at the Health Campus, and also the new Medical Office Building located adjacent to WiIlow Valley.

What the author of this article may not fathom is that as all of these buildings are being funded and are owned by the not-for-profit LGH and that these buildings will not be paying each respective locality the property taxes that for-profit businesses annually and routinely pay. The lack of these taxes to each community further hampers the tax base and harms the annual budget for each respective locale.

I also credit [research director] Doug McVey in his response to this letter of inquiry. I have been impressed by the first two reports on LGH financials and I can only hope that further reports will bring forth transparency in LGH reporting.

Is asking for better transparency so much to ask of a not-for-profit entity with annual profits of greater than 120 million dollars in the past two years?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Academic eligibility problem at SDof L

I have heard your commentaries on WLPA-AM, as well as read your articles on line and in the piece distributed at the Barnstormers game on Friday August 1 criticizing the School District of Lancaster for not having better athletic teams. You maintain that if the district would perform better on the football and baseball fields (for example) there would be more for the students to be proud of and more reason for them to stay in school.

Has it occurred to anyone on your staff to check the academic eligibility of the student athletes in the School District of Lancaster? The problem with the athletic teams may not be in the coaches, athletic department or even administration. It may well be the fact that student athletes are not maintaining the grades they need to compete on the field.

You tout yourselves on your investigative endeavors. Why not start investigating this before you criticize again?

Editor's response: No matter who shows up, there is no excuse for coaches not knowing how to conduct drills and teach skills.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pricing and care at LGH

What you say about hospital pricing (which I am sure is true of most hospitals) is also true of the prescription drug business. You might want to do a commentary on that.

I would like to add that I had several visits to the emergency ward of Lancaster General and had a 4-day stay in what I think was their intensive care department...and I was very impressed with the level of care received there.

I have only admiration for the professionalism and efficiency of the hospital staff.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hospital competition is good

Your reports on LGH have been informative and enlightening. They are obviously well researched, and your expert very adept at evaluation.

While it is certainly a plus for Lancaster to have a premier hospital of the caliber of Lancaster General, it is not a good thing to drive the other Lancaster hospitals out of business. Competition is a good thing. Having a competitor keeps an institution striving to do its best.

And choice is a good thing. Today's patients are really pretty well- informed consumers. When Lancaster Regional was still St. Joseph's Hospital, there were many
Lancastrians who would never even consider going anywhere else for their care. They liked the smaller, quieter surroundings and the
more personal attention.

If your expert is correct, and the Heart of Lancaster hospitals do cease operations, Lancaster will be the poorer for it -- even if LGH is all the richer.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

CC naming rights

I would like to purchase the naming rights for the convention center--I have the perfect name: The Lancaster Albatross.

Will they take a check?

A "special" byline is appropriate

There are many things to note about Lancaster Newspaper's faults in its publications, but the use of the word "special" in a freelancer's byline really isn't one of them.

It's common practice to designate a freelance story as "Special to (insert name of publication here)" under a byline or as a tagline. In addition, it's a common practice for freelancers to submit copy to multiple publications, especially for an out-of-town sports event that is not covered by a staffer. The Post seemed to have a problem with this, but as a news editor for 25 years at a major daily paper, I can assure all your readers that this is standard in the business.

What the Intell could do is insert a tagline that says something like "Dave Collins is an employee of the Barnstormers." While some newspapers do that to expose any potential conflict of interest, it is not as common practice as it should be.

The Post and have a wealth of items to criticize LNP about on a daily basis. This is simply not one of them.

Utilize stock yards for station parking

I just finished reading the article on the parking problem for the train station. Earlier in the week there was another article about the unsightly area of the Stock Yards.

Isn't it possible that the stock yards somehow could provide the extra parking spaces (provided It was cleared with a safe path to the train station, under the bridge) It seems to me that one could "kill 2 birds with 1 stone".

Monday, August 4, 2008

CC genesis like Lancaster Square

The "Lancaster Alliance" of today seems to parallel the "Lancaster Looks
Ahead" committee of the 1950's. The similarities are chilling.

The makeup of the committee (all upper echelon business leaders, politicians, Chamber of Commerce, etc.) is identical. The committee's arrogance and myopia of changing business trends, and the persistence of their positions for development is identical. The tactics to attempt obtain a consensus from the public are also similar, including a dismissal of the "common folks," and general voters.

[In the case of the Convention Center, the market trends moving away from gatherings was ignored its planning in the same way the reasons for urban decline were ignored in the 1950's. In both cases, benefits to minorities, as an example, were trumpeted to obtain project support by those minorities.]

History never repeats itself exactly: cultures and technology prevent it. But I do believe cycles can be traced, making the path of history seem like a tightly wound spiral, crossing its own path but at a slightly different level.

Not since reading "The Godfather" have I read a book in one I did with "A City Transformed." (Editor's note: The book describes the history of the troubled Lancaster Square Project.) I am now convinced that the Penn Square Project is actually a continuation of the same story, with the waste and debacle of Sunnyside as a bridge in the tale. I wish I had read this book six years ago !

"Here we go again!"

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Liberty St. to be connected with College Ave.

I found by reading the Harrisburg Pike Study what streets will be connected. Liberty Street will be connected with College Ave. (another reason to put right-turn lane at College instead of at Race) at a cost of $900,000; Mulberry Street to Clay at a cost of $1,600,000.

