Sunday, April 5, 2009

Commissioners neglecting libraries and education

Stunning, and saddening, statistics in Gil Smart's front page story, "Where we stand in a shaky economy."

The article continues on page A4, where there is a graph and table showing various information about the funding and use of the library by the residents of Lancaster as compared to the region and the state. Here in Lancaster, "cardholders as a percentage of population" are about 10% higher than the region and higher than the state average.

Lancaster's "per capita circulation" is higher than the state average by about 10%.

Smart notes F&M professor Antonio Callari's observation that "Lancaster County lags significantly behind both the region and the state, as it long has," when it comes to spending for education and learning, as evidenced by it's library expenditures.

This article goes on to quote Commissioner Martin as stating that "everyone is struggling right now and having to do more with less." Perhaps I missed it, but I don't recall the commissioners cutting their own salaries.

More evidence of the wrong mentality by county officials. It's as if he is proud of Lancaster's backwards attitude on spending for education and learning, particularly as it applies to children in the city of Lancaster. But then, with his large county salary, I suppose he can afford to buy his children their own books and doesn't need to rely on the public library as a resource.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lest we forget: New Era editorialized against State hotel subsidy

Folks that's right !!! The New Era wrote an editorial that said inpart, "But $10 million is not a grant. It is a windfall. It is a lottery jackpot. It is an unconscionable amount of money for one facility in one city."

Oops that was the year before their bosses started pushing for their own largess that would make that 10 million look like a pittance!

The complete editorial: LANCASTER NEW ERA (LANCASTER, PA.) January 14, 1997, Tuesday

It's old news that Gov. Robert Casey, on his last day in office, signed over millions of dollars in taxpayers' money to his home town friends and political supporters. The going-away gifts that he used your money to buy included a downtown hotel and conference center in his hometown ($10 million); a Lackawanna County visitor center ($1 million), and an arena in a Luzerne County business park ($1.2million).

Two interpretations have been made of his largess: (1) that thegovernor used the power of his office to give a figurativenose-thumbing to the rest of Pennsylvania; (2) that the governor courageously provided one final economic boost to an area ofPennsylvania that has been struggling to revitalize itself.

An argument could be mounted for answer number 2, but the facts that the governor waited until the final day in office to sign the give away and that the money was targeted for his home area are convincing evidence for the nose-thumbing.

Now, years later, his give away is the center of a controversy in - of all places - his hometown of Scranton.

Specifically, the $10 million he designated to turn a derelict Scranton hotel into a downtown conference center/hotel is being attacked by other hotel owners in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.

Their protests make sense. How can they compete, they ask, with a hotel that is being infused with $10 million of public funds? How can they pay the going rate for renovations in their own hotels, and pass those costs to customers, when the operators of Casey's project don't have to worry about recouping their renovation costs?

Of course, one purpose of state grants is to help boost downtowns inPennsylvania cities. Lancaster is hoping to obtain a small grant to help change the vacant Bon-Ton building into a branch of Harrisburg Area Community College.

But $10 million is not a grant. It is a windfall. It is a lottery jackpot. It is an unconscionable amount of money for one facility in one city.

If the convention center is built with that grant, we have no doubt it will be filled with tourists from Pennsylvania and the rest of the country. Thanks to Congressman Joseph McDade and former Gov. Casey, the Scranton area has been the beneficiary of millions of dollars in public funds. If for no other reasons, tourists will flock there just to visit their money.

As for the other hotel owners who have to deal with unfair competition....well, they can join the rest of us on the other side of that nose-thumbing.

(Editor's note: The Scranton hotel referenced above has been in economic trouble and on the market place virtually from the time it opened its doors.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

PRESS RELEASE:'Taxed Enough Already' Party Gathering

Taxpayers in Lancaster County Gather for a 'Taxed Enough Already' Party Gathering in Musser Park on Tax Day, April 15 from 4pm-7pm

Taxpayers in Lancaster County will gather on April 15 at 4pm in Musser Park to meet others who might be outraged, scared, confused, feeling alone, or who take exception to their freedom being threatened because of actions occuring in Washington DC. Attendees are asked to bring sealed Tea items for donation to the Milagro House.

The party is another outpouring of grass roots activism, joining with over 1,000 other Tea Parties nationwide. More information can be found here.

Lisa Armellino comments: “We are being taxed for almost everything, and in return we have been forced to finance the toxic assets of shady business practices performed both domestically and internationally. If we don't stand united against this now, there is no telling what could happen tomorrow. Please join us, and let the movement begin.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Everyone likes something for nothing

No offense but your most recent story with the barber shop "CC straw poll" fails to ask the most important question, and lacking that question, your story could have just as easily come from the hallowed pages of LNP.

When inquiring of downtown merchants regarding the CC and its potential impact on their businesses, I want to know if they would be willing to charge a tax/fee, turned over to the LCCCA, to each and every one of their customers on each and every day of the year for this potential benefit?

I think that question would change quite a few opinions about the CC. When its free, or paid for by the hardwork of others, it is easy to say it will be a positive, you have no downside. When you, or your customers are forced to pay the tab, reality sets in quickly.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

State list missed Walmart

Saw your article on drugs. The State apparently doesn't list Walmart.

Walmart has an awesome deal - $4 a month or 10$ for three months on hundreds of prescription drugs as well as 1000's of non-prescription drugs.

I personally saved over $100 a year on two prescriptions!

Bulb-outs not a good idea

City administrators are planning curb extensions (called bulb-outs) at East King and North Queen Streets as well as other downtown locations. Bulb-outs were recently completed at the intersection of S. Queen and Vine Sts. However, there are numerous reasons why bulb-outs, especially at intersections, may not be a good idea. Some of these are:

When bulb-outs (curb extensions) are placed at intersections on narrow streets, they tend to make left or right turns from one street to the other more difficult and dangerous. If at mid-block locations, they will eliminate some parking spaces. Bulb-outs have other disadvantages, including:

Bulb-outs can cause accidents. Cities are liable for personal injuries and damage to vehicles caused by bulb-outs. "I hate bulb-outs – they do nothing except increase the likelihood of an accident (put a nozzle on a wide hose and you merely increase the pressure)" – comment from a citizen of Atlanta, GA.

Bulb-outs make snow removal and street cleaning more difficult and also more expensive in terms of time and labor. (Tax dollars pay for these services.)

Bulb-outs are expensive to build. Each pair of bulb-outs may cost $7,000 to $10,000, plus the installation of warning signs (quote from the Va. Dept. of Transportation, year 2002 report). In addition, storm drains may need to be re-located or rebuilt, at taxpayer expense.

Bulb-outs are expensive to maintain. Bulb-out curbs are frequently struck by large trucks as well as snow plows and street cleaners. (Take a look at the chipped and cracked bulb-out curbs on College Ave. and at the intersection of N. Prince and W. Chestnut Sts., near the Police Dept. building). Maintenance is paid for with tax dollars.

Bulb-outs pose a clear danger to bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles. "What’s dangerous about bulb-outs is that they make it necessary for a biker to veer towards moving cars at certain points, and the motorist and/or the cyclist may be unprepared for that" – a biker in Atlanta,Ga. "Bulb-outs may make it difficult to accommodate bicycle lanes" – The PA Traffic Calming Handbook.

Bulb-outs constructed in mid-block locations for the purpose of traffic calming result in only a small reduction in speed. "Most curb extensions result in speed reductions of 1-2 mph." – quote from The PA Traffic Calming Handbook, Pa. Dept. of Transportation.

Reason HDC is sticking with CC date?

I couldn't help but notice that the head of HousingDevelopment Corp that is sticking with the convention center is none other than Mike Carper - the FORMER executive director of LCCCA before David Hixon.

He left after only six months and I speculate they bought his silence with another cushy job.

Reason HDC is sticking with CC date?

I couldn't help but notice that the head of HousingDevelopment Corp that is sticking with the convention center is none other than Mike Carper - the FORMER executive director of LCCCA before David Hixon.

He left after only six months and I speculate they bought his silence with another cushy job.

Lenders abandoning housing collateral

I read this story this AM [in The New York Times] and thought NewsLanc viewers might find it interesting. A development in the residential mortgage market.

"City officials and housing advocates here and in cities as varied as Buffalo, Kansas City, Mo., and Jacksonville, Fla., say they are seeing an unsettling development: Banks are quietly declining to take possession of properties at the end of the foreclosure process, most often because the cost of the ordeal — from legal fees to maintenance — exceeds the diminishing value of the real estate."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Interstate Hotels Professionalism

The following email was received by Lancaster First on March 30, 2009:

"To Whom it May Concern,

"I wanted to inform you of unprofessional experience that I had while looking into a management job at the new Marriott Hotel and Convention Center. I formerly worked for a major hotel chain in the United States. I have since left the hospitality industry to pursue other endeavors.

"When I heard about this hotel opening the sheer size and magnitude of the project lit a fire inside me to be part of it. As it turns out, the company managing the hotel and convention center may have their hands full not only with delays in the opening, but their managers as well.

"During my time in the Hospitality Industry I was always taught that a potential employee is always a potential customer and as such they should be treated with the same respect. In my dealings with Michelle Reynolds of the Rooms Division I received no such thing. I have never been treated so rudely by someone.

"I only spoke with her via email, but her arrogance and unprofessional manner shined through in these encounters. I question whether J.W. Marriott, a man whom I once met, who is a man of great pride and integrity would approve of this person working a property of this magnitude and exposure..."

Bulb outs worsen downtown intersections

Below is [an excerpt from] the 2nd letter/editor I’ve seen opposing bulb-outs (the name given to extended curbs at intersections) in downtown Lancaster.

Both Mayor Gray and Charlotte Katzenmoyer have made public statements in favor of bulb-outs. Perhaps you can look into this.

