Sunday, November 30, 2008

CC failure to be blamed on economy

Next year at this time, the economy will be blamed for sparse bookings at the Convention Center; and within five years, I'd bet a request for $ for upgrades to compete.

Typing becoming all thumbs?

I agree...typing was extemely valuable. Now "kids" type with their thumbs on their [cell] phones...and the grammar reflects it.

The rumor is that the standard keyboard is doomed in the near future.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

City needs to prioritize failing infrastructure

The so called 'free money' from the state and feds (our tax dollars recycled) has all but dried up. I have to go on record and [say] the Trolley is all but dead in the water.

The city sewers are crumbling. Klein is doing one plus house per day. The sewers in the city run left to right, not out from the house to the street, and the homeowner has full responsibility; the city has none.

Johnstown has to tear down a parking garage that is unsafe and demolition will cost $150,000 that the city does not have. They are not rebuilding it near their convention center as the convention center is not doing enough events.

Pittsburgh announced that two of their suburban strip centers in Allegheny County are being foreclosed, leaving the county short of hundreds of thousand of dollars in tax revenue.

As I returned home I realized how fortunate we are here in Lancaster County. It is a shame that the powers that be think we are not going to have the problems that other cities are experiencing. It will come, maybe not as great; we have got to stop this wasteful spending and concentrate on the infrastructure that is failing daily in the city.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Streetcars would impede fire ladder trucks

I've been reading your site and have agreed with the negative aspects being pointed out about the streetcar. One issue that I have not yet seen raised in any forum is the impact that the streetcars will have on the City's fire service.

The city Bureau of Fire operates two ladder trucks. Truck 1 has a 75' ladder and Truck 2 has a 95' ladder. The catenary wires that will hang above the streetcar will likely prevent either of these apparatus from deploying their ladders anywhere along the streetcar's route of travel. This will include areas such as the Convention Center itself and many of the city's larger buildings.

Additionally, any traffic congestion along the route could significantly delay the response of fire and other emergency vehicles. Are the risks worth the reward?

Learned typing in 9th grade

I was taught typing in 9th Grade while at Reynold Junior High School.

It was actually 30 years ago this semester that we tapped away on the electric typewriters and where I learned the home keys and use of the QWERTY keyboard that allows me to bang out words on the computer to this day. I have a hard time understanding why this vital and important skill could be falling by the wayside given the importance of typing.

It was called TYPING class.

Taxi fleet unable to meet convention demand

Every time one of my guests inquires about a cab to the [Lancaster] train station, I tell them to leave themselves at least 2 hours. When they look at a map and see the distance, they look at me like I have three heads. I try and explain to them how bad the service is and that if they don't want to risk missing their train, they better follow my instructions.

The problem is that there is not enough consistent demand to allow any company to maintain the necessary fleet and roster of drivers to possibly meet the needs of the two or three real conventions we might have every year. Even if we had ten major conventions, it would not be enough.

Just like our air service, which will still be woefully inadequate, the only way to provide taxi service will be to subsidize it private company could ever stay in business if they were equipped to handle even 60% of the demand that a real convention might draw 10 days per year.

Proposed trolleys unable to make 90 degrees turns

The wheel base of the display trolley is so long that it will take out two lanes to make a turn. The outrageously expensive feasibility study should have (but does NOT) plot the actual location of the tracks or the turn radii.

In cities where there are long stretches with gentle turns, there is little issue. But our city blocks are relatively short and the planned route has four 90 degree turns in the busiest intersections.

Stupid, Stupid, Stupid.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Announcement of Yellow Cab service

Does this mean that the trolley is dead in the water for an easier mode of transportation from the train station?

I just stopped to get a ticket from Altoona back to Lancaster this Friday. The fair with my AAA discount was $36.00. That is very reasonable.

Perhaps AFTER the millions get spent to spruce up the station, which it desperately needs, convention goers will come by rail and taxi to the new Marriott!!!

