Monday, June 30, 2008

Holiday Weekend Events in Lancaster

The cornerstone of the City of Lancaster's Independence Day celebration was last Friday's "Celebrate Lancaster" festival, which included street vendors, concerts, and a fireworks display. But here are some of the other events the City and various groups have planned for Independence Day:

Musser Park, at Lime and Chestnut streets, will hold its annual "Old Fashioned 4th of July" from 11 a.m to 4 p.m. Entertainment will include food, games, music, and crafts.

FreedomFest '08 at the Marion Courtroom will feature 12 bands on two stages, as well exhibits from over 30 artists, and food concessions. Admission to the outdoor festival is $8 at the gates, starting at 3 p.m. Marion Court is located at 7 East Marion Street near the corner of Marion and Christian.

Also starting July 4 and running through July 26th is a "Patriotic Exhibition at Living Light Gallery." "The exhibit will feature the photography of Adrianna Hoff, a recent graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Art, much of whose work centers on "capturing the day her subjects learned they are being deployed to Iraq this September." Living Light Gallery is located at 150 North Prince Street and its hours will be 11 a.m to 9 .m.

On July 4th, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Eggs-Actly Right Gifts of 346 N. Queen St. will host guest artist Rena Grimmer, from Newmanstown, who will be displaying art deco and art nouveau jewelry.

July 4th is also one of the City's "First Fridays" in which "over 90 art galleries and shops extend their hours and stay open until 9:00 p.m. - some even later!"

Enjoy laser tag? For $20, you can play all day July 4th (12 p.m. to 1 a.m.) at Laserdome, 2050 Auction Road in Manheim. For an additional $5, they'll throw in unlimited soda and popcorn, and two slices of pizza.

Also July 4th, the Lancaster Barnstormers play a home game against the York Revolution.

Starting July 5th and running through July 27th, Theater of the Seventh Sister presents "Seed of a Nation: Lancaster and William Penn's Holy Experiment." The drama "unfolds through the eyes of several families, as they intersect with famous and significant figures and events in history." The show runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m., at the Roschel Performing Arts Center at Franklin & Marshall College (628 College Avenue). General admission is $25, with discounts available including a family package.

On Sunday July 6, at Long's Park, the 257th Army Band, known as the "Band of the Nation's Capital," performs. Billed as "the community’s largest patriotic celebration," the night features "Charlie Smithgall's cannon brigade" and spectacular fireworks. The fun starts at 7:30 p.m.

EDITORIAL: Failure to report WSJ expose' is scandalous!

All three Lancaster newspapers - The Intelligencer Journal, The New Era, and the Sunday News -have failed to cover or comment upon the Wall Street Journal’s expose last Thursday of how how Lancaster General Hospital (LGH) has been grossly profiting at the expense of our uninsured (for religious reasons) Amish neighbors (and others) by insisting that they pay "charges" in full that LGH routinely discounts to insurance companies by over 50% and even more so to MediCare.

When NewsLanc launched its ongoing investigation into what seemed inexplicable earnings by LGH, the hospital's unfair treatment of the Amish was on the lips of almost all knowledgeable observerse whom we interviewed.

When the Intell published a front page puff piece stating "Though the large size of [LGH’s] facilities alone would seem to guarantee big revenues and profits, LGH is exceptionally efficient inside those facilities, the council report shows", the NewsLanc Watchdog responded "Even the dullest Introductory Economics student, let alone a reporter and editor worth half their salt, would recognize that a major reason for such unusual profits might be non-competitive market conditions that permit higher prices and thus higher profits than would be normal."

LNP’s dereliction of journalistic responsibility concerning the overcharge of the Amish is further evidence of the tacit and self serving collusion that has been underway in Lancaster, at least harkening back to the Convention Center project and attacts on former commissioners. The Lancaster Newspapers, with rare and benign exceptions, "sees no evil, hears no evil, and speaks no evil" about the Big Five: F & M College, Fulton Bank, the High Group, Lancaster General Hospital and, of course, itself.

NewsLanc blames the executives of the LNP for this abomination, not necessarily editors and staff.

NewsLanc repeats its demand for a new chair and president of The Lancaster Newspapers so that once again Steinman Enterprises can reliably serve its community, as it did so honorably in the past.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

WSJ article re LGH parallels NewsLanc's findings

On June 28, the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled "Opting Out'Old Order' Mennonites and Amish Who Shun Insurance Face Rising Bills. Should Hospitals Cut Them a Break?"

The WSJ article anticipates one of NewsLanc’s findings in its extensive ongoing research into the causes for Lancaster General Hospital's exceptional profitability.

NewsLanc's "editor's note" to an article in the current newsletter entitled HEALTH: The High Cost of Medical Insurance states: "According to a report from the State, hospitals only collect a fraction of their 'charges' from insurance companies and MediCare. But Ralph’s percentage payment is based upon the bloated 'charges.' NewsLanc will report more on this in a forthcoming series analyzing the reasons for Lancaster General Hospital’s extraordinary profitability."

It is NewsLanc’s understanding that LGH accepts payments averaging 44% of its "charges" from insurance companies and an even lesser percentage as payment from MediCare as payment in full. Yet in calculating co-pay responsibilities for those insured or billing individuals not insured, LGH often insists on payment based on the full "charges."

The WSJ article states in part "….Complicating matters is that many of these [Amish] farmers won't buy health insurance: They believe it is the religious duty of their communities to provide for one another when sick. They don't pay Social Security taxes and reject Medicaid or Medicare benefits, as well as farm subsidies."

Later the article observes "Dr. [D. Holmes]Morton has called on the two local hospitals to offer half-price discounts to uninsured Amish and Mennonites, calling hospital bills inflated. He notes that the government and private insurers negotiate reduced rates. The hospitals, both of which are profitable, say they can't make special provisions based on religious beliefs or anything else."

"Lancaster General's chief executive Thomas Beeman calls the discount request unrealistic and unfair. 'You're really then putting the burden on you and everyone else,' he says."

Somewhat later in the article, the WSJ states "Lancaster General has increased its discount for uninsured patients to 25% from 15%. Mr. Beeman says uninsured patients now receive the same discount that commercial insurers do, though not as much as the government does." Yet NewsLanc’s review of State statistics would suggest that the discount should by about 56%, not 25% to 15%.

NewsLanc hastens to add that its research is not complete. It awaits responses to questions already being asked of LGH and anticipates posing future questions prior to publication of its research of all the factors contributing the LGH’s extraordinary profitability and whether some of the profit is derived unfairly at the expense of the Lancaster public.

NewsLanc urges readers to visit while the WSJ article is still available to non-subscribers in order to read a detailed and fair account of dealings between the Amish and LGH.

Is Art Morris whistling past the grave yard?

The estimable Art Morris, Sunday News’ guest op-ed writer, in a column headed "Sen. McCain is fit for the future" opines "As we each of us makes a choice for president, I hope we do it based on issues and not on age, race or other baseless reasons."

Certainly Morris does not mean for us to set aside the United State Constitution! It sets a minimum age for Representatives of 25, for Senators of 30, and for Presidents of 35. To our founding fathers, age was an important consideration.

It is one thing for a septuagenarian to serve in the House or Senate in a legislative and oversight capacity and as one of many. A famous example of this was former President John Quincy Adams who served in the House of Representatives until age 81 and distinguished himself by repeatedly (and bravely) speaking out against the institution of slavery.

Morris equally errs by too narrowly defining the tasks of a CEO or President as follows: "A president is not a doer. The president, after listening to the best advice available, makes decisions and tells people what to do."

If only it were so simple, we could all successfully serve in that capacity. Rather, the presidency is perhaps the biggest chief executive officer job in the world and requires not only huge energy to perform iits myriad of responsibilities including a grueling daily schedule and much travel, but also the ability to think clearly and, in part, rely upon one’s own judgment. As Abraham Lincoln once indirectly observed, there is only one vote that really counts at a cabinet meeting.

Lastly, Morris is at that magic point in his life (late fifties or early sixties?) where energy remains in abundance and what slippage may take place in acuity is more than off set by experience and contacts. But the next decade brings diminution of memory, changing temperament, less patience, and flagging vigor. (If only there was Viagra for thinking!)

Let’s look at the ages at the time of their ascension to office of those by consensus considered the most successful presidents: George Washington, 57; John Adams, 61, Thomas Jefferson, 57; Abraham Lincoln, 52; Theodore Roosevelt, 42; Woodrow Wilson, 56; Franklin Roosevelt, 51; Harry Truman, 60; Dwight Eisenhower, 62.

The oldest presidents at ascension were Andrew Jackson, 61; William Harrison, 68 (he died the first month); Zachary Taylor, 64 (he died 15 months later); James Buchanan, 65; and Ronald Reagan, 69.

For some, Reagan is the strongest argument that McCain, who would be 72 upon ascension, is not too old. Others point out that Reagan was already suffering from early signs of dementia during his second term.

