Saturday, November 29, 2008
Here we thought "Black Friday" referred to the dangers and frustrations of trying to wait on or be among hordes of shoppers.
(The commissioners indulge visitors including the publisher of this web site. And yes, they do take and respond to questions, unlike Mayor Rick Gray and Lancaster City Council. In fact, Chair Dennis Stuckey makes a point of thanking contributors for their remarks.)
Hauer talked about how County funding had remained static since the turn of the century and made a strong case for not reducing the SYSTEM'S request in next year's budget. She then went on to say that the full allocation of $2.3 million would allow "distribution of a total of $150,000 to the 16 municipal libraries that are part of the system."
Hey what? The only funds going to the actual libraries average less than $10,000 each? Don't the independent local libraries, not the SYSTEM, incur most of the expenses? Do we hear correctly?
Sadly we do. We have a bloated SYSTEM and starving libraries.
Hauer isn't totally to blame. She works for the SYSTEM and is taking care of her own. It is the very fragmentation of library services in the county that leads to mis-allocation of scarce resources and weak local leadership, especially with fundraising.
There is no strong and articulate voice for the hundreds of dedicated employees who faithfully serve our community at the local level and for the hundreds of thousands of visitors who use library services throughout the county.
$150,000 at most for 16 libraries that have to pay the salaries of their employees and purchase all of the materials while maintaining their facilities? But $2.3 million for the SYSTEM which is staffed to the hilt under Hauer's swaggering leadership?
Symptomatic of debilitated leadership was the downtown (Duke Street) trustees canceling the upgrade and renovation and rejecting a million dollars in grants after spending $600,000 without even trying to raise $1.3 despite having over $3 million in an endowment fund.
Lancastrians will not be properly served until consolidation takes place, or at least until the Commissioners arrange to have an independent analysis made concerning how county library funding should be more fairly allocated.
Friday, November 28, 2008
A nation in financial free-fall has forced many Americans to make some very heartbreaking decisions, including whether to give up the family dog. For these people, a job layoff or foreclosed home has meant moving across state lines, or into an apartment that does not accept pets, or with relatives who don't want or have the room or desire to accommodate a beloved furry relative.
When this happens, or when medical or veterinary bills override the ability to pay them, a painful choice confronts a family.
"We are definitely getting an increase in people having to surrender dogs because of the economy," says Kelly Hitz, Director of Public Relations of the Humane Society of Harrisburg. "For a lot of people, it is forcing tough decisions between food for animals, and food for children."
The economic crisis is too fresh to gauge precisely how it has economically affected the $30 billion annual pet buying, feeding, and caring industry, but an indication of how the recession is affecting the adoption of dogs in particular can be found by listening to the people who accept the surrendered and abandoned dogs on a daily basis.
"Yes, we have seen more surrenders," says Kerry Flanagan, Vice President of Humane League of Lancaster County. "We don't have an exact number [attributable to the downturn], but with people losing their homes and having to move into places that do not allow pets. Some people are not able to meet their own medical needs or the medical expenses of their pets."
Those expenses are not negligible. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has published estimates of the cost of adopting a dog in the first year between $1,300 to $1,800, depending on the size of the dog.
Lisa Conklin is the Director of Development for the Adams County, Pa, SPCA. "I did some calculations, and we are up 30% on dogs and 22% in cats compared to last year at this time," says Conklin. "We also have an increase in strays, although I don't have have precise numbers on them right now, but we're seeing more. We're finding more abandoned animals, some just dumped on the street."
"It really is the saddest thing," continues Conklin. i
Pet owners often aren't aware of what's available for pet support resources. "There are programs in place." says Hitz, of the Harrisburg Humane Society. "We have a pet food bank and low cost vaccines to ease the financial burden on pet owners. People just need to contact us."
Kerry Flanagan of the Lancaster Humane Society sells her product with the conviction of belief. "Our pets [are] wonderful!" Flanagan says. "They are vaccinated, spayed and neutered, micro-chipped, and given a leash. And they need homes."
Adams County's SPCA's, Lisa Conklin, is blunt about the problem of shelter overcrowding, especially during this economic downturn:
"Let's be real. Animal shelters are not primarily government funded. Adams County gives $11,000 to the SPCA. Another $16,000 comes from the municipalities. This is for a county of more than one hundred thousand people. People need to fund it and they have less money. It is slipping and slipping."
Conklin continues: "The bigger picture is we are farming a crop of animals – dogs -- that become unwanted throwaways. The farm breeding of animals is perpetuating this overflow at the shelters where the supply exceeds the demand. There is something wrong with this picture. You can find a pure bred at a shelter. The shelters are overflowing. We need to do better here as a society."
Rick Kastner, Executive Director of the Lancaster County Drug & Alcohol Commission, made his annual presentation. From that, our publisher learned during a public comment period that government funding for medicine ceases when someone enters prison. Not only does this seem undesirable from the point of view of inmate health, but it also prevents prisoners who are heroin drug addicts from entering into a Methadone or Buprenorphine / Suboxone regimen, either of which would go far towards making them self sufficient and deterring them from future crimes. Kastner indicated that 70% of prisoners had addiction problems.
Following Kastner, Susan Hauer, Executive Director of the Library System of Lancaster County, presented the Library System's Annual Request for County Funding. Two revelations from a discussion with Hauer following the meeting were:
(1) A past County referendum to establish a tax millage to support currently underfunded libraries was placed on an off-year spring primary due to well meaning but bad political advice from a powerful source. (Voters in off year primaries tend to be older and conservative and rarely support tax increases.) Nevertheless, the queston lost by only a small margin.
(2) Consolidating the Library System of Lancaster County, which provides special services, with the several independent libraries in the county, could not happen unless the boards of the independent libraries agreed. Consolidated systems have been successful in other counties.
Consolidation might be more efficient and perhaps enable the hiring of top notch professional staff at the System level to perform some functions now carried out by less qualified or overburdened staff at local libraries. The current fragmentation also makes it difficult to attract experienced and established community leaders as board members.
The last minute aborting of the renovation and upgrading of the Lancaster Public Library (Duke Street location) is an example of both problems.
Our publisher suggested to the reporter from the Lancaster Newspapers that LNP write about the issues of medicine for prisoners and library consolidation. The respectful response was that they had already done so.
NewsLanc will explore medicine for prisoners and consolidation of the libraries with experts and report further.
As currently proposed by F&M, the project would take a 100 year old railyard, in and surrrounded by an established industrial zone, and relocate it to a site bordered by residential neighborhoods. To now locate such a facility next to neighborhoods built in a residential, non-industrial area is just plain wrong and verges on illegal taking something of value.
At the June meeting, after viewing the noise isoplats (rings of equal noise levels at some defined level), the consultants were urged to produce isoplat maps charting the MAXIMUM impact (impulse) noise levels, to present a true representation of what neighbors could expect to encounter from rail yard activities such as coupling and uncoupling of rail cars. Such isoplats would present a better, more realistic idea of how much disturbance there would be a night! F&M / LGH have declined to pursue the matter.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
During a comment from a member of the public, City Council President Louise Williams warned, "There will be comments only. I don't want questions asked of council persons at this time or at any other time during comments, but you may make comments."
A couple of weeks ago, Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray told a NewsLanc reporter, "This is public comment, not questions and answers."
Contrast the heavyhanded city approach with the practice at weekly meetings of the Lancaster County Commissioners. At those meetings, the three commissioners and their staff make every effort to at least respond to reasonable questions from members of the public. If they do not know the answer, they direct the individual to someone who may, or make a note to answer the question by the next meeting.
City Council was elected by the public to serve the public. Its members should be eager to listen to and discuss the concerns of city residents and taxpayers. As Chair, Williams may cut off any member of the public if they stray from the topic at hand or cross the line as to what is appropriate.