Both costs are for the roadway construction only and do not account for the Norfolk-Southern Railyard Relocation that must occur first. Both are listed as medium priority (5-10 years)

More medians on Harrisburg Pike?

A discussion of sections of Harrisburg Pike that could benefit from "non-traversable medians" is listed in the recently-released Harrisburg Pike Transportation and Land Use Study. In the same paragraph in which the recently-installed median between Race Ave. and College Ave. is touted as a "good example" of the use of medians for traffic control are several other suggested locations "where this type of treatment may be warranted."

These locations include "select areas from Prince Street to College Avenue where left-turn access is not needed", from Good Drive to Rohrerstown Road "where an existing 5-lane section exists" and from Rohrerstown Road to State Road, "depending on how land development occurs."

I am familiar with the stretch from Prince Street to College Avenue, and the expression "select areas" suggests that there may be more than one median built along here. My question is why, when the 5-year Crash Report in this same Harrisburg Pike Transportation Study shows zero accidents on Harrisburg Pike between Prince Street and College Avenue?

In the above quoted paragraph from the Harrisburg Pike Study, Race Avenue is incorrectly called "Race Street." This obvious error does little to give a citizen confidence in the Lancaster County Planning Commission and the task force that did this study. How qualified are these officials? Are there certified traffic engineers among them?

Maybe they should go slow on this median idea. After all the money spent just a few years ago on medians on Liberty Street, those are slated to be demolished and the street leveled. Talk about the waste of tax money! It doesn’t matter if it was gotten as a grant – it’s still our money.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Median strip not a good example

The News and Commentary article titled "Planners Suggest Harrisburg Pike Improvements" contains the following statement about what the article calls non-traversable medians.

"Medians can reduce the likelihood of head-on crashes, provide traffic calming benefits, promote pedestrian safety and can aid in prohibiting left-turn movements. The recently installed median between College Avenue and Race Street is a good example of this application."

This last sentence of the statement is not true. The median strip between College Avenue and Race Street [Avenue] does not meet any of the listed criteria.

1. On head-on crashes: A summary of crashes in the just-released Harrisburg Pike and Land Use Study shows that over a 5-yr. period there were 113 crashes at the College Square parking lot exit (opposite Williamson Field parking lot.) That number included 39 Angle, 57 Rear-End and 6 Hit-Fixed-Object. None of these were head-on crashes. Medians are placed on multi-lane and high speed roads for the purpose of preventing head-on crashes. A median was not needed on this 35 mph roadway with only one lane in each direction plus a center lane.

2. On traffic calming benefits : The Harrisburg Pike and Land Use Study, page 6, contains a Travel Time Study that has this statement: "Average travel speeds across the corridor during both peak periods are approximately 16 mph less than the optimal for both directions of travel." Besides this, vehicles traveling between Race and College Avenues tend to move slower than the rest of the Harrisburg Pike Corridor due to the 3 traffic lights in just one block! Much of the day, cars appear to be crawling on that stretch of Harrisburg Pike.

3. On promote pedestrian safety: Medians are used at intersections in some large cities as a "safe haven" for pedestrians in crossing a wide thoroughfare. That is not the purpose with this median because it is located in the middle of the block between intersections. It was designed to keep pedestrians, most of whom are F&M students, from crossing where they should NOT be crossing, that is, jaywalking. Motorists have reported that students are still crossing at places other than at intersections. One motorist said he saw a student jumping over the median!

4. On prohibiting left-turn movements: This statement does not apply to this situation. Left turns are only possible to enter the parking lots at College Square and Williamson Field and the turning lanes are clearly marked.

Medians can do the things mentioned above, when constructed in the right place. But Harrisburg Pike between College and Race Avenues is not the right place for a median. Many motorists from the City and County believe that this median strip is an unnecessary obstruction to the normal flow of traffic on Harrisburg Pike. Ambulances and other emergency vehicles are particularly adversely affected because the center lane that they formerly used as a fast response lane is now blocked.

The obvious reason for this median is image. John Fry, president of F&M College, wrote about a gateway to the College from Harrisburg Pike in his Strategic Planning White Paper (January 27, 2003). The median is also designed to visually link the Main Campus with the new North Campus. It is to give Harrisburg Pike the appearance of a campus road, which College officials would obviously like to have it become.

Why High, rather than Fry, Beeman, Roda and Steinman?

Is anyone surprised about the relationship between The High Group and the Convention Center as described in the recent posting?

"Past contracts between the developer of the hotel and the public authority stated that S. Dale High shall have the right of first offer with respect to naming rights, and that proceeds from the sale of naming rights would be shared 50/50 between the authority and Penn Square Partners (PSP)."

If the Convention Center does pursue naming rights, I am next expecting principles of the other members of the "Big Five" to also be offered naming rights: John Fry (Franklin & Marshall), Tom Beeman (Lancaster General Hospital), The Steinman Famly (Lancaster Newspapers) and Craig Roda (Fulton Bank). I am not against naming rights for th Convention Center as naming rights will certainly generate revenue and offset Lancaster County expenses.

But why does a member of the big five have "the right of first offer with respect to naming rights"? I advocate the idea of offering naming rights to the highest corporate bidder and not solely to a member of the Lancaster County untouchable "Big Five".