Friday, January 30, 2009

Contrary to members' assurances, LCCCA negligent in spending

Second in a semi-monthly series by Jim Sneddon

There were times, over several years of public meetings of the Lancaster Convention Center Authority, when various board members and the executive director claimed they were keenly aware of their fiduciary responsibility in handling tax dollars. In reality, after a careful and meticulous check of years of records, there was little justification required of consultants who were paid millions of dollars for work allegedly done for the Authority.

When questioned, however, it didn't stop the Authority from creating a picture for the public that it was being "prudent" in how it was spending millions of dollars in taxes for consultants and attorneys.

Chairman Ted Darcus told the audience at the Oct. 13, 2005 board meeting "our goal is to be prudent towards the taxpayers’ dollars." He echoed comments from former Chairman James Pickard who "acknowledged the grave responsibility the Authority has in managing public dollars…"

Executive Director David Hixson regularly functioned as cheerleader for the board and the project. Often he responded to questions about bills and lack of details by talking about "negative discourse" rather than providing substantive answers.

Willie Borden stated that as treasurer he reviewed the monthly billings for accuracy.

Board member Joe Morales told the public "I trust the people we've hired to run this project and I take a lot of stock in the … experts that do this for a living."

Even auditor Donald Diehm stated that he looked at a sampling of the detail of invoices and found that all invoices had sufficient detail. Since the audit was for the 2004 – 2005 fiscal year it would have included $122,000 in miscellaneous expenses for Dan Logan that provided no detail. It also included invoices from another consultant, Fairmount Capital Advisors that were woefully short on detail.

With offices in Center City Philadelphia, Fairmount Capital Advisers signed its original contract with the Authority in June 2003 while Pickard was still Chairman.

As with some other consultants, the firm had a link to the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority and the City of Philadelphia's Convention Center project. It touted its ability in the financial markets and provided a glowing reference for Thomas Beckett, its Senior Vice President, who had 15 years of municipal market experience.

The contracted rate for Beckett was $150 an hour, the same as the controversial Dan Logan, the Medford, N.J. businessman who would work enough hours to be paid almost a million dollars over a four-year period. In one way, however, Beckett outdid Logan. In six months, Beckett’s rate jumped to $225 an hour. Then, in another six months, it was hiked to $275, almost double the original contract.

Fairmount was paid a total of $409,039, almost all of it for hours billed by Beckett.

Beckett's bills were exemplified by their simplicity and lack of justification for what he was being paid.

In fact, under the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know law, the Authority could produce no substantiating documentation for work done in 2003. There are listings in the monthly Pay the Bills reports in 2003 for Fairmount Capital that total $121,218.51.

It isn't until April 2005 that Beckett started detailing his hourly billing. Up until this time he merely submitted the number of hours allegedly worked per day. During this period of time he was paid over $280,000 which included about $6,000 in unsubstantiated expenses. At no point does Beckett ever submit back-up receipts for his expenses, yet they are paid without question.

In fact, for 22 months after the contract was signed, Beckett submitted bills that simply listed hours worked. For example, in his Aug. 29, 2004 bill, he has a total of 107.02 hours. That cost the Authority $24,079.50. It is broken down by various dates, but there is no explanation of what Beckett did on those dates, simply "consulting."

Even when he provides more details there are questions.

The contract required reimbursement for expenses incurred, including "travel," but there is no indication this would include paying Beckett at his hourly rate for the time traveling between Philadelphia and Lancaster. The contract notes "…we expect these expenses to be modest for this engagement." No one on the Authority board asked for an explanation.

Beckett does not provide any detail of "travel" hours. In looking at his bills and the length of Authority board meetings he attended, if the meeting lasted only a couple of hours, he might submit a bill for 6.0 hours as he did for Sept. 14, 2004. No one questioned the extra hours.

Beckett provided expertise in the bond markets for the authority. Fairmount Capital touted itself by telling the Authority that "as an independently owned financial advisory firm, Fairmount is not affiliated with any bank or financial services company. The firm believes that its clients are best served when its financial advisor is free from the actual or preconceived conflicts of interest that are created when an underwriting firm also serves as financial advisor."

That didn't stop Beckett from a potential conflict of interest.

When it came time to secure an underwriter for the issuance and re-marketing of 2003 and 2006 bonds, Beckett recommended as financial advisor the George K. Baum & Company of Denver, Col. with local offices in West Conshohocken.

Baum's fees were $130,000. Those amounts came out of the bond issuing proceeds and thus do not show up in the Authority bills.

Apart from the fees received at financing settlements, there was a separate bill from Baum for $25,937.50 for 103.75 hours ofwork at $250 per hour. The bill was for work performed by Baum's new vice president: Tom Beckett!

Fairmount Capital's last work was in February 2006. The Baum billing period for Beckett's work is from March 7, 2006 through May 19, 2006.

Good business acumen? Or conflict of interest?

Not the negligent LCCCA Board of a few years ago!

The board of the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority held its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, Jan. 29. The board re-elected its current officers for another year: Art Morris, chair; Laura Douglas, vice chair; Kevin Fry, secretary; and R.B. Campbell, treasurer.

An unusually large number of construction change orders were presented for the board's approval. The nature of some drew quite a few pertinent questions from board members, especially Art Morris and Laura Douglas. Consequently, the reporting and discussion of change orders took over an hour.

For the first time, modifications made to purchases of Fixtures, Furnishings, and Equipment are being tracked like change orders, in an attempt to bring some accountability to the FF&E procurement process.

An updated document stating the amount and type of liability insurance which must be held by event organizers was discussed and approved. It was explained that all event organizers, even individuals who book space for a wedding reception, must carry at their own expense a specified amount of liability insurance to cover their event.

Still unresolved is the lease between the Historic Preservation Trust and the LCCCA for the Stevens, Smith, and Kleiss buildings. Approval of this lease was once again delayed, since its recommendation for approval by the LCCCA Facilities Programming Committee was contingent upon an approved Memorandum of Understanding between the LCCCA and HPT. This document is far from being completed, since there are still numerous unresolved issues regarding which party will assume what responsibilities for the historic properties and the museum space inside the convention center.

Even though the LCCCA will hold title to the historic properties and museum spaces (and rent it all to the HPT for a dollar a year), the LCCCA expects the HPT to assume near total financial responsibility for construction and maintenance of the parts of the complex it will control. Since construction and renovations to the historic properties has already begun, there is an urgency to complete these documents; a special meeting of the Facilities Programming Committee and/or the full LCCCA board may be scheduled to approve these agreements.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Newspapers Getting More Web Visits

According to a recent Nielsen Survey, a rare bright spot for newspapers nationwide is increased activity at the web sites. reports from the Associated Press, "The latest figures from Nielsen Online underscore the struggles that newspapers still face with how to translate their audiences into revenue. So far, online ads aren't generating enough dollars to offset losses from print, where ad sales worsened last year because of the recession."

The article further informs that visitors to newspaper web sites are making much briefer visits than to independent news sites, thus generating far less advertising revenue per visitor.

SD of L considering alternate delay practices

In response to an inquiry from NewsLanc concerning School District of Lancaster handlng of weather delays in light of needs of working parents and the homeless, Superintendant Pedro Rivera responded "Opening on time has been an ongoing discussion over the past few days."