But we find it unacceptable for Williams and Gray to tell the public not to ask questions of their elected officials during the designated time for public input into often far-reaching and quickly made governmental decisions.
Williams must stop acting like the key component of democratic government is but a nuisance.
Gray told City Council and guests that he did not intend on raising taxes, but that economic realities have forced his hand.
The tax hike "equates to a $35 increase for the average residential property for the year," said City Administrator Patrick Hopkins.
Hopkins added the city's expenses are only up 1.8% in 2009 as opposed to 2008, but that the city is taking a hit on the revenue side of the equation.
One of the key factors driving revenue loss is that the city is earning about $450,000 less interest on its money due to the turmoil in the national economy, he explained.
Hopkins also mentioned that economic development is slowing down, so the city is getting less revenue from building permits and also less property tax revenue due to a large number of assessment appeals.
A few key points from Gray's budget address:
"We have slowed the growth of government spending from a high of 12.6% in 2005 to 1.8% in 2009"
"We have reduced the size of city government. In 2006, the City General Fund budgeted for a workforce of 439 full time employees. In 2009, we have reduced our workforce to 411 employees. Staffing levels will continue to decline in 2009."
"For the first time, all City employees will make contributions to the cost of health insurance benefits. Department directors and non-union employees will increase their contribution to a range between 4% and 8% of the costs of the insurance provided."
The proposed 2009 budget will be available on the City of Lancaster's website starting Wednesday. It will be discussed in greater detail in a series of meetings over the coming weeks before a final vote occurs at City Council's regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, December 16.
"The South Lake Union Streetcar Thursday was involved in its fourth accident since it began operation in December when a car allegedly ran a stop sign and hit the trolley." No injuries were reported and minor damage was sustained to bumpers in each of the crashes. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/359606_streetcar18.html Dated April 17, 2008.
Computer skills are as fundamental as math and English for young people to move on to college or gainful employment.
In times past and in other districts, typing is an important part of the middle school curriculum. Students are required to master conventional typing skills.
A source in confidence has indicated to NewsLanc that District officials are aware of the serious problem and will seek to address it in future curriculum.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Smithgall responded "The street was vacated (and therefore closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic) by the City from Vine to Mifflin. What is being constructed is the support for the gate that will be installed...The gate will generally be closed, opening for deliveries to the LCCCA and Marriott Hotel only. Needless so say, this portion of the street/alley will be busy with trucks. From Mifflin to King, the street is still a public thoroughfare."
According to Paula Jackson, Chief Planner, City of Lancaster: "Ordinance No. 10-2003, [was] adopted by Council on 9/9/03. This ordinance vacates a portion of S. Christian Street between East Vine Street and East Mifflin Street."
A NewsLanc reader brought the passage to our attention with the observation that the number of booked events for the Convention Center is far less than 90.
Asked for clarification today, Josh Nowak, an employee of Interstate Hotels & Resorts, and Director of Marketing for the Lancaster County Convention Center noted that the article references a November 20 press release issued jointly by the LCCCA and Penn Square Partners.
What the release actually says is, "Interest in utilizing the complex is strong. More than 90 commitments have been made to date for conventions, meetings, and other functions at the facility, according to Josh Nowak..."
Nowak explained that the 90 commitments is for the complex as a whole, which includes the use of hotel space.
He went on to deny the suggestion that Interstate Hotels & Resorts tries to steer meeting planners towards the hotel, saying bookings are "customer-driven" and that some planners prefer hotel space because they want to avoid the rental fees associated with the Convention Center rooms.
On Monday, November 24, there will be poetry reading by Oni Buchanan at 8:00 p.m. at the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House on the campus of Franklin & Marshall College. "Experimental poet Oni Buchanan holds an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers Workshop and has published two volumes of poetry: What Animal, winner of the University of Georgia Press Contemporary Series Competition, and Spring, selected by Mark Doty as a winner of the 2007 National Poetry Series Open Competition. Her poems have been featured in several anthologies, including The Best American Poetry 2004, and in numerous journals, like Conduit, which maintains a Flash version of her kinetic poem, 'The Mandrake Verhicles,' on its website. This event is co-sponsored by the Dept. of English." This event is free and open to the public. The Philadelphia Alumni Writers House is located at 633 College Avenue.
From 12:00 noon to 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 26 and 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving, it's "Thanksgiving Day All You Can Play!" laser tag at Laserdome in Manheim. "For tons of fun visit the family entertainment center and play unlimited lasertag, arcades, virtual arena featuring HALO 3 and see spectacular laser concerts. Visit website for more details." Tickets are $20 per person. For an additional $5, you get unlimited soda, popcorn, and two slices of pizza. Laserdome is located at 2050 Auction Road in Manheim. Take the first Mount Joy exit (230) from 283 West.
If you want to go out for a Thanksgiving meal, let the Bird-In-Hand Family Restaurant Serve. "We will be serving from our Grand Smorgasbord 11 am - 5 pm. We will also have a Family Style Meal in our banquet area, with two seatings at 12 & 2 pm." The price is $21.95 for the Grand Smorgasbord or $26.95 for the Family-Style Meal. Visit the website for further information. The Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant is located at 2760 Old Philadelphia Pike.
Continuing this week at Sight & Sound Theatre in Strasburg, is The Miracle of Christmas. "Presenting the lives of Mary and Joseph focusing on their relationship, experience of angelic visits, the disgrace of a "questionable" pregnancy in their culture and the miracle of their son's birth. The show culminates in a joyful celebration as kings, angels and shepherds converge to welcome the infant King." Tickets start at $40 for adults and $16 for children. Prices and showtimes vary. Visit the website for details.
Also continuing this week is the play Deck the Halls and Clean the Kitchen at the Paradise Dinner Theatre in Paradise. "Bring loved ones together and enjoy this tale, reminding us that the true gift of the holiday season is not decorations or presents, but family. Ticket prices and times vary; see website for details." The Rainbow Dinner Theatre is located on Route 30 East.
This weekend is "Downtown Lancaster for the Holidays" in the city. "Experience the city with a variety of events, activities and shopping, including visits with Santa, horse drawn carriage rides, holiday movies and storytelling, plus stop at 200+ specialty shops, galleries, museums and restaurants. Fri. 5-8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sun. noon-4 p.m." For more information, visit http://www.downtownlancaster.com.
On Friday, Nov. 28, Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray will light the Christmas tree in Penn Square, to much fanfare and festivity between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. "Carolers and the infamous 'Tuba Christmas' lend to the festivities."
Friday, Nov. 28 is "Greek Day" at the Red Rose Restaurant in downtown Lancaster. "Greek Day... includes Greek specialties, including pastitsio, mousaka and spanakopita and desserts such as baklava and ravani. Specialty Greek drinks are included such as Socratini. Call 717-392-8620 for information." The Red Rose Restaurant is located at 101 East King St.
12:00 a.m. is "Midnight Madness" at Rockvale Outlets and Tanger Outlets on Route 30. Spend $250 from 12am to 6am on Black Friday at either outlet and get a free Christmas tree. Both outlets will also feature holiday-themed music and entertainment. Visit http://www.RockvaleOutletsLancaster.com and http://www.tangeroutlet.com for details, sales, and store directories.
The Planetarium at the North Museum of Natural History & Science has shows (astronomical and otherwise) on Friday, Saturday, & Sunday. Visit the website for tickets and details. The North Museum is located at 400 College Ave.
From 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Friday, visit with St. Nicholas at the Lancaster Quilt & Textile Museum at 37 Market Street.