We all may have been wrong. We shall see.

Public misled about rail yard

I've been following your editorials about the railyard with great interest. I checked and found a well-written manifesto by TRRAAC.

I am convinced that the public does not understand this issue – which is how F&M wants it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Questions accuracy of Sunday News CC event count

In today's Sunday News (November 23, 2008), at the bottom of page D-2 (Business) under "Briefly", the following statement is published:

"Interstate Hotels and Resorts, the company managing the center and the adjoining Marriott Lancaster at Penn Square hotel, said it has more than 90 commitments for conventions, meetings, and other functions at the new center."

[This wasn't mentioned once at recent LCCCA meetings.]

I'm wondering if this number includes the hotel, as well as the convention center. Years ago, there was a lot of talk that Interstate Hotels - which was forced upon the LCCCA by Dale High - would steer smaller events to the hotel side of the business.

I also question whether that statement is correct.

Can anyone else shed any light on that published report?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A deceptive way of describing bookings

I absolutely agree. Already, [the convention center has] declared that they have 50% of the NUMBER of events they anticipated, but they are very small events. A deceptive way of describing it.

Convention Center bail out script

The LCCCA (Convention Center Authority) can legally take the PDCVB's (Tourist Bureau) 20% share of the 3.9% part of the "hotel tax" without asking anyone. I am convinced that the County Commissioners will raise the "hotel tax" rather than let the PDCVB lay off people and slash their advertising for Lancaster County tourism.

Note the County Commissioners would NOT be raising taxes to provide extra money for the project, they would only be restoring the PDCVB's currentfunding level. I'm sure they have all the excuses figured out already.

Despite High contributions, commissioners say no

I am aware that the Hotel Tax is County.

I am waiting for the group to come to the County for all or more of the tax dollars.

Stuckey and Martin have reaffirmed that not one cent will be given to help the project and that they are not going to raise the hotel room sales tax. It is a wait and see thing.

All three Commissioners did reveal that they accepted campaign monies from High.

Because [former commissioners] Molly and Dick dropped their law suit, was it not in return for the debt to be paid back first by the Convention Center before operating expenses? Problem is if there are not enough of bookings to even cover the debt service let alone the operating expenses, then the County has to cough up money via raising the Hotel tax or whatever...

I spend very little time in my office and am always out in the field. It is amazing how many people come up to me with comments or questions, this County has no idea how into issues the average person is. This is a good thing and that is probably why the Home Rule got voted down.

I go back to Home Rule only to show how all the money people shoved into getting that thing passed went for nothing. Big Business could not jump on the Dick and Molly thing and think that the middle class was not aware of what they were trying to do.

Because of NewsLanc and the old Lancaster Post, the public is being educated, or should I say given the truth. I just hope the Post comes back as a lot of people miss it.

City, not County, is "on the hook" for hotel

Lancaster City has nothing to do with the "hotel tax", which is a County issue that makes the bond payments for the convention center and subsidizes its losses.

Lancaster City is on the hook for the hotel only. Don't be surprised if S. Dale High and/or Nevin Cooley come crying to City officials for more money, especially since Sen. Gib Armstrong refused Penn Square Partner's latest demands.

And if the hotel doesn't meet its overly optimistic projections, all bets are off as to how much City taxpayers will be stuck.

If Lancaster City survives...

May I explain your taxes: Home owners pay two taxes per year: A little tax in the spring and a big tax in the fall.

The little tax is made up of the County tax that we all in Lancaster County pay the same: 3.41 mills and it was announced at this weeks commissioners meeting there will be no increase from last year. The second part of the little tax is the municipal side. Lancaster City currently is 9.18 which according to my assessment list is the highest in the County. Lancaster Twp. Municipal that gets services from the city is only 0.60.