Does [the City Engineer] actually research the advisability of a bulb-out at a particular location, or merely check to see If the design conform to PennDOT requirements?

"....One of the heaviest intersections in town is the corner of South Queen and Vine streets. It's bad enough as it is with traffic turning left onto South Queen or onto Vine, especially when people are backed up leaving the parking garage of the newspaper. The traffic gets backed up when someone is turning onto South Queen, and, if they do not stay to the center, no one can get by if they are traveling Vine Street to Duke Street. If they do stay to the center, traffic can go around them. Now with the extended sidewalk, no one can pass...."

Why just the 1999 Ernst & Young article?

In answer to your question: Was the New Era 1999 article re Ernst & Young disingenuous?, the answer is a no-brainer. The question is why you selected only one article when there are now almost 10 years of disingenuous, one-sided, self-serving, narcissistic, and irresponsible reporting on the entire project.

From content, the total lack of reasonable questioning, timing and a generally unbalanced, flawed, and incomplete logic behind almost all stories, the question applies to almost every story on the CC within LNP.

Editors response: We are just getting started!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Questions LCCCA marketing efforts and opening date

Personally, I do not think Interstate put really seasoned management here from the presentations that the current sales and management provided.

Also, the over one million dollars that the LCCCA gave for their services was spent mostly on attending shows to drum up business. That money could have remained in the area and brought much better bookings that may generate outside shopping dollars and recreational dollars.

My opinion of the bookings that are on the record are just business TEMPORARILY taken from other sites in the County and will return to those sites IF the food, parking, safety and management are not up to standards that they have received elsewhere.

A person invited on a tour said IF they hit JUNE they will be fortunate.

Unrealistic Convention Center schedule

Note that the previous end of March opening date - which itself had earlier been changed from January 1 - was set while Ted Darcus and Dave Hixson were still running the LCCCA with iron fists.

But who actually had demanded such an unrealistic date? Was it someone from the Penn Square Partners?

Art Morris and Kevin Molloy have done a fantastic job of working under impossible conditions. But the demands which have been placed upon them were clearly not humanly achievable.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

CC delay may not be sufficient

Talking to a contractor tonight - he said he did not think they will not make the new deadline.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Businesses must extend hours to benefit from CC

ALL business should open and close with longer hours and be consistent for at least the first 6 months. That would give a consistent shot to drawing visitors onto the street.

Otherwise, forget it, they will not leave the building unless they are staying at the Brunswick or the Arts Hotel and are going to walk back.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Slow death

It is a shame that we could have made state and national history by saying to Gib Armstrong and Dale High, "thanks but no thanks, we do not need a convention center downtown."

We have Ford, Thibualt and Shaub to thank for this white elephant that is only going to take business from other conference rooms in this area for approximately a year then we will have to watch the slow death of a major debt.

IHR / Marriott determined interior finishes for CC

It seems like the people who designed and built the hotel and convention center project have had no real-world experience with convention centers.

Cooper-Carry created all of the structural designs and layouts, includingthe appearance of the outside of the building. Interstate Hotels andResorts (IHR) selected ALL of the materials, patterns, and furnishings inside the entire facility.

The LCCCA board was told on many different occasion that all of this was done to Marriott standards, supposedly as contractually obligated.

There was absolutely positively never any opportunity for the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority to have ANY input whatsoever into thedesign or appearance of its own convention center. Even the Request For Proposal for artwork was taken away by IHR at nearly the last minute, and IHR employees still control the final selection process.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

More about Convention Center Tour

I questioned the number of events booked at a recent LCCCA meeting.

According to Mark Moosic, the number of events being quoted include ALL fromBOTH the hotel and the convention center, and "events" in the hotel include food-only bookings PLUS blocks of rooms booked at the same time which use *NO* meeting space!

Talk about bull$hit!

Editor's note:

NewsLanc publishes civil letters regardless of their stances. We welcome controversy and debate.

However it got here, it is now OUR convention center and OUR Marriott hotel. (Both largely built with tax payers' money or guarantees.) So we want to see them do well.

We especially welcome communications saying positive things about the project.

Feed back from CC walk through tour

I had a lengthy conversation with a local person who was invited on a Marriott Hotel and Convention Center walk through tour. This person called with tons of information knowing my personal opinion of the project.First of all, the layout is too choppy, too many small rooms.

That the convention center is not separate from the hotel brought this person to ponder whether, if the project is not fiscally sound, the perfect replacement would be a CASINO. Also, my friend reflected that in today’s market with the SMALL rooms for meetings, larger groups will not return or even consider.

Noted was the VINYL wall coverings, VERY CHEAP and going to need replaced sooner than normal upscale wall covering. The CARPET is definitely LOW grade, the type that is used in a lot of COMMERCIAL jobs. The design is outdated in comparison to current national projects of this nature. The exterior is totally compromised in this person’s opinion.

Another interesting tidbit was that the claim that the complex has over 200 events booked to date. I suggested attending a monthly meeting or meeting with Laura Douglas or R. B. Campbell to obtain the TRUE facts of business booked.

Also, I corrected my friend’s misunderstanding that Penn Square Partners (Dale High and Lancaster Newspapers) own the hotel. I pointed out that the Redevelopment Authority of Lancaster (City) owns the Hotel and the Convention Center Authority owns the CC. The project is a condominium with Penn Square Partners likely in the distant future to own the hotel, if and when the their investment would not longer be at risk.

Also in their presentations they are consistently made told about tax revenue to come out of this. In fact, the hotel as well as the CC is exempt from real estate taxes and sales tax revenues generated are being indirectly returned to the project through an arrangement with the state. I did my best to listen and reply.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Marriott portico detracts from Watt & Shand facade

The Marriott Hotel drop off at Penn Square has one of the ugliest porticos ever designed and, so radically detracts from the facade of Watt and Shand, that retaining the facade seems like an afterthought.

Let me re-phrase...It's not that the portico is so ugly as that it is SO inconsistent with the facade, and out of scale with the rest of the square, that it looks like it was ripped from the drawing for another building....and it might have been!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Protest about Railyard Relocation to officials

Taxpayers who oppose state and federal funding of the Relocation Project of the Dillerville Norfolk Southern Rail Yard should write to their state and federal officials, and let them know how they feel. This includes President Obama, who is opposing the use of earmark money.

Following is a copy of the letter that I have submitted to President Obama:

This is to let you know that I am opposed to any more government funds going to finance any part of the relocation project of the Dillerville Norfolk Southern Rail Yard in Lancaster County, PA. This project, already in its first stages of implementation, will primarily benefit the two largest and most well-endowed non-profit institutions in the City of Lancaster. They are Franklin and Marshall College and Lancaster General Hospital.

At the same time that the state of Pennsylvania is reducing the hours of state employees and reducing funding of many of its historical museums and social service agencies, Franklin & Marshall College and Lancaster General Hospital have applied for $20 million of government grant money to fund a project that even they admit is for their own private benefit (as reported below by Michael Yoder, Lancaster Intelligencer Journal reporter, in a by-lined article that appeared on Feb. 27, 2009):

"F&M wants to move the rail yard so it can consolidate its athletics fields with the land it is redeveloping at the former Armstrong floor plant, and Lancaster General Hospital has planned expanding at the site."

F&M College has already been given $10 million of state earmark money toward the project.
I want my tax money to be used for public projects, not for projects that will primarily benefit two well-endowed institutions in the private sector.

End of letter. Persons who want to contact the White House electronically may use the form on the following website:

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lancaster debtors prison

Are you interested in looking into how divorce lawyers and the county judgeship are milking
divorce suits to the point where there is no money left?

About 130 men are in jail right now for failure to pay court ordered support. How does that help the situation?

Fire department could use the $30,000

We have a professional Fire Department with Fire Inspectors that have been trained in the operation of alarms, who are going to be the ones responding to any emergency. Are these gentlemen and women not competent to inspect and test the system and work with the contractor that is doing the installation?

Lets give them the money to the Fire Department instead of another outside making money off of Lancaster Convention Center.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The $32,000 "ounce of prevention" not needed

The $32,000 budgeted by the Convention Center for a third party to "inspect" the fire prevention and safety systems at the facility seems like an extreme waste of money.

The Lancaster City Bureau of Fire, a "third party" with no vested interest in the CC project already staffs 4 Fire Inspection officers.These officers perform plans review, system inspections and performance analysis.

In fact, Lt. Alex Grumbrecht, a city Fire Inspector has been overseeing the safety systems at the CC from the start of construction. Firefighters from the Bureau are now conducting a pre-incident survey of the site to ensure that both the facility and the Fire Bureau are prepared to handle an emergency.

All of these services are provided at nominal cost - the cost of the initial permit for the systems. In fact, since the site has contributed zero dollars to the city's tax coffers, the CC is receiving fire protection services for FREE from the city.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Will commissioners live up to their promises? was there to record the county commissioner candidates where [commissioners] Martin and Stuckey said that there would be NO MORE dollars for operating expenses!

Let's hold their feet to the fire!

I noticed that Lehman only said no to construction dollars.

More re CC financial viability

As he ascends to the chairmanship of the County's majority party, I think it would be very enlightening to interview County Treasurer Craig Ebersole.

Treasurer Ebersole had repeatedly made public statements regarding the CC viability and questioned the financing years ago. He also questioned the PDCVB's effectiveness in how it spends its portion of hotel tax dollars and the return, or lack thereof, on those tax/public monies. In light of recent trends, events, and market conditions, I think it would be great to hear what his take on things is today.

It might also be interesting to examine how that might differ from the two members of his party serving as County Commissioner and whether or not Chairman (and Treasurer) Ebersole's views seem more in line with the guy the GOP ran out of office than the guys it currently supports in office.

That said, are they willing to raise county-wide taxes or hit the general fund to make up the shortfall, or will they raise the bed tax...a tax paid by less than 100 of their constituents?