NewsLanc had suggested: "All that would be needed is for students to congregate in the cafeterias. There would be four categories: Regular school. Regular hours but not treated as late if up to two hours tardy. School open but two hour delay [of classes.] School closed."

Rivera added: "I agree that schools must make themselves available as a service to those parents who rely on us to maintain their work schedule, to those students and families who utilize our breakfast program and our buildings.

"Currently we do not have a system that would allow us to stagger the start of the day for select staff, BUT we are currently working on language that will allow us to do just that (we can then sit with the unions to discuss who is affected).

" We WILL work to create a process to accommodate students and their families. We are on the same page as the four options."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sen. Armstrong honored; landlords to be held accountable

Former State Senator Gibson E. Armstrong, along with much of his staff, and current State Senator Lloyd K. Smucker attended the Jan. 27th Lancaster City Council meeting.

Mayor J. Richard Gray presented an official commendation to Armstrong, citing his service to the City of Lancaster, as well as to the rest of Pennsylvania. Specifically noted were Armstrong's efforts to create and pass "Act 23", and his work toward improving municipal services.

Mayor Gray described Armstrong as a "steadfast proponent of the City of Lancaster". Special praise was given to Armstrong's support of State funding for the hotel and convention center project, Clipper Magazine Stadium, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Music. In response, former Sen. Armstrong called Lancaster "one of the best cities in the United States", and said "the best days are ahead for us".

A slide presentation was made by Lancaster City Public Works Director Charlotte Katzenmoyer, describing a number of "Public Space Improvement Projects" which are or will shortly be underway. These include the demolition and renovation of Lancaster Square, which is progressing; the "Streetscape District" improvements, of which phase one out of five has begun; and the rebuilding of the "Historic Quadrant" of Penn Square, which will repave and upgrade the area around Central Market.

Eventually, the northwest section of Penn Square will also be improved, using a stylized motif echoing the lines of the adjoining Griest Building, overlaid with a pattern intended to mimic the meandering Conestoga Creek. Also noted were the ongoing upgrades and renovations to the Central Market, which are funded with State grant money, and will include renovations to the public restrooms.

New business included the first reading of Administration Bill 1 of 2009, which adds stricter accountability and penalties to both the owners and tenants of rental properties, while clarifying numerous existing regulations. Two Lancaster City residents spoke generally in favor of this proposal, while expressing several concerns; a third resident questioned the fairness of rental licensing fees, and how this revenue will be distributed.

This rental property bill will be discussed in detail at the City Council Committee Meetings, which are open to the public, to be held on Monday, Feb. 2 at 6:00 PM in Conference Room # 1 of the Southern Market. A final vote on this proposed ordinance will be taken at a future City Council meeting.

Rotary Club Announces State Rep. Tom Armstrong to discuss Megan's Law

From Jan 27 Press Release:

"Tom Armstrong, former state representative for the 98th District, will discuss the challenges associated with the limited housing options available to convicted sex offenders identified by Megan's Law at the Lancaster Rotary Club’s meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 28.

"In 2000, Armstrong became a board member of Justice & Mercy, a non-profit, volunteer organization dedicated to decreasing the effects of crime, increasing public safety and ministering to and restoring both crime victims and offenders. Armstrong is also the founder of Barnabas House, a transitional ministry to ex-offenders.

"In August 2008, Armstrong appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to explain why he opened his home to three convicted sex offenders who are now living with him in Marietta. Armstrong defended his decision, saying that he was giving what he called “a well-deserved second chance."

"Armstrong served as a state representative from 1990 to 2002. He served as a Marietta Borough Councilman from 1985 to 1990.

"The Rotary Club of Lancaster meets every Wednesday at noon in the Farm & Home Center, 1383 Arcadia Road, Lancaster. To learn more about the club, visit our website"

Convention Center financing costs exploding!

At the LCCCA Finance Committee meeting held on Monday, January 26, 2009, it was announced that the authority during 2008 paid about $334,000 in interest above estimates due to market conditions and Wachovia's financial troubles. Now that Wells Fargo has taken over Wachovia, the creditworthiness of the bond guarantees will no longer be as much of an issue.

(On the completed facility, all other things being equal, the added financial cost could approach a million dollars annually!)

The LCCCA's 40 year construction bonds (with over 38 years remaining) are vulnerable to market uncertainties because the current interest rate is determined every seven days, paid monthly. The "interest rate swap" agreement with Wachovia/Wells Fargo only limits a portion of the risk to the LCCCA.

The Finance Committee heard a lengthy presentation by Tom Beckett of G.K. Baum & Company, the authority's bond counselor, covering ways that the LCCCA could modify its bond agreements to limit the cost of interest to the authority under current conditions. Numerous pointed questions by LCCCA board members revealed that such alternatives would actually cost the authority more money when financial markets return to some semblance of normalcy. Mr. Beckett commented that interest rates on bond sales for other municipal projects are currently in the low double-digits, if money is available at all.

Mr. Beckett pointed out the LCCCA cannot receive a credit rating of its own until the convention center has been in operation for at least two years, with a proven track record of achieving its financial goals, and of the "hotel tax" meeting its income estimates. Once the LCCCA has been proven to be creditworthy, its board could consider refinancing its debt at more advantageous terms. When Mr. Beckett was reminded that the Wachovia/Wells Fargo guarantee expires in just over three years, he avoided a direct answer as to whether this would pressure the authority to refinance its construction bonds before that time.

The LCCCA Finance Committee was also informed that a "change order" procedure was being implemented in order to bring a degree of accountability for all "Fixtures, Furnishings, and Equipment" purchases, since quite a few of these items had to be modified due to availability issues.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"Sensible ideas" vs. The Big Lie

The Jan. 26 editorial "Sensible ideas" continues to perpetuate the myth that "..the former Lancaster County Board of Commissioners.. members met privately to decide the sale of Conestoga View Nursing Home."

It probably never happened! Rather, Commissioners Dick Shellenberger, Molly Henderson and Pete Shaub were unjustly investigated for over 20 trumped up charges with the then District Attorney and now Judge Donald Totaro bringing one accusation after another, simply to have the Grand Jury reject them in the sequence he brought them.

A grand jury failing to indict is itself a rarity, let alone one sitting for almost a year. The charges were for most part reported in the text of the its report; the rejections due to lack of evidence were mentioned in the foot notes. The D. A. (the establishment's cat's paw) wrote the self serving report!

After almost a year and repeated testimony before the Grand Jury and with two of the commissioners facing an election campaign, they agreed to a minor indiscretion for what they had not done and paid a couple of hundred dollars in fines to put the matter behind them.

How does NewsLanc know this? Robert Field, later to become it's founder, was consulted by two of the commissioners at the time. Not only were they up for re-election, they were terrified that Totaro would get the Grand Jury to indict for a cause unknown which would have forced them to resign.

They separately asked Field's advice about whether to accept Totaro's offer of a plea bargain for something that their attorneys and the county solicitor said they had not done. He reluctantly advised them individually that it was the pragmatic thing to do. And it was!

Little did they know that they were walking into a trap, as the Lancaster Newspapers ran headline after headline comparable in size to the announcements of the election of Barrack Obama implying that the commissioners had done something terrible!