Contrary to what Morris contends, age, unlike religion, race, and ethnicity, is a legitimate issue for consideration in choosing the next president of the United States.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

NewsLanc researching sources of LGH profitability

While all delight that Lancaster General Hospital (LGH) enjoys profits for 2007 exceeding $136 million, second highest for any hospital in the state, NewsLanc believes it is in the public’s interest to know the causes of these extraordinary profits and whether, in some manner, they are in part at the inordinate expense of the community.

NewsLanc staff soon discovered that it would require a person of greater skill, experience and patience in evaluating the hundreds of statistics provided by a State agency and gleaned from LGH and other sources in order to comprehensively evaluate matters.

Therefore arrangements were made to borrow the services of Doug McVay, Director of Research for Common Sense for Drug Policy, a sister organization. McVay is the compiler and editor of "Drug War Facts" ( which is in its sixth edition. He also manages scholarly web sites that serve five thousand individuals a day. The fairness and accuracy of his research is relied upon by academics and media world wide.

McVay has received cooperation from LGH and has requested additional information. NewsLanc prefers to publish a comprehensive report but that depends upon LGH continuing to be forthcoming. If so, a draft of the report would be submitted to LGH for its review and comment before a final version is published.

The purpose of the research is not to find fault. Rather it is to bring transparency to the factors contributing to LGH’s outstanding profitability so that the community can play a more knowledgeable role. LGH is a public foundation established to serve the same community that NewsLanc seeks to inform.

Friday, June 27, 2008

EDITORIAL: Opportunity for School Lane Hills Residents

At last month's organizing meeting of the School Lane Hills Neighborhood Association, a lanky, bearded and socially uncomfortable old man stood up and suggested that dues be set higher so that the organization could be represented by an attorney in discussions with John Fry over F&M's desire to move the Norfolk – Southern freight yards to the fringes of their community. In response, the meeting's organizer explained that the best way to deal with Fry was by being unthreatening. Hmm.

Now that same old codger has a proposal to seize the moment and hold Fry to his word that under no circumstance would F&M be party to Baker Field being connected to Wilson Drive. (Words, words, words…)

Wilson Drive ends with a stub connecting Clayton Road with Baker Field. From all appearances, the stub is a dedicated road which is clear testimony that the plan approved some decades ago by Manheim Township intended Wilson Drive to ultimately serve the development of Baker Field, and perhaps continue through to Harrisburg Pike. Of course, this would be ruinous for the livability and the property value of the SLH community where people and children stroll, run and play safely in the streets.

At this moment when nerves are raw over the ram-rodding of the freight yard location, it is time to ask F&M to make good on its promises by encouraging Manheim Township to legally 'abandon' the Wilson Drive stub so that that ownership of half of the right-of-way and roadway reverts to each home owner.

The abandonment of these "stubs" would alter the presumption that Wilson is to be continued to Baker's Field to a new reality that it is not to do so. Future developers and Manheim officials could no longer claim this is what was always intended.

So once again the old fellow has made a suggestion. And this time the Association's leader who encouraged 'making nice' to Fry says he is willing to go along with the suggestion. So now is the moment for SLH residents to get behind this, encourage the relevant home owners to make the request, and, if necessary, provide funds to pay a lawyer to get the work done before the end of the year.

Oh, who will plow the snow on the stub? Theoretically, no longer Manheim Township. But if Fry has security guards to send into School Lane Hills to mug the media, he probably can also send a plow truck.

LCCCA Bond Investment in Jeopardy

When the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority sold $25 million in construction bonds, it invested that money with a public bond insurer.

"With an amount that large, you don't simply have it sitting around in the bank," Finance Committee Chair Laura Douglas said.

The Authority's funds are invested with a financial management group called MBIA.

On June 19, however, the Moody Investor's Service downgraded MBIA's "insurance financial strength rating from Aaa to A2 on its Asset/Liability Management Business (ALM)."

Under the terms of an agreement between LCCCA and MBIA, the latter has until July 7th to collateralize on the Authority's investment, or the Authority will withdraw its funds.

The Authority passed a resolution at their full board meeting, Thursday night, permitting their Executive Director, Kevin Molloy, to do just that - to withdraw the Authority's funds from MBIA, Inc. if it does not collateralize on the funds by July 7.

In a Press Release dated June 20, MBIA, Inc. assures its investors that it has the resources to protect their investments.

MBIA, Inc. (NYSE: MBI) closed Thursday at $4.39, down from a 52-week high of $68.98 in October 2007.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Morris: No Problems With Approved CC Funding

At the meeting on Thursday evening of the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority, in response to an inquiry from NewsLanc, Chairman Art Morris stated that there were no obstacles to routinely drawing down funds under the construction financing. Similarly he continued there are no problems in routinely drawing down $15 million in previously approved State funds.

Morris said the only funding not yet available is the additional request for $3.2 million which is part of the proposed new state budget. The money is needed to cover existing cost overruns.

Photos from Water Street Mission


Emergency Shelter Bed

Normal Residence Quarters

The Building



Bed, Food, Treatment, Training and Christianity

To get a better sense of the social services available in Lancaster, two NewsLanc representatives recently visited the Water Street Rescue Mission on South Prince Street. (Photos of the facility are available here.)

Founded in 1905, the Mission's stated purpose is "to advance the Kingdom of God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ by providing rescue and renewal services to the needy in the City of Lancaster and other areas." However, the staff made it clear that the immediate needs of their clients come first.

"We know that not everyone in our chapel service is digging what they're hearing, but all we ask is that they respect what they're hearing," said Director of Residential Programs Steve Brubaker.

On a budget of roughly $7 million a year, almost exclusively from private contributors, they offer a wide range of services at their impressive facility, including emergency shelter, food service, life counseling, on-site medical and dental services, employment assistance, and more.

On a typical night, 220 men and women find safe shelter at the Mission. Anyone can have a bed to sleep with virtually no questions asked for up to seven days before the Mission asks that you attend religious and counseling services, and attempts to match clients to appropriate resources.

A common misconception is that most of the homeless are chronically unemployed or mentally ill. In fact, according to Water Street's statistics, 68% of their clients stay only a month or less.

In the Mission's computer-equipped learning and career center, counselors assist clients with finding suitable employment, provide referrals to other agencies, and even help them obtain their GED's.

Attention is also given to helping clients to identify and cope with inappropriate actions on the client's part that lead to ongoing losses of jobs.

The medical and dental facilities, new in 1993, features "six or seven full time staff and 200-300 volunteer" medical personnel. It serves about a thousand clients a year.

Director of Public Relations Maria Ream stressed that Water Street Rescue Mission strives to develop trust, address the causes of one's homelessness, and help the individual accept Jesus into one's life.

Water Street Rescue Mission is part of a 300-member international network of rescue missions called the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions.

According to the organization's web site, "If annual cash contributions were combined, the 300 Association member RESCUE missions would be among the ten largest nonprofit organizations in the United States."

NewsLanc plans to report on specific services offered by Water Street Rescue Mission and other local public health organizations over months to come.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Charles Douts Jr. Selected as New County Administrator

Charles "Charlie" Douts, a member of the Lancaster County Planning Commission, and veteran of municipal government, has been selected as the County of Lancaster's new Administrator, a position left vacant since the sudden departure of Mark Esterbrook in April.

Commissioner Chairman Dennis Stuckey announced Douts' selection in a brief statement, Wednesday morning.

Besides sitting on the County Planning Commission for seven years including two as chairman, Douts is also the current Manager of West Hempfield Township - a position he has held for 20 years.

Douts said "it was a very difficult decision to leave" public service in West Hempfield Township, but is "looking forward to serving the residents of the County" and tackling the "challenges this Board has inherited" in his new role.

While the details have yet to be solidified, Douts said that he is tentatively scheduled to start on July 22.

"I believe that Charlie has all the skills to be an excellent County Administrator," said Commissioner Craig Lehman, a sentiment echoed by all three Commissioners.

In addition to his years of experience, Charlie Douts also holds a Master's Degree in Urban & Regional Planning.

One regular at County Commissioners meetings, who did not lend his name to publication, called the selection of Douts "not who I was expecting" but "a good choice."

Lancaster's Proposed Pork Chop

For readers interested in seeing the process of how the State tax swag is divvied up, attached are the relevant excerpts from House Bill No. 1589 as introduced by D. Evans, June 18, 2007 and as it came out of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Chairman Gibson Armstrong, re-reported and amended March 31, 2008.

Caution: Don't spend the money yet. There won't likely be enough loot to go around!

Latest Strange Activity at Residence of F&M President

The street right-of-ways along Marietta Avenue and School Lane on which the F&M residence of its president John Fry is located are now delineated by flags approximately 2' off the ground and 25' apart, courtesy of local utility companies. (Photos attached. Along Marietta Avenue, the row furthest from the street approximates the right-of-say line.)

Whether this is to help a so-called witness to determine whether Lancaster Post publisher Ron Harper, Jr. actually stepped across a right-of-way line onto F&M property or to alert Fry if someone crosses the line when picking up a Post from the red distribution box, is pure speculation. (Dog walkers take heed!)

To a nearby home owner, the whole thing is both sad and a bit ominous.

