Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bulova Building not for non-profits

There has been "press" to relocate the [North Museum] to the soon to be empty Bulova Building on Lancaster Square...

The city is already burdened with 25% of properties within it's limits as nonprofit ...

Yes, they may argue it brings in secondary "benefits" (a claim F&M waves in everyone's face about there own existence), but why waste valuable DOWNTOWN footage?

Send the city's brilliant leaders out into the world and find a real winner - one who will not only bring in revenues but pay it's fair share of taxes. (Bus loads of school children don't shop or dine downtown).

Granted the Bulova Building is a dog - always was, even before they bricked up the storefront windows. The city needs to be more creative in their solutions.

As for F&M and their re-utilization of the site of the albeit aged facility, that's great. Relocate the perported non-profit North Museum in a not for profit location, say the county accuired Armstrong Building across the "square" in the mostly underutilized facility. It answers the concept of clustering "musea" in a chain starting at RRTA (Art Museum) to The Heritage Museum on Penn Square.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wachovia's come uppence!

What a joke. Wachovia who was very liberal with its lending procedures is now owned by Wells Fargo which is VERY Conservative and will make Billions from the buyout as per a discussion over dinner in Denver last week with a Wells Fargo official.

Editor: Wachovia's stock holders aren't amused. Moreover, the people of Lancaster won't find it at all funny if the day comes that the City's guarantee of the hotel bonds is called.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Link provides information on Open Records Statute

An article in today's Intelligencer Journal (not available online) provides a link to the State website that has information about the new Pennsylvania Open Records law.

For anyone who files "Right-To-Know" requests, this site provides important information.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hundreds of cameras

Orwell's ghost grinned when the Sunday News hit the stands. Maybe it's a sign of our time when a liberal-minded reporter like Gil Smart pens a piece lauding the fact that the people of Lancaster will be watched over by a jury of nincompoops in a viewing booth. He found no source for a dissenting opinion on this troubling development that he finds praiseworthy: Lancaster stakeholders headed up by the Steinman family will install surveillance cameras throughout the city ("... thanks to a broad coalition of public and private souces.").

How about asking the opinion of one of many Lancaster taxpayers who will have to pay the salaries, benefits and pensions of the joystick operators?

How about the inequality of the installation plan? Are there more existing and phase 1 cameras in our neighborhoods of color? Of course there are!

This is not the future I want to see.

Will there be no public discussion of this matter? If no, that's a real shame, despicable in fact.

The irony is so thick ... Mayor Gray and others of such ilk, who shout about troubling aspects of the Patriot Act, seem to have no problem with a camera watching their front door!

Is General Hospital really "by your side"?

...Can I really trust my doctors in the Lancaster General Health (LGH) system? After all, the hospital's top administration officials are partners--along with Franklin & Marshall College (F&M) and Norfolk Southern (NS)--to dig up a former municipal dump and replace it with a Norfolk Southern switching yard.

There are many problems with the switching yard relocation plan. Most notably, the switching yard and its public health hazards (ex: chemical spills, diesel emissions) will be relocated to just 1200 feet from long-established neighborhoods (School Lane Hills, Madison at Barrcrest, Barrcrest, Windsor Court and Gentry Heights).

Also, the former dump contains Armstrong asbestos-backed vinyl sheet flooring. At a recent meeting in Manheim Township, the partners' remediation firm, ARM, denied its existence—even though local residents discovered photos of it in a 1,000+ page report funded by the project partners. Those photos led one resident to go out to the dump, pluck a sample right from the top of the dump, and send it to an environmental engineer who believes the asbestos is potentially friable (i.e.: a potential public health hazard).

A local advocacy group, The Rail Road Action and Advisory Committee (TRRAAC), formed in response to the switching yard plans. They have suggested a number of alternative locations (including one that was originally suggested by a former NS engineer at the world-renowned RL Banks and Associates). None of their suggestions have been independently evaluated. TRRAAC requested an independent evaluation from Penn Dot, but has not yet received a favorable response.

Thus far, the only studies on the affects of the switching yard relocation have been conducted by F&M and LGH co-conspirators—ARM and Gannett Fleming. The results of their studies were released at a well-orchestrated June 19 meeting. Residents were given approximately one hour to digest the results of year’s worth of studies on approximately 30 display boards. And then hundreds of residents were given approximately one hour to ask questions. It was suggested that they ask only one question each so that everyone could have an opportunity to ask a question!

All of the data and analysis used to create the display boards were released one month later. F&M and LGH claimed June 19 was our one and only public meeting. After many complaints, they agreed to appear once more in early November at a Manheim Township-sponsored meeting. F&M’s Keith Orris spoke mostly through his attorney, and refused to answer any question that wasn’t related to the remediation of the dump. We were told to submit all other questions via email and he’d be sure to get back to us. The only LGH representative, Vice President Jan Bergen, arrived late and never spoke.