The NewsLanc investigation of several years of improper management (or worse) of Convention Center Authority funds and the Molly Henderson suit against the Lancaster Newspapers, Inc. for libel are slowly prying open the truth of how the public has been mislead and its money squandered.

If there is going to be any indictments, it won't be of the former commissioners. And who knows how far they would spread.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Award Season reviewed by Santa Monica Reporter

NewsLanc's movie reviewer Dan Cohen's column "Award Season" is now posted under Santa Monica Reporter.

Cohen discusses "Doubt", "Slumbdog Millionaire", "The Reader" and "The Wrestler" with the knowledge and authority of a Hollywood screen writer, director and producer.

EDITORIAL: Job opening ignored

Here is an excerpt from a letter from a friend who is a well published author concerning the state of the print media these days:

"My agent has been trying to place a magazine article for the last 90 days without success. The publishing industry -- already in dire straits because of the Internet -- has collapsed because of the economy. Hundreds of writers have been fired from the daily papers and news weeklies and now we're all competing for shrinking print space."

Stock prices on all print, TV and radio organizations have plummeted, often by over 90%.

Newspapers are going bankrupt or being gobbled up and stripped down to skeletal form.

Journalists are being laid off left and right.

The fate of the New Era may hang by a thread.

And yet not one Lancaster journalist has responded even off the record to a well paying, likely long term position with a good chance for advancement with the well backed and public spirited

They need only call our publisher at 940-1221 to explore matters. (We keep far more secrets than we print articles.)

Go figure!

Stockyard site to be under utilized?

It is a rare occasion when the County Planning Board staff (or any planning board staff) expresses "continued concerns that redevelopment of the Lancaster Stockyards site may be much less intense than that which the site could accommodate."

Under different circumstances, the site would be prime for commercial rather than office / industrial use given its access to highways and the Amtrak Station. A much smaller convention center as originally conceived would have worked well at this location and butressed three nearby hotels, two of which now face questionable futures.

Nevertheless, given the plethora of regional shopping centers under review or being proposed, developer Tim Harrison is coming to our community's rescue by providing tax rateables and jobs without further undermining the tenuous viability of commerce at Park City and Red Rose Commons.

If too much competition generates vacancies at Park City, we will again be faced with a blighted "down town." As for Red Rose Commons, it must now replace two major tenants which were among the first to succumb, not so much to competition, but to difficult times.

Gil Smart vs. Abigail Adams

In his Jan. 25th Sunday News column, Gil challenges Abigail for youthful hubris!

Readers are accustomed to chuckle along with editor and father Marv Adams about the witty and at times naive comments of twelve year old Abigail. But seldom are we so similarly amused by Gil Smart as in his "Point no fingers but in the mirror."

Smart has an unnamed seven year old son - well, he is referred to as the "boy" and the "kid." Although not getting around to naming the youngster, Smart has become an expert in child rearing, especially on how to treat teenagers.

He makes the sound point "The Kid doesn't watch TV unsupervised." But then he harrumphs "When he gets older, he won't be allowed to sit in his room with the door closed and surf the Web without anyone watching."

Gil, not only will your teenage son sit in his room, probably with the door closed and locked, but he will be doing more than surfing the Web. So forget about monitoring his ever moment.

Part of parenting is instilling good values, in large part by example. But another important aspect is gradually letting go, year after year. (Yes they do get to walk to school alone. Yes they do get to borrow the car.)

Prohibition doesn't work. Being a good role model usually does.

One more sly comment: Given enough time we all "become a people who no longer respond like Pavlov's dog to sexual content." But that is why we have Viegra!

(Editor's note: Written by a 71 year old with progeny from ages 10 to 42, and thus a great expert on all things.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Is Lancaster General being misled?

The School Lane Hills Neighborhood Association sent NewsLanc and others a recent TRRAAC article along with the caveat "The Association is not the author of the attached information and is not responsible for its content." The article can be read in its entirety at Excerpts are as follows:


TRRAAC has been investigating the sources of public funding for the $ 46 million project to relocate and expand the Norfolk Southern Dillerville Rail Yard. … In early December, representatives of TRRAAC met with officials from Lancaster General Hospital and reiterated the request for access to the applications submitted for governmental funding of the project.

In a letter to TRRAAC dated December 15, 2008, Thomas Beeman, the President and CEO of the Lancaster General wrote:

"I believe your request was based upon a concern that our funding applications contained different information than what we have previously represented. I can assure this is not the case and information contained in these applications is consistent with material made public in previous meetings and on the project's web site."…

Through a Right to Know Law request, TRRAAC has obtained a copy of the application for PennDOT funding. Contrary to the representations of Mr. Beeman, we can assure our members that the information in that application is not consistent with public statements from the project partners.

The application was denied because F&M is not eligible to seek the Capital Budget's $10 million under the Rail Freight Grant program. Only a railroad may make the request. Moreover, the information provided was "troublesome" according to PennDOT officials we met with recently…rather than the 750 jobs referenced by the Governor, the application only identifies 58 jobs to be maintained and 12 jobs to be created. ..

The application identified other sources of governmental funds that have never been identified to the public by the project partners including:

• $700,000 grant under the Rail Freight Assistance Program previously awarded by PennDOT for "engineering design services";

• $1 million request for Growing Greener II funds now pending before the Department of Environmental Protection

• $ 1 million request for Growing Greener II funds now pending before the Department of Community and Economic Development

• $ 2 million loan from the Governor's Business in our Sites (BIOS) economic development program (cannot be approved until Lancaster General Hospital repays the $ 2 million BIOS loan obtained as part of the cleanup of the Armstrong property)

• $ 3.7 million requested from the federal Department of Transportation described as Congressional grant submitted;

• $ 5 million request from Federal Railroad Administration (originally this line item was only $2 million, but following PennDOT's denial of the $ 9.3 million request PennDOT applied on behalf of the project partners for $ 5 million from FRA);
$ 1 million request from federal Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration

Friday, January 23, 2009

Credentials of NewsLanc's LCCCA investigator

James D. Sneddon has had an almost 40-year newspaper career. It started in sports writing at the Free Press Quakertown, Pa., a small daily newspaper when I was a sophomore in high school. It finished at The York Dispatch and York Sunday News as Editor and Publisher in 1998.

Sneddon says "I probably have held every position in the newsroom at one time or another."

He subsequently set up his own consulting company, Market Street Solutions of York.

Sneddon won numerous writing and design awards over the years, but the most prestigious was the "Best Investigative Reporting in the Nation" by the National Headliners Club of Atlantic City, N.J. It was for a year-long investigation of the Beaver Valley Power Plants and the nearby Shippingsport Nuclear Plant.

Talk about a "universal pain"

An Associated Press article in the Intell reports Governor Ed Rendell as saying "There will be some layoffs, and there will be universal pain," Rendell said at a Capitol news conference. "I don't want to hear whining. I think everyone has to tighten the belts."

Rendell is an example of exactly what is wrong with government. During the early years of his administration when we had prosperity, he spent like a drunken sailor on wasteful projects, such as the Lancaster and Philadelphia convention centers. These were the days when the state could have expanded needed services, provided tax relief for home owners, or generated a surplus to be used in future 'rainy days'.

Now when the state economy needs stimulus, he wants to lay off workers and to cut back spending.

John Maynard Keynes must be rolling over in his grave.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

LETTER: Will F&M / LGH await funding before breaking ground?