The neighbor has invited the Post to relocate the box to the neighbor's corner for the sake of harmony.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Former County Administrator to Head Local Non-profit

Former County Administrator Mark Esterbook has been selected to be the Executive Director of the Community Action Program (CAP) of Lancaster County, it was revealed at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.

Esterbrook resigned from his position as County Administrator under mysterious circumstances in April.

The announcement was made by CAP's Interim Executive Director, Dr. Sharron Nelson, who is a former County Commissioner and a current member of the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority Board.

The Community Action Program (CAP) of Lancaster County is a non-profit organization whose mission is to address the causes of poverty throughout the County. It offers a variety of social services to low-income individuals and families.

Esterbrook said he is "very excited very humbled, and very honored to be selected for this position."

He explained that he had been presented with a number of opportunities in both the public and private sectors, and said that CAP's values "align very much with my own."

Esterbrook was chosen from 58 applications for the position and will assume his duties on July 7.

Also at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, four gentlemen were presented with commendation awards by Lancaster Police Chief Keith Sadler for helping catch and apprehend an alleged vehicle thief in May.

They are: Neil Roth of Ephrata, Carl Frymoyer of Lititz, Wayne Kisela of Lancaster, and Travis Greenwalt of Landisville.

EDITORIAL: An Appeal for Paper Trail Verifiable Voting

This appeal arrived on June 24 from the Coalition for Voting Integrity with a deadline for tomorrow, Wednesday June 25. The bill provides the option for counties to convert to paper ballot system and be reimbursed for it. Text of bill can be found here.

Emergency action item for funding of paper ballots: Join the Effort to Get Co-Sponsors for the PAPER BALLOT BASED VOTING SYSTEM REIMBURSEMENT ACT - Make Your Call Today! Forward This to a Friend, Who Will Do the Same

Pennsylvania State Senator Charles McIlhinney, 10th District, is presently circulating a PAPER BALLOT BASED VOTING SYSTEM REIMBURSEMENT BILL among his Senate colleagues for CO-SPONSORS.

This bill directs the State of Pennsylvania to reimburse counties for all the costs involved in obtaining a paper-ballot based voting system.

More than 8,000 precincts in Pennsylvania now use externally paperless Direct Recording Electronic voting systems (DREs).

Because there is no independent paper proof of voters' intended votes, there is no way to know if those electronic votes have been recorded correctly and counted accurately by the software programming inside the electronic machines. The current Pennsylvania certified optical scan voting system is the only paper-ballot based system, where the voter can mark his or her votes on a paper ballot either by hand or with a ballot marking device.

That paper ballot is saved to be used to check the electronic count for meaningful recounts and audits. We need this kind of paper ballot based system in Pennsylvania. State reimbursement of the costs involved will provide counties with the means needed to replace their DREs.


You can find contact information for your State Senator and your State Representative here.

This bill needs to be introduced by tomorrow, Wednesday, the 25th of June after which it will be given a House Bill number and probably be sent to the State Government Committee. Their approval to pass it out of their committee is also essential before it is voted on so contact your Senator also if he or she is on the State Government Committee.

Your phone calls in support of this bill may yield many co-sponsors. With such an outpouring of support, we can show that this is a bill supported by the citizens of Pennsylvania.

Representative Marguerite Quinn, 143rd District plans to circulate the same bill to Assembly members. PLEASE CALL her in support of her efforts and your own STATE REPRESENTATIVE and ask him or her to sign on as a co-sponsor as well.

PLEASE CALL YOUR STATE SENATOR NOW. Accurate vote counting is the cornerstone of a democracy. Our democracy depends on you!

Commissioners to Hold Meeting in West Lampeter Twp.

As part of an ongoing effort to reach out to all County residents, the County Commissioners announced Tuesday that they will be holding a public meeting next Tuesday evening, July 1 in West Lampeter Township.

At the meeting, the Commissioners will act on a portion of their usual weekly agenda and take public comments, the County's Chief Clerk Andrea McCue said Tuesday.

The Commissioners will still hold their regularly scheduled worksession on Tuesday and public meeting on Wednesday on the 5th floor of the County Courthouse on Duke Street.

The meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the West Lampeter Township Munciipal Building at 852 Village Road in Lampeter.

All are invited and encouraged to attend.

CC Cash Flow and delay present big problems

The Lancaster County Convention Center Authority has $400,000 in expenses it cannot afford to pay as of May 31, it was reported Monday evening.

The biggest factors in May's deficit are change orders and the Authority having to purchase another year of Builder's Risk Insurance, according to Finance Committee Chair Laura Douglas.

The added insurance was necessary because the construction phase of the project was extended by four and a half months, she explained.

Originally scheduled to be completed by November 2008, the Hotel & Convention Center is now not expected to open until March 2009 due to unforeseen construction issues, including the encountering of rock and water while digging at the site.

Chairman of the Board Art Morris said that the Authority is "absolutely relying on" assurances from State Senator Gib Armstrong of $3.2 million in state grants for the project once the State Senate passes its 2008-2009 budget.

Morris said he has been assured by the Senator that the budget will be acted on "very soon."

Asked whether a portion of state grants are budgeted for Penn Square Partners, Morris responded that he understands that Senator Armstrong is working with Penn Square Partners separately.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lancaster Post Box Vandalized

NewsLanc has belatedly received the following report dated June 19 from a reliable source:

"Just strolled by the Lancaster Post box at School Lane and Marietta and someone has caulked it shut with heavy duty caulk -- I know the caulk type because the genius who did it threw the caulk tube into the box before sealing the door shut."

This is the notorious box situated in the public right-of-way in front of the house where the president of Franklin & Marshall College, John Fry, resides.

When the wrong example is set concerning the freedom of the press, things like this are more likely to follow.

$180 Million+, but Brain Dead?

An early morning attempt to leave a voice mail message at the Convention Center Authority (LCCCA) was met with the following automated response: "If you have a mail box on this system, press pound." (The number called was 717.399.7630 as provided on the web site.)

The caller tried a second time, thinking he had misdialed. Same response.

All that money, yet they don't know how to provide a voice mail message system to facilitate communications. What would someone think if they wanted information about booking a big convention?

Is this an omen of things to come?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Extolling Ethics in Business

A June 22 Sunday News article entitled "Recognized for doing the right thing" identified the Horst Group as the 2008 recipient of the "Ethics in Business Award" for a business and J. Gary Langmuir as the individual winner.

It is probably no coincidence that both the Horst firm and Langmuir, Owner and CEO of Wohlsen Construction Company, are rooted in the construction industry and represent "old time" Lancaster business practices.

When our president built a Lancaster apartment complex 40 years ago, Herr Landscaping did not hand in an invoice for two years and until all 276 units were completed. Then one day Charlie Herr walked in and delivered a detailed invoice and sat down in a chair. Our president didn't understand why Herr was waiting and explained to him that the invoice would be reviewed over the next few days and a check mailed off.

It was only later that he learned from others that Herr had followed a local tradition whereby contractors did not bill until the end of the job to show their financial strength and confidence. In turn, builders were supposed to review the bill on the spot and write a check for payment in full to show their financial strength and confidence!

That was Old Lancaster, the Lancaster from which earlier generations of the Horst Group and Langmuir had evolved. It was the Lancaster before local giants, run by bureaucrats, subordinated integrity to making millions at the public's expense.

The Horst Group is correctly praised for paying what was owed in taxes rather than what was mistakenly billed. That would not have been unusual in Old Lancaster, and fortunately it still remains the same for many firms today.

Honoring the Horst Group and Langmuir serves as a reminder that small town integrity is not to be subordinated to corporate sharp practices. Unfortunately, the latter has been all too prevalent in recent years.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Relocation of Freight Yard Revisited

The June 21st New Era headline aptly described the reaction at Thursday's public gathering of those most affected by the choice of re-location of the Norfolk-Southern freight yard as "skeptical."

Mark Whallon, a member of TRRAAC, an organization consisting largely of those most impacted, made a halting presentation at the meeting but clearly set forth his concerns in a letter published in today's Intelligencer Journal entitled "F&M misstatements."

He criticizes:

1) Franklin & Marshall vice president Keith Orris twice referring to the project as eliminating 55,000 truck trips which currently do not exist (but might in the future if the rail yard is not relocated);

2) F&M for implying that cars stored in the new area would be empty which was refuted by the Norfolk-Southern train master; and

3) The claim by F&M that they would be removing the community dump, because the portion on the other side of Conestoga Creek is to remain.

He comments "F&M President John Fry suggested, in relation to property-value questions, that our neighborhoods are better off with a rail yard in place of a dump. How considerate of him. It would appear we are now to have both."

Whallon most importantly states: "One begins to wonder what other misstatements or half-truths may be floating around this project, such as presenting averages for noise levels rather than maximum levels that will be heard."

It is this last point that most resonates with NewsLanc. There is no way that a group of a dozen or so neighbors, unless one or more happens to be a fabulously wealthy, can afford to vet the statistics and plans that have been developed over five years by specialists at a cost of millions.