On Saturday, Nov. 29, the shop Festoon is holding its Fifth Christmas Open House. "Please join us for this festive event loaded with lots of holiday spirit including give-aways, product demos, free drawings and great refreshments! Call 717-299-2232 for info." 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Festoon is located at 25 West King St.
All but one member of the Lancaster Public Library Board of Trustees declined to respond to an opportunity afforded them by NewsLanc to explain the indefinite delay and effective cancellation of the Duke Street Library's planned renovation and addition project. They were assured their responses would be published.
Each board member and Executive Director, Debra Rosser-Hogben received the same written questions and request for comments, and several days in which to answer them, which later was extended by a week. Only Karen Haley Field, who resigned as President after the board voted down her proposal to continue with the renovations, answered NewsLanc's questions.
At a tense and rancorous October 28th meeting and after spending $600,000 on the project, the board voted 6-2 not to accept a $500,000 state Keystone grant and matching $500,000 private funding offer, and to delay proceeding with any portion of the $2,300,000 update and renovation. NewsLanc publisher, Robert E. Field, was project manager for the renovation and addition.
RESPONSES OF KAREN HALEY FIELD, MEMBER, LANCASTER PUBLIC LIBRARY BOARD OF TRUSTEES
SUBMITTED: NOVEMBER 13, 2008
1) Early in 2008, did you vote to authorize the spending of approximately half a million dollars for plans and specs for the renovation and expansion of the Duke Street library? If not, why not?
"I voted in favor of spending for plans and specs last spring, because I fully expected that the Library would receive both the $2.5 to $3.5 million in RCAP funds and a $500,000 Keystone grant which had been applied for. Together, these provided a solid foundation on which to expand the Library's capital campaign beyond the few major prospects which had already expressed interest. The expected cost of the full project was $8 to $10 million. There was a vital need for renovations and an addition. In the unlikely case that the RCAP funding didn't come through, I still saw a need for plans and specs for the reasons noted in (2) below."
2) Upon learning from Mayor Gray at a board meeting that none of the $3.5 million in RCAP money that had been budgeted for the library would be forthcoming, did you approve of spending approximately $150,000 to complete $400,000 of architectural plans and specs for the renovation and expansion? If not, why not?
"I voted to complete the plans and specs for the renovation and expansion even though the RCAP didn't come through, for four reasons:
A) I was of the view that the Library desperately needed upgrading, and that the project would be accomplished within a few years. That said, we would need plans and specs sooner or later.
B) The Keystone Grant required bid specs to be filed by August 28, 2008. While losing the RCAP, the Board hoped to retain the Keystone by requesting an extension of the contract or permission to phase the project, with the Keystone applied to first phase renovations. If the bid specs were not completed on time, we would have forfeited any hope of getting the Keystone.
C) Our architects were already far along in the process of preparing bid specs for the Keystone Grant, and it would have been more disruptive and expensive to break up that team and resume at some unknown date with others than to have the existing team familiar with the Library complete the bid specs.
D) The Library's professional fund raisers had been adamant that advanced sketches and naming opportunities were necessary even in the early silent stages of a capital campaign."
3) At that same board meeting did you favor efforts to find a way to retain the $500,000 State Keystone Grant? If not, why not?
"I favored efforts to find a way to retain the $500,000 Keystone for these reasons:
A) It was a significant amount of money and there was no assurance that we could obtain such a grant in the future. They are awarded on a competitive basis.
B) The timeline for obtaining a Keystone and starting a project is lengthy. If we gave up the current grant and applied again in June 2009, the earliest we could commence construction would be after contract were signed in the summer of 2010.
C) The current Keystone would have reimbursed the bulk of architect fees of some $400,000 incurred this year.
D) The Keystone was a basic building block of funding. If we let it and the project go, we would also be giving up a private match. We would also be foregoing the likely contributions of other major donors who had agreed to support the larger renovation and addition project.
E) There would be no project now, renovations or otherwise, without the Keystone. The existing building is worn and weary, and in great need of upgraded electrical and mechanical systems, plumbing, lighting, an exterior entry ramp on Duke St., sprinkler systems and more efficient layout. The sooner these things got done, the better.
First, the proposed renovations would not increase operating costs. In fact, the plans included upgraded and more efficient electrical and mechanical systems and more efficient lighting as well as space reconfiguration to improve operating efficiency, security and accessibility. These might have even resulted in some cost savings.
Also, while I agree with the Board that the Library also needs to increase the visibility of the Library in the community, strengthen development and add to the Endowment fund, I feel that these could be undertaken while the Building project proceeded. The Board seemed of the opinion that they were mutually exclusive. In fact, the renovation would be a visible sign that the Library was taking decisive action to upgrade a long neglected facility and improve service standards for the community; this would earn the support of many donors who are reluctant to pour money into 'more or the same.' Also, these new donors would be likely to continue to support the Library with contributions to the Annual Campaign.
F) I had some concern that foregoing the Keystone at this late date after two years of delays including a previous change in scope would not sit well with the State and would disincline them to award us a grant in the future."
4) The renovation and expansion had been priced out over a six week period by Penncrest Construction Corporation through various contractors and suppliers. The cost of the renovation portion had been extracted from the various 'bids.' Did you doubt the accuracy of the Penncrest cost estimate? If so, what was the basis for your concern?
"I was comfortable with the estimate."
5) The state agreed that the $500,000 Keystone Grant could be utilized for the remodeling of the existing library as a stand alone project. There was a private $500,000 matching grant. $1.3 million would have been needed to complete the remodeling, $200,000 less if replacement of furnishings and fixtures were scaled back. There is more than $3 million in the endowment fund. Did you vote for or against proceeding with the remodeling of the existing facility? What were your reasons for the vote?
"I voted for the renovations. My reasons are expressed above. In addition, I was confident that private funds could be raised to pay for what was now a $2.3 million project. With the Keystone and match, we already had $1 million in hand. I was comfortable borrowing from the Endowment as needed to fund construction while funds were being raised and pledges being paid in over 3 to 5 years."
6) Do you believe that it will be possible to raise $8 million within the next three years to fund both renovation and expansion?
"I do not believe that the Library can raise $8 million in private funds within 3years. Private giving has been cut back due to the financial crisis, which I believe will continue to impact the economy for months if not years. The City, County and Municipalities we serve were themselves fiscally challenged even before the current economic crisis. The State has been our only hope for public funding, but that is in doubt now as the Rendell administration is being forced to cut back as well."
7) Have you held a leadership position in fund raising efforts? Please describe effort and your role.
"I have not had a direct leadership role in fundraising efforts, but as President of the Board, did bring a Development Professional onto the Board and started a Development Committee. I have met with several individuals in the community over the past several months to access support for the project. The Board also hired a Deputy Director mid-year to free up the Library Director so that she could spend time on fund raising."
8) What is your occupation?
"Not currently employed. [Mother of two youngsters.] Harvard MBA and Chartered Accountant formerly employed in the International planning department of a Fortune 100 company in NYC for 8 years and as VP acquisitions for an Irish holding company in NYC for 2 years. Served on YWCA Board for 7 years and have been on Project Forward Leap Board for several years."
Sunday, November 23, 2008
By Robert Edwin Field
It was June, 1972, and a large part of the greater Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania valley had been flooded by the overflow of the Susquehanna River as a result of a Hurricane Agnes. The two story Gateway Apartments in nearby Edwardsville had been immersed to attic level and all of the 264 units were covered with inches of river mud. Furnishing, along with the interior of the apartments, had been soaked, contaminated and destroyed.
Three days after the water subsided and while downtown was still cordoned off by the National Guard, two men, one in his sixties and the other in his thirties, entered the First National Bank of North East Pennsylvania in disregard to the 'closed' sign on the door. There they found, pushing a broom, Tom Kiley, in his late sixties, the President and CEO of the bank.
