Sunday, January 13, 2008

Letter: Disagrees with NewsLanc

In a Letter to the Editor published today (Sunday, January 13, 2008) [your president] stated:

"Regardless, will join with others in trying to make the project as successful as possible."

I have publicly promised to not do anything that would harm the "success" of the project. However, actively working to make the project successful is the same as saying that the end justifies the means. And in this case, the means are and were very, very wrong.

I don't have to spell out to [your readers] just how wrong the planning and implementation of this project has been. Millions of dollars which have been spent without documentation or explanation. Lawsuits which were ended only on the threat of counter-lawsuits by the LCCCA, which would have bankrupted the litigants. The 2001 and later agreements, which are so biased AGAINST taxpayers. More than doubling the size and cost of the original plans, while telling the public the redesign was to save money. Forcing the public to pay to support the "shared space," for $100/year from PSP. The 2003 "hostage" bank loan. The repeated threats from the Penn Square Partners. The refusal of the hotel to pay real estate taxes, as promised. Starting work on the site over a year before construction bonds were sold. The attacks against elected officials who dared to ask questions. And on and on and on and on...

The direct cost to taxpayers so far is estimated to be over $141 million, not counting operational losses (which could total tens of millions of dollars every decade). This outrageous amount of money can never be returned to taxpayers in any way, shape, or form by whatever small amount of "economic development" the project might incidentally spin-off. A detailed read of the complex agreements and financing plan makes it seem like the entire purpose of the project is to make lots and lots of money at taxpayer expense for High Industries, Lancaster Newspapers, Fulton Bank (they still hold one hotel mortgage, and possibly will hold the other), Wachovia Bank, and Interstate Hotels.

Add to this the permanent damage which has been done to downtown Lancaster. The loss of half a city block of taxable property. The loss of several irreplaceable historic buildings, including Watt & Shand, which was on the National Register of Historic Places. A monolithic hotel tower taller and more massive than the Griest Building, completely out of character for downtown Lancaster. And worst of all, yet another concrete monstrosity that discourages foot traffic.

To ignore or accept all of this - and so much more - is the same as approving of it.

To say "it is what it is" or "what's done is done" is the same as saying "the end justifies the means." We all know it does NOT.

Meanwhile, the management agreement between the LCCCA, PSP, and Interstate Hotels makes it quite clear that the public has NO possibility of helping "to make the project as successful as possible." Interstate Hotels and Resorts owns and controls ALL of the booking, scheduling, and fees. About the only thing the public could possibly do is pass leads on to Interstate....

And let's be honest: the planning and implementation of this project have clearly been sinful. Those of us who claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior cannot support either sin or its fruits. No Christian in good conscience can work to support ANYTHING that is built on sin.

I can accept that we may need to agree to disagree on this issue.

Editor's note: An example of Newslanc working to make the project successful will be an offer to purchase certain naming rights, provided Penn Square Partners relinquishes its claim to 50% of the proceeds.