Re: Convention Center Revenue: A Guessing Game

Excellent job - what's going to be fun is watching the currentcounty commissioners have to make the inevitable decision when the shoe drops...

I suspect they will break their promise not to raise the bed tax once they found out they are going to have to raise property taxes.

Does someone want to guess when the PSP and LCCCA eventually sue eachother? I am convinced it will happen - sooner than later!

Friday, March 6, 2009

TRRAAC posting critical of Lancaster Newspapers

The Lancaster New Era published a photo of trees being cut down at the former municipal dump on Feb 26, 2009 under the headline "Work starts on rail yard move: Excavation under way for $46M project fought by some Hills, Barrcrest residents."

Many homeowners in the nearby residential neighborhoods have serious concerns, as shown In the following newsletter posted today on, website of The Rail Road Action and Advisory Committee. The letter reads:

"With no prior notice (other than a newsletter in December and meetings with governmental officials the second week of January), the heavy equipment has arrived at the dump. Indeed tree clearing has begun on the site. As in past articles, the newspaper glossed over any potentially negative aspects related to the project even after being handed, during reporter initiated interviews, direct and clear evidence of project issues worthy of further investigation. But what is most telling and the most troubling is the complete absence of any mention of the potentially friable asbestos that could be exposed on the surface of the site as trees are uprooted. The Health and Safety Plan posted on F&M's web site does not mention protection of the workers doing tree cutting and removal. The newspaper shows a complete lack of concern for protecting the public interest by not reporting any aspects of this issue.

"At the November 13th public meeting held by Manheim on the dump remediation, at which Lancaster Newspapers was in attendance, management of asbestos containing materials was a significant issue. TRRAAC was represented by an environmental engineer who inspected samples of asbestos backed vinyl flooring from the site and was of the opinion, that left in its present state, undisturbed, that this material could remain benign. However, remediation of the dump, and even the preparation for the remediation, would require the use of heavy construction equipment. The use of such equipment could turn this benign material into a friable and potentially air-borne health issue. F&M, thru their hired engineering firm ARM, repeatedly stated that they were going to be following all required procedures and the work will be safe. They stated they would have personnel monitoring the perimeter of the site as the work was conducted. Was there monitoring during tree cutting and removal? Who is ensuring the promised monitoring is actually occurring?

"The DEP representative at the November meeting, Kathy Horvath, also said they would be inspecting the site as the work progressed. But when pressed on details she admitted this may be at best one inspection per week.

"The representative from Lancaster General said nothing.

" .. . . The article mentions nothing about asbestos, about current monitoring during the tree removal phase, about future monitoring for any of the next phases. The photo reveals no monitoring personnel or devices in sight. The weather conditions during this photo of the tree removal are cold and dry. The type of condition that is conducive to material becoming brittle and easily broken up. Upon close inspection of the operator of the piece of heavy equipment that is running back and forth over the ground, the operator appears to be wearing no significant protective gear. Was this person told of the potential hazard he is working on by the project partners, specifically the Lancaster General ?

"Our public health is to be protected by possibly one inspection per week from the agency that stated on the record it was 'overwhelmed' by six public comments on the proposed cleanup plan. Our public health is to be protected by F&M who stands to gain the most from this unnecessary activity, part of an idea that was conceived by the college’s administration as a way to beautify the college's campus by removing the rail yard out of their backyard. Our public health is to be protected by the hospital that spends perhaps millions promoting their 'Breath Right' campaign, yet sits silently at the table when a potentially serious air-borne asbestos health risk is being discussed. Our public health is to be protected by a newspaper that refuses to report anything about the issue. Hmmm….

"TRRAAC requested Manheim officials request the site officials to notify them when they observe asbestos containing materials and provide daily logs of site activities. The project partners told the township they will provide weekly monitoring reports and post them on its web site. We will hold them to that promise and continue to insist on full disclosure and transparency of all aspects of this project."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Is monitoring dump site removal a "burden?"

A puzzling statement about the excavation of the former municipal dump, in preparation for a relocated rail yard, is contained in a letter now appearing on The Rail Road Action and Advisory Committee’s web page. Addressed to the Manheim Twp. Commissioners and signed by Bill Cluck, TRRAAC’s attorney, this statement is:

"We recognize it would be a burden on the township to monitor site activities, but perhaps a reporting mechanism can be discussed with the contractor to keep the township and the public informed of activities on site."

Why on earth would it be a "burden" to township officials to "monitor site activities"? Even if it is, shouldn’t that be a responsibility of township officials, particularly considering that asbestos products have been proven to be buried in this dump in unknown quantities?

Also, why would TRRAAC rely on the accuracy of the reports written by the Project Partners of F&M and LGH, when TRRAAC has documented evidence of these same Project Partners making misleading and inaccurate statements on application forms for state and federal grant money?

Just one example of a totally inaccurate statement was contained in an application submitted to the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). This statement represented that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had already "awarded" $1 million for the clean-up of the dump, a statement that DEP said was untrue.

Other evidence of improper and unsubstantiated statements by the Project Partners is contained in newsletters published on the TRRAAC website. These newsletters include "Analysis of PennDot's Funding $700,000 for F&M's Engineers", dated Mar. 4; "Follow the Money" dated Jan 23; "Your taxes are paying for John Fry’s Vision", dated Feb. 1.

Why didn't TRRAAC’s attorney tell the Manheim Twp. Commissioners that they should notify the "Project Partners" that township officials and members of TRRAAC would be conducting frequent and unannounced spot checks to ascertain that all of the mandated safety procedures for the removal of asbestos products are being followed? These procedures are detailed in the Project Partners’ published document, "Site Health and Safety Plan."

The Project Partners would then be less likely to attempt to save money by ignoring safety procedures that they had agreed to before beginning the excavation.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Legislators right about cancelling Ayers

Your letter writer concerning GOP legislators and Millersville University is actually the one who misses the point.

This situation is not about free speech. It is about state sponsored and state endorsed speech. If Bill Ayers was speaking at F&M or Elizabethtown College, it would be an issue for their Boards of Trustees, not for the public.

And if Bill Ayers was speaking voluntarily at Buchanan Park from a soapbox, this would be a non-issue. Protesters could do their thing with the same freedom of speech that he would be exercising.

This is about the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and a State University.

You might be willing to embrace his expressed views that exploding bombs in public places is a legitimate form of protest, but many are not. And since Millersville is a State University, the taxpayers' and their Representatives' views count.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

It's all about freedom of speech

The grandstanding displayed by Lancaster County's republican House delegation protesting a speech by William Ayers at Millersville University is disturbing. In a co-signed letter to the Intelligencer Journal, Feb. 27, 2009, Reps. Bear, Boyd, Creighton, Cutler, Denlinger, Hinkernell, and True (Intell Readers' Forum, Feb. 27, 2009) demonstrate a level of political self-aggrandizement that would make a seasoned Washington pol green.

The legislators commit the embarrassing straw man fallacy of comparing Ayers -- a distinguished educator with an Ivy League doctorate, whose anti-war activism 40 years ago targeted buildings, not people -- to convicted murderer, Ted Kaczynski and abortion clinic bomber, Eric Rudolph, and manage to miss the point entirely.

This issue is about a university deciding which speakers to bring to its campus. That is its role. The role of legislators is to make and pass laws that help and protect the people of the Commonwealth. What law are they intending to write? One that requires university speakers passing through several House and Senate committees for approval? Will they draft legislation to withhold state funds for state universities that have speakers on their blacklist? Give me a break.

The grandiosity of these "representatives" is alarming. They proclaim: "This is about right and wrong." Pardon? These are our arbiters of what is "right and wrong"? I think they might be overstepping their job description here, just a bit.

Finally, there is the laugh-out-loud, disingenuous statement of the year: "This has nothing to do with freedom of speech or politics." Ha! Their letter has absolutely everything to do with politics, and that really is wrong.

More re Council Member Joe Morales

When Joe Morales was on the LCCCA board - which he resigned to take his seat
on City Council - he once bragged during a public meeting that he never read
the thick documentation members were given to vote on, since he trusted the
LCCCA counsel who wrote and negotiated these agreements.

The LCCCA counsel at the time was Stevens & Lee, whose agreements with the Penn Square Partners are heavily slanted AGAINST local taxpayers.

A critique of Mayor Rick Gray's performance

(Reprinted with permission from

"Former defense attorney J.Richard Gray - known to all as 'Rick' - has been doing an exemplary job as mayor of Lancaster, Pennsylvania over the last three years... For the most part.

There can be no question that Rick Gray has done much to improve the operation and the finances of the Lancaster City government. After inheriting a $7 million deficit, Rick Gray has presented budgets which reduced deficit spending with only minimal tax increases. The number of people employed by Lancaster City has dropped since Rick Gray took office, with some positions combined, and others eliminated completely.

Gray has refocused the city government to get better results. Customer service personnel have been reshuffled to better respond to the needs of residents. A neglected portable truck scales was brought out of storage, and police officers were trained in truck inspections. Electrical vehicle speed measuring devices (similar to VASCAR) have been purchased, and are being used to catch speeders. And the long-neglected "boot" program for traffic scofflaws was restarted.

Rick Gray is willing to spend money when it will save taxpayer dollars in the long run. Outdated and worn-out equipment has been replaced and upgraded when appropriate. All of the city's desktop computers are being replaced with upgraded models. Desperately needed fire trucks and safety apparatus have been purchased. And new automobiles for city staff have been bought (through a purchasing consortium) to replace others which are as much as 20 years old, while providing vehicles for other city employees who currently are reimbursed by the mile - all of which will save money for city taxpayers.