At the Manheim Township meeting, retired and well-respected Dr. Albert Price announced that he recently moved out of one of the affected neighborhoods because of the switching yard plans, and expressed his disappointment in LGH. Jan Bergen never acknowledged Dr. Price or looked up from her doodle pad.

So, it seems LGH is putting a sweet land deal ahead of public health. If that is the mentality of the LGH leaders, and since, other than Dr. Price, none of the other doctors are speaking up, could that also mean that they’d put hospital profits before my personal health? They’d be easy dots to connect. LGH claims it's "by your side". If the top administrators and physicians are really on our side, then they should partner with TRRAAC and ensure that all alternative sites are properly vetted before our health is needlessly put at risk.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

TRRAAC refutes propaganda, explains progress

I want to say how much I admire the work you are doing...

My sympathies and concern are with the residents of School Lane Hills, Barrcrest and the Farmingdale Road area, in regards to the unenviable situation (the Dillerville Rail Yard that F&M wants to put in their midst) in which they find themselves... For this reason, I check the website from time to time to learn about the latest developments. ...Today I found that new information had been posted.

I am forwarding this to you in case you have not seen it.

"On Fiday, December 5, 2008 Governor Ed Rendell publicly announced that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was awarding $10 million for the Rail Yard relocation project. This was not news. This was simply a confirmation of the fact that Lancaster General Hospital and Franklin and Marshall College acquired some funding from the State. Notwithstanding the Governor’s press release, NONE of these funds can be used to move the existing track. The only news was that it was made public in a manner that garnered a great deal of public attention.

"Does that mean that the rail yard relocation is now a “done deal”? Absolutely not! The fact that monies have been appropriated does not change the fact that TRRAAC is still working hard to speak with the project sponsors in an effort to change the proposed SITE of the relocation of the Dillerville rail yard. That has always been, and continues to be, TRRAAC’s sole mission: to find a site that meets the project’s goals without hindering the health and welfare of any residential community. We support the rail yard relocation in general terms.

"TRRAAC leadership has met with Lancaster General Hospital’s President and CEO Thomas Beeman, Jan Bergen and Bob Macina in an effort to find common ground and mutual understanding between LGH and the residential communities this site would affect. Meetings with elected officials at the local, state and federal levels are currently in the works, in an effort to make them aware of the ramifications of choosing the proposed site over other suitable sites.

"On the legal front, TRRAAC’s attorney, William Cluck, has filed a Notice of Appeal of the PA Department of Environmental Protection’s approval of the cleanup plan, for a number of reasons including inadequate opportunity for the public to review and comment on the cleanup plan, the failure to investigate the groundwater contamination on the F&M side of the rail tracks, and inadequate standards to clean up the asbestos containing materials.

"Regarding the environmental issues that arise because of the federal funds earmarked by Senators Casey and Specter, we are still awaiting notice and an opportunity to comment on noise, air quality, vibration and historic resource studies, so that we can independently evaluate the potential impact of the relocated rail yard on our families and properties. We have been filing freedom of information act requests with federal agencies to obtain information on the project and studies that the project partners refuse to release to the public.

" Thursday, December 11, 2008, PennDOT’s grant coordinator informed TRRAAC that PennDOT did not approve F&M’s request for an additional $9.2 million, because the project was neither ‘ready to go’ nor did it contribute the same level of economic development as other competing projects offered.

"We can only continue to support this cause through the work of the talented attorney and environmental engineer who have joined forces with TRRAAC. These two professionals are largely responsible for TRRAAC’s progress to date. In order to continue retaining the services of these consultants, we ask that every household affected by this site contribute generously.

"Please know that TRRAAC is comprised totally of volunteers who live in your neighborhood. We are not paid at all. We volunteer our time and contribute our own personal funds because we believe that another site exists that will fulfill the project goals without detriment to our communities.

"But we can no longer rely on a generous few to support our cause and our neighborhoods. We ask every household to contribute toward the collective welfare of our neighborhoods. Please give generously, as this may have a tremendous impact on our health, our children’s health, our quality of life and our home values for years to come."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Negligent planning by prior CC board

The original operational budget for the convention center only included a minimal (I think 5%) reserve for maintenance, repair, and replacement. Within the last year, the LCCCA Finance Committee headed by Laura Douglas with active support from R.B. Campbell - was able to change the rules so that a much greater maintenance reserve fund will be created (I think 15%).

This is only one of many examples of how the current LCCCA board was forced to deal with the incredibly negligent planning they inherited, and turned it into a workable solution.

Editor's note: "Negligent planning"? Hardly, with millions of dollars of fees for consultants. We believe "misleading" is more accurate. Scoundrels understate costs to hide losses.

Lehigh Valey CC closes doors

I could reiterate that the new Lehigh Valley Convention Center went out of business and shuttered its doors a few months ago.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Prison no Tuperware party

While I agree with your editorial about media culpability in sensationalizing certain crimes, I have a question.