"'After F&M was denied their $9.2 million funding request from PennDOT, they submitted a request for funds from the Federal Railroad Administration,' according to a newsletter currently appearing on the web site of the Rail Road Action & Advisory Committee (TRRAAC). The newsletter stated that the FRA will begin granting projects sometime before the end of March.

"F&M wants this money to construct a new rail yard in a grass-covered field that formerly was used as a city dump and contains an unknown amount of Armstrong asbestos products. F&M’s own construction schedule shows that that construction was to have begun in November, 2008. F&M recently announced that the work will begin mid-January.

"A question that has yet to be asked by the Lancaster press, that has the reputation of being pro-F&M, is this: Will F&M begin the excavation of the dump before the Federal Railway Administration has approved its funding request? If the FRA turns down F&M’s request, as PennDOT has done, will F&M still proceed with the excavation of the landfill site?

"If so, how will the funding shortfall be made up? Will it be made by the project partners (F&M, LGH and Norfolk Southern) or by the taxpayer? The project partners have promised to pay a total of $14 million. The remaining $32 million will be paid with taxpayer dollars. Governor Rendell has already committed $10 million of taxpayer money to the excavation of the dump site.

"Why is TRRAAC's alternative site not being considered, even though it was researched and has the endorsement of a senior railroad engineering consultant who is a former Norfolk Southern engineer! There is no landfill to be excavated on this alternative site and thus the $10 million given to F&M by Governor Rendell could be returned to the state treasury to be used for highway and bridge repairs or other needed projects.

"F&M plans to use the present Rail Yard for its athletic fields once the rail tracks are moved. Thus F&M will be the primary beneficiary of the largely tax-funded project. The losers will be the residents of the School Lane Hills and Barrcrest neighborhoods, whose quality of life and property values will be diminished by having their homes in proximity to a noisy rail yard, whose size and scope of operations could be increased at any time without taxpayer knowledge or approval."

Jon Mitchell's description of mission reassuring

Newly appointed School District of Lancaster Athletic Director Jon Mitchell responded to a series of questions from as follows:

"I am looking forward to the challenges facing me as the new athletic director. I am hopeful that I can have a positive influence on all sports programs within the district. I am a firm believer that coaches are simply teachers; in the same way that high school athletics are simply an extension of the educational process. Just as I expect teachers to be examples of professionalism and life-long learners, so too do I expect coaches to treat their jobs as professionals, constantly growing and improving (as life-long learners).,,

"I did play basketball and baseball as a youngster, but focused on two varsity sports from my tenth grade year until I graduated. I am a second generation coach (my 77 year-old father just accepted his most recent coaching position) and have appreciation for all sports. I grew up watching my father coach baseball, basketball, football, wrestling, and softball, at various times in his career (obviously, before coaches started to specialize)...

"My primary goals are to increase participation in all sports, use those sports to teach positive life skills and character traits, and build competitive programs that Lancaster will be proud to call their own. This will be quite the undertaking!..

"While I do not have a wife, or children of my own, my athletes continue to be my local family. My family just grew considerably. While this may sound cliche', it is the truth nonetheless. I cannot tell you how many baby showers, weddings, holiday celebrations, etc. that I attend with my 'extended family'.

"Other than competitive sports, my interest is fishing. I love to spend days on the river....either wading, in my john boat, or in my kayak. I also enjoy landscaping...although as a city resident, I don't have much land!"

Is New York Times sale an omen for Lancaster?

In order to raise funds to pay down over a billion dollars in debt, the New York Times has sold 17% of its stock to Mexican multibillionaire Carlos Slim, reputed to be one of the wealthiest men in the world.

The bankruptcy of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times group, the out right sale of the Wall Street Journal, and now the New York Times transaction are all signs of the difficulties facing the print media.

We in Lancaster are most fortunate to yet have a Sunday and two daily newspapers. How long this will last is open to speculation.

Executive director defends Library System

At the annual meeting of the Lancaster Library System on Tuesday, John Havrilla won Library System Board Vice Chair by secret ballot. No other positions were contested and Bud Rettew remains as Chair.

Susan Hauer, Executive Director, set forth a vigorous defense of the System's role and claimed many achievements in an address at the System's annual meeting.

She stated "Much has changed in the County since 1997. However, the Library System and the Member Libraries continue with the Federated Library System model developed in the 90's and used elsewhere in Pennsylvania, when Library Advocate Robert Bowman and other Commissioner Appointed trustees began to strategically plan for the provision of library services county wide."

"Used elsewhere in Pennsylvania" artfully suggests the System plus the fourteen independent libraries is desirable. A far more common approach is for all libraries and the System to be combined into a county authority. (NewsLanc has contended that a county library authority would be more efficient and better governed than the current fragmented confederation.)

Hauer describes "Every year an internal negotiated process occurs that leads to State Coded agreements, whereby the System and the 14 member, independent, municipality based local Public Library Boards agree on centralized provision of services from the System and District in exchange for being a member in good standing and willing to share resources through equal countywide access; similar to the IU 13 and the independent school districts."

Hauer rationalized the failure to pass a county wide millage in 2005 as follows:

"'So to recap why the 2005 referendum of a .25 (1/4) mil for library services almost passed but didn't-

• Some voters did not understand why the System needed $7 million dollars, when
the County was currently appropriating $2 million for the System.

• Some voters thought that this was a new tax for libraries when in fact; the County
and Municipalities in 2005 designated and appropriated $3 million in taxes from
their combined general funds.

• Some voters (and some library advocates) did not want the County tax to exercise
control over their local operations."

What Hauer doesn't mention was the folly of placing a funding measure on an off year primary when passage is least likely since such low turn out primaries draw mostly older and more conservative voters, as contrasted with presidential and senatorial general elections.

Hauer then sets forth the 2008 accomplishments of the confederation as follows:

"This past year saw the planning, implementation, continuation of valuable countywide
Best Practice services. Among them are:

• Healthy Lancaster County; a partnership to provide consumer health information.

• MarketEdge-a remake of business information emphasizing economic
development and a Certification Program on Competitor Intelligence.

• OverDrive-a downloadable audio and video service

• A Virtual Library centrally provided anywhere/anytime

• Tumble Books/Book Flixs -virtual book subscriptions for youth

• Special Service/BKM outreach-YIC, Brightside, Sterling place, IU 13 Alternative
Schools, Vineyard Personal Care Facility, Manor Care, Weis Market/Willow
Street, Shuts/Prison Library in addition to senior, head start, agency and
community stops.

• Express Lane Check-out

• Expanded Family Museum Pass

• Live Homework Help –over 1600 users, 60% came in the back to school push of
Sept through Dec."

Hauer emphasized "The Library System of Lancaster County, as always, is committed to accountability and transparency." Yet, when asked by NewsLanc for an electronic version of her comments, Hauer asked "Will you be making editorial comments about my address?" When told "Yes" she did not forward them.

Hauer's complete remarks and other interesting material from the meeting can be found at

A new life for the print media?

Will the newspaper of the future be without reporters, editors and charge? Some think that free "Penny Saver" type dailies composed strictly of items appearing at its web site plus advertisements is the answer to the high cost and drop in demand for the traditional newspaper.