Rick Gray has repeatedly proven himself to be a strong and effective manager. Gray's selection for fire chief, Tim Gregg, is a firefighter with more than two decades' service in Lancaster who has outstanding management and organizational skills, in addition to being a "people person" and an all-around nice guy. For Chief of Police, an outsider was brought to Lancaster from Philadelphia, a ranking officer with proven management skills who is tough enough to deal with the kind of personnel issues that occasionally appear among any group of strong-willed individuals (a police official once compared managing detectives to "herding cats").

Productivity and attitudes of Lancaster City personnel have improved remarkably under Rick Gray. After being downsized and disrupted by previous mayors, morale in the Fire Department is once again high (although staffing remains at historically low levels, specifically because of Lancaster City's difficult budget issues). Other officials like Randy Patterson (brought in by Gray for the combined position of Director of Economic Development & Neighborhood Revitalization) and Patrick Hopkins (Director of Administrative Services) have worked with their staffs to more efficiently obtain the results that Lancaster City needs.

Rick Gray has made a number of proposals, some controversial, designed at making Lancaster City a better place to live and work. Gray was able to hire a consultant to study Lancaster City government, and make recommendations to make it more efficient and more effective; some of these proposals have already been adopted. Gray's single trash hauler program has noticeably improved trash collection, and saved residents money over what the largest companies used to charge. Gray negotiated a tough new licensing agreement with Comcast, which creates new public access cable channels, and provides local government and schools with free services. Gray instituted regular inspections of all rental housing units in Lancaster City, improving living conditions for many people. Gray pushed through a comprehensive update of rental housing regulations, designed to better protect renters, landlords, and neighbors. Rick Gray has even begun to examine zoning practices within Lancaster City, and has taken the first steps toward a more appropriate neighborhood-based zoning method.

Unfortunately, Rick Gray has his flaws.

Gray has a preoccupation with grandiose projects, some of which threaten to be costly for Lancaster City taxpayers in more ways than one. For example, the "streetscape improvements" currently under way in downtown Lancaster - which include drastic "traffic calming" narrowing of traffic lanes - have already torn up sidewalks that clearly did not need replacing. Using borrowed money to give the sidewalks of downtown Lancaster a "unified" look, while Lancaster City government is still spending more than it collects in revenue, is a questionable idea at best. And the current proposal to rebuild the northwest quadrant of Penn Square not only clashes with the "streetscape improvements", it is out of character for the historic buildings located there.

Rick Gray has been an outspoken champion of a proposed streetcar system in downtown Lancaster. To promote the streetcar proposal, Gray has permitted the indefinite display of a repainted Philadelphia trolley in a prominent position on public property downtown, next to the police station. (This streetcar appears to be far too long to navigate the tight intersections of Lancaster City streets.) The streetcar project would only benefit a small number of individuals, while restricting traffic flow and making streets less safe for motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Appeals for increasingly scarce State and Federal funds at a time of budget cutbacks and increasing opposition to "pork" projects like this one do not make sense.

The one area where Rick Gray's reach has clearly exceeded his grasp is in his support for the downtown hotel and convention center project. For example, when higher than expected construction bids created a $20 million budget gap for the project in the summer of 2006, Gray announced a complex plan to provide enough funding so construction could begin. Much of Gray's plan proved to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors; many of Gray's proposals never happened. Instead, the LCCCA simply borrowed millions of dollars more than was originally planned.

In early 2005, as Rick Gray was beginning his campaign for mayor, he clearly stated to a number of different people his concerns about several aspects of the hotel and convention center project. Yet by late spring, Gray had become an enthusiastic supporter of the project. This turnabout was so sudden and so dramatic that it appears someone may have been pulling his strings. To Gray's credit, he has at times expressed concern over the burden placed on Lancaster City taxpayers by his predecessor to guarantee the government-owned "private" hotel. And Gray's appointment of former mayor Art Morris to the LCCCA board, where he quickly became chairman, belatedly brought real accountability to the project.

There are other issues. For example, Gray and his staff have already been working toward the creation of a taxpayer-funded performing arts center (which will exempt even more prime real estate from paying taxes). And the partial demolition of the east side of Lancaster Square, while well-intentioned, will leave a starkly featureless open space downtown which could remain that way for many years.

Rick Gray has undoubtedly been the single most effective mayor of Lancaster for decades. Gray clearly deserves to be re-elected for another term in office. But the reason Gray has been only a good mayor, and not a great one, is his enthusiastic support for expensive, grandiose and inappropriate projects in downtown Lancaster.

Suggests prejudicial New Era coverage

If Joseph Morales was on the buddy system like so many of the council members and our bureaucrats, the article "Son of City Council member tries to ignore the law" would not have been published."

This is a very weird report. Morales ran for office last election and lost but is still on city council. He is a very nice gentleman and it is not unusual that children do not follow in their parents footsteps.

How unfortunate, as he is a pretty fair guy and sincerely tries to be informed.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

More signs of print medium distress

R. I. P.

"An annual convention of newspaper editors has been canceled so their publications can save money and focus on surviving the recession.

"It's just the second time that American Society of Newspaper Editors hasn't convened. The last time occurred during the final months of World War II in 1945."

Friday, February 27, 2009

State has no money for us, plenty for them!

Perhaps NewsLanc would be interested in writing about the contradiction in two stories in last night’s and today’s papers: while the state is reducing hours and services and may even entirely close down, or cause to be closed down due to lack of funding – F&M/LGH are asking, and expecting, to get $20 million from the state taxpayer money to fund a project that even they admit is for their own private benefit (see quote below by Michael Yoder, Intell, Feb. 27):

"F&M wants to move the rail yard so it can consolidate its athletics fields with the land it is redeveloping at the former Armstrong floor plant, and Lancaster General Hospital has planned expanding at the site."

State has no money for us, plenty for them!

Perhaps NewsLanc would be interested in writing about the contradiction in two stories in last night’s and today’s papers: while the state is reducing hours and services and may even entirely close down, or cause to be closed down due to lack of funding – F&M/LGH are asking, and expecting, to get $20 million from the state taxpayer money to fund a project that even they admit is for their own private benefit (see quote below by Michael Yoder, Intell, Feb. 27):

"F&M wants to move the rail yard so it can consolidate its athletics fields with the land it is redeveloping at the former Armstrong floor plant, and Lancaster General Hospital has planned expanding at the site."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rapid obsolescence and sinful ugliness

Here is a recurring theme: We are seeing it in Philadelphia: When business drops, it is pitched as a deficiency of the venue, and a demand is made for funds to "upgrade".

There is no doubt, that remedial or restorative work needs to be done on a regular basis, but the monumental funds demanded are absurd.

The average life span of a NYC restaurant is 18 months. (of course a few survive for a long time,but stay with me)....The opening brings in the adventurous diners who want to try the new kid on the block. Its success depends on word of mouth to intrigue others, or the initial bubble of business deflates. any business, every time a new competitor or a new technology comes online, attention is drawn from what was: the new kid last week.

I promise we will hear this same "cry" here in Lancaster within five years: That the venue needs an upgrade to be competitive.

On another note: Have you noticed the canopy structure extending from the Queen St. Entrance? It is not drawn as far out in the architect's sketch. It extends well beyond the facade of the Montgomery House, and that extension is truly ugly.. It cuts across and detracts from both.

Sinfully ugly.

Monday, February 23, 2009

For the birds? Not.

This is for the bird lovers of Lancaster, "Are you pleased with the greasing of your roof, yard, sidewalk and auto with the feces of Crows?" ... In as much as salmonella and other diseases are linked to excessive contact to bird waste, I think it's time to either reduce the herd or send them packing - TAKE YOUR PICK!

How would it be if we all behaved in the 17th century manner dumping the chamber pot in the gutter or out the second floor window?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Visitors Bureau covert site impressive

I found the following purely by accident:

At first glance, this site looks like nothing more than a blog about Lancaster County. But look at the "About" page: it is actually a function of the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau...

What's more, the PDCVB is intentionally using social networks like Flickr, Twitter, FaceBook, and YouTube to "stealth" market Lancaster County tourism, making it look like ordinary people are posting when in fact it is really PDCVB employees. This has been announced several times at LCCCA committee meetings, and can be confirmed by documents posted on the PDCVB web site.

How is this all paid for? From the Visitors Bureau portion of the "hotel tax".

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Incentives for convention organizers

No incentives for promoters and organizers = no conventions.

I have questioned for years who is going to fund these incentives that will be required, in a buyer's market, to lure business to our Convention Center.

It is certainly not coming from Penn Square Partners. Does the PDCVB [tourist bureau] plan on funding this as well as the Convenetion Center marketing?

Do they expect the hotels to pony up the money? The City? The County?

An article from Forbes at is already four years old and is more applicable today than it was then:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Intell cover up of rail yard controversy?

A letter currently running on the NewsLanc editorial page says that there was no coverage in the Intelligencer Journal of the Manheim Township Commissioners meeting on Feb. 9 even though an Intell reporter, Mike Yoder, attended the meeting. At the meeting, Manheim Township residents spoke about their environmental concerns regarding the excavation of a municipal dump containing asbestos near their homes. The letter said that Mr. Yoder spoke to these residents after the meeting.

Question: What happened to Mr. Yoder's report? Did he write one and, if so, why wasn't it published? Doesn't Lancaster Newspapers have the responsibility to inform the public on this issue? Or is the public to believe that the newspapers are doing "selective reporting" in order to protect F&M and LGH, who are sponsoring the dump site excavation and Rail Yard Relocation project for their mutual benefit.

Only in Lancaster?

I sent a copy of the letter headed "$13 million rail yard relocation now $46 million" to an out-of-state friend who lives in a city more than twice the size of Lancaster. I asked him if he thought something like this could happen in his city. This was his response:

"The process is so bizarre, camouflaged, manipulative and misleading that it strains credulity. No, I do not think that it could happen in my city or should happen in any U.S. city."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Neglect by Manheim Township commissioners?