And while relocation of a rail yard might seem to be a most improbable task, it is actually simpler than other major projects because it does not go through a normal governmental vetting, since railroads are exempt from local zoning and regulations.

So the alternative approaches proposed by TRRAAC will not be subject to review and approval by the township or county.

To some, it was Quixotic for neighbors to try to alter the juggernaut of a program backed by F&M, Lancaster General Hospital and Norfolk-Southern. But to the extent that TRRAAC has brought the important matter to the public's attention and challenged basic assumptions, it made it more likely that F&M, LGH and N-S will live up to the commitments made at the public meeting and, should future circumstances prove them wrong, will endeavor to make good on their promises.

And the controversy has spurred the creation of a formal greater School Lane Hills neighborhood association with scores of members.

Democracy doesn't guarantee the best possible outcomes. But over the long run, an informed public will tend to make better decisions.

Friday, June 20, 2008

More re Limits to Defiant Trespass Validity

received the following letter from its counsel further exploring the implications of Franklin & Marshall serving Ron Harper, Jr., News Editor of the Lancaster Post with a Defiant Trespass notice and advising him not to step foot on F&M's campus or the college owned estate 2/3rds of a mile away in which its president John Fry resides:

June 17, 2008

Robert E. Field
1377-C Spencer Avenue
Lancaster, PA 17603

Re: Franklin & Marshall Defiant Trespass Questions

Dear Mr. Field:

You asked that we review and provide information to you on the activities of Franklin & Marshall with respect to issuing defiant trespass letters. You have presented the following questions to us:

1. Whether the college grounds are to be open for transit by use of the public;
2. Whether a higher standard is required for defiant trespass for a member of the media; and,
3. How one challenges a defiant trespass notice.

I will address each question in turn.

Underlying the entire issue with Franklin & Marshall is a balancing of the interests of Franklin & Marshall with citizens to whom the property would appear to be opened. The answer to the inquiry would depend on how Franklin & Marshall has permitted the public to access the campus. If the public is freely walking across the campus from east to west using its facilities, using the college for public events or attending events open to the public or events presented on behalf of the community, then an individual who has received a no trespass letter may not be treated differently than the rest of the public when accessing these public areas. (See Com. v. Tate, 459 Pa. 158, 173-174 (1981)).

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has made clear in Commonwealth v. Tate, that it is repugnant to the Pennsylvania Constitution for an educational institution that holds itself out to the public as a community resource and allows members of the public to walk on its campus, to at the same time, arbitrarily deny a few members of the public a right to peaceable, protected First Amendment activity on the same property. Commonwealth v. Tate remains good law in Pennsylvania and has been favorably cited by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court since its publication as well as various federal courts See e.g., Radich v. Good, 886 F2d.1391(3rd Cir. 1989) (private college can in certain circumstances create a limited public forum based on past activities. However, mere access by the public does not necessarily always create a public forum for First Amendment activity on private property), Fraizer v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company 135 F. Supp.2d 623(E.D.Pa. 2001), Conner v. Clinton County Prison, 963 F. Supp. 442 (M.D.Pa. 1997)

The resolution of how the college may treat its grounds will necessarily turn on the college's history in allowing access to these parts of the college. If one is to go to the college to engage in the exercise of a Constitutional right, such as distributing handbills, the college must have opened itself up for such activity to occur on the property of the college. In Tate, the college had a symposium to which various members of the community were invited. This circumstance was the basis of the court’s finding that a public forum had been created. Accordingly, Tate should not be read as an open invitation to allow anyone to access the college property to engage in First Amendment activity. That being said, the same analysis should protect individuals who have received defiant trespass letters when engaging in lawful activities that others of the public are invited to engage in at the college, on the college property or in buildings owned by tenants of the college.

Your second question deals with whether there is a higher standard of defiant trespass notice for members of the media. There is not a separate standard for members of the media as it applies to defiant trespass notices. The issue ties in with your third question as to how one challenges a defiant trespass notice.

It is simple for one to issue a no trespass notice to an individual. However, in the enforcement of a defiant trespass notice comes the danger to the enforcer of possibly engaging in a Constitutional violation. Because of Tate’s 25 year history, there can be no defense that a police officer was unaware of the constitutional rights at stake in inappropriately enforcing a defiant trespass order.

A private entity needs no reason to prevent someone from accessing his or her property. One would think that business owners would be reticent to engage in sending out defiant trespass letters, as it would negatively impact their business and create heightened costs in screening individuals at an entrance, for example to prevent them from entering the establishment. Furthermore, if an individual enters a place that is open to the public and to which the public is invited, in order to be arrested for defiant trespass, there must be some allegation or proof that the individual is not obeying another law or is engaged in unlawful activity. If the entity attempts to enforce the defiant trespass letter against one who is acting legally and in an area open to the public, that entity would run the risk of using police action without any supporting probable cause resulting in a violation of the Fourth and possibly Fourteenth Amendment, as well as the First Amendment should it implicate freedom of speech issues that the college has invited individuals to engage in based on prior practices.

A challenge to a no trespass letter would come when the entity attempts to enforce the defiant trespass notice. In the right situation, an individual could file for an injunction to prevent the enforcement of defiant trespass notices if it is clear that the entity means to enforce the notice against an individual acting lawfully and not encroaching on areas that are closed to the public. Franklin & Marshall may have come close to crossing this line but without further analysis of their position and statement(s), I am not able to finalize an opinion on that issue.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to review this situation. If I can provide you with any additional information or answer any questions that are raised by this letter please feel free to contact me.

F&M Withdraws Charges Against Ron Harper, Jr.

What may be a first step in an orchestrated attempt to avoid colossal punitive damages resulting from anticipated law suits by Ron Harper, Jr. and Chris Hart-Nibbrig against the college, Franklin & Marshall College has notified Harper, Co-Publisher of the Lancaster Post, that the college has "withdrawn the citations issued to you on June 3, 2008. The College does not anticipate amending or re-issuing the citations unless other facts come to light that would warrant such an action."

The letter adds "Although the charges have been dropped, the defiant trespass notice remains in effect for College property. We ask you to honor it and please leave John Fry and his family alone at their home."

It continues "John Fry never contacted the district attorney to influence the prosecution of the Franklin & Marshall students, as you wrote. This was a false accusation."

The letter was signed by Nancy Collins, Vice President for College Communications.

F&M Used City Police for Freight Yard Meeting

Three city policemen stood near the entryway to the exhibition hall at the Franklin & Marshall Alumni Center Thursday evening, looking somewhat out of place and, some suggested, perhaps on a Ron Harper, Jr. watch.

It was significant that the college chose not to use its own private security force, perhaps not wanting to risk a re-run of the officers' aberrant treatment of Harper when they attacked and threw him to the ground while he was peacefully standing across Marietta Avenue from the house of F&M president John Fry.

What action, if any, the City Police would have taken had Harper shown up is hard to predict. After all, it was a public event. In fact Fry made a big point later in the evening that the public has always been allowed to share F&M's grounds the same as students and faculty.

That is one of the reasons a prominent law firm gave for suggesting that the Defiant Trespass notices given Harper and others were unenforceable in areas open to the public, at events to which the public is invited, and in such leased establishments as restaurants and stores.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

F&M Wows With Freight Yard Relocation Program

The public meeting at Franklin & Marshall's Alumni Building sponsored by the college, Lancaster General Hospital and Norfolk Southern drew from 400 to 500 persons over its three hour course, with close to 300 attending a presentation from 7:00 to 7:30 PM and almost as many at the Questions and Answers portion from 8:30 to 9:30 PM.

The upshot was that even most of the members of TRRAAC, an organization consisting largely of those most impacted, seemed to acquiesce to the relocation of a portion of the freight yard. Most people went away feeling better informed and favorably impressed.

A panel of 11 consisted of John Fry and Keith Orris, President and Vice President of Franklin & Marshall College (F&M) respectively, along with representatives of Lancaster General Hospital (LGH), Norfolk Southern, and engineers from Gannett Fleming who are the engineers for the project.

There was some feeling that the public meeting was coming rather late in a process that Fry indicated started five years ago and for which plans are now being finalized.

Fry opened the formal presentation by pointing out that Norfolk Southern needed a more efficient yard, that Lancaster City would benefit from connecting its eastern portion with the western portions, and that removal of a portion of the current rail yard will reverse existing blight and generate desirable sites for commercial, industrial and residential development within the City.

He added that both F&M and LGH need areas for future growth, stating that LGH was "landlocked at this point."

Fry indicated that the improvements would cost $40 million to $42 million dollars with F&M and LGH contributing $6 million each and Norfolk Southern donating $2 million. The rest would come from various governmental sources.

He stated that additional benefits would be the clean up of the existing dump (at least on the Baker Field side of the creek), reduced future truck transit, and remediation of portions of the rail yard that are current eyesores. He promised "profound and positive consequences for all of us in the future."