Kiley was wearing work clothes and helping employees to restore bank operations. This main branch had also been flooded. His bank held the mortgage on a portion of the apartment complex.
"Hi Henry. Hi Robert. How are things over at Gateway? What are you fellows doing?" came the upbeat voice from Kiley as he led them into his office. They explained that eighty persons were at work cleaning out the apartments, safeguarding tenant valuables, and preventing the property from rotting due to the high summer temperatures
"That’s the way to go! … Say, you fellows will need money to cover payroll. Will fifty-thousand get you going? I can fill out a note right now and we’ll deposit the funds to your account. Let us know as you need more."
This from banker who had most of his bank branches under water! He didn’t bemoan the situation. He wasn’t paralyzed by fear. And he didn’t hesitate.
Kiley had lived through an earlier flood and the Great Depression. He understood that emergencies called for interim actions, even before permanent solutions could be envisioned. He had confidence that over time he could successfully deal with the major problems.
Kiley's courageous leadership in the face of his bank’s own dire situation not only helped save the bank’s clients but further served the community by setting an example for others.
However, the 'boy wonder' president of the rival local bank across the street either vacillated in extending help or was unable to bring along his board of directors, to his and his bank’s shame.
The bankers were both good men. But at that time, only one had the experience, the judgment, the courage and the confidence of his board. Unlike Tom Kiley, the younger banker was navigating uncharted and scary waters. But the younger man learned from experience and, over time, he too became an important and worthy community leader.
In the same issue, the editorial headlines "An early voting analysis shows that the home-rule charter was torpedoed by the leadership of both Republicans (anti) and Democrats (neutral)." It goes on to rant "We said after the election that we were disappointed in the GOP's opposition to home rule, which tended toward scare tactics rather than substantive issues, and with Democrats' failure to work for an opportunity to improve the structure and function of Lancaster County government." See, those of us who opposed Home Rule on the basis of its terms are "stoopid"!
We at NewsLanc are having trouble getting over six members of the Board of Trustees of the Lancaster Public Library spending $600,000 on plans and studies and turning down a million dollars in state and matching grants rather than proceed with the renovation of the building for fear of not being able to raise $1.3 more, despite a feasibility study indicating $2.5 in support and without even soliciting grants for the project. We think those six members were "stoopid" also.
I guess we all need to lick our wounds and make a point to get used to it, and just move on with our important work. Otherwise, we will be "stoopid."
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I beg to differ with some of the conclusions of this article:
"His service to his constituents will ultimately be determined by whether the convention center and the hotel succeed or fail. Thanks in large part to Armstrong's extraordinary efforts and great influence for this mammoth public investment, the very future of the city is at stake."
There can be no doubt that the future of Lancaster City is indeed at stake because of the "mammoth public investment" in the hotel and convention center project. And it is certain that the project would not exist without Sen. Gib Armstrong's "extraordinary efforts": the project itself, as well as most of its financing, would have been illegal without the many changes Sen. Gib Armstrong shepherded into State law.
But will Lancaster City be better off with the hotel and convention center project than it would have been otherwise?
- Nearly one-half city block of the most prime real estate in all of Lancaster County will pay no real estate taxes at all for at least 20 years; the vast majority of this land will never produce tax revenue again. This
means that taxpayers in Lancaster City and the School District of Lancaster are already paying higher taxes than if appropriate government subsidies had resulted in substantial private investment in this block. And there isn't enough underdeveloped space in downtown Lancaster to allow for the creation of enough economic development to produce enough new real estate tax revenue to make up the difference.
- Resources have already been diverted from other areas of Lancaster City to support the hotel and convention center project. Well over two million dollars from the water plant construction bond sale is being used for "streetscape improvements" which are designed to make the stark industrial design of the convention center and massive hotel tower look like they somehow fit into the rest of downtown Lancaster. These "streetscape improvements" include "bulb-outs" and other "traffic calming" measures which are supposed to make streets safer for pedestrians, while slowing already congested traffic and ultimately discouraging people from driving into downtown Lancaster. Police patrols have already been diverted from other parts of Lancaster City to the area around the convention center, in an attempt to "clean up" the neighborhood. And the ultimate cost to taxpayers in unreimbursed municipal services for an operating government-owned convention center is yet to be determined.
It really doesn't matter how "successful" promoters of the hotel and convention center project say it is. Far fewer taxpayer dollars could have resulted in far greater results, had this money been spent in a way that encouraged private investment. Instead, we will be forever stuck with a project that supporters claim will create 150 to 250 jobs, at a direct cost to taxpayers of over one-half million to nealy a million dollars EACH - plus an ongoing taxpayer subsidy of well over a million dollars every year.
Thanks to Sen. Gib Armstrong, Lancaster City will never be the great place to live, work, and visit that it might have been.
Friday, November 21, 2008
According to Armstrong, "I was not going to run again but then the convention center kind of fell apart, imploded, and I said, 'Well, I'll stick around for one more term to see if I can resurrect it.' And it was successful," Armstrong said. "That's the one thing that I felt was worth sticking around for."
His service to his constituents will ultimately be determined by whether the convention center and the hotel succeed or fail. Thanks in large part to Armstrong's extraordinary efforts and great influence for this mammoth public investment, the very future of the city is at stake.
The dealers speak out of misplaced loyalty and fear of the unknown. They have long been the victims of manufacturer ineptitude in managing the auto business and predatory practices towards dealers. Shoveling $25 billion of tax payer money into what has proven to be a bottomless hole will simply make the dealerships' prospects all the more precarious.
On the other hand, the moment that the auto manufacturers file for Chapter 11 treatment under the bankruptcy laws, manufacturers will become fully credit worthy since new debt has priority over old. Also, this is the best way to bring all the stake holders to the table under bankruptcy court supervision to fairly share the pain; enable the manufacturers to shed a substantial portion of their heavy debt, health care, and pension obligations; to bring in better management; and to forge ahead with modernization.
The U. S. taxpayers have already granted General Motors, Ford and Chrysler a $25 billion subsidy to modernize their models. If more money is to be provided, it should only be when a far sighted and viable restructuring plan is in place.
Chapter Eleven will not lay off a single worker, will not stop production of a single car, and, although dealers may suffer tens of thousands of dollars in immediate losses from funds owed them, the manufacturer's 'crunch down' will greatly enhance their future prospects and the value of the dealerships.
Editor's note: A NewsLanc affiliate built, owned and operated four auto dealership over a period of several years.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Projections regarding the Marriott Hotel were not reported to the authority, which oversees the publicly-owned convention center.
The authority was expecting operational losses for the first year, but the figure exceeds their previous projections, according to Laura Douglas, chair of the Finance Committee.
Douglas said that the expectation was that there would be an operational loss of around $607,000 for that first fiscal year.
It was also announced Thursday that three new bookings occurred since the October update. One is a trade show for 2009, one is trade show for 2010, and one is a consumer show for 2010. Board member Kevin Fry, who chairs the Public Relations, Marketing, & Hospitality Committee said that the booking pace for trade shows has fallen short of expectations.
Construction on the Convention Center & Hotel are expected to be "substantially complete" by late March 2009, with a projected opening on April 21.
According to a report in the Nov. 20 Intelligencer Journal, "While Warden Vincent Guarini said the death was 'definitely' a suicide, Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni said he would not rule on the manner of death until after an autopsy today."
Rumors have reached NewsLanc that the inmate had been severely beaten by guards in recent days. NewsLanc is investigating.
