Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lancaster ranks near bottom of comparable regions

In a valuable Jaff Hawkes column in the Intelligencer Journal of Sept. 19 camouflaged under the heading "When the best, brightest are young, restless" (a sign of Hawkes ’or his editor’s usual timidity), Hawkes reveals that Lancaster region’s ranking by The Milken Institute of Best Performing Cities has dropped from the pitiful 161st place in 2007 to the pathetic 175th place this year.

Hawkes also points out that a study shows that over the four year period from 2001 through 2005, the growth of the region's Gross Domestic Productivity (GDP) (the value of all goods and services produced) only increased by 8.6% compared to 18.2% for York and even 10.5% for Reading.

Hawkes fails to ask the big question: How can a county that is so well located geographically, so resource rich, the seat of a state university and a highly respected liberal arts college (despite the antics of its president) have fallen to such depth?

Let us consider: If a farmer fails when his / her surrounding neighbors prosper, who is to blame? If a hotel fails when those around it succeeds, who is to blame? If a surgeon experiences far more fatalities than his peers, who is to blame?

Lancaster fails because in recent years it has been foolishly and tragically lead by an ignorant, self indulgent, short sighted establishment, whose members usually support one another!

Lame brain actions over the past years have included: The Convention Center / Hotel complex; the sale of Conestoga View without sufficient public input; the madness of placing the ballot proposal for a county tax to fund the library system during an "off year", the only time it was likely to lose; the acquisition and renovation of an office building for county government that will likely cost than double its budget; the baseless proposal for a street car system; the medial strip taking up the turning and emergency passing lane in a segment of Harrisburg Pike; and just this past week the approval of purchasing of voting machines without a verifiable paper trail.

These are all manifestations of "Lancaster exceptionalism" (because we are from here we know best) and an aversion to facts (let’s not pay attention to what is happening elsewhere and what experts have to say.)

It is time for Lancasterians to come to understand that past successes have been to a large extent due to the blessings of our abundant natural resources and proximity to huge markets, and the prior diversity of corporate and institutional leaders who acted as a check on ignorance and avarice.

If we are not to sink still further economically, we must demand intelligence and conscientious research by our leaders. Further, we had better rely less on the home grown boys and girls many grew up with and begin listening more to those recently arrived and / or those whose education and experiences transcend our county’s boundaries.