Rich Pugh of Gannett Fleming reported that he had met with representatives of The Rail Road Action & Advisory Committee (TRRAAC) and that the alternate sites they were proposing had previously been rejected either due to grade problems, inability to meet length of "train tail" requirements, or unavailability. In one case the land is being use as a retention basin for regional storm water. He also pointed out the Dillersville Bridge is only able to span six tracks, which is inadequate.

Pugh said that residents closest to the yard will experience an "almost imperceptible" increase in noise and no added vibrations. He indicated that there would only be a slight increase of diesel emissions, well below a level that would impact public safety.

Ronald Bailey, former Executive Director of the Lancaster County Planning Commission, acted as moderator for the Question and Answer program at the end of the evening.

Information generated from perhaps 30 questions included:

1. College Avenue will be extended to Liberty Street;

2. LGH will acquire a ten acre site on Harrisburg Pike that will be kept as "green space" until it is needed for future development;

3. Although the plans no longer indicate sound walls, the intention is to accomplish the same purpose either by re-introducing the walls or other methods, such as specially designed berms;

4. The estimate of saving 55,000 trucks trip over the year is based upon anticipated future needs that could not otherwise be met;

5. The project only will remove trash from its side of the Conestoga Creek, although this is where most of the trash is buried;

6. Norfolk-Southern is constrained due to limited local capacity with some customers having turned to tractor trailers; and

7. The diesel emissions from one engine are comparable to emissions from one truck. One train is pulled by two engines and replaces 55 trucks.

Fry indicated that F&M is the developer and would be responsible for representations being fulfilled. He also pointed out that F&M's hundred acre Baker Field is one of the most impacted properties, a sign of their confidence in the project's feasibility.

Jan Berger, representing the hospital, stated that LGH was "100% invested that the project is done right."

According to Fry, cleaning up the dump has added $4 million in cost to the project.

Perhaps the most telling moment was when Mark Whalen, representing TRRAAC, stated that the group supports the project, and is only asking that consideration be given to evaluating other possibilities.

From sporadic applause and the agreeable tenure of the audience, it was apparent that the the evening was a reasonably comprehensive briefing and a proper airing of possible objections. Veteran spectators of erstwhile Convention Center Authority meetings under then chair Ted Darcus could not help but draw a contrast in the conduct of the proceedings. Ironically, Fry, who did such a good job this evening, served on the Authority board for much of Darcus's reign.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mayor's Invitation to Celebrate Independence Early

Celebrate our nation's Independence in Downtown Lancaster on Friday, June 27th!

The event, presented by Fulton Bank, features a dynamic patriotic concert by the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra followed by the county's largest fireworks extravaganza. The day begins at 11:30 a.m. with a variety of food vendors on North Queen Street - enjoy the taste of traditional fair food like funnel cakes, French fries and crab cakes, plus fabulous ethnic food such as stromboli and calzones, southern style BBQ and Trinidadian shark pitas.

Enjoy entertainment throughout the day with the main stage entertainment beginning at 7:30 p.m. with Jonathan Burns: Stunt. The event is headlined by the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra at 8:30 p.m., performing a repertoire of patriotic, pops and light classical pieces. The fireworks finale is at 10:00 p.m. from the top of the Duke Street Parking Garage. The event is held in Binns Park and is free to the public.

Street Closings
Friday, June 27th
9:00 a.m. Zero and 100 block of North Queen Street
100 block North Christian Street
Zero block East Marion Street to Christian
East Grant at Christian Street to N. Queen Street

6:00 p.m. Zero, 100 and 200 blocks of North Christian Street
Zero block of West Chestnut Street
Zero and 100 blocks of East Chestnut Street
100 and 200 blocks of North Cherry Street
Zero and 100 blocks of East Fulton Street
Zero and 100 blocks of East Orange Street
Zero block of West Orange Street
Zero, 100, and 200 blocks of North Duke Street
200 block of North Queen Street

Streets will remain closed until all fireworks debris has been cleaned off the streets. The first street open will be the zero block of West Chestnut Street opening at approximately 11:30 p.m. Remaining streets will open by 2:00 a.m. Saturday, June 28th.

Event Parking

Event Parking will be available at the Prince, Water and King Street Garages for the event. Beginning at 4:30 p.m. the Lancaster Parking Authority will have a $3.00 flat rate for the evening at the Prince and Water Street garages.

Please call the Mayor's Office of Special Events
(717) 291-4758
with any questions.

F&M Wrong re Defiant Trespass

NewsLanc investigates, it doesn't just report. So we engaged a law firm to analyze and write an opinion concerning whether Franklin & Marshall properly is interpreting and utilizing Defiant Trespass notices. The report follows:

There are a couple of issues surrounding this situation. First the trespass statute provides that one could be charged with defiant trespass when notice has been given by:

"an actual communication to the actor to leave school grounds as communicated by a school, center or program official, employee or agent or a law enforcement officer."

This issue then becomes what constitutes "school grounds." The legislature helped out on that, though and defined them as:

"the term 'school grounds' means any building of or grounds of any elementary or secondary publicly funded educational institution, any elementary or secondary private school licensed by the Department of Education, any elementary or secondary parochial school, any certified day-care center or any licensed preschool program."

This definition does nothing to help F&M. Certainly tenant restaurants and stores should not be considered "school grounds" and even if they were, a lessee, like the Iron Hill Brewery, owns the present interest in the property leased. A restaurant could send its own "no trespass" letter, but its property would not necessarily be governed by a "no trespass" letter sent by the landlord.

Also hurtful to F&M's position that it can exclude people from all property it owns is the second defense to trespass charges:

"the premises were at the time open to members of the public and the actor complied with all lawful conditions imposed on access to or remaining in the premises"

This defense should be a shield if F&M ever tries to prosecute someone who receives on of these letters from going to a concert at F&M or eating at restaurants open to the public. F&M could attempt to harass people with these letters and it could be difficult to fight back given their lack of status as a state actor. This consideration becomes a close question if F&M mails such letter than if they use their police force to enforce such letters. If they use their police force to try to remove someone who is complying with the law from a public area, they run the risk of a civil rights violation for arresting someone without probable cause. (Emphasis added.)

One very useful case comes from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court over 25 years ago. In Commonwealth v. Tate, a Muhlenberg College, private institution, a group who was handing out leaflets on the college property without any disorderly activity, were charged with defiant trespass. The person had attempted to get a permit from the college to hand out his leaflets, but was turned down. The Supreme Court found that the defiant trespass charges could not stand. The court found as follows:

"Here we are faced with an educational institution which holds itself out to the public as a community resource and cultural center, allows members of the public to walk its campus, permits a community organization to use its facilities as a forum for a public official of national importance, and at the same time arbitrarily denies a few members of the public the right to distribute leaflets peacefully to the relevant audience present at that forum. In these circumstances, we are of the view that the Constitution of this Commonwealth protects appellants' invaluable right to freedom of expression against the enforcement, by state criminal statute, of the college's standardless permit requirement."

While the court focused on a standardless permit scheme, a similar argument could be made against F&M if they arbitrarily accost people at places on the college grounds open to the public.

Turkey Hill Was Paid to Distribute Lancaster Post

The Following is courtesy of the Lancaster Independent Press of June 16 / 17:

"Ron Harper, Jr. said by telephone today that Turkey Hill was being paid by the Lancaster Post to distribute the paper there... So, while the paper is free, Turkey Hill was making money off their distribution of the paper. And Harper said today he absolutely believes Turkey Hill was pressured.

"He is working on other distribution means and reports that everywhere he goes people are supportive of the paper. He said that over 100,000 people to date have downloaded at least one issue of the paper from their website. He said this past Sunday morning over 2,000 people downloaded the most recent edition. Those are impressive numbers and indicative of how much the citizens of Lancaster County want an alternative news source."

F&M Security Reduces College Crime Rates

In a report required by federal and state law entitled "Staying Safe," Franklin & Marshall published crime statistics relating to years 2004 through 2006. In general the report suggests that College Security has made progress in making the campus safer, especially in reducing occurrences of "Forceable Rape" (1 in 2004, 12 in 2005 and 4 in 2006).

Other achievements were reduction of "Larceny (Except motor vehicles)" - from 78, to 60, to 54, and "Liquor Law Offenses" from 273, to 161 to 82.

On the negative side, "Burglary" increased from 12 to 13 to 28 and "Vandalism" from 19 to 36 to 65.

"Defiant Trespass" also increased from 2 to 4 to 8.

The excellent news was that no murders took place during the duration!

NewsLanc will inquire about and report on, when available, campus statistics for 2007.

Monday, June 16, 2008

How Qualified is F&M's Public Safety Director?

Maureen P. Kelly, the Director of Public Safety at Franklin & Marshall College, with more than a quarter century of experience, should know how to inculcate professionalism and handle rogue cops.

Or was she following orders from on top when two members of the media were arrested on apparently baseless charges and one brutally abused?

"Maureen Kelly will be a tremendous resource to our students, our faculty and our neighbors," said President John Fry at the time of her appointment in January, 2003. "Her experience in public safety will make her a tremendous asset as we move forward with an enhanced safety presence at the college and the JSID's safety initiatives."