I will bet that the Mayor is going to try and get some money from the Township for services rendered in the future for police and fire. These two are combined and paid every Spring. The big tax which is the school tax is currently 22.47 mills; in comparison, Sadsbury Twp. is 27 and Columbia Boro is 23. Bottom Line is that the Mayor will head to the County for any shortfall if the hotel tax revenue can not hold up, crying that the city is the County Seat..

The game that was being played and was lost, thanks to the voters of Lancaster County, was that HOME RULE was going to be the key to solve all problems. With a charter and a strong manager to be appointed by five part time commissioners, Big Business would have their way and accountability would be to a deaf ear.

The Lancaster City Redevelopment Authority owns the Hotel and, if I am correct, they have no money. Wachovia is being bought out by Wells Fargo and went the s--- hits the fan (according to one of my sources from North Carolina), a lot of things are going to happen. Financially, Wells Fargo is not going to tolerate what Wachovia did and the balance sheets will have to be exposed.

The numbers will not work. The city waived all the permit fees, millions of dollars of funds that could have been used, Armstrong got as much money as he could from Harrisburg, the Hoteliers were scared off with the law suits as Stevens and Lee was absolutely NOT at arms length with the County, the Convention Center Authority and Penn Square Partners.

There was never a strong group to fight the total fraud of this whole package. The only way this house of cards is going to end is when the project goes belly up and goes for auction, just like the Sheraton and convention center in Springfield Mass. It took five years and Peter Pan Bus Line bought the whole thing for 25 cents on the dollar, just as S. Dale High will do. Springfield went into bankruptcy and still can not climb out of the hole. It is a SAHME what a group of people have done to such a historic city with character and charm.

IF Lancaster City survives, it will be by the will of the people, NOT Penn Square Partners and the Mayor. I am tired of hearing how fortunate we are to have Fulton and the Newspaper NOT leave the city, that they stayed and invested. Without the support of the County and the citizens, they could not have stayed and they did so very cheaply...

Let us give support to all the small businesses that opened and have been in the city NOT because of the CC but to provide services etc. to the public. Look at Mulberry Art Studio, they were voted #1 for wedding receptions, no stuffed ballot box, a true consensus by the readers. They do not even advertise in the publication!!

The local people are going to pay for this and have been as the state tax dollars come from all of our pocketbooks. Money is not free by any means. Drive to Pittsburgh, Philaladelphia, Erie, Johnstown, Altoons, Allentown, Scranton; Convention Centers are nothing but PORK that was sponsored to put money in the construction pockets. The taxpayers now have to maintain the empty buildings. Philadelphia is BROKE yet they will have by next year the largest convention center in the US, bigger than Vegas, Orlando. And those convention centers are in deep trouble.

WE THE PEOPLE HAVE TO CHANGE ALL OF THIS AND MORE BY STARTING ON THE LOCAL LEVEL. OUR STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMANTS HAVE DONE US ALL IN. It is no longer a Party issue, it is a Bureaucratic issue. Until the voters stop electing just anybody and we do not change to term limits and hold these people accountable for every dollars they spend, we will continue to build an economy on credit and the results will not be pretty.

Small banks are dry. Only the big 9 have the bucks. Without small banks, small businesses are not going to make it. We here in Lancaster County have been very fortunate as we are conservative in spending and healthy so to speak. ANY business that is willing to work hard and watch its money will survive.

However, we are starting to feel the crunch locally, take a look at the COMMERCIAL space for sale and rent!! Housing below $250,000 is very solvent, high end housing is stacking up.

Armstrong's vision for city was wrong

My personal vision for the Watt & Shand site was a beautiful upscale condo complex with the basement housing the Y or some health complex that so many younger and older city residents would use and the first floor of the Watt & Shand building would have small businesses to service the FOOT TRAFFIC as well as the condo owners.

All of the above would have generated a wonderful tax base but, even more so, foot traffic. Without foot traffic, downtown will die or only generate day time business from the people working there. We will not see little boutiques and small business open just for the CC because businesses already in place may not make it to the opening.