How would the other inmates know who the new inmate is, or what crime he is charged with? That information could only come from the guards at the prison.

I don't believe that going to prison is like a Tupperware party where each arrival is introduced around and gets to share a little bit about themselves! Only the guards know the crime alleged, and only they could be "passing the word".

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dillersville Rail Yard controversy

In reference to the Dillerville Rail Yard, this project should have been under the direction of an independent board – with absolutely no connections with either F&M or Norfolk Southern – from the start. (LGH has simply gone along for the ride, pardon the pun.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bulova building made better CC site

When the negative PKF convention center feasibility study was done in 2006 there was still time to change course. The consulting firm had it right but the powers that be did their usual circus act to make the nay sayers look stupid.

This convention center of ours could not have been put in a worse location.

The talk years ago was the Bulova Building was a much better location and the Brunswick hotel could have been renovated. WELL, the business that was in there is now shut down and that building is vacant.

Hopefully Mayor Gray has a tenant.

Streetcar backers' motivations differ

In answer to your question about streetcar backers, I would suggest that both options are correct.

While I have questioned the motives of some with regards to other ill conceived projects, most specifically the convention center, I honestly believe there are those who deceive with selfish/profit motives, PSP; and those who push the project because they honestly believe, based on misguided information and propaganda, that it really will help the city.

As far as I am concerned, the streetcar is nothing more than an extension of that [convention center] project.

While I have not personally heard Peter's speak on the topic, I have heard Jack Howell make his streetcar presentation and now I truly understand the phrase "cool-aid drinkers".

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ask the mayor

In reference to your question: "Why doesn't the city charge plumbing inspection fees?" I was wondering that myself when I read the news coverage of the last council meeting.

Why don't you call City Hall and get the answer for us (since Lancaster Newspaper dropped the ball again on this issue)?

Editor note: Thanks. We will.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Who pays for railyard study?

NewsLanc and TRAACCC want a public study of alternate locations for the railyard relocation?

Who pays for this, taxpayers in general? And since the railroad has already said that none of the proposed alternatives are viable, what happens if the taxpayers pay for the study and the railroad reiterates this conclusion?

TRAACCC simply doesn't want to acknowledge that none of the other sites will work, something that Norfolk Southern has already said. The railroad has immense authority and isn't going to take anything less than it needs. That means the choice is already one between the current site, already zoned commercial, or no relocation at all. Is NewsLanc, and TRAACCC, really willing to kill a project that most everone involved agrees would be good for the city because NIMBY takes precedence?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Questions NewsLanc source re $10 million grant

"Your article says the $10 million State grant is to connect the streets. City officials told me Lancaster City needs to pay to connect the streets with its own funds.

"Lancaster City plans to pay for this with a bond sale paid for with funds from a Tax Incremental Finance district, 50% of all increased real estate assessments based on improvements made within that zone (including School and County taxes."

Cover-up at the prison?

I have learned that the mother of the prisoner who allegedly committed suicide in the Lancaster County Prison is quite alive. I have not confirmed this but hope to tomorrow.

This is a huge, horrible cover-up by the prison and LNP. How about some truth to power newslanc?

Chris Hart Nibbrig did the one excellent article on the lawsuit against the prison and then the New Era began their lame "investigate series" - and newslanc said they were going to investigate but since Jack Brubaker was - they would sit on the sidelines and critique. What a joke.

This alleged suicide happened during the four days Brubaker's "series" was running! AND LNP IGNORED IT.

Railyard information being withheld

...this money was only for the street relocation and not the actual move of the railyard. This is why the public should have the opportunity to review the application [to relocate the railyard].

If this project provides all of the benefits touted by the project partners and governor, then it should have been able to withstand public scrutiny.

We know the air quality and traffic congestion arguments are dubious. 750 jobs? Does that include the cleanup contractor? Is it 750 new jobs at the railyard?

This is about political influence and payback...

Library System's outrageous rent

After Steve McDonald made his presentation I was appalled at the rent they are paying!!! That is outrageous!!

Read the minutes when posted of this weeks meeting. [Susan] Hauer vowed to be present every meeting and the Commissioners sincerely have a deaf ear.

Off with their heads!

I say the US government should condition loans on every single executive over the level of department head immediately resigning. We saw with [General Moters disasterous investment in] Fiat that only once the old corporate head has been decapitated can a new generation of innovative managers begin the task of rebuilding a car company.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

LETTER: NewsLanc maligns car sales persons

"WATCHDOG: NewsLanc has as much confidence in these over paid and under competent auto executives as we do in their used car salesmen on their lots."

Hey! I can't believe you would slur used car salesmen like this. Comparing them to the bums running the car companies is just plain mean!

Editor's response: Our mistake. We apologize.