Kelly has the following experience:

1. F&M College's Public Safety Director since February 10, 2003.

2. 22 years of police experience with the Philadelphia Police Department

3. As a lieutenant in the drug enforcement administration task force, she managed federal, state and local law enforcement officers conducting significant investigations.

4. Worked as a lieutenant in the homicide division, as a sergeant in several units throughout the city and as an officer in undercover work.

5. After leaving the Philadelphia Police Department, she was a captain for two years with an international police task force working with the United Nations mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. While there, she helped to incorporate democratic policing into a society recovering from civil war.

6. For two years, she was an associate director at the University of Pennsylvania supervising the delivery of services for victims of rape, violence, sexual violence and hate crimes or ethnic intimidation.

7. She was also a liaison with a number of Philadelphia city agencies.

NewsLanc questions why, with all of this experience, did the outlandish mistreatment of Ron Harper, Jr. and Christiaan Hart-Nibbrig by the Public Safety Officers take place?

F&M: Stop Hiding From the Media!

Does Franklin & Marshall College think the Gestapo-like treatment of two members of the media on Tuesday, June 3 will soon be forgotten? Its student body isn't yet aware of what took place but they, their parents and the alumnae will when the fall semester begins. And then there likely will be million dollar litigation!

F&M needs to recognize that the incident, largely recorded by video, demonstrated the administration's failure to understand the appropriate use and limits of a private security force, and how poorly trained are the officers to whom parents have entrusted their college age youngsters.

F & M should:

1. Release the official and complete incident and arrest report(s) of Ron Harper, Jr. and Christiaan Hart-Nibbrig. Stop calling it a "privileged document." If the college wants to engage "Special Police" then they should file arrest reports as regular police do.

2. Hold a full and open press conference so all local reporters can ask questions.

3. Make the school officials available to the media for interviews and questioning, including President John Fry and Public Safety Director Maureen Kelly.

4. Allow or require the Public Safety Officers to tell their side of the story, and be open for questions from the media.

5. Explain why Hart-Nibbrig was arrested, held, and released with a Defiant Trespass Notice, when no one has alleged he had trespassed on the grounds of the residence of F&M's president.

If the Public Safety Officers did everything correctly, then present your side.

If the F&M Public Safety Officers made mistakes, admit it and apologize. Even more importantly, assure the students, faculty, alumnae, parents and neighbors that you are going to take corrective actions, including ethics training for Fry and police training for Kelly and the force.

NewsLanc again formally requests interviews of your Public Safety Officers, your Public Safety Director, and the President of F&M.

More County Food Establishments Fail Inspections

Last week, four Lancaster County restaurants were found to be out of compliance during inspections conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

Those found in violation were:

Bube's Brewery, Mount Joy

Wendys #13, Lititz

Raub's Sub Shop, Ephrata

Dutch Lanes Lunch Room, Ephrata

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture said "that any inspection is a 'snapshot' of the day and time of the inspection. An inspection conducted on any given day may not be representative of the overall, long-term cleanliness of an establishment. Also, at the time of the inspection, violations are recorded but are often corrected on the spot prior to the inspector leaving the establishment."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Is Turkey Hill Dropping the Lancaster Post?

According to the Lancaster Independent Press (LIP), Turkey Hill Minit Markets may no longer distribute the Lancaster Post.

The article states that, in response to a LIP e-mail asking "What happened with Turkey Hill?" that Ron Harper, Jr., co-publisher of the Lancaster Post, responded "We don't know - they didn't / wouldn't tell us. When Peggy [Steinman Nunan] was on the front we were told, 'We do business with them.'"

LIP asks rhetorically "Did the Lancaster Newspapers pressure Turkey Hill?" It then pleads with its readers: "Please mention how much you enjoy the Post to the Turkey Hill clerks and please support [the Post's] advertisers."

NewsLanc joins LIP in suggesting the same to our readers.

EDITORIAL: Two Projects; One Deserves Celebration

The Pennsylvania Academy of Music (PAM), was conceived by struggling artists (almost all classical musicians struggle) and largely paid for by the wealthy as a gift to the community, no strings attached.

The Convention Center / Marriott Hotel project (CC), was conceived by the very rich, will be almost entirely paid for by taxpayers, and the sponsors stand to make tens of millions, in large part through one-sided arrangements.

PAM has the potential for drawing to Lancaster hundreds of students in residence, thus generating housing, retail sales, and tourism for downtown Lancaster, and providing culture for the community.

The CC will create a black hole between Lancaster Square and the Seventh Ward, taking the place of mixed use residential development and blocking gentrification to the south. (Note: Three of the Big Five comprised Penn Square Partners while John Fry, President of the fourth, served on the Convention Center Authority Board during the period of extravagant, mindless, and possibly illegal spending.) (We suspect his not being reappointed will help salvage his career.)

Last week, three hundred wealthy people who love and gave much to Lancaster and asked for nothing in return had good reason to celebrate their accomplishment. It won't be quite the same feeling when the CC opens in 2009.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

EDITORIAL: Calling F&M's "Defiant Trespass" Bluff

Franklin & Marshall College hands out Defiant Trespass letters the way some people throw away Kleenex. It is their way of punishing those who disagree with their practices or policies. And they claim that banishment includes the restaurants of its lessees and events opened to the public on the campus.

John Fry, President of Franklin & Marshall College, apparently considers the college campus to be private property, with the same rights and privileges enjoyed by home ownership, to invite or ban who may come and go.

NewsLanc would agree that the residence the college provides for Fry enjoys the same protection as all other private homes.

But NewsLanc believes the campus to be a "Public Place" as defined as follows: "A place in this Commonwealth to which the general public has a right to resort. A public place need not be a place devoted solely to use by the public, but may be a place which is visited by many persons on a regular basis and is usually accessible to the neighboring public."

Unlike the Lancaster Newspapers and WGAL who at best report some of the news, NewsLanc investigates. After obtaining information from counsel, we will report back on this matter.

Friday, June 13, 2008

"Great Ideas" Generated at Crime Summit

Lancaster County's first Crime Summit ended Friday afternoon with closing remarks from Commissioner Scott Martin.

"We're going to be a better county," Martin told those in attendance. "A lot of valuable stuff came out today."

For three days, county officials, police, and social agency representatives gathered at the Lancaster County Public Safety Training Center to find ways to handle crime in the county. By reducing crime and recidivism, officials hope to reduce expenses and help those needing guidance and assistance.

"I really think you are going to see us follow through," Martin added. "This will not be a flash in the pan."

The Crime Summit is generating lots of great ideas, Lancaster County Commission Craig Lehman told NewsLanc.

"Overall, it has been well worth the effort," Lehman said. "We will need to prioritize and distill all the ideas and information."

"There's lot to distill," the Commissioner went on to say. "There are many great recommendations."

Martin said the Lancaster County Commissioners will be "advancing what is feasible." He said that the Crime Summit was "not fluff" or just something that was held to be said it was, but promised that once the information is distilled, efforts will be made to focus efforts in the areas of law enforcement, re-entry management, and crime prevention. Talk Back Participants Ignore Plight of Co-Publisher

The participants on the popular forum have little empathy for the unlawful detention and false arrest of Christiaan A. Hart-Nibbrig, co-publisher and editor of Lancaster Post.

Lost in the many discussions about the F&M Public Safety Officers' misconduct on June 3 on Marietta Avenue is the fact that Christiaan Hart-Nibbrig's individual rights were squashed.

No one seems concerned that the Public Safety Officers arrested, handcuffed, and transported Hart-Nibbrig to their campus office. There they held him for a duration, only to release him and issue a baseless Defiant Trespass letter.

There were NO allegations that Hart-Nibbrig ever trespassed. "I have no idea why he was arrested," said Dulcey Antonucci, Director of Media Relations of Franklin & Marshall College. When stopped and held by the F&M Public Safety Officers, he was on the south side of Marietta Avenue, far away from the F&M President's home.

But the regulars of TalkBack rather bicker about Ron Harper, Jr.'s controversial journalism efforts.

It seems to NewsLanc that Hart-Nibbrig's biggest crime was to be with Ron Harper, Jr. when F&M's Public Safety Officers swooped down seemingly to punish the effrontery of two small publishers for being critical of F&M's president John Fry and the presumptiousness of Harper for pursuing an interview.

TalkBack users should consider they could be the next arrested person, anytime they are near F&M or its remote real estate holdings.* If John Fry does not like what Hart-Nibbrig writes, who is to say he will like what the posters at TalkBack say?

*NewsLanc has serious doubts that F&M Security has the legal right to take police action off campus and is having the relevant law investigated.

COMMENTARY: Report That CC / Marriott Have Common HVAC Systems

The decision to have a common heating and air conditioning system shared by the Convention Center and the Marriott Hotel is a matter of grave concern.

First of all, it will offer dubious construction and operational savings. It may even be counter productive given the extremely disparate natures and use patterns of the structures. Would home owners want to share their heating and air conditioning systems with a super market next door?

Secondly, in the case of a foreclosure on either facility, potential future owners would likely find such an arrangement offputting because they would not be able to control the operations, modifications, repairs and replacement of their core mechanical systems.