On Thursday, Nov 13, NewsLanc broke the story of a law suit against the County maintaining the prison guards are treating prisoners with extreme cruelty. "According to the complaint, the prison, under Mr. Guarini, 'has implemented policies and acquiesced to a culture of violence in its prison that led to the brutal beating of Plaintiff.'"
NewsLanc continued "The case is reminiscent of a 2006 case of Jon Eichelman, a painter who suffered a lacerated liver, broken ribs, and a fractured eye socket while incarcerated at the prison. In that case, the guards were alleged to have allowed other inmates to beat Eichelman. The County made a half million dollar settlement with Mr. Eichelman."
Earlier this week, the New Era launched a series dealing with treatment of local prisoners. NewsLanc welcomes their investigation.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Following brief remarks, he took questions from about ten members of the distinguished service organization.
Rivera compared SDL's mission to Rotary's, saying that both are service organizations. Whereas Rotary is a community service organization, SDL also strives to be a service organization most immediately for students but ultimately also for the broader community.
"There's a difference between getting it and getting it done," Rivera said, explaining that urban school districts face unique challenges.
It's not just about teaching, he said. "In an urban setting, you have to ensure that kids are learning."
He noted that the district serves over 900 homeless families and many Spanish-speaking ones.
Rivera said that the planned renovations to Washington Elementary will include a a clinic, to be run in partnership with Lancaster General Hospital. He noted that it's difficult for kids to focus on learning unless their physical needs are addressed first.
Daycare from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. is another service that will be available, Rivera said, and the auditorium and athletic fields will also be available for public use.
Asked about the school's dropout rate, Rivera said that there is still work to be done and he hopes to make the process easier for students who have dropped out to come back to school.
Asked about the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, Rivera responded that the intention of the law is noble, but that certain aspects of it present challenges. For example, he said, whether you make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is dictated solely based on whether you meet established benchmarks, but "larger urban schools are inherently going to have a larger number of benchmarks to meet and subgroups to serve." Thus, it's more difficult for urban schools to meet AYP.
He went on to note that even children with physical and mental challenges are expected to test at their grade level under the NCLB standards.
Asked how he feels about merit pay for teachers, Rivera said that he is supportive of the concept and has been been involved in attempts to implement it in the School District of Philadelphia.
But he said that the single biggest obstacle to implementing merit pay for teachers has been organized labor. Teachers unions generally insist on compensation on the basis of seniority, not performance, he said.
He added that the process to fire teachers for poor performance has become a very difficult, long and involved under union collective bargaining agreements.
Pedro Rivera was hired as superintendent of the School District of Lancaster in April 2008. Born and raised in north Philadelphia, he worked in various capacities prior to becoming superintendent, including assistant principal, principal, and administrator within the School District of Philadelphia.
Despite increasing costs, decreasing revenues, and heavy debt service obligations, the county has managed to craft a budget that does not increase any county taxes.
They have done this with across-the-board spending cuts. Each department cut at least 3% out of its budget, and measures were also implemented to control personnel costs, such as a freeze on new hires, no automatic pay raises, and no parking reimbursement for employees hired after January 1, 2009.
County Administrator Charles Douts called it a budget that "reflects the directives [and the philosophy] of the Commissioners" insofar as it contains no tax increases and attempts to limit the growth of government.
"Lancaster has been able to deal with the global economic crisis better than some other places," he optimistically noted.
Commissioner Craig Lehman stressed that municipalities make a mistake when they raise taxes in difficult economic times and said that the budget is the best the County could do under the circumstances without engaging in much more dramatic measures, like layoffs.
He went on to say that the 2009 budget is only the first step in the multi-year fiscal planning he insists the county needs.
Much has been said about the county's need for additional prison space and a county morgue and forensic center, and Commissioner Chairman Dennis Stuckey has been quoted as saying that both projects "must move forward," but the Commissioners offered no concrete time frame for either.
Martin explained that with regard to the prison, the board is conducting a study and investigating alternatives to building a new prison, including partnering with other counties to consider a female-only facility.
On the morgue issue, Stuckey and Martin said that they are involved in talks regarding a certain piece of property, but would not identify where it is, saying it would be inappropriate to reveal that while real estate talks are in progress.
The county budget includes funding for studying and planning for both facilities, but the cost of either has not yet been specifically budgeted for.
The budget will be available for public inspection on the county's website at http://www.co.lancaster.pa.us. A summary of each department's budget will also be posted within a week, Douts said.
A public presentation of the budget will occur in the courthouse on December 2 before final adoption of the budget at the Commissioners' December 17 meeting.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
He told NewsLanc that each candidate is well-qualified and that the district is in the process of determining which is the best personal fit for the job.
But Rivera also wouldn't rule out the possibility of a new search if it was found that none of the three is right for the job
He would not speculate on a time frame, saying "it depends" how the remaining interviews go.
Assistant Superintendent Drew Miles has been supervising the district's athletic programs since the resignation of Allen McCloud in August.
The poor performance of McCaskey's athletic teams has apparently even become a running joke. During his report to the school board, Student Representative Eric Freeman drew laughter from the audience when he said, "the band is excited that the football season is finally over. They have free Fridays and no disappointments."
On a positive note, Rivera also reported that McCaskey's field hockey team won the 2008 "All-Academic Team Award" for its members having the highest average GPA in the Lancaster-Lebanon league.
In other business on Tuesday, the board approved the addition of eleven high school course offerings, including Principles of the Biomedical Sciences, Honors Chinese II, Parenting Life Skills (course title to be changed), Effective Parenting, IB Physics HL Y2, IB Design Technology SL, Computer Applications 4: Senior Seminar/Web Design, IB Business and management, IB Math Studies, IB World Religions, and IB Economics.
A twelfth course, "Global Citizenship" was tabled at the education committee meeting because the course description was overbroad and needed clarification.
It was reported that Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses will now be available to high school students in all Small Learning Communities (SLCs).
It was also announced Tuesday that four district schools have earned Keystone Achievement Awards for meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards for two consecutive years. The schools are: Carter & MacRae, Burrowes, Lafayette, and Martin.
During public comment, one gentleman suggested it was a conflict of interest for the school board to hold accounts with Commerce Bank given that School Board President Patrick Snyder is an employee.
Defending Snyder, Board member Michael Rowen noted that Snyder is always careful to recuse himself when issues involving Commerce Bank arise, and noted that the Commerce Bank accounts are serving the district well.
Another speaker during public comment expressed frustration that a vacant teaching position has not been filled all year, and that a substitute teacher has been used during that time. Rivera and Snyder said they could not fully comment because it is a personnel issue but offered to speak with her regarding her concerns.
At last month's meeting, President Karen Haley Field proposed the library move ahead with the renovation of the existing building rather than delay both renovation and expansion to the indefinite future. The motion was rejected by a vote of 6 - 2. Field stepped down as president while remaining treasurer.
(Not proceeding with the $2.3 project meant forfeiting a million dollars in State and a matching grant after having invested about $600,000 in plans and studies.)
The November meeting was chaired by board Vice President Gary Weaver.
Debra Rosser-Hogben gave the Executive Director's report, and indicated the board would be reviewing its "strategic planning" at the first of the new year.
It was announced that the annual book sale that is held at Overlook Park would be moving to the city. This is in conjunction with the Mayor's Office of Special Events (M.O.O.S.E). The event will likely be held in or near the City, possibly at F & M's Alumni Center on June 8,9,10 of next year.
Director of Development Paul Landry reported the Library has received almost all of the library's normal financial donations, and noted the board was only $23,000 from last year's total with December being the highest yield for donations.
A motion was made to accept the new slate of nominated officers. They are: John McGrann, President; Gary Weaver, Vice President; and Karen Haley Field, Treasurer. This motion was approved by the board by unanimous vote.