Parking is and will always be a problem and big spenders will not book here. The Mayor got the PA Mayors to come once; let us see if they return... The bookings that are public do not have spending power. Let us see if LCAR who is a supporter can get PAR to hold some events here or better yet move the Convention from Atlantic City to here.

The disturbing fact is that organizations that I belong to will pull their events that have been housed at the Eden and the Host and book them at the CC. I will not attend one of them as I am lazy and will not walk the streets at night now.

Even after the CC meetings, I am fearful to walk further than the front of Southern Market. One of the reasons I do not attend on a regular basis the meetings is that the last one I attended I was stopped and asked for money. I am a large woman but was scared as no one can defend themselves today without some training.

I do not show homes at night in the city for the same reason, even if it is in a GOOD section. Recently was on South Duke with a NJ client showing a 275 home on a Sat. at 11:00. The situation that occurred was not pleasant and the client decided that Old Town was not the place to buy.

We were 1/2 block from the CC and I must say that I feel sorry for the homeowners in that area now and in the future. Police are going to have to cover down to Church on a regular basis to stop what is going on as we speak. The city is looking very good if you stay within a given district and area, all at the expense of the other part of the city. As economic conditions worsen, so will crime and all that goes with it.

Sen. Gib Armstrong has made plenty of money and repaid plenty of favors. The jobs that will be created with in the CC and hotel will not exceed 100, if that, and the pay will be minimum other than management. 2009 will be here soon enough; I hope that the bookings will not all be cheerleading contests, home builder shows, card shows, etc.

Connection to the "money powers"

...The TIF funding grant is predicated on sales tax collected. (subject to an annual approval.) If fewer dollars are collected, there is no grant.

...A great tragedy is that the mammoth construction prevents virtually any other use for the real estate.

I am confident that both Sen. Armstrong's support for the project represents a ... connection with the money powers. I am equally confident that Mayor Gray's apparent increased support (at the time of his election) is equally connected.

Merck Pharmaceutical has just downsized dramatically, and it was one of the companies cited for convention booking. And it is not the only company streamlining for survival.

The Convention Center [project] will never get off the ground. Cries for money for "improvements" to make the CC successful will probably hit in about two years.

Convention Center already impacting city tax payers

In response to a comment made on LancasterOnline TalkBackon
November 21, 2008, regarding State Sen. Gib Armstrong and his hotel and convention center project: "It depends which taxpayers you're talking about. Lancaster City and County taxpayers aren't paying ANYTHING unless and until it fails, operationally, isn't that right? So the public burden so far is on Pennsylvania*taxpayers."

Lancaster City taxpayers are already paying for the hotel and convention center in higher taxes and reduced services, as resources like police patrols have been shifted away from other parts of the city in an attempt to "clean up" the neighborhoods near the project.

Note that neither the hotel nor convention center need to "fail" before Lancaster City or County taxpayers will need to subsidize their operation. When revenue from the "hotel tax" falls short of the operational subsidies required to keep the convention center open, Lancaster County taxpayers will be stuck with the bill. And there are many ways County taxpayers could be forced to pay additional money toward the convention center bond sale; for example, it was announced at the LCCCA Finance Committee this past Monday evening that some weeks ago, the spread between the "swaption" rate and the actual weekly interest rate paid on the bonds exceeded the agreed-upon boundaries of the "interest rate swap"; this forced the LCCCA to spend thousands of dollars more on bond payments than had been budgeted.

Don't imagine for one minute that the "hotel tax" is paid only by visitors to Lancaster County. Hotel rates are set by competition; no more can be charged than what the market will bear. A significant portion of "hotel tax" revenue comes directly out of the profits of Lancaster County businesses.