This seems to be another example of ongoing project folly, from conception through realization.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Prison Not the Answer

A new prison is not the answer for Lancaster County, the participants at Thursday's Crime Summit were told.

"If you build it, they will fill it. That's not the answer," Robert Siemasko, the Lancaster County Deputy Warden of Treatment Services said. "People need hope."

Siemasko delivered an impassioned presentation to those present. He explained that the average sentence at Lancaster County Prison is 89.9 days. He said that to get people to stop re-entering the prison, "they need a mentor. They need lots of stuff."

"We didn't win the war on crime, and we didn't win the war on drugs," one participant said. "Locking people up is not the answer."

Housing Shortage Critical for County Inmates

There is a critical shortage of housing available for soon-to-be-released inmates in Lancaster County. Participants at Thursday's Crime Summit described the housing shortage as one of the biggest problems facing Lancaster County.

About 600 people are released each month from Lancaster County Prison. Of those, about 10% have no homes or place to live. Without a home, the released inmate is likely to re-offend, and returned to prison.

Currently, Lancaster County has slightly fewer than 800 beds available for parolees and the homeless: 214 beds are for emergencies (women's shelters, etc.); 491 for transitional housing; and 89 beds for permanent housing. Often those using the beds stay for several months. Officials from local agencies that provide the housing estimate only 30-40% of the beds needed are available.

In January of this year, there was a census conducted which found there were more than 700 homeless in Lancaster County.

Subsidized housing is also in short supply. Only 10% of those in need for subsidized housing are being served, according to officials.

County Considering Women's Detention Center

The Lancaster County Commissioners are considering building a new women's detention center. The new facility, if built, could serve other surrounding counties including Lebanon, Dauphin and York.

Only under discussion at this time, the Commissioners are exploring this option as one way to alleviate the overpopulation at Lancaster County Prison. Currently, the prison population varies from 1,150 to 1,200 inmates. About 10% are women.

Scott Martin, County Commissioner, said this is an "agenda item" on a joint County Commissioners' meeting to be held later this month. Martin made the announcement during a breakout session at the Lancaster County Crime Summit Thursday afternoon.

"It would most likely be within Lancaster County borders," Martin said.

Commissioners Listening During Crime Summit

Lancaster County Commissioners are attending the first county crime summit Thursday afternoon. They are intently listening to community agencies and the public input.

"I am very encouraged," Lancaster County Commissioner Scott Martin told NewsLanc. "It's great to get a dialogue going among the agencies."

Martin said he is most interested in learning "how to fix it" rather than just sitting through presentations.

"People of Lancaster County need to understand that it keeps costing more and more money for repeat offenders," Martin said. "We have to find ways to have offenders become part of the community."

One idea that seems to be taking hold is a day reporting center or a re-entry management office to help offenders take advantage of services available in Lancaster County.

Crime Summit Discusses Re-entry Management

More than 35 residents attended the Lancaster County Crime Summit meeting on Thursday morning at the Public Safety Training Center on Champ Road, Manheim.

Re-entry management of formerly incarcerated persons was the main topic. When offenders are released from prison, they need a place to live and a place to work. Housing and jobs were just some of the problems discussed at Thursday's public meeting.

A general discussion of the many problems facing those leaving prison produced many ideas.

Lancaster County Commissioner Scott Martin is leading the discussion. District Attorney Craig Stedman attended Thursday morning's session.

The Summit continues through Friday.

F & M Security's 19 errors

NewsLanc asked a retired ranking police officer to critique the performance of Franklin & Marshall private security force when they responded to a call from the residence of college president John Fry concerning alleged trespassers. Below is a list of their reckless unprofessionalism:

1. Unsafe response – should have been Code 1 or Code 2, certainly not Code 3 (lights, siren, screeching tires – endangers other citizens and officers).

2. Over response – just a trespass – Six officers? Two should have been enough (even one) – and could have called more if needed for back up. With six officers on seen, who was protecting the rest of the campus/people?

3. If situation was "hot" – first on-scene officer should have gone to the house to protect victims and ascertain their safety well-being, then make arrest. Officers always protect the victims first – good police work will catch the perpetrators later.

4. Hart Nibbrig should never have been arrested (handcuffed, transported to F&M Security). At best, he should have been stopped, identity ascertained, and released on scene.

5. Harper's camera should not have been ordered to be turned off – would the F&M cops order Tom Brokaw's cameraman to turn off his camera?

6. Even if Harper did provoke the cops, that is no reason to escalate. Public Service Officers (PSO) (private police) should be trained professionals and can handle provocation without overreaction.

7. NewsLanc questions whether this was a legal arrest (may be no authority to arrest under current state private police law).

8. NewsLanc questions that this was a legal arrest because it was not on campus and not protecting children/old person, which seem to be the limits set by the statute.

9. Ron Harper, Jr. should not have been manhandled. Even if he had resisted, he should have been charged with resisting arrest (misdemeanor, I think).

10. Ron Harper, Jr. should not have been injured. Too many officers there to allow him to be injured. Even if he were a loud mouth (which the video shows was not the case), it is no reason to shove him or allow him to be hurt. The officers are there to protect everyone – victims and perpetrators. It was a failure that Harper was hurt.

11. Ron Harper, Jr. should not have been patted down/searched 3 times. One touch of the genitals is enough. If there wasn't a weapon there the first time, it would not be there the second or third time.

12. Improper charges filed by F&M on citations (proves their incompetence and they don’t know proper police procedures – questions their training).

13. Fry should have ordered suspension of Sergeant on scene (minimum). (I'd have fired him.) Full investigation should have been announced and be ongoing – if not completed by now.

14. No reason for Ron Harper, Jr. and Christiaan A. Hart Nibbrig to be held for two hours for processing. This is an excessive amount of time to get basic information. (Hart Nibbrig should never have been arrested, detained, transported…remember F&M could not explain why he was arrested – this is likely a false arrest.)

15. Treatment by Public Service Officers seem to be inflicting humiliation rather than fair, impartial treatment. (Can PSOs – who are not civil servants – be fair and impartial, or must they always be on the side of the college?)

16. Ron Harper, Jr. probably should not have been transported. A citation for Disorderly Conduct could have been issued at the scene. A summons for Defiant Trespass should have been filed.

17. Is holding cell approved/authorized?

18. F&M believes it can grab anyone and throw them in their holding cell for any reason and issue Defiant Trespass letter to justify their arrest.

19. Sunday News/Gil Smart had it wrong: defiant trespass is misdemeanor 1 and not summary offense as reported.

Training City Residents for Job Opportunities at LCCC

Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray revealed efforts have been underway to prepare City residents to take advantage of the job opportunities presented by the Convention Center and Hotel project.

"The City, the Authority, Interstate Hotels, and CareerLink have teamed up with neighborhood-based non-profits to provide job readiness training for City residents," Mayor Gray told Lancaster City Council at their Tuesday evening public meeting.

Participants include the Inner City Group, SACA, Crispus Attucks, Brightside Opportunity Center, and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.

"Our goal is to create a qualified pool of City candidates who are ready to fill the wide range of jobs that will be created when the project is complete," the Mayor said.

City Still Has Too Much Litter

As part of the City's involvement in Keep Lancaster County Beautiful, the Bureau of Solid Waste & Recycling and our Neighborhood Revitalization Unit conducted a "litter index" last month, Mayor Rick Gray reported.

Use of the litter index on an annual basis can help track overall progress in reducing litter.

The process involves a tour of 37 miles of streets in every neighborhood, and a ranking of streets on a scale of 1 to 4. A score of 1 means the area is virtually litter free and a score of 4 means the area is extremely littered.

Overall, the City received a score of 2.15.

"Sad, but not surprising, litter is highest in areas located in close proximity to commercial establishments," Mayor Gray added.

Also, Lancaster will install twenty-three litter receptacles in strategic locations in the Northeast quadrant next week.

These trash receptacles are being "adopted" by property owners who have agreed to empty the receptacles at least once a week.

Additional locations are currently being considered near Manor and King Streets.

City officials are also evaluating the surrounding neighborhoods in the southwest area for placement of 30 trash receptacles available for "adoption" by property owners.

Another City-wide litter index will be conducted in the fall.

A Priceless Gift from a Fading Generation

A Priceless Gift from a Fading Generation
They gathered for the gala opening of the Pennsylvania Music Academy in tuxedos and their fanciest dresses, but devoid of ostentation. Their average age approached
70. If there was a person of color in the crowd of over three hundred, he or she went unobserved.

This was Old Lancaster (in age and ethnicity) at its best, gathered together for a joyous evening of celebration of something that Lancaster throughout the ages has fooled itself about ... having world class achievements ... but this time knowing that for close to $30 million dollars it had at last made its mark.

Within seconds of famed violinist Arnold Steinhardt performing "Chaconne" by J. S. Bach, it was clear that what the wife and husband team of Frances Veri and Michael Jamanis had set out to do had been perfectly achieved: Acoustical quality that would seldom be equaled and perhaps never surpassed anyplace else in the world!