McGrann announced that the board was looking at bringing on "two or three" Hispanic board members and was in the process of finalizing the names. Four or five are under consideration.
As for the now moribund renovation/addition project, Weaver said, "We need to establish a new timeline. It does sound like it will be at least a year." The board adjourned for executive session.
A $5 million gap exists between what the departments are requesting and the county's ability to pay, according to County Administrator Charles Douts.
The commissioners have repeatedly pledged that they will not raise county taxes.
Instead, Douts and the commissioners indicated that the gap will be filled largely with a freeze on hiring (any new position must be justified to the commissioners), ceasing to pay parking costs for employees hired after January 1, 2009, no automatic annual raise for all county employees but a merit-based 2.75% increase, and each department has been asked to cut 3% out of its budget.
On Tuesday, the Commissioners rejected a number of requests from various departments for new positions.
As of 1 p.m., they were still reviewing the proposed budget piece by piece, asking administrative employees for priorities and justifications.
The budget will be placed before the public for review starting Wednesday, Nov. 19 and a public presentation of the budget will occur on December 2.
Not included in the proposed budget so far is any action regarding the need for more prison space or a new county morgue and forensic center, even though Commissioner Chairman Dennis Stuckey has been quoted as saying that both "must move forward."
Also Wednesday, the commissioners are expected to approve $176,885.02 in change orders concerning renovations to the County's 150 N. Queen St. administrative building.
$125,528.92 of that figure is not within placeholders previously presented to the public, according to Assistant County Engineer Barry Garman. That amount is a "prevailing wage adjustment" for asbestos abatement at the site.
The original contract was for consulting work only, but the county discovered that more asbestos was present in the building than previously anticipated and it had to be abated, explained County Solicitor Don Lefever.
The total project cost is just upward of $48 million and the renovations are on target for completion by July 2009.
In all three cases, readers tipped us off to stories that they felt were unlikely to be carried in the local press.
Such reader participation is essential for NewsLanc to be a valuable alternate source of news and commentary. The more people contribute in the way of leads and letters, the better we can serve the community.
The article continues "While the county has substantial debt, [Commissioner Dennis] Stuckey said, projects such as building a new forensics center and a new prison must move forward."
The commissioners are right in avoiding higher taxes and moving forward with projects that will provide jobs at a time when unemployment is rapidly increasing.
As Keynesian Economics teaches us, this is the time for deficit spending. Nothing is more wasteful than people and machinery standing idle for long periods of time. And every dollar of new spending, through the 'multiplier effect', generates about three dollars for the economy.
What is profligate is spending unnecessarily during times of minimal unemployment (4% or less), when government capital expenditures displaces private expenditures and thus adds to inflation.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Interesting that I must have 'missed this' in LNP's investigative reporting.
Were any of you folks aware of this???????????
Keep up the GREAT work!!
On Tuesday, November 18th from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., the Lancaster Young Professionals will be holding a "Non-Profit Networking Mixer" at the Plain & Fancy Farm Restaurant, 3121 Old Philadelphia Pike. "Join Lancaster Young Professionals as we learn about over 15 of the area’s non-profit groups, their missions and volunteer needs. Also, with the holiday season just around the corner, please help us by bringing a new and unwrapped toy to this event to be donated to the Marine Corp Reserve Toys for Tots and the Boys and Girls Club." Admission is free.
Also Tuesday, Nov. 18th, "Teens who want to be a rock star should check out the Lancaster Public Library’s “Teen Video Night” in the Teen Hub. Try “Rock Band” on X-Box 360 in the Bates Auditorium. The library supplies the guitar, bass, microphone and drums; you supply the enthusiasm. 6 p.m. 125 N. Duke St. 717-396-9313."
On Wednesday, Nov. 19, "Bonjour. A French Conversation Group, a new group has formed in the city, meets the first and third Wednesdays of the month. French only is spoken. Oui, francais. The next meeting is at Chestnut Hill Café from 6:30 to 8 p.m.. For details, e-mail here."
On Thursday, Nov. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., the Demuth Museum will be holding the "11th Demuth Auction for Artists and Collectors." "Auction will feature over 60 works, including David Brumbachs, Luigi Rists, and all of Lancaster’s local and regional favorites, to benefit the Demuth Museum." The Demuth Museum is located at 323 N. Duke St. Admission is $15.
November 21 is a"Music Friday" in downtown Lancaster. "Music Fridays are each third Friday of the month in the 200 & 300 Blocks of North Queen Street. Performances will abound on sidewalks and inside stores." Performances from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Also Friday night, at Ten Thousand Villages Home Decor in Ephrata, they will be having "African Dance and Drumming" from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m." "Providing visual and aural counterpoint to our Africa night in the Cafe, Cocalikuimba will present a program of West African drumming and dance at 7 and 8 p.m. in the store. This year, Cocalikuimba is enjoying additional direction by dancer in residence Janet Peck. Janet is a West African dancer, teacher and choreographer." There is no charge for admission.
Starting Friday, Nov. 21 at Sight & Sound Theatre in Strasburg, it's The Miracle of Christmas. "Presenting the lives of Mary and Joseph focusing on their relationship, experience of angelic visits, the disgrace of a "questionable" pregnancy in their culture and the miracle of their son's birth. The show culminates in a joyful celebration as kings, angels and shepherds converge to welcome the infant King." Tickets start at $40 for adults and $16 for children. Prices and showtimes vary. Visit the website for details.
This weekend, children can have Breakfast with Santa & Mrs. Claus at Hershey's Chocolate World. Tickets are about $20. Visit the website for times and additional information.
On Saturday, Nov. 22, Hole in the Wall Puppet Theatre presents Cinderella. "Enjoy the kid-friendly reproduction of the classic fairytale, Cinderella, all in puppet form and as a special holiday presentation! Performances at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m." Admission is $9.
Saturday, Nov. 22 is the Lancaster "Gifts That Give" Alternative Gift Fair at the Farm & Home Center. "'Gifts that Give' offers holiday shoppers an alternative to traditional gift giving for the holiday season. Over 30 local and non-profit organizations will be participating along with local food vendors, musicians and kid's activities. Bring the family and do your Christmas shopping at the Alternative Gift Fair!" 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is free. The Farm & Home Center is located at 1383 Arcadia Road. Admission is free.
On Saturday (Nov. 22) at 6:00 p.m., see the "Lancaster's Women's Roller Derby team, the Dutchland Rollers, as they host the Wilmington City Ruff Rollers for thier final bout of the 2008 Season. Portion of the proceeds benefit the American Spinal Injury Association." Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Children under 10 attend free. Location is the Overlook Activities Center at 2040 Lititz Pike. Visit http://www.dutchlandrollers.com for further info.
The classic rock group The Eagles will be performing at the Giant Center in Hershey on Sunday, November 23 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets start at $60. Visit http://www.hersheypa.com/events/giant_center for tickets and further info.
"That information should have been included at the end of the article. It was an oversight on our part not to remember that connection between Mr. Bailey and F&M. I don't know if Mr. Bailey is still involved with the Floyd Institute, but either way, it should have been noted."
That the Sunday News was unaware or had forgotten the connection is understandable, but certainly Bailey knew and, as an academic, certainly should have recognized it was his obligation to make full disclosure in his op-ed.
Again, shame on Bailey and shame on John Fry if he put Bailey up to writing the misleading 'straw man' op-ed that failed to deal with the real issue of the suitability of the alternative location for the rail yard.
If so, shame on Ronald Bailey! Shame on F&M! This would be just another indication of the deceitfulness and bullying that John Fry has brought to a college that was the pride of our community.