I've gotten the impression that the Manheim Twp. commissioners are trying to distance themselves from the [TRRAAC controversy], which puzzles me, because my understanding is that the rail yard will not bring in any tax money to the township, and if the home values fall (how they not do that?) as a result of the rail yard, the township will lose income.

I would think they would care about their property owners who put them in office instead of an institution [Franklin & Marshall] that isn't even in the township.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

More F & M spin?

The $44,655 that F&M College says it spends annually on Buchanan Park is misleading. It is not money out-of-pocket and it does not cover all maintenance. This figure represents scholarship money that F&M gives to one or two students whose responsibilities are limited to mowing the grass. In addition, F&M's Maintenance Department empties the trash barrels.

Everything else is done by the City: the trimming, removal and planting of trees as well as the maintenance of the playground and all other buildings and structures in the Park. The Loyalty Day Committee uses the proceeds of its annual Buchanan Park/Loyalty Day Festival to maintain the war monuments in the Park. In addition, they have provided picnic tables, constructed a flag pole with patio, improved the restrooms and financed the fence around the wading pool. The City Parks Department in cooperation with Stevens School of Technology is currently restoring the historic Liberty Bond Building in the Park. The Men’s Garden Club maintains the Rose Garden.

It is apparent from the poor condition of the turf that F&M is not doing any fertilization or weed control. There are many bare spots because the mower is set too low during hot, dry periods in the summer. F&M maintains its football practice field between Race Avenue and Harrisburg Pike to a much higher standard than it does Buchanan Park.

Undoubtedly, the City would be ahead financially if the Mayor asked F&M to give the total amount it owes to the City and returned the responsibility for the mowing and trash removal to the City Parks Department, as was done in the past. Even if the City had to contract for the work, the City could put the job out for bids and could most likely get a bid under F&M’s $44,655 for the same amount of work.

On the College’s website, F&M takes credit for maintaining the Park, giving the impression that F&M is doing the complete job. This is simply not true.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Boycott the boycotters

I've been reading some of the stories about Michael Phelps, the amazing young athlete who won a record setting number of gold medals swimming for the United States at most recent summer Olympic games.

The recent brouhaha over him smoking from a bong strikes me as a bit over the top. Apparently he's been banned from a national swimming organization for a few months, Wheaties is taking him off their "box", and I'd imagine there will be more negative fallout.

What seems crazy to me is that here is a young man who overcome some personal and family challenges that many people would readily point to as a reason for failure and achived unimaginable heights. As a result of his ardous training regimen and natural talent, he achives great success in Bejing and is thrust into the international spotlight and, while enjoying his fame and fortune, parties like a rockstar - and who wouldn't!!!

Yet the media seems bent on doing everything possible to denigrate this young man. In fact, it's almost like reading about the requirement of the Chinese under Mao to "self-incriminate." I say boycott those organizations that are trying to shame Michael Phelps!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hotel occupancy and room sales taxes falling

I found that the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau has a Web page which includes reports to their members:

This PowerPoint presentation includes some interesting trivia:

Lancaster County Lodging Occupancy Rates
2004: 54.3%
2005: 56.7%
2006: 54.3%
2007: 56.4%
2008: 53.4% (as of December 2008)
Actual occupancy rates were down by 5% over 2007

Most likely, this is due to the recession. However, it can be argued that the current economic upheaval will result in permanent changes to how both individuals and corporations view travel, as costs are being closely examined, and borrowing money for current expenses is no longer looked upon favorably.

It is worth noting how this has affected "hotel tax" receipts: for the first eleven months of 2008, collections NOT counting delinquent payments were down 7.69%; gross collections were down 4.86%. This becomes even more striking when looking at the details, once again NOT counting delinquent collections:

January 2008, down 52.28% over 2007
March 2008, down 23.99% over 2007
April 2008, down 43.83% over 2007
June 2008, down 17.06% over 2007
September 2008, down 25.05% over 2007
November 2008, down 27.85% over 2007

Some of this may be attributed to delinquent payments; for example:

May 2008, up 20.70% over 2007
August 2008, up 16.13% over 2007

But all of the other moves were in the single digits. As unemployment continues to climb, the year-to-year changes in "hotel tax" collections can be expected to continue into negative territory. It can also be expected that as employment stabilizes, and eventually increases, both tourism and business travel will lag behind as individuals and companies try to rebuild their balance sheets.

How might this affect the convention center project? Not much, for now; collections are still above what are needed to make the Wachovia/Wells Fargo bond payments. But two potential issues could quickly change this situation: if the cost of borrowing by the LCCCA were to increase substantially for an extended period of time, which is possible but not highly likely; and if the operational losses of the convention center significantly exceed estimates. Nearly half of the current "pro-forma"
revenue estimates for the convention center appear to be nothing more than wishful thinking; this alone could force an increase in the "hotel tax" millage rate.

Without a short-term rebound in "hotel tax" collections, which is highly unlikely, the need for increased taxpayer subsidies to the convention center could be accelerated.

TRRAAC request to attend Feb. 2nd Manheim Twp. meeting


Your Neighborhood’s Attendance is Crucial at the Next Manheim Township Commissioners' Meeting

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9th at 7:30pm

Did you know that last spring – a mere 10 months ago, Norfolk Southern engineers, Gannet Fleming, submitted storm-water management plans for the proposed rail yard to Manheim Township? Neither did we, until we stumbled across Manheim Township staff comments buried in the file of the Lancaster County Conservation District (LCCD) when we reviewed that agency’s approval of the storm-water discharge that will occur when F&M excavates the existing asbestos-laden dump.

Why should that bother you? Because it is unclear as to whether the excavation will impact the floodplain and whether the storm-water that comes in contact with excavated areas will be tested for or include contaminants before it discharges to Little Conestoga Creek. It’s equally unclear whether anyone will notify East Hempfield Township since the Little Conestoga runs along the township line.

What's troubling, too, is that neither storm-water plan is posted on F&M’s website. In fact, neither plan was submitted on behalf of Lancaster General Hospital or F&M. The state plan was submitted by LCSWMA and the local plan was submitted by the railroad. Why? This is yet another example of behind-the-scenes activities that are designed to leave out public input, public opinion and certainly public awareness.

What has TRRAAC been doing for you? TRRAAC and the public were denied the right to notice and comment on the state plan and we learned that Manheim Township was also not properly notified of their opportunity to comment. We wrote to the Commissioners and copied DEP and LCCD. To date, we have NO RESPONSE from the Board of Commissioners, DEP or LCCD. And digging will begin any day now.

The bottom line is that the new rail yard site is IN Manheim Township, and the Commissioners have the responsibility of protecting their residents. They have the power entrusted in them to make decisions for the welfare of their constituents. That is why YOUR attendance at this meeting is of paramount importance. If you, your neighbors and friends remain silent, the Commissioners will assume that their constituents believe what Lancaster General Hospital and Franklin & Marshall have convinced our legislators: that moving the rail yard to the proposed location is such a boon to Lancaster City that it is worth placing Old School Lane Hills and Barrcrest communities at risk.

At the meeting, please ask the Commissioners:
--to state their individual opinions ON THE RECORD as to their position
on the current rail yard site.
--to request DEP suspend the state approval of the cleanup
--to demand F&M disclose any and all applications relative to this project
--what you and other Manheim Township residents can do to stop this process
--to be more transparent in informing the public when they receive any information
and plans relative to this project

In the meantime, please log onto and review all of the details pertinent to the impending excavations, including the truck route (which is extraordinarily close to some Old School Lane Hills and Barrcrest homes), the tree removal plan and six-day-a-week truck schedule.

Please visit for full detailing of correspondence, legal fact finding and other pertinent information. Thank you for joining TRRAAC in supporting the revitalization of North West Lancaster by choosing an alternative location for the rail yard that poses no risk to neighborhood residents.

We look forward to seeing you at the February 9th Manheim Township Commissioners' Meeting, and hope you will come with friends and neighbors. The more residents who attend, the stronger the message!

Missing point concerning housing sex offenders

Perhaps one of the key points missed in this discussion, particularly when it comes to the questions being posed about Tom Armstrong's judgement in wanting to help these men (convicted sex offenders who have done their time), is this.

I recall that Armstrong's original desire was to house these guys together in a transitional housing type arrangement from which there would be some supervision and support given to them as they foundd their way back into society. Instead, due to the uproar over the very fact of them living together in a setting where they could have been supervised and supported, they are forced out on their own.

Of course there is no way to know for certain that the outcome would have been different had Owen remained in a group housing setting, but at least then Armstrong's detractors comments would carry more weight.

NewsLanc's "boys will be boys" naivete

I am always shocked at Newslanc's lack of understanding of the crime of rape (Mr. Owen was convicted and served I believe 20 years for rape). And I am amazed at the repeated "boys will be boys" naivete of your editorial response to letters concerning sex offenses.

Rape is not about sex. It is not about sexual addiction. Sex addicts manage to find willing partners, prostitutes, or porn to feed their addictions. Rape is about control. Rape is about violence. And approaching women in the WalMart parking lot was not about looking for a sexual partner, it was about violence. It was violent speech, threatening speech, not "Hey, lady, you are one hot mama!" The purpose was for him to enjoy the fear of these women.

You missed the mark with the Watchdog piece, and badly missed the mark with your editorial comment to your letter writer. Your fifty years ago comment which dismisses Mr. Owen's crime demonstrates a callousness toward the women involved and a bias in favor of these men, who you are championing as the real victims.

One hundred years ago, it would not have been a lady slapping Mr. Owen's face. It would have been the lady's father, or brother, or husband dealing with Mr. Owen in a lot less polite manner.

Editor's response: We don't recall discussing rape. Rather, the subject was how best to deal with sex offenders who have completed their sentences and have returned to society.