As for the hotel, Lancaster City taxpayers could be on the hook sooner rather than later. Remember that the State has turned down the Penn Square Partners' demand for an additional $2.8 million in taxpayer subsidies. Nevin Cooley of High is on the record as stating that the PSP will not spend one penny more than $11 million on the project; if PSP stands firm, where will the additional money come from to complete the project? Do you believe for one minute that Mayor Rick Gray will stand idly by while an incomplete hotel stands vacant at Penn Square?

Another risk to Lancaster City taxpayers is that the PSP will not earn enough profit from future operations of the hotel IN THEIR OWN EYES to make payments on their $24 million mortgage. PSP could very well threaten to close the hotel unless they receive additional taxpayer subsidies. And remember, the PSP's $24 million is currently in the form of a 5-year construction loan; what happens if there is a problem converting it into a mortgage?

Don't forget that the hotel will not pay any real estate taxes at all for at least 20years, in violation of one of the original promises make about the project. Lancaster City and School District of Lancaster (including Lancaster Township) property owners are already paying significantly higher real estate taxes due to S. Dale High's demand that his "private" hotel be tax-exempt.

This project has already cost Lancaster City, Lancaster Township, and Lancaster County taxpayers a significant amount of money. The only question that remains is how much more will it cost all of us to keep the hotel and convention center in operation.

Friday, November 21, 2008

NIMBY not enough reason to oppose project

My unanswerd question for the writer who had all the unanswered questions is, are you a TRRAAAC member. And if so, how is your opposition anything other than 'Not in my backyard.'

The moral outrage at the 'big institutions' by people who wouldn't even be paying attention of they lived somewhere else gets very tiring. Yes, F and M and LGH are oppressing you. But you are just fine with shouting down a project that would benefit not just those institutions but the city itself.

Unanswered questions re rail yard proposal

After all this time, and after all the "public meetings", I still have unanswered questions regarding the railroad switching yard.

First, if this project is so desperately needed by Norfolk-Southern, why are they only contributing $2 million to the project? That is the least amount of any of the "partners".

Second, if this project is only about the rail yard, why are F&M and LGH involved at all? Why isn't Norfolk-Southern paying the whole $42 million price tag?

Third, since F&M and LGH both will benefit and gain land from this deal, and since F&M has a sizable endowment and many benefactors and wealthy alums, and since LGH is a non-profit that annually posts profits in excess of $100 million, why are they not simply picking up the whole tab on this project? Why burden the taxpayers for any part of this project, since it is these three partners and only these three partners who will benefit from it?

Last, why have public officials and newspaper "investigative" reporters not asked these questions, but have instead simply accepted the financial formula floated by this triumvirate? (F&M and LGH each contribute $6 million, N-S contributes a mere $2 million, and the taxpayers "contribute" $28 million.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sports can detract from education

I write from the prospective of someone who lettered in four different sports while going through the School District of Lancaster.

While I see SOME value in sports - it's my feeling that the emphasis placed on sports has created false realities and dreams for many. The result of this poor prioritization is a de-emphasis on academics and the fleeting stardom of many.

Kids should be told that they will advance in life because of education - not because they can toss a ball into a hoop.

Monday, November 17, 2008

McCaskey alumna / NY teacher on Latino drop out rate

"The Latino high school dropout rate is disturbing" said your paper which I read 11/15/08.

The fact that 50% of all Latinos drop out of school before graduation is not a local problem. I graduated from McCaskey many years ago and have been teaching in New York for nearly fifteen years. My high school is 80% Latino and the dropout rate is even higher than 50%. And we have great competitive sports.

Yes, sports teams can help keep students in school -- to a minimal degree. But the real problem lies with the Latino value system -- their attitude toward education and their community.

As long as we remain politically correct by encouraging diversity to the point that groups become entrenched in a system of system of exclusion the high dropout rate will continue. What needs to be done is to teach the values of mainstream America and encourage all groups to join American society as equal and informed members.

Yes, there are standard American values which need to be taught. I've done it as an English and English as a Second Language teacher. It's very difficult to do this in New York. However, Lancaster is in a much better position to do so.