The Jan. 22 New York Times reports, "The Printed Blog", a Chicago start-up, plans to reprint blog posts on regular paper, surrounded by local ads, and distribute the publications free in big cities, starting with Chicago and San Francisco.

According to publisher Joshua Karp "We are trying to be the first daily newspaper comprised entirely of blogs and other user-generated content. There were so many techniques that I've seen working online that maybe I could apply to the print industry."

It is gratifying to see a big city publisher following and improving upon NewsLanc's lead!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Athletic Director announced

At the Jan. 21 monthly board meeting of the School District of Lancaster, Superintendent Pedro Rivera announced the promotion of John Mitchell, Dean of Students at the Lafayette Elementary School, to become the District's Athletic Director.

Mitchell currently also serves as the varsity wrestling coach for McCaskey High School.

His new assignment will commence on February 2nd.

According to information obtained over the course of the search, there were several qualified candidates under consideration.

Mitchell will face a multiyear challenge in rebuilding a program that, until Rivera's arrival, had for several years been ignored and neglected by the superintendent's office, despite steadily deteriorating performances by McCaskey's teams.

His biggest problem will be persuading under qualified coaches to accept training from professionals or to recruit accomplished replacements.

LCCCA Board membership for suspect period

by Jim Sneddon

Below are the list of Convention Center Authority Board Members during the events that NewsLanc will be describing through a series of special reports over the next few months. The plan is to publish the series every two weeks rather than once a month as originally announced.

The concern is to avoid providing so much information at one time as to make it difficult to fully read and absorb, yet not to allow so much time to pass that memories of past disclosures fade.

NewsLanc will run concurrent radio 'informationals' on local stations.

Please ponder the significance of Jim Sneddon's observation in the last line. At the time NewsLanc described the four City appointees as "seeing no evil, hearing no evil, and speaking no evil."

From the 01/08/03 meeting:

James Pickard (chairman)
Willie Borden (treasurer)
Christina Hausner (secretary)
Garth Sprecher (1st vice chairman)
Judy Ware (2nd vice chairman)
Frank Taylor (assistant secretary)
Paul Wright (assistant treasurer)

From the 02/02/03 meeting:

Christina Hausner submits her resignation
David Schwanger is appointed (assistant secretary)
Taylor moves up to be secretary

From the September 2003 meeting:

Pickard submits letter of resignation. No new members are added at this meeting, but Ted Darcus is present in the audience and Garth Sprecher is named temporary chairman

From the 11/24/03 meeting:

Ted Darcus joins the board – replaces Pickard
John Fry joins the board – replaces Wright

From the 1/14/04 meeting:

Darcus is named chairman
Borden (still treasurer)

From the 10/13/05 meeting:

New appointees are:

Laura Douglas
Debra Hall
Joseph Morales

They replace Ware, Taylor and Fry

Remaining members are:


From the 11/9/05 meeting

Jack Craver replaces Sprecher

The board remains the same throughout 2006

Darcus (chairman)
Borden (treasurer)
Morales (1st vice chairman)
Schwanger (secretary)

During disputed votes, the above four always vote together.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Re-posting : Daniel Logan Revisited (First published June, 2007) visitors may recall articles in December 2006, questioning whether the more than $700,000 paid to the consultant, Daniel Logan, President of Growth Business Development, was justifiable. opined "… there appeared to be very little substantive work product to show for the huge amount of money."

At the June 7 [2007] Convention Center Authority meeting, Brian Sparacino of Interstate Hotels & Resorts, the manager for both the hotel and center, stunned board members by telling them point blank that Interstate would not work with or even communicate with Logan. He spurned Logan's services and indicated they consider him a competitor.

So much for spending $700,000!

But Mr. Logan will not be cast adrift. Executive director Dave Hixon said Logan would be kept on contract just in case there was a need for his services in the future.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Daniel Logan: Million dollar Convention Center mystery man

First in a monthly series by Jim Sneddon

When Daniel Logan was initially hired in March 2003 as a consultant to the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority, it seemed simple enough. He was to analyze the proposed convention center's operating and marketing plan.

A glowing resume, submitted to the Authority by Chairman James O. Pickard, claimed that Logan was involved in various Philadelphia convention and tourist related projects between 1993 and 1998. It was less clear, however, what Logan had been doing in the five years before he was signed on by the Authority.

The contract allowed for a total payment of $18,000, plus "reasonable expenses of Growth Business Development," Logan’s one-person company operating out of his Medford, N.J. home. The contract specifically states it was to "be completed within a 30-day period from the date of the signed agreement." Records show Logan was paid in three $6,000 payments. No expenses were submitted.

But that was not the end of it. Logan just wouldn’t go away after completing his work on the operating and marketing plan. Both Pickard and David Hixson, the executive director hired in the summer of 2003, began paying him $150 an hour for a significant amount of work done without a contract. According to Authority records, Logan was paid $200,795.29 for the period when he had no board-approved contract.

It wasn’t until June 30, 2004 that Logan submitted a "letter contract" to Ted Darcus, the new Chairman of the LCCCA Board. The contract appears to have been triggered when the Authority realized Logan was operating without one when it attempted to answer a Right-to-Know request filed by a hotelier. The hoteliers were involved in a court suit seeking to overturn a decision by county commissioners to implement a hotel tax to pay for the Convention Center.

The Authority covered the missing contract by noting, in a document generated by Logan and signed by him and Darcus on July 14, 2004, that he is to be paid $150/hour, "the rate at which he has been paid prior to this date." His responsibilities under the contract are broadly general. It is an open-ended contract, there are no limits set on the total amount to be paid to him.

For Logan, that contract with the Authority was as good as finding a gold mine. Over a period of four-years, he was paid more than $950,000. But what did Logan actually do to earn that money?

A former Authority employee described him as an "invisible man." In the four-year period, he is seldom quoted in board meetings. No work products have surfaced. A member of the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau recalled Logan coming with Hixson to some of their board meetings. Critics who brought litigation against the Authority during this time only vaguely recall Logan and did not know what he did for the Authority.

Logan became Executive Director Hixson’s "right-hand-man." As one person behind the scenes told us, "He was always with Dave."

An intensive review of Logan’s bills shows over-billing for hours he could not have worked.

Although living in New Jersey, more than two hours from Lancaster, Logan commuted. At times, according to telephone records, he worked out of his home in Medford, N.J.

How much work Logan did is a matter of dispute.

Logan primarily billed the Authority in daily blocks of eight hours, collecting $1,200 for each day.

But a close comparison of Logan’s records with Authority records and other consultants showed there were times when Logan was billing for meetings with other consultants, when there was no record of those meetings on their bills.

Logan was "primarily involved with pre-sales and marketing," Hixson told Authority members. "He serves as community liaisons to the Convention and Visitors Bureau which is obviously a very important working partnership with us in moving forward."

But when the Convention and Visitors Bureau co-sponsored "a meet us in Lancaster," a free weekend visit for booking agencies from the Baltimore area, only Hixson attended the events. The sales and marketing expert, Logan was no where to be found.

The lack of detail on Logan’s invoices for the hours he worked was typical of consultants hired by the authority. It required little detail to substantiate hours billed.

For example, in October 2005, new Authority member Laura Douglas asked Hixson specifically about Growth Business Development. "…there are a number of these extremely high bills without itemization or some sort of results or some sort of actual work to show for it."