Subsequent reports have suggested that the perpetrator had been more aggresive than was initially indicated and, while not assaulting anyone, had gone beyond simply saying inapproprite things to acts of greater intimidation. Although more disturbing, it does not change the thrust of NewsLanc's call for housing in a supportive environment and free from harrassment for ex-cons.

Deja vu

From the Feb. 5th Seattle Times "Despite drop in out-of-state visitors, the push is on for $766 million expansion of state convention center":

"Convention centers across the country have had trouble filling their space. A report for the Brookings Institution in 2005 argued there is an oversupply of convention space that is only getting worse as cities continue to outdo one another with bigger convention halls.

"But convention center backers believe they can beat the national trend because Seattle remains a desirable destination. Even with the proposed expansion, Seattle's center would remain small compared with many other cities."

Sound familiar?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

LETTER: Armstrong betrayed?

"This is one of the things too that makes it so difficult to want to go to bat for these guys. I mean, here's Armstrong, out fighting to fix the system for these guys, and this idiot, one of the guys Armstrong went to bat for, can't even keep it in his pants (so to speak) until Tom gets through the process. Sad."

EDITOR: The letter refers to the Intelligencer Journal Feb. 5th article "Sex offender charged again; Suspect had lived in Armstrong's home." With all due respect, we think the letter writer may miss the point.

It is not former State Rep. Tom Armstrong's contention that there will be no recidivism with those labeled as 'sex offenders.' But the percentage is significantly lower than for those who conduct other forms of felonies, including assaults and murder. And we don't deny them housing and publicly brand them as ex-cons.

Secondly, making lewd remarks to adults is hardly a reason for imprisoning someone for years. A half century ago the response would have been to slap the fellow in the face, if she paid any attention whatsoever.

The conduct is reprehensible and sad, albeit a manifestation of addiction. (So is getting publicly drunk.) But it hardly should be interpreted as a repudiation of Armstrong's brave and noble efforts. The accused didn't molest any one. He just made a fool of himself.

The guy may need ongoing counseling. He probably needs a social life. But when society makes you a pariah with no opportunity to move to a new town, find a job, make friends, and have a fresh start, that isn't likely to happen.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Irresponsible waste of our tax money

Franklin and Marshall College and Lancaster General Hospital recently applied to the Federal Railroad Administration for a $5 million grant to relocate the Dillerville Norfolk Southern Rail Yard. With projected costs totaling $64 million, F&M and LGH have applied for additional millions of dollars from other state and federal agencies. This is in addition to $10 million dollars already given to F&M College by Governor Rendell.

F&M plans to build a new athletic field for its students on the current rail yard site across from the College’s main campus on Harrisburg Pike. The College wants to move the Rail Yard to a dump site formerly used by the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority. This dump site is as close as 50 ft. to some homes in the nearby upscale residential neighborhoods of Barrcrest, Farmingdale Road and School Lane Hills.

Many homeowners who live in these neighborhoods oppose the plan on the basis that the noise and emissions from the moving and switching of rail cars near their homes will adversely affect their health, quality of life and property values. These same homeowners say that they were not permitted free and open discussion of the project in several F&M-controlled meetings.

The project partners, F&M and LGH, have refused to consider an alternative site that is in an established industrial area and would not impact on residential neighborhoods. They have refused this even though this alternative site would save millions of taxpayer dollars in that it would eliminate the need for excavation of the dump and would not require the building of an access bridge over Harrisburg Pike.

Citizens should write to their elected state and federal officials, including state representative John Bear ( and Senator Lloyd Smucker ( and tell them that you do not want your tax dollars to be used to relocate the Dillerville Rail Yard to the former LCSWMA’s dump site. Also tell them that you want an independent review of alternative locations.

Particularly at a time of a huge federal deficit and potential lay-offs of several thousand state employees, limited state and federal tax dollars should not be used for a project that will primarily benefit two well-endowed private corporations. This would represent an irresponsible waste of our tax money.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Joe Pitts on to something

A trillion dollars is a huge number. Many calculators can't even handle a number this large.

To put it in terms that are easier to comprehend, each additional trillion dollars of "stimulus" results in about $3,200 of new debt for each man, woman and child in the US.

If our legislators are hell bent on creating this additional debt, instead of giving it to their special interest friends, how about they consider giving it to the people.

Pinnacle Report disgarded due to recommendations

I am not sure if the study you reference in your recent article was the Pinnacle Report; however, if it was is yet another study ignored.

Once "local leaders" saw the draft of that study, which suggested a much, much smaller scale project would make the most sense for downtown, they stopped paying and refused to take possession of the final report. Without taking possession of the final report, they took the position that the study never existed.

Editor's note: The study pre-dated the Pinnacle Report and did not propose consideration of a convention center or a hotel for downtown revitalization.

Jon Mitchell good choice as athletic director

The School District of Lancaster made a really good hire with Jon Mitchell.

Jon is a long-time SDoL educator, coach and resident. He will work hard to improve the administration of the athletic department.

He has his principal certification and a Masters degree in athletic administration. His father has been coaching high school athletics for more than 30 years.

No federal bail out for Convention Center

It is highly unlikely that any Federal dollars will ever be sent to the downtown Lancaster hotel and convention center. This project has already run afoul of two previous administrations because of its blatant disregard for long-standing Federal historic preservation standards.

When this project was originally proposed, Federal tax credits had been expected to significantly reduce the tax burden created by the hotel. Since it was determined that the overwhelming size of the hotel tower made the project ineligible for historic tax credits, the Penn Square Partners completely avoided paying any taxes by coercing Lancaster City into taking ownership of the Watt & Shand building, and constructing the hotel for them.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

County asking too much for magistrate building

The County Commissioners had 2 appraisals for the property on W. King, currently the Magistrate office. That is going up for closed bids in March at absolute of $460,000.

There is no way in today's economic conditions someone is gong to pay that price or
more for a piece of property that is assessed at 185,000. The County paid tooooo much for it 30 years ago...

The County also want to know what the buyer is going to do with it. Mr. Lehman and I had words as I informed him that cannot be part of the decision if it is to go to the highest bidder.

If no one bids at $460,000 or higher, they will then come up with another plan. They said that by doing it this way, the public will be privy to the whole process, not like Conestoga View.

Mr. Lehman wants something done to put it on the tax roles. AFTER the meeting I asked them why that consideration was not on the table when the W & S building was up for sale. Upscale condos would have been wonderful instead of a complex with no taxes for 20 years. There was no comment.

Challenge in attracting a good reporter

In response to the January 25th editorial "Job opening ignored", it is both shameful and predictable that the job has not been wholly inquired by Lancaster County reporter applicants.

You see (and applicants-- don’t due to myopia) that takes on the strong entities of this county such as 'The Big Five' -- The Lancaster Newspapers, Franklin & Marshall, Lancaster General Hospital, The Fulton Bank and The High Group.
And at the same time, supports the alternative path of covering news much to the chagrin of these county companies and the principles that run these organizations.

Potential applicants are not seeking employment with opportunities out of fear of these entities, but also out of unsuredness and trepidation of their respective economic futures. Lancaster County is a small, gossip-ridden county. And
for that purpose, any individual who affronts the Big Five and the self-serving thinking of the county powers will surely be ostracized and may I see 'blackballed' from future conventional news reporting job employment opportunities.

As an everyday reader of, I greatly appreciate the alternative news approach to Lancaster County as opposed to the calculated coverage offered by Lancaster Newspapers. But alas, I am not journalistically-trained and I read everyday, purely as a devotee, in anonymity.

To be a reporter for such an alternative news source demands individuals who not only seek to publish truthful articles that offer an alternative approach to the powers of the county, but also individuals who put their cogent approach to reporting above their own financial securities and the fortitude to publicly signing their names to articles.

Overall, I find it starkly refreshing that is having difficulty in employing any reporters. As I would much rather read an article by a reporter who is completely devoted to alternative news coverages of Lancaster County rather than a reporter who practices 'safe news' and would rather report half-devoted news items that would be self-protective and further propagate the obsequious nature of
organizations such as 'The Big Five'.

To, please continue your news coverage that is pure and alternative compared to what is offered by Lancaster Newspapers. And if it possible, please wait for those reporter applicants that share your purity of soul and who aren't afraid to print truthful, alternative news item that cover our everyday Lancaster
County lives.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Are LGH and F&M linked at the top?

Is it common knowledge that Tom Beeman [President of Lancaster General Hospital] and John Fry [President of Franklin and Marshall College] are college buddies?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Re: City heavily invested in Convention Center

You make good points in this story but it also serves as a great example to the ignorance about the true realities of the financing on this project.

With the exception of a select few at Stevens and Lee, who dreamed up this scam to benefit Penn Square Partners, and the top management at PSP, no one truly understands all of the intricacies of the financing. That includes the County Commissioners, the Mayor, the LCCCA, RACL, the monopoly print media, and our other elected officials.

Lancaster divorce courts biased against men

This is the first time in my writing years that no one will publish an article regarding "divorce" and its bias in many cases.

The following are just a few of the injustices that have been known as fact:

Divorce Master's are to make a decision within 30 days...some take months, years to make a decision all the while the person pays support and keeps being taken back into court for support until the decision is

Lawyers not willing to make a settlement, even a reasonable one but draws it out for no reason

Lawyers who do not provide their clients with adequate paperwork, consideration

Men who have been accused wrongly of some type of abuse towards their children later to be found innocent but have lost their homes, jobs etc. in effort to survive the situation of court costs.

Men who have lost everything because of a bias unfair judicial system.

I have heard over and over again from lawyers who say the system is archaic and you would have to move a mountain to change it.

I have talked to a few lawyers, financial people to hold a forum on divorce but they all say it would have to be held out of Lancaster because of bias.

There are many preconceived ideas on divorce that it is over in two way it could go for years

This are just a few of the things which I have become aware of.

Where, who could I find someone of interest to publish an article, to hear the voices of those who have been stripped, and no justice served.