The sound was so audible, so pure that even an observer raised on classical music and surrounded by able violinists playing the finest of instruments was uncertain whether the music was amplified. It wasn't.

Following the Bach was the introduction of the stirring "Tunes from My Homeland" composed for the occasion by China native Che YI and performed ably by The Newstead Trio (Michael Jamanis the younger, violin; his wife Sara Male, Cello; and Xun Pan, piano.

Then Veri and Jamanis (Fran and Michael to the audience's delight) demonstrated that their piano talents had not waned by performing George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," recorded by them with success some three decades earlier.

Concluding the musical portion of this tasteful evening was Karl Jenkins "Paladio" and Samuel Barber's "Adagios for Strings" performed by the Academy's own string ensemble conducted by former student Brian DeMaris. The final work was Leonard Bernstein's "Make Our Garden Grow" with the Academy Choral and Children's Choir joining with the string ensemble.

"Welcoming" the audience and moderating the performances was famed actress and contemporary Clair Bloom. Adding a sense of nostalgia was Jamie Bernstein with numerous odes to her illustrious and much beloved father composer / conductor Leonard whose spirit she evoked in praising the Academy's purpose.

A last minute design change placed a glass dome over what was to have been a roof top garden. The wisdom of the decision – despite the high cost which was representative of every aspect of the facility - was apparent as the 300 plus enjoyed a late night dinner and a love fest of accolades bestowed by dignitaries, Fran and Mike, and bows taken by some who had made especially noteworthy contributions of talent and money to make the Academy possible.

And not the least of the accomplishments deserving of honor were those of Robert Brandt, Jr. and his Benchmark General Contractors, whose organization, suppliers and subcontractors flawlessly and with great patience and forbearance achieved virtual perfection.

What was celebrated last night was not so much the culmination of the seven year dream of Veri and Jamanis and members of the Board, remembered or still with us, but the cornerstone of a campus that, with continued support of government and individuals, can transfer Lancaster City from a exurbia / country town that had declined during the last quarter of the 20th century into one of the foremost music campuses and cultural centers in the country.

Unlike what will follow in another year with an opening of another extravaganza – one of questionable utility – there were no discordant murmurs here, no part of the community noticeable by its absence.

Wednesday, June 11, was indeed a night to remember: Perhaps a unique moment of true excellence in the history of our community. The Jamanises had a dream, and through work, money and talent our community made it possible.

Last night, we could all be proud to be from Lancaster.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lancaster City Likely to Start Angled Parking

Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray told City Council at Tuesday night's public meeting that angled parking along the 400 block of College Avenue is likely.

"We found that on one block of College Avenue, we got eight additional spaces," Mayor Gray said. The city had experimented with the parking earlier and used temporary tape to create the new spaces.

The city is likely to experiment with the angled parking in other areas. Gray mentioned South Ann Street as a possible location. He said that the angled parking gave "College Avenue a really nice look."

Will Wheels Come Off RRTA Buses?

State legislators, as part of the budget process, are looking to repeal Act 44. If they do, about one-half of Red Rose Transit Authority’s buses could stay parked.

Act 44 provides state funding to mass transit, but it also called for tolls on Interstate 80. That is why it could be repealed by the legislature.

"Anytime they start opening up the legislation it never returns the same way it started and that's what has me concerned," said David Kilmer, Executive Director of RRTA.

Kilmer expressed his concern that the state lawmakers will increase the financial responsibility of local governments from 15 to 18 percent.

That would be a half million dollar difference for Red Rose.

If Act 44 is repealed, it would significantly affect service.

"We'd go from operating roughly 32 buses in a peak to about half of that," Kilmer projected.

SDL's Iovino Given Key to City

Mayor Rick Gray presented Stephen Iovino, Acting Superintendent of the School District of Lancaster, with a key to the City at Tuesday's Council Meeting. Gray named the Lititz native an honorary citizen of the city during the presentation. Iovino will leave his position this summer when Pedro Rivera takes over.

The mayor, during his remarks, said the honor was warranted because of Iovino's work at the School District of Lancaster.

Convention Center Conducting Hard Hat Tours

Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray reported that hard hat tours are being conducted on-site at the Convention center.

"As the convention center/hotel project moves ahead, the Convention Center Authority, Interstate Hotels, the Visitors Bureau and others have been conducting hardhat tours of the site for prospective meeting planners," Mayor Gray told Lancaster City Council at their Tuesday evening public meeting.

"For the past two months, these tours have coincided with First Friday celebrations," the mayor said. "The response from planners has been very positive and we look forward to providing continued support for this exciting project."

Central Market Trust Provides Updated Report

Plans are underway to renovate and update Central Market, Lancaster City Council learned Tuesday night. Over $2 million has been raised toward the $7 million project. There was no timeline given as to when construction may begin. The project will include adding chillers to provide a cooler market for stand holders and shoppers.

The planned work also includes upgrades to the market's electrical and plumbing systems, updated restrooms, and improved security.

Lancaster City Council received the updated report from Valerie Moul, Chair of the Central Market Trust, during their public meeting Tuesday, June 10.

Moul said the Trust is just to 2 years old, and is still developing expertise to handle day-to-day management.

Moul remarked that the publicly-owned market will be promoting a "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" program, set to be launched July 11.

The Trust is still developing committees, protocol, and picking up day-to-day activities. "We still rely on the city for many daily (maintenance) things," she said.

Michael Ervin, Market Master, was also introduced to the council.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

County Commissioners Hosting First Crime Summit

The Lancaster County Commissioners will host the county's first three-day Crime Summit, to be held Wednesday, June 11, through Friday, June 13.

The summit will be held at the Lancaster County Public Safety Training Center, 101 Champ Boulevard, Manheim. The hours of the summit are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Patrick Meehan, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, is scheduled to open the summit Wednesday morning.

The Lancaster County Crime Summit is open to the public.

The Lancaster County Commissioners' weekly meeting has been moved to Center at 8:30 a.m. The Commissioners are using their public meeting to kick-off the Crime Summit.

Green Dragon Lands to Become Housing Development

Well-known Green Dragon, the Friday Farmers Market in Ephrata Township, may be about to get smaller.

The Lancaster County Planning Commission approved a subdivision of 20 acres from the exiting 77 acre plot. Those 20 acres will be divided into 65 single-family residential lots.

The matter now goes back to the Township for a final decision.

The proposed development received approval from the Lancaster County Planning Commission Monday. The land is on the south side of North State Street, north side of Mohler Church Road, adjacent to Misty Lane.

City to Flush Water Lines

Lancaster City has announced plans to flush the mains of the water system.

The Department of Public Works will start the flushing operations at 10:00 p.m., Sunday, June 29th. The flushing of the water system will continue daily between the hours of 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM until approximately August 23rd. The schedule allows for the cleaning of each main at least once during the designated flushing dates.

City officials said the flushing may cause customers to observe a slight cloudiness in the water and a reduction in water pressure, but this occurrence should be temporary.

Weather Doesn't Deter These Workers

Despite the oppressive heat, work crews were seen busily installing recycling receptacles in front of City Hall and just south of the Public Library on Tuesday morning.

Expanded Parking Approved for Amtrak Station

PennDot has approved $11.6 million in funding for revising and expanding parking availability at the Lancaster train station, it was announced Monday at the Lancaster County Planning Commission. About 120 parking spaces will be added to better serve passengers and Amtrak workers in nearby facilities.

According to Christopher Neumann of the Lancaster Planning Commission, Customer parking is moving to the west side of the station; employee parking is moving to the east (or current customer parking area). Bus loading and unloading will also be on the east side.

Bids will be prepared over the next two months. County officials hope groundbreaking will occur before the end of the year. The project is expected to last approximately 18 months, once construction starts.

Unfortunately, parking spaces at or near the Amtrak station will be in even shorter supply during much of the reconstruction period.

The county will provide $400,000 to the $12 million project.

Lancaster County residents are now using the Amtrak station at a record-setting pace. Commissioners were told daily usage now tops over 1,000 passengers a day.

NewsLanc has requested an electronic copy of the revised plans and will post it upon receipt. The earlier plan showed about 70 fewer proposed spaces but was radically revised after authorities were alerted to its shortcomings by reports from NewsLanc.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Retiree Suggests Different Rt 441 Alignment

Bernard Gordon, now 86 and retired in Florida, returned to Lancaster County and spoke at the Planning Commission meeting on Monday. The WWII Naval Aviator and founder of Gordon's Waste Company suggested a different way to realign Route 441 through Columbia.

"It will only cost a couple thousand dollars to try this," Gordon told the Commissioners. "If it doesn't work, then go ahead with your plan."

Gordon's plan is to use 2nd Street, allowing heavy truck traffic to avoid busy Columbia residential and business intersections.

Gordon suggested the only cost to taxpayers from his plan would be for road signs to redirect traffic.

Commissioners questioned how easy it would be to have Second Street designated a state route, but thought Gordon's suggestion had merit. The Commissioners promised to pass his suggestion onto traffic planners for further consideration.