"The Sunday News ran an opinion piece written by Ronald Bailey insupport of the F&M, LGH, and Norfolk-Southernplan to build a railroad switching yard in Manheim Township. After reading Newslanc's watchdog item regarding the article, noting your comment that you wondered for whom he was speaking, and being suspicious by nature, I did a simple Google search using 'Ronald Bailey John Fry' as search words.
"On May 31, 2006 F&M issued a press release announcing the addition of Ronald Bailey as a Senior Research Fellow in F&M's Floyd Institute. The search also yielded the fact that Ronald Bailey served with John Fry on the LancasterProspers Planning Commission.
"Funny that with Mr. Bailey's unqualified, full-throated support of the railyard relocation, the newspaper did not see fit to include those two items in their list of Mr. Bailey's positions and associations. I wonder why."
Sunday, November 16, 2008
It isn't enough that taxpayers already have had to fund or guarantee about $170 million of the Convention Center / Hotel Project?
The credibility of this statement rests on "I've been through four of them…" There are some things that people must experience before they can be fully grasped. Thus Larry Wisdom, although only speaking of the distressed housing industry, states a truth that applies to our economy as a whole.
There lays the divide between six pessimistic members of the Lancaster Public Library and its then president, Karen Haley Field, and its project manager, Robert Edwin Field, both experienced and accomplished business persons. The six board members cast to the winds over a million and a half dollars out of unsubstantiated fear that a fund raising campaign to just renovate the Duke Street library could not raise $1.3 million.
They decided without even conferring with a single major donor or reaching out to obvious sources of help such as Lancaster General Hospital, even though they had spent tens of thousands for a credible feasibility study that indicated $2.5 million was available for the project!
Extraordinary successes such as Warren Buffet as well as local successes as the above cited Larry Wisdom and Robert Field know how to restrain themselves during periods of economic exuberance and then maximize resources during frantic downturns. They understand that economies have always and will always move through self correcting cycles. They pride themselves on successful leadership. And their companies thrive.
Books about history and economic theory cannot altogether take the place of life experiences and the tempering of time. Before history was reduced to writing, old people were valued as a repository of wisdom, because they could put current events into the perspective of the experience of their and their parent’s generations.
NewsLanc will run a series concerning successful leaders, some on the world scene, others who helped saved their communities, and a few whose successes were hardly noted. It will be entitled "The Old Pros." Hopefully, the series will bring courage to others.
Friday, November 14, 2008
But even with all that being said, it's inappropriate and poor public relations for F&M to refuse to answer certain questions. Why? Why not answer people's concerns? Why huddle with your lawyer and decide that you're not required to answer certain questions?
Until the coming of college president John Fry, F&M was widely perceived as bastion of academic integrity and public service. How quickly Fry has trashed his reputations and compromised the college's through his bullying and obfuscations.
If the public is not permitted to question officials, then how are they to be held accountable?
Another obstacle is scheduling the comment period at the outset of the agenda and refusing further public participation.
When Art Morris took over the Convention Center Authority, he further allowed public commentary after issues had been moved and board members had concluded their discussions but before voting. The County Commissioners do the same.
Time limitations on public comments are justifiable. If officials have questions, the discussion can continue.
Often the comments and questions from the audience are highly constructive. An example was how an observer's comments about the folly of purchasing additional electronic voting machines with verifiable paper trails lead to a reversal of the county commissioners' decision at a subsequent meeting.
If we gag those with expertise on specific issues, how can we expect optimal decisions from our elected officials and their apointees?
Representatives of Franklin & Marshall College (F&M) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) responded to questions from the community about F&M and Lancaster General's cleanup plan for the former Lancaster Brickyard dump site in a three-hour forum, Thursday night.
But PA DEP representative Kathleen Horvath admitted that the department on October 3 already gave approval for the plan to go forward. She stated in response to questioning that Thursday's public comments would be considered and included in the agency's final report.
That was the crucial issue for TRRAAC attorney Bill Cluck, who said Thursday night that his appeal will go forward on the grounds that public comment was not solicited and considered before the partners submitted the remediation plan and before DEP gave its approval.
Horvath said that the department will defend its decision in the TRRAAC appeal.
Cluck also continues to believe that the partners have not sufficiently tested for potentially friable asbestos on the hydrocord backing of floor tile that may have been dumped at the site, that foundry sand dumped on the north side of the tracks has the potential to seep harmful materials into groundwater, and that the transportation of any hazardous material by truck could blow into the surrounding neighborhoods.
G. Gary Brown, an environmental consultant for TRRAAC, said that he is not satisfied with the response of the partners, and that there are still public health risks associated with this plan that have not been adequately addressed.
Ned Wehler of ARM group, F&M's engineer, asserted that that no rolls of tile with hydrocord backing have actually been identified at the proposed site to date.
He also said that detection equipment will be in place during excavation to determine whether any harmful substances emerge.
Wehler insisted that the partners have done the required tests and are in complete accordance with state law on the matter.
Horvath said that F&M has gone "above and beyond" what they needed to do in order to comply with state law.
At one point, Cluck asked F&M whether any of the $20 million in requested state and federal funds will be used toward the cleanup of the site.
On the advice of counsel, Keith Orris - F&M's Vice President for External Affairs - said he had no comment.
Repeatedly, the partners refused to answer certain questions from the audience, insisting that the sole purpose of the meeting was for comment on the remediation plan.
Many residents expressed frustration with this limitation and asked for another public hearing to express their concerns.
Orris said he would be happy to individually answer any question addressed to him in writing.
One gentleman in the audience called that "the problem of the mushroom farm" - that individuals get individual explanations and roadblocks, and that it would be more appropriate for the project partners to address their concerns in an open forum for all to hear.
Asked whether another forum would be held, Orris said that he would confer with others and "seriously consider" the idea.
Asked when remediation would begin, the partners would not commit to a date or time frame.
Cluck asked whether they would agree not to start remediation until DEP has the opportunity to respond to the public comments and finalizes its reports.
F&M's attorney, Charles Haws (of Barley Snyder), said the team would consider it but would not commit to that on Thursday night.
Cluck fired back, "Will you give notice to the public before you begin excavation so that I can seek an injunction before you start?" to laughter and applause form the audience.
Haws said that F&M and the partners have promised to notify the community before they start.
As to the question of why DEP does not conduct an independent investigation into this matter, a representative explained that the agency does not have the resources to conduct independent investigations and that they therefore limit themselves to only addressing the particular questions before them in a given case.
Asked why TRRAAC's proposed alternative sites are unacceptable to the partners, Orris told NewsLanc that there are numerous logistical issues with the proposed alternative sites as outlined in a review by engineering consultant Gannett Flemming. Orris went on to note that he believed it to be the case that TRRAAC leaders went away from a June 16 meeting understanding the problems with their proposed alternative sites.
Approximately 80 people attended Thursday night's forum, which was held at Manheim Township Middle School.
It is worth noting that as many as a dozen people, including TRRAAC's environmental consultant, G. Gary Brown, had difficulty locating the school, which is not located on School Road itself but within a complex farther down Valley Road, and were late to the meeting as a result. It is likely that some others who are not as familiar with Manheim Township as its residents are, or as intrepid in exploration as those who eventually found it on this dark, foggy night, were inadvertently turned away as a result of the tricky meeting location.
Stay tuned for further updates and clarifications on this matter.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
- 74% of total "hard costs" have been spent as of the end of October.
- Total "slippage" by the end of October is 43 days (behind schedule).
- "Substantial completion" of the convention center is expected by March 3, 2009.
- "Substantial completion" of the hotel tower is expected by March 10, 2009.
- Completion of "punch list" items is expected by March 27, 2009. This would mark the actual completion of the project.
These estimated completion dates are based on the current status of construction plus current estimates of the amount of work that needs to be completed, including "furnishings, fixtures, and equipment" (FF&E).
