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.