"Sure, fair questions," Hixson told Douglas and the board. "We have in our office the itemization. Each month we receive the bills from various vendors and advisors that serve us. That is reviewed by me, as well as Willie Borden who is our Treasurer. We also run it by the Chairman.

"So what we do is we review it in our roles as Executive Director, Treasurer and as Chair, and then we submit the summary out to the Board members, but certainly we have the itemization that is closely reviewed by the Treasurer and Executive Director."

Either Hixson lied about the detailed itemization of Logan's "miscellaneous" bills or the itemization he referred to have since been destroyed.

When asked for that specific information on two occasions, NewsLanc was told : "Please be advised that the LCCCA has provided you with full and complete invoices on file for the requested documents. Therefore the LCCCA … does not have any additional information."

Logan's unknown miscellaneous bills, all approved without details by Hixson, Borden and Darcus, totaled $121,986.

Without detailed, supporting material for the miscellaneous bills Logan submitted to the Authority, there is no way of knowing what they were for, and if the money went only to Logan or flowed to someone else after he deposited the checks.

It’s not likely the public will ever find out. Only a law enforcement agency with subpoena powers would be able to trace that money.

(Jim Sneddon is the former long time Editor and Publisher of the The York Dispatch and York Sunday News.)

Try to find a copy when you need one

NewsLanc received the following message in reference to the series on the Convention Center Authority:

"Do you really think the establishment will investigate legally the matter of corruption that you have started to unearth?"

We cannot expect the Lancaster Newspapers to investigate itself.

The power of the sponsors make the matter too politically risky for the District Attorney and probably even the state Attorney General.

Although interest has been expressed, federal law enforcement officials, including the FBI, have to spend most of their resources on 'fighting terrorism' and vetting thousands of candidates for positions in the Obama administration.

Inquiries made to a prominent regional newspapers brought back the mournful message that extreme budget cuts have all but eliminated funding for investigations.

In short, the system of checks and balances of but a decade ago no longer exists. What we do have now, but cannot fully take its place, are Internet blogs that perform their own investigation and blow the whistle on wrong doings. But this is a weak substitute.

God help America!

School District: Smart precaution!

Parents of School District of Lancaster students received a recorded phone message yesterday and an announcement was posted on the District's web site: "Schools will open on time Friday morning, January 16; however, due to the extreme temperatures expected, students who arrive up to two hours late for school will not be marked as tardy. "

We deduce the reasons:

Opening the schools at the regular hours provide a warm and secure environment for the many homeless youngsters and younger children whose parents must go to work .

By permitting arrival two hours late, youngsters who walk long distances and may not have clothing appropriate for extremely cold weather could remain at home until the day warms up.

At 7:00 AM on Friday the temperature hovered around 5 degrees and felt like 10 below!

Superintendent Pedro Rivera and his team deserve credit for their sensitivity and proactive actions on behalf of all of the students.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

PROLOGUE: Millions paid without due process

A bevy of consultants, paid well over $3 million, with their invoices hidden from the public’s view, methodically and systematically over-billed and submitted unsubstantiated bills over a four-year period to the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority while the executive director and board members condoned and participated in the waste of public tax dollars.

(Editor's note: The period reviewed of dysfunction ends with County appointees becoming the majority in the fall of 2007 which was soon followed by current Chair Art Morris being appointed by the City. Would that Art Morris and most current board members had been present at the outset!)

A search of thousands of documents, perhaps as many as 100,000 individual line items, obtained under the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know law, reveals that, primarily over a four-year period, the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority board paid millions of dollars to consultants who billed up to $350/hour, some for work they never did.

Beneath the surface, however, virtually unseen by the public, various out-of-town consultants were hired, sometimes without a contract, sometimes with vague open-ended contracts, and were paid after board members unanimously approved bills, sight unseen, month after month and year after year, without requesting documentation for the charges.

As politicians and the Penn Square Partners, with their vested self interest to protect, constantly pushed for the $170-million hotel/convention center, the media and the public were being manipulated by a $600,000 propaganda campaign, paid for from tax revenues and orchestrated by public relations firms and consultants.

The first of a series of reports based on research by Jim Sneddon, former Editor and Publisher of the The York Dispatch and York Sunday News, will appear exclusively at this weekend.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pursuit of Justice and Mercy

In the past, friends would hardly have perceived Republic Committeeman Tom Zeager as a 'reformer' and, indeed when his bishop urged him to undertake a study of transitional housing for prisoners, he initially was unsympathetic to this cause. And then his eyes got opened.

The result a decade later is the expanding not-for-profit Justice & Mercy organization providing guidance and referrals statewide for reintegration into the community for hundreds of clients.

Zeager explained to NewsLanc: "When you are convicted of a sex offense, you are required to have a 'home plan' when you complete your sentence. If you sentence is 2 to 4 years, quite often you are eligible for parole at 2 years, but if you don’t have a home plan you have to max out."

A 'home plan' is a place to live. Finding a suitable location is especially difficult for 'sex offenders' since they may not reside within a thousand feet of schools, day care centers, churches and other locations where children gather, thus ruling out city life.

The category of 'sex offender' can range from the simple act of 'mooning' or a consensual sexual relationship between an 18 year old and a 16 year old to acts as reprehensible as a serial rapist.

"And when you max out, if you still don’t have a home plan, you get released but re-arrested as you exit for not having a home plan and you get taken back to the local jail and charged with failure for not having a home plan" according to Zeager.

Zeager describes his Odyssey in outlook as follows: "My bishop, Dr. E. Daniel Martin, asked me to get involved with John Rush, who had been a prison minister for over 30 years. At first I was unsympathetic and judgmental concerning the accused and the convicted. I felt we had the best court system in the world and no innocent people in prison.

"But I agreed, although skeptical, to spend Tuesdays for six months reviewing what was happening in courts and prison system. At the end of six months we had visited many chaplains in prisons and many homes of past and present inmates from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. I was appalled at how the poor were going to prison too many times for crimes they did not commit.

"I was also appalled by how wealthy people can avoid conviction or obtain shorter sentences through hiring good attorneys.

"And I was aghast at how the criminal system was destroying the very fabric of families that we Americans value so highly."

Justice & Mercy operates its Lancaster office out of Zeager’s Hershey Farm Restaurant. John Rush has been the Executive Director for the past 10 years at the office in Reading. The organization recently started transitional housing in Reading called New Person Center that can accommodate up to 28 men coming out of prison.

The organization also conducts and participates in educational forums across the state and works with public officials, legislators, and other criminal justice and faith-based organizations to improve public policies and practices. Their purpose is to increase public safety and reduce the effects of crime in communities across Pennsylvania. Information concerning its varieties of services is available at .

Zeager says that as the organization has grown, it has obtained credibility and respect. "We are able to meet with just about anybody in the State administration and legislature."

Justice & Mercy recently engaged John Shaffer as a consultant. Shaffer is a former executive deputy secretary of the PA Dept of Correction.

Justice & Mercy is 501(c)3 organization, which allows contributors to a tax deduction. It is currently budgeted at about $250,000. Zeager’s goal is to significantly increase funding to enable expansion of its state wide services.