I suggest that you start by providing instruction on American values in the classroom to the students and at community centers and churches where you can help the Latino parents better understand the society they have chosen to enter.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A suggested "Old Pro" account

A thought for your NewsLanc series on successful leaders in business. It might be an opportune time to have your readers renew acquaintance with Milton Hershey. I would suspect that the majority of local residents do not really know his story.

He twice failed in business ventures before finding his enormous success. During the height of the Depression, he built an entire community funded with the profits of his business success. And at the height of his success, he bequeathed his fortune to endow a school for the education and training of children from broken homes. The Milton Hershey School prospers and grows today from the wisdom and foresight of its founder nearly 80 years ago.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Does F & M do the same?

Interesting piece about Harvard.

Hopefully it will provide the motivation to at least one, if not many more, of our brightest urban youth to strive for more.

The real question is whether or not F&M would offer the same to those in their own backyard?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lancaster Post

Yahoo! Dancing on the [Lancaster Post's] grave? Perhaps you should look for a real dance floor. And some real news!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Needs to be known

Kudos. Two really good pieces today -- the TRRAAC editorial (thank you!), and the sharing of the e-mail re: library renovation (that really needed to be known!)

I always (well, almost always!) appreciate Newslanc.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Public Library set back

Keep up the great work and please don't be discouraged by the apathy.

Monday, November 3, 2008

'Yes' vote will lead to rip offs

Why was there money from the National Chamber of Commerce funneled in here? Why are we so important?

Big business needs fuel, money. Projects can get approved and allocated much faster than the current form of government that has checks and balances in place. This has been planned since Lancaster Alliance has run into road blocks as well as special interest groups.

No matter what happens, the money is all dried up from the state and federal level. We the tax papers are going to pay dearly this if it get passed.

If Lancaster votes it in, other counties will follow. The big money will be able to be allocated more freely for at least 5 years. At that time the charter will be able to be amended.

"Human irregularities" undermine exit polls

What a fascinating perspective: exit polls are more accurate than the actual vote count.

I have a completely different perspective. Call it the ego-factor.

Ask anyone what periodicals they read, while you take notes. A good percentage will answer,The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or one of the Lancaster
Newspapers. Hardly any will tell you they regularly read The National Enquirer.

Ask what TV shows they let their children watch, and you will be told PBS shows, not the Saturday morning cartoons, and almost everyone will tell you that they watch PBS as well, even if what they really watch is WWE and reality stuff.

People tell pollsters what they think pollsters want to hear, regardless of how they really voted. It is a secret ballot for a reason. And people vote their gut, but
when asked, you may or may not get a completely truthful response. They do not want to be judged for their choice, they don't want to feel stupid, or uninformed, they do not want to have to defend their choice, so they give the easiest answer, perhaps the least controversial answer.

Polling is notoriously inaccurate. That has nothing to do with election irregularities. It has everything to do with human irregularities.

Chamber spending $100,000 for "Yes" votes

Is it legal for an organization which exists to represent special interests to spend tens of thousands of dollars to heavily promote a change in government?

Specifically, is it legal for the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents the interests of business, to spend a reported $100,000 in an attempt to get people to vote in favor of replacing the charter of Lancaster County government?

If the Lancaster Chamber was spending this amount of money to promote a candidate, there would be serious questions raised. Why should this issue be treated any differently?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Exit polls can have great value

Those who have watched recent elections closely are aware that there has been a disparity between exit polls and recent voting outcomes.

Because of the serious problems with voting machines, failure to count provisional ballots or absentee ballots, spoiled ballots and other issues, it is quite possible that the exit poll is actually more accurate than the vote count! (It has been estimated that approximately 4 million votes were cast but not counted in the last election.)

The purpose of the alert below is to have the unadjusted polls saved, shared with the public and, if they are changed, having a public explanation provided as well as to have the unadjusted exit polls preserved.