Gail Tomlinson of the Historic Preservation Trust reported:
- Contractors are estimating that eight months will be required to complete exterior work on the historic properties. Ms. Tomlinson is pushing the contractors to have exterior completion by the time the hotel and convention center opens, which is highly unlikely to be met.
- Work on the historic properties is being complicated by fire protection and safety issues, along with a pressing need to secure the spaces between the historic properties and the convention center structure.
- The first exterior restoration work will be performed on the buildings at Queen and Vine streets.
- Work on the museum interior will only begin when the exterior work is completed. Ms. Tomlinson stated that it could be as long as two years from the time the convention center is opened until museum exhibits are ready; in other words, there will be ongoing construction behind the curved glass of the lower convention center lobby along Vine St.
- Regular meetings are being held to negotiate a lease for the historic properties between the HPT and the LCCCA. (Even though the HPT is paying for all of the work on the historic buildings and on the museum level of the convention center, the LCCCA will continue to hold title to all of these properties.)
In a potentially explosive lawsuit, a Lancaster County man has sued county prison warden, Vincent Guarini, and three prison corrections officers for seriously beating him while he was an inmate at the Lancaster County Prison.
The suit alleges that the plaintiff, Paul Barbacano, in jail because of a DUI probation violation, had his Constitutional rights violated when he was allegedly taken from his cell and beaten by three on-duty corrections officers. According to the complaint, the prison, under Mr. Guarini, "has implemented policies and acquiesced to a culture of violence in its prison that led to the brutal beating of Plaintiff."
The case is reminiscent of a 2006 case of Jon Eichelman, a painter who suffered a lacerated liver, broken ribs, and a fractured eye socket while incarcerated at the prison. In that case, the guards were alleged to have allowed other inmates to beat Eichelman. The County made a half million dollar settlement with Mr. Eichelman.
The current case has a profound impact on the community, according to the plaintiff's attorney.
"This is very important for the public to know about," said Leonard G. Brown, Esq., of Clymer & Musser. "They should know that this is happening in Lancaster County. And they should demand accountability and transparency. This isn't about a paycheck for Mr. Barbacano; it's about changing the system, so that we treat prisoners humanely, not like animals People come into jail because of a petty crime, and they leave as real criminals because of how they are treated."
Attempts were made to contact Lancaster Prison Warden, Vincent Guarini, and Lancaster County Solicitor, Donald LeFever, but both were unavailable for comment at press time. NewsLanc.com will continue to follow and report this story as it develops.
Reporter Chris Hart-Nibbirg made a second request, stating "I was at the last meeting and observed the tension in the room. But I am hopeful that your professionalism and sense of civic responsibility will override personal animus and persuade you to answer the questions and explain why and how you made your decision on the project's future."
To date, only the board's president at the time has responded.
The deadline will be extended through the weekend and then NewsLanc will publish a summary of responses received.
The main message and perhaps the purpose of this extensive outreach program can be paraphrased as: "If you are accepted, Harvard will provide whatever funds your family cannot afford to send you."
Jokesters have said that Harvard is an endowment fund with a university! But it is evident that Harvard as well as other top colleges and universities are determined to attract and help fund the best and brightest students from a cross section of Americans and from throughout the world.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Madonna said that historical poll data suggests that when economies turn sour, voters turn on the incumbent party.
"Not since the Great Depression have people cited the economy and felt as bad as they did about certain aspects of American life," he said.
He compared Sen. Barack Obama's historic win to the victory Ronald Reagan scored over then-President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
Madonna says he has a slide that showed Reagan and Carter roughly even before their single debate. During the debate, he says, voters saw Ronald Reagan not as the untested, racist, fascist, unsophisticated, dangerous person many Democrats made him out to be, but as calm, reassuring, and Presidential. Against the backdrop of recession, oil price shocks, stagflation, and double-digit unemployment, this launched Ronald Reagan into the White House.
Similarly, he said, "When voters looked at Obama in the debates, didn't see a crazy leftist. They didn't see someone who would end American capitalism as we know it. "
Madonna stressed that after the Republican Convention, Obama and McCain were about even, but when the housing bubble burst and the credit crisis reared its head, voters turned against the party in power.
At that point, there was only one test for Obama - or any Democratic candidate - according to Madonna: that it appear he/she would be acceptable as a President.
With record dissatisfaction with the current administration, "The single most effective thing Barack Obama said is that electing John McCain would be electing Bush to a third term," Madonna asserted.
John McCain acted erratically at times and could not fully dissociate himself from the sitting President, he concluded.
He went on to note that the electoral math for McCain was very much uphill in the first place, that this was the longest Presidential campaign in our history, and that the Obama organization revolutionized campaigning with a new generation of young, online supporters and contributors.
Madonna did not address the local races or the ballot question relating to Home Rule.
G. Terry Madonna is the Director of the Center for Politics & Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College. He has directed the nationally-noted "Keystone Poll" (now called the F&M Poll) since 2002 and frequently appears on numerous television news programs. He also has his own show on PCN called Pennsylvania Newsmakers.
Madonna holds a Ph.D. in Political History from the University of Delaware.
The application was approved by the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners at their weekly meeting on Wednesday.
It's an effort to work with municipalities to identify what they have that is unique, special, and deserving of future preservation efforts, explained Scott Standish, Director of Long-range and Heritage Planning with the Lancaster County Planning Commission.
He added that it will assist the planning commission in developing the county's long-term heritage and comprehensive plans.
In addition to the $65,150 in requested federal funding, $76,910 of local money is also going toward the "inventory" effort. Of the latter figure, each of 14 municipalities is contributing $1,000 to the effort, the county is giving roughly $25,000, and in-kind servives are also being counted toward the total.
You can learn more about the Cultural Heritage Element of the County Comprehensive Plan on the County Planning Commission's website here.
Also on Wednesday, the Commissioners approved an application to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PENNDOT) "for an encumbrance of Liquid Fuels Tax Funds for the replacement of the Eshelman Mill Road Bridge, known as Mill #2, located in West Lampeter Township and the City of Lancaster."
$1.5 million in state funding through PENNDOT is available for the replacement of that bridge, with construction expected to begin next year, according to Assistant County Engineer, Keith Harner.
Currently, county engineers are in the design phase of the project.
The funding comes from a state tax on gasoline sales, which is then apportioned to localities based on a certain formula. No part of this $1.5 million is county money.
Central Market is expecting $3.5 million and the Historic Stevens & Smith project $3 million, under state funding promised by Governor Ed Rendell last August.
The Stevens & Smith Historic Site consists of the residence and law office of landmark U.S. political figure Thaddeus Stevens and his housekeeper and alleged consort, Lydia Hamtilton Smith. There is also a cistern at the site which the directors believe may have been used as part of the Underground Railroad. They plan multimedia historical exhibits at the site, ready to go by the time the Convention Center opens in March.
Gail Tomlinson, the Director of the Stevens & Smith Site, said that the $3 million grant will match $4.4 million that has been privately raised, and enable the project to go forward.
Mayor Rick Gray described Tuesday's approvals as a "formality," since the state edevelopment Capital Assistance Program (RCAP) earmarks have been in place for a while.
Also on Tuesday, City Council approved a resolution for Lancaster to apply to the federal government for "Preserve America Community" designation.
Preserve America is a program started under President George W. Bush that seeks to reward communities that take steps toward preserving their historical, cultural, and natural heritage.
It doesn't cost much of anything and allows the city to apply for certain kinds of federal funds, explains City Director of Economic Development & Neighborhood Revitalization, Randy Patterson.
Although the County of Lancaster already achieved this designation earlier in the year, the city's application will allow it to apply for funding and benefits directly.