Contributions may be sent to PO Box 159, Strasburg, PA 17579. Inquiries can be addressed to Jean Bickmire, Administrative Director at or 717-687-7650l.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Despite $500,000 bequest, Library Trustees canceled project

When in November the Board of Trustees of the Lancaster Public Library (125 N. Duke Street) abandoned $1.6 in grants and expenditures and canceled plans to upgrade and renovate, they were aware that they had recently received a windfall bequest of over $500,000 from the Thomas Bucher Estate that could have been applied to the $1.1 to $1.3 million to complete the project.

Based on extensive interviews, their feasibility study had identified likely donors of over $2 million! And the trustee who was to oversee fund raising had been made aware of a contingent $500,000, if it were needed.

LETTER: A testimonal for Tom Bucher

"Tom Bucher was a quiet, polite, funny, sweet man. I don't believe for a minute that he was all the 'delusional' things that Mr. Blair states he was, since the late '80. How did he maintain the same job in the courts system all these years. You cannot expect anyone who new him and cared for him and talked to him every single day, to believe this line of crap Mr. Blair is stating just to get the $$$$. Maybe there was a reason that some years ago, Mr. Bucher said he didn't' trust his brother in-law, look how Mr. Blair, the brother in law is acting.

"Tom should be remembered for all the great memories and stories, and knowledge he gave to all who knew him. He was loved and cared for by many more than his family ever knew... I never heard too much of the family until now.....

"We miss and care to Tom deeply. His death was a loss to many more than I think even he realized.

"PS Tom died the same week he was to retire, not "weeks".
This rant is not for anyone in particular, it's to give another side, a respectable side, to a partial story of Tom's life."


Co-worker says Tom Bucher not "delusional"

The following is an excerpt from a message at from a co-worker in response to Judge Wilson Bucher contesting the bequest of his son Thomas to the Lancaster Public Library:

"Tom Bucher was a quiet, polite, funny, sweet man. I don't believe for a minute that he was all the 'delusional' things that Mr. Blair states he was, since the late '80. How did he maintain the same job in the courts system all these years. You cannot expect anyone who new him and cared for him and talked to him every single day, to believe this line of crap Mr. Blair is stating just to get the $$$$. Maybe there was a reason that some years ago, Mr. Bucher said he didn't trust his brother in-law, look how Mr. Blair, the brother in law is acting."

"Tom should be remembered for all the great memories and stories, and knowledge
he gave to all who knew him. He was loved and cared for by many more than his family ever knew... I never heard too much of the family until now.....

"We miss and care to Tom deeply. His death was a loss to many more than I think even he realized.

"PS Tom died the same week he was to retire, not "weeks".
This rant is not for anyone in particular, it's to give another side, a respectable side, to a partial story of Tom's life.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday News sheds light on Judge Bucher vs. Library

Its lead Jan. 11th article "Contested will is one for books; Retired county judge challenges late son's $500,000-$900,000 bequest to Lancaster Public Library; state Attorney General's office wants the filing attorney - judge's son-in-law off the case" aptly fills in the detail of a story that NewsLanc broke a week earlier on Jan. 4th.

NewsLanc was hesitant about reporting further on the matter than court records indicated due to the potential conflict of interest of Karen Haley Field, our publisher's wife, being a library board member and administratix for the Estate.

The Sunday News article notes that former Judge Wilson Bucher is now 88 years of age and was not available for interview.

Little wonder that the office of the State Attorney has intervened in the case and wants Bucher's son-in-law Steven R. Blair disqualified as Bucher's attorney since he may be called as a witness. Is Blair exploiting the good name of his aged father-in-law by bringing the suit in Judge Bucher's rather than Blair's name, then seeking to represent the suit, to be witness in the suit, and ultimately to be the beneficiary of the suit?

Might it be that Blair is publicly demonstrating the very characteristics that the deceased Thomas Bucher found so objectionable?

Rather than suffering from an "insane delusion", it would appear that Thomas Bucher may have had good cause.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

City heavily invested in Convention Center as well as hotel

When NewsLanc inquired about Convention Center hiring practices, Authority Chair Art Morris referred the question to Center Manager Mark Moosic.

He pointed out that the City residents have a heavy investment in the Convention Center in addition to the guarantee of the bonds for the Marriott Hotel.

He explained "They are residents of the county and thus carry their fair share of risk related to the county guarantee. Also, as you are aware, the City has guaranteed the over $1 million in sales tax revenue that is pledged for debt repayment. If the estimated sales tax revenue is not achieved the City taxpayers must pay the shortfall.

"In addition, the City has guaranteed payment of School, City and County real estate taxes should the Hotel ever be ruled taxable--I believe this would be in excess of $1 million/year."

Mayor Gray take note: No job preference for city folk

As a follow up to Mayor Rick Gray's suggestion that job applications from city residents should receive preferential treatment, NewsLanc posed the following question to the Convention Center Authority: Is it correct that City residents will receive preference for CC hiring?

Mark Moosic, Convention Center Manager responded as follows: "This statement is not correct. As the operator of the integrated facility, Interstate Hotels and Resorts is responsible for attracting, hiring and retaining the most qualified associates to be employed at the Lancaster County Convention Center and Marriott Lancaster facility. In early March, we will begin the hiring process for the majority of our associates. All will be welcome to apply and we will select the best qualified associates for each position. No preference to City residence will be given.

"Some confusion may be coming from our partnership with the PA CareerLink of Lancaster County’s Ready-2-Work program. CareerLink aids job seekers to develop and/or polish up on desired skills that employers are looking for. They also have programs to help job seekers recognize and develop skills they may not have been aware they possessed. Many companies throughout Lancaster County recognize the benefits of the CareerLink programs and give consideration to job seekers who have participated in these programs.

"We have made a commitment to anyone who exhibits the perseverance to complete the Ready-2-Work program and receives their Ready-2-Work certificate, that we will guarantee that person an interview for the position of their choice with the manager responsible for hiring for that department. We are very clear in saying that this doesn’t guarantee them a job. Moreover, the Ready-2-Work program is not required for an interview or to be employed by the facility."

Irony of Ironies: Now they tell us!

The Intelligencer Journal / New Era waited until three months before the opening of the Convention Center Project to publish an interview on Jan. 10th of local historian David Schuyler under the heading "Facing a city's new realities."

And is the message that of those who bullied and connived the Convention Center Project? Hardly.

Rather he makes the same points of Project critics April Koppenhaver, Bonnie Miller, Randy Carney and, among many others, NewsLanc's publisher Robert Field.

Schuyler, a professor of American studies at Franklin & Marshall College, is the author of "A City Transformed: Redevelopment, Race and Suburbanization in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1940-1980," excerpts from which NewsLanc recently discussed over several articles.

Schuyler reflects upon the failed Lancaster Square: "They never asked, 'What's special about Lancaster?' There was a generic idea that it would work. But what works in one area isn't necessarily going to work in another." Sounds like the messages of the various market reports and the PKF Feasibility Study for the Convention Center Project.

So what about the future of the city?

"You aren't going to get families with small children to live in the city because of the schools," he said. "And I say that as a parent whose child (daughter Nancy, now grown) went through the School District of Lancaster."

"Target recent college graduates, empty nesters and senior citizens to live in the city," Schuyler said. "They have money to spend, they want to patronize local shops and restaurants and they will expect a level of support from the city to maintain their quality of life."