Reader forwards comment from afar

An out-of-state reader of NewsLanc who read about TRRAAC’s investigation of the sources of public funding for the $46 million project to relocate and expand the Norfolk Southern Dillerville Rail Yard emailed me his reaction:

"The F&M and LGH fundraising is a great example of manipulation of state and federal funding mechanisms and of misrepresentation in the process. Probably, only a legal challenge and negative public opinion can halt the process. Rather than corresponding with President Obama's office, I probably would continue with efforts to get public awareness of the misuse of state and federal funds in this time of economic recession."

Should judges redo mortgages?

The real problem is that the servicing company is in control. They have no incentive to negotiate because they make money by driving the foreclosure process forward. They don't care whether the loan is paid or not. In fact, they do better if it has trouble.

For some time they have been deliberately holding payments received on time without crediting them to the account. They say they are "in suspense". Then they charge late fees, and have their attorney start a new default process just to drive up the bills. We wind up paying the original payment, the late fees, their attorney fees, and our attorney fees. You get a little behind and then the game is rigged to make sure that it is extremely difficult to get straight again.

I think they are probably doing this to a lot of people.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Questions for F&M and LGH

I re-read the beginning of TRRAAC's letter giving details of the applications for funding...

What I would like to know is: why wouldn't F&M and LGH provide that information when TRRAAC first asked for it? Or even before they asked, for that matter?

What was the purpose behind the secrecy, other than that is the way that John Fry operates...?

What did F&M and LGH hope to gain by not openly disclosing this information?

President Obama should investigate convention centers

Last evening I emailed President Obama as per his request of the nation.

I pleaded with him and his staff to do a study on ALL the monies from the state level that has been wasted on projects to revitalize cities in the form of convention centers and the debt that the cities are taking on. There they will see all the waste that could have been used for education, infrastructure and medical benefits.

If his administration is going to help states in need, I suggested that he pass by every state that subsidized projects like convention centers. Unless they become casinos, most will eventually go into foreclosures as the convention business is drying up.

If I get a response, I will pass it on.

Iowa Opens Convention Center

A block-long 50,000 square foot convention center. Sounds familiar.

Built for $20 million? Lancaster's block-long project has had cost overruns higher than that!

Iowa opens convention center

A block-long 50,000 square foot convention center. Sounds familiar.

Built for $20 million? Lancaster's block-long project has had cost overruns
higher than that!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Covention Center vs. library funding

It is interesting to note that the Library System receives about half as many Lancaster County tax dollars as the convention center does.

Observatons re Library System

I wonder how much of what the System does is actually nothing more than overhead?

Note that the Library System was created by County Commissioners Paul Thibault, Terry Kauffman, and Ron Ford. These are the same three County Commissioners that gave us the Youth Intervention Center on Sunnyside, and our favorite taxpayer-financed hotel and convention center project.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Date of Convention Center opening

It is possible that the grand opening will be scheduled after the building actually opens, and in warmer weather. I am sure it is tough to determine the exact date of completion and delivery of all the furniture.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

In response to "Will there be a Convention Center Gala opening?"

First and foremost the AVERAGE resident/taxpayer of this County never was on board for this project whether it was vocal or just comments among friends and neighbors. (Editor's note: 78% opposed County guarantee per Fox 43 poll in 2006.)

Second, I am sure there will be a gala grand opening for the "who's who" along with the board, media, etc, with the Convention Center Authority footing the bill. You will not see invitations going out to a soul that will cast a pall over the event.

Third, you will hear and see via the newspapers and tv all the hype you can stand with the current Commissioners and Mayor just swimming in the hoopla.

By lavishing publicity on them, they will be forced to beg, borrow and steal to keep this thing afloat.

Mayor Gray has made known his intentions to run for a second term. You can bet your bottom dollar (if you have one these days)that High, the newspapers and a few other important money supporters will pave the way with their political donations so that later on this money pit will be subsidized by the taxpayers.


Lastly, we are not Pittsburgh, Philadelphia or Baltimore as per the WSJ yesterday; we are smaller, healthier and will survive IF we continue to fight to maintain our character. If so, we will to remain a great city and county to live in

OnTRRAAC Newsletter - January 09, 2009

The Official Email News Update

For Your Neighbors and You to Share

TRRAAC’s response to the Franklin & Marshall/Lancaster General Hospital Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), Volume II –of 12/18/08

By now you should have received the most recent FAQ from F&M and LGH. We'd like to apprise you of some highly pertinent information that has not been publicized by the Project Partners:


To clarify a number of issues raised in the FAQ…

· First and foremost, please keep in mind TRRAAC's primary concern: We need an independent evaluation of TRRAAC's alternative site. TRRAAC asked LGH/F&M to fund this, but the request was denied. In addition, TRRAAC asked LGH/F&M for a copy of the original engineering report for ALL the alternative sites reviewed by Gannett Fleming. This request was also denied.

· After Gannett Fleming rejected TRRAAC's first two suggested alternative locations, we hired a senior railroad engineering consultant with R.L. Banks and Associates. A former Norfolk Southern engineer, he visited the Dillerville Rail Yard, spoke with representatives at the June 19th meeting and examined documents to determine other site feasibility. He recommended a feasible alternate site configuration for the rail yard. TRRAAC would like that site configuration to be INDEPENDENTLY evaluated.

· In August 2008 TRRAAC met with PennDOT officials in Lancaster. They listened to our concerns, and saw the current and proposed sites. We asked them to consider funding an independent evaluation of all potential rail yard sites.

· On December 11, 2008, TRRAAC members met in Harrisburg with PennDOT’s grant coordinator. He informed us that PennDOT did not approve F&M’s request for $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. At that time, we repeated our request that PennDOT or the Governor’s office fund an independent study of TRRAAC’s alternative site configuration.

· Because many residents objected to the restrictive and biased format of the June 19 Public Meeting, the Manheim Township Commissioners asked F&M and LGH to participate in a second meeting in Manheim Township on November 13. At that meeting, attendees were allowed to ask questions ONLY about the remediation of the dump. F&M’s attorney rejected all other questions.

· When attendees asked that another public meeting be held to allow them to ask questions on all aspects of the rail yard project, LGH remained silent and F&M’s Keith Orris asked that any questions not related to the remediation be sent to him in writing.

· In the FAQ document, the Project Partners propose holding small “living room meetings” rather than the large open public meetings that most area residents have clearly said that they prefer. Large public meetings, without topic restrictions, allow everyone to hear the same questions and concerns expressed, and answers provided, without any bias. This format also allows for a greater variety and more open exchange of ideas than "living room" meetings permit.

· It took several months and repeated requests by TRRAAC's environmental engineer to get from F&M the results of the impulse noise studies, which were received by him only hours before the November 13 meeting. These results are still being challenged as an inadequate analysis of the rail yard noise we will actually live with after project construction.

· In a December 9 meeting, LGH executives advised TRRAAC that, due to concerns they heard at the 11/13 meeting, they were pursuing a second opinion about the dump remediation and potential health consequences. In a December 17 follow-up meeting, no results of that second opinion were reported, but the following day, one of those LGH executives signed the FAQ, which includes an impending remediation schedule. When will the results of that second opinion be made public?

· The projected cost of this project has now crept up to $46 million! The well-endowed F&M and highly profitable LGH plan to contribute only $6 million each, and Norfolk Southern only $2 million. Your hard-earned taxpayer dollars ($32 million in local and federal tax dollars) will be used toward the controversial cleanup of an old dump and rail yard relocation. We believe TRRAAC's alternative site configuration will be much less expensive.

What can you do?

1. Call the Governor's office and PennDOT and urge them to fund an independent evaluation of TRRAAC's alternative site. (If you haven’t done so yet, now’s the time!! If you’ve already done so, do it again!!) Call the Office of Public Liaison at (717) 787-5825. Email PennDot’s Eric Madden at and Denise Pyers at

2. Phone or email F&M and LGH and insist that, in the spirit of openness and transparency, they agree to hold a third Public Meeting, moderated by an independent party, in which the attendees may ask questions on any aspect of the project. In addition, ask for firm responses as to WHY Gannett Fleming determined TRRAAC’s alternative site configuration not feasible.

Contact Jan Bergen of LGH at (717) 544-1115. Email:

Contact Keith Orris of F&M at (717) 291-3868. Email: KEITH.ORRIS@FANDM.EDU

3. Donate money to TRRAAC to enable them to continue their legal, environmental and community awareness efforts.

4. Get involved with TRRAAC. Volunteer your time.

And here’s what no one but TRRAAC wants you to know:

Norfolk Southern has the power to alter agreements once they have taken possession of land for a rail yard. They can expand their activities in terms of hours of operation, numbers of diesel locomotives and rail cars, AND in land use. If they find that they do not have enough land AFTER they have built a rail yard, they have the ability to secure any additional land needed to achieve what they consider to be optimal operation through eminent domain. In this case, they could actually expand onto property even closer to our neighborhoods AFTER the rail yard is built.

The time has come for action from those neighborhoods which will be most disturbed by the continuous coupling noise, safety, pollution and a decline in quality of life and property values that a nearby rail yard could cause. To date, a relatively small group of neighbors has been carrying the weight of opposing this location for the good of all the neighborhoods. Although TRRAAC has received many donations from concerned neighbors – some of whom desire to remain anonymous - we can no longer depend on just these neighbors to carry the burden that should be shared by everyone. It is just not fair to expect some to contribute all the time, effort and funds while others sit back idly and watch, expecting others to cover for them.

If you choose to do nothing, and the rail yard goes in as F&M and LGH plan, it will be too late for recourse. You will not have any ‘say’ when there are hazardous material spills that cause evacuations, nor when the rail yard debris and trash leach onto our properties, nor when a child wanders onto the tracks. Complacency and inertia now may well lead to irrevocable damage to our health, our quality of life and our property values.

Please act now, before it's too late.

P. O. Box 4155
Lancaster, PA 17604-4155

Saturday, January 17, 2009

If you can get todays Wall Street Journal, do it. Pitts, Phila and Balt are loosing population after billions of dollars of REDEVELOPMENT FEDERAL AND STATE dollars have been spent and have done nothing other than keep the wheels greased.

We are so far okay due to the amount of private money being invested in the city. However, this Convention Center project, so wrong for the character and purpose, will either choke the city or eventually be recycled into something else.

As I drove past the Stock Yards yesterday and saw all the vacant land, I thought how awesome that area would have been for a convention center rather than the Watt and Shand space. We here in this County could have had a win win situation had it not been for all the GREED of a chosen few not to eliminate Mr. Charlie [Smithgall?] who was one of the backers of this mess.

Editor's note: The original much smaller version of a convention center on the Stock Yard site would have met legitimate local needs, had good highway access, proximity to the train station, ample parking, and three nearby hotels - one upscale and two economy - totaling about 600 rooms.

Casino license for Convention Center

Who told you guys that there is ONE last casino license STASHED away with Armstrong's fingerprints all over it? MEEEEEEE.

That was told to me by a state elected official that is MY little bird.

Involve State Attorney General

Where is the oversight from the state or county? Let's start by getting the State Attorney General involved as the Logan story is only the tip of the iceburg.

Rumor that Convention Center is wired for slots

I heard the same thing (second hand) from a completely different source well over a year ago.

Someone could file a Right-To-Know request, but I believe you will find that the LCCCA does not have access to that kind of information.

Convention Center wired for slots?

Our Convention Center has been electrically wired for slot machines should that kind of circuitry ever be needed in the future for a casino. This comes from a construction worker on the job, but needs to be independently verified somehow.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Perverted reverse socialism"

Government-owned or subsidized hotels and convention centers are an example of a kind of perverted reverse socialism, because they take from the poor and the working class (taxpayers), and give to those who are already well-off (for example, Penn Square Partners).

Programs that provide nearly unlimited taxpayer funding for hotels and convention centers (and other programs that primarily benefit those who are financially well-off and/or politically powerful) achieve the opposite of the goals of socialism: they increase the divide between the well-off and everyone else, instead of providing for "a fair distribution of wealth".

I have NO problem with anyone who has personally worked hard to achieve what they have. I have a BIG problem with my tax dollars lining their pockets, which is why I have opposed the hotel and convention center project.

Friday, January 9, 2009

No convention center "bubble"

I must disagree with the notion that there will be a "convention center bubble" similar to the "housing bubble" and the "Internet bubble".

The convention center "business", unlike every other business, implies eventual sustaining revenue sources. The convention center "business" (business is clearly a misnomer) has always been predicated as a loss leader with an unlimited supply of taxpayer money via bed tax, taxi tax, restaurant tax, city tax etc etc…Not enough money? Create a new tax or raise the current tax!

Because the revenue sources for the convention center business are virtually unlimited, people that run them, never have to make hard choices that other businesses must make. Further, the people that actually run the convention centers have a board of "officials" that often have 'brass plaque' flu that causes them to vote for BIGGER and FANCIER centers to beat their rival cities. The ribbon cutting that comes with the brass plaque makes it all worth while!

Meanwhile taxpayers will continue to lose more and more money to satisfy the egos of some and fill the pockets of others.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Praise for letter re lack of transparency

An out-of-state reader of NewsLanc gave high marks to the Jan. 7 letter headed "F&M, General Hospital and newspapers thwart transparency." This reader wrote: "This article is a masterpiece. The writing: clear, concise, logical, conclusive and convincing. The big picture: manipulation of information at the highest levels by the major entities in the City of Lancaster."

Lack of transparency

In response to the well-written letter "F & M, General Hospital and newspapers thwart transparency", the author could not have made a more concise, clearer statement on the lack of transparency in Lancaster County. And is it a coincidence that these three members of the 'Big Five' are at the heart of the controversy?

In due time, there will be conclusive evidence that the other two members of the 'Big Five' have acted bountifully obsequious ...

We should be outraged at such abuses as the Norfolk Southern dumping site relocation project. But, alas, the majority of the county's citizenry doesn't show any emotion or fight (except for the small percentage -- the TRRAAC neighbors -- whose properties will be directly affected) about such outlandish projects being ushered through with such a cloak of transparency.

I am outraged. Why aren't you?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The price of success?

A friend of mine attempted to attend a model train show at the first-ever exposition at the "Greater Philadelphia Expo Center" at Oaks, PA just north of King of Prussia off route 422. This show was HEAVILY promoted in the Philadelphia and Allentown areas. After sitting in traffic for over an hour, my friend decided to forget about the show, and tried to pass the exit in the left lane - which took him another half hour. He told me that posts by others in model train forums said that all streets in the area were completely gridlocked.

The first thing I though of is what would happen if a promoter would schedule a similar show in downtown Lancaster, and promote it heavily in surrounding areas. Could Lancaster's streets handle the traffic? Or, would the same thing happen here as did at Oaks?

More than a constitutional issue involved

While it may be true that Roland Burris was a "public figure in Illinois for some time at fairly high levels....", I don't think you should jump to the conclusion that we should rally around his appointment by embattled Governor Blagojevich for that reason. While I appreciate the constitutional issue involved, I am more than happy to see the appointment and seating of this former attorney general, who worked campaigned aggressively to seek the death penalty for an innocent man, hang in limbo.

A snippet of the story from follows.

".......While state attorney general in 1992, Burris aggressively sought the death penalty for Rolando Cruz, who twice was convicted of raping and murdering a 10-year-old girl in the Chicago suburb of Naperville. The crime took place in 1983.

"But by 1992, another man had confessed to the crime, and Burris' own deputy attorney general was pleading with Burris to drop the case, then on appeal before the Illinois Supreme Court.

"Burris refused. He was running for governor.

"'Anybody who understood this case wouldn't have voted for Burris,' Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, told ProPublica. Indeed, Burris lost that race, and two other attempts to become governor.

"'Burris' role in the Cruz case was "indefensible and in defiance of common sense and common decency,' Warden said. 'There was obvious evidence that [Cruz] was innocent............'"

Convention Center planning flash back to 2001

I am currently viewing a Lancaster County Convention Center Authority public meeting held on July 25, 2001.

Keep in mind @ this point, the convention center and the hotel were COMPLETELY different - never the twain shall meet. That's what LCCCA Chairman told the court when asked about the unfair advantage that the Penn Square Partner would have being beside the public convention center.

Nevin Cooley makes a presentation about the progress and where the project was going.

Nevin brings up the $4 million 'loan' from the DCED to the city redevelopment authority and given to the PSP. Cooley emphasizes that this is a loan - not a grant and that it will be paid back for a
revolving fund. (of course when the redevelopment authority bought the W&S building from PSP they gave them something like $7.5 million for a building they paid $1.25 million!)

Next, Cooley emphasizes that unlike other communities, Lancaster has PRIVATE investors for their hotel and that many communities struggled to get the private investors for the hotel and some never get those
investors. Fortunately for Lancaster, PSP is there!

After highlighting this "progress" Cooley calls on the authority to "reaffirm overall project is a public/private partnership" and says that the Pricewaterhouse study as well as the Marriott required the
intertwining of the public and the private entities. After telling them how blessed they are to have PSP, Cooley puts the screws on the authority to set up a switch from a $45 million private hotel to one
in which we are not even sure that the private entity is putting ANYTHING into this project!

Design - sharing space between hotel and convention center - this shifted the hotel space to the taxpayer
Shared Staff - allocation of administrative overheard between the public and private. Does anyone on this believe that the allocation of expenses doesn't favor PSP?

Remember at this point the authority had a hospitality committee that was studying which company would manage the convention center. Ultimately, the committee recommended SMG - which LCCCA board
eventually voted against - appointing Interstate - the PSP's choice.

Since the PSP said that joint-management was vital to the success of the project, why didn't PSP let the authority take the lead in picking which management company would lead? Instead, in a dog and pony show the day before this meeting, the PSP announced that Interstate what the company they wanted. The school district of Lancaster, which was promised $400,000 a year in tax revenue, sent a letter to the
authority recommending PSP choice of managers!

What if the authority didn't vote for Interstate? Marriott would likely pull their flag! "without a hotel, we do not have a convention center" Cooley stated.

Cooley emphasizes a schedule (expected by Marriott no less!) that the hotel has to be designed, built and running by 2004 - 42 months later!

Nevin claims that with the shared expenses, that authority might not even have an operating deficit!

Cooley says, "So, Instead of a having a $925,000 operating loss annual, we can move almost to a break even."

Chairman of the County Commissioners, Paul Thibault rose and complimented the authority and PSP and said that it was time to stop wagging fingers and start shaking hands. After all - the PSP were willing to put up THEIR MONEY! (keep in mind that Dale High was the head of Thibault's political action committee!)

Next, City Council President Nelson Polite encouraged the authority do what Thibault suggested.

It's been fascinating to view some of these tapes and the way that the media has been staged and choreographed to manipulate the public. The shame is the way the newspaper has been willing accomplices in duping the public.

Editor's notes:

NewsLanc believes engaging Interstate Hotels & Resorts to manage both the hotel and convention center was appropriate and they appear to be doing a very good job.

The PriceWaterhouse study, like other early reports, were referred to by Penn Square Partners (PSP) but not widely shared and certainly were under reported by the Lancaster press. The market studies (they were not feasibility reports) were not positive. And PriceWaterhouse later withdrew its report because the Convention Center had been greatly expanded in scope and size and probably because the findings of the report were constantly misrepresented by PSP. As an extraordinary gesture, PriceWaterhouse refused to even update their report when so requested by the County Commissioners in 2006 because of their past expeirence.