Wednesday, October 29, 2008

LETTER: Gray distracting people re streetcar concerns

Lancaster mayor Rick Gray's statement regarding the proposed streetcar project is nothing more than an attempt to distract people from their legitimate concerns over its promotion.

The wording of this statement makes it quite clear that Mayor Gray is very much in favor of streetcars in downtown Lancaster. It was Mayor Gray who permitted the placement of a streetcar on Lancaster City property at a highly visible intersection; Gray's statement completely avoids addressing either the legality or the propriety of doing so.

Gray's statement that claims 'at each juncture, public input from City residents would be invited' does not ring true. Specifically:

Point 1: Any study which would analyze the economic impact, user benefits, and/or community benefits of a streetcar project would be performed by a paid professional organization, most likely one that has already performed similar studies in other cities. Although a few select individuals could be interviewed as a part of any such study, there would be no opportunity for unbiased public input as a part of the presentation of any final report.

Point 2: Any engineering study would most certainly be done by a professional engineering firm. Public input would not be a factor.

Point 3: A financing plan would be put together by the Lancaster Streetcar Company, and presented as a package to Lancaster City Council for approval. The promoters of the financing plan would have their supposed facts and figures to back their claims, while the general public would have little more to present than their opinions and personal experiences.

In an open discussion between slick professionals and concerned citizens, recent history has proven time and time again that City Council will give far more weight to the opinions of the professionals than to the opinions of the people it is supposed to represent. Besides, for the last three years Lancaster City Council has on every occasion given mayor Rick Gray practically everything he has asked for.

In addition to legitimate traffic and safety concerns, Lancaster City taxpayer dollars are also at risk. Any financing plan for this project is likely to include large amounts of corporate sponsorships and other donated funds. Who would be held responsible when insufficient revenue is available to keep the streetcars running? Would a future City Council allow the streetcars to stop running, or would yet another City guarantee and tax increase be used to subsidize the project's ongoing operations?

There appears to be little or nothing that the people of Lancaster City can do to stop the proposed streetcar project in its tracks. All the concerned citizens of Lancaster City can do is hope and pray that a new City Council or Mayor with a more realistic perspective about downtown Lancaster is elected before this project can proceed.