Oh my. Oh my. Had Watt & Shand been developed into prestigiously, upscale condos as once planned instead of a likely second Lancaster Square, downtown would have been revitalized and made far more secure.

Schuyler concludes optimistically: "I think Lancaster's better days lie ahead. Cities have attributes that are becoming more apparent to people, like being able to walk around or ride a bike. They are much more energy-efficient."

Yes, it's about Lancastrians, not about luring conventioneers to an out-of-the-way, poorly placed, under served location for the profit or powerful business interests.

The one thing that Lancaster has gotten right over the past decade is the Pennsylvania Academy of Music which benefits from the location, image and the potential of downtown Lancaster and can lead to the salvation of the Brunswick Hotel. A score of local philanthropists and hundreds of others gave money (they didn't make money!) and did a great service for our community and potentially talented young musicians worldwide.

Also there is the great potential for expansion and upgrading of the downtown Public Library that attracts over 1100 local visitors a day.

Let's hope that our community isn't so disillusioned and impoverished in years to come from the Convention Center Project that it is unable to rally behind and support what is indeed needed and likely to work.

Friday, January 9, 2009

SD of L will seize Inauguration teaching moment

According to Superintendent Pedro Rivera, the School District of Lancaster plans on broadcasting the inauguration ceremony via Internet and television so that students and faculty can "watch this momentous event."

The District's Technology Department is working with its Internet service provider, D&E Communications, to increase Internet connection band width for the event.

Rivera said "Our Office of Teaching and Learning has also posted inauguration resources, including an events lesson plan, on our Intranet for social studies teachers to access and utilize in their instruction."

Knowledge and experience do count

The Intelligencer Journal reports on Jan. 9 that bids for the upgrade of Washington Elementary School "came in 22 percent under budget as a result of stiff competition among contractors hurting for work in the foundering economy."

Unfortunately, novice trustees of the Lancaster Public Library last fall voted not to proceed with a $2.3 million renovation of the Lancaster Public Library on Duke Street, and in doing so, forfeited $1.6 million in funding which had been secured for this purpose. They were worried that the balance of the funds could not be raised, and gave no credence to builder developer Robert Field's (NewsLanc's publisher, who was acting as Project Manager) assertation that total cost would likely come in a couple of hundred thousand dollars below the $2.3 million estimate due to the adverse times. Field also foresaw that mass infrastructure funding from federal government grants would likely become available to fund the delayed expansion stage, if they would just move ahead with the first stage. This wasn't prescience; this was simply fifty years of business experience!

When a board is largely made up of people of little relevant qualifications, they have no basis for making important decisions. There is a lack of knowledge and experience to counter fears. They are unable to distinguish good from bad advice.

All the more reason for following the path of counties throughout the nation of consolidating the independent Library System and the fifteen separate libraries under a countywide authority, with a board of trustees drawn from a cross section of experienced and qualified leaders.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ongoing investigation of early Convention Center spending

Over the course of 2008 a journalist and a professional investigator, on behalf of NewsLanc, spent hundreds of hours reviewing Convention Center Authority expenditures of almost $20 million that proceeded commencement of construction. They also conducted interviews.

Authority Chair Art Morris and the staff were co-operative in providing records requested under the "Pennsylvania Right To Know" law.

A framework was created that will facilitate further investigations by parties and authorities.

Although no "smoking gun" has yet been found, there are signs of possible fraud and malfeasance, misrepresentations, disingenuousness, ineptitude, mismanagement, and partiality to Penn Square Partners at the expense of the public.

Law enforcement authorities need to become involved to conduct under oath interviews of key figures. Nevertheless, the NewsLanc’s research will continue and be made available.

NewsLanc will serialize its findings over a minimum of six monthly reports commencing this month.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

LETTER: F & M, General Hospital and newspapers thwart transparency

"The Jan. 4 Sunday News editorial on the subject of New Year's resolutions encouraged 'government officials at every level…to build public trust by openness', concluding that 'Transparency is the best policy.'

"Officials of F&M College and Lancaster General Hospital should have been included in this statement. These two non-profit corporations are partnering with Norfolk Southern in a plan to move the rail yard to a site west of the City near several upscale residential neighborhoods. There has been a decided lack of 'openness' and 'transparency' from the time that these project plans were first begun nearly five years ago.

"William J. Cluck, attorney for The Railroad Action and Advisory Committee (TRRAAC), who represent homeowners in the affected neighborhoods, has requested that F&M release certain information about the hazardous waste materials including asbestos that were deposited over the years in the former municipal dump. A letter sent by Cluck on Oct. 10, 2008 to Keith Orris of F&M requested: 'In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, we request F&M [to] seek approval from the LCSWMA to release the ARM Group's 2002 "Due Diligence" Environmental Investigation.'

"Cluck also stated: 'Clearly, there is a need for a real public hearing where the Project Partners and the relevant governmental agencies should respond to all of the issues raised in this letter and provide the public with reasonable notice and full and complete opportunity to comment on the [environmental] studies…'

"Recently Governor Rendell gave F&M a check for $10 million dollars of state taxpayer money to pay for the excavation of the former dump, even though the public has had no meaningful opportunity to comment on these plans. There were only two public meetings on the plans, both controlled by F&M officials who strictly limited public comment.

"TRRAAC was not given an opportunity at these meetings to present its proposed alternative site. Their proposed site would not involve hazardous materials relocation nor would it be adjacent to residential neighborhoods.

"The consultants who worked on the environmental and engineering studies for the rail yard relocation project were selected by F&M. Nor has there been an independent evaluation of alternative sites, even though TRRAAC has asked for one.

"The Lancaster Sunday News, Intelligencer Journal and the Lancaster New Era have all failed to provide the public with objective and detailed reporting of this issue. The stories that have appeared have mainly relied on quotes by the project partners, notably F&M.

"Even though the information was sent to them by a TRRAAC supporter, all three newspapers failed to report that on Dec. 11, 2008,PennDOT turned down F&M's request for an additional $9.2 million for the rail yard project.

"Concerning the issue of 'openness and transparency', the editors of the Sunday News have failed themselves to do what they are advising others to do. They need to accept their own challenge and write a series of investigative stories on this issue.

"Likewise, F&M, LGH and Norfolk Southern, as well as the involved state agencies, need to provide TRRAAC with the information and independent studies that TRRAAC has been requesting throughout the past year.

"For those who live in the soon-to-be-affected neighborhoods, the health, home values and quality of life of these tax-paying citizens and homeowners hang in the balance."

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Could Symphony make use of Convention Center?

QUESTION FROM PRIVATE LIST: "If the CC works out some type of accommodation with the Symphony, how good are the acoustics etc? Is that what is being considered?"

RESPONSE FROM PRIVATE LIST: "I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with one of Cooper Carry's architects who was a lead designer of the convention center. I asked him if it would have been possible to design the convention hall as a multi-purpose center. He told me that Cooper Carry had been asked to investigate that possibility, and they were unable to make it work in the space allotted.

"The 45,000 square foot main exhibition hall is really crammed into a relatively tight space, in fact it is constructed at an angle so it clears what remains of the historic buildings on the site. (Personally, I think it might have been done, with lots of money, a slightly smaller main exhibition hall, and significant structural changes.)

"Right now, the acoustics in the convention center are nonexistent. The barn ceiling has bare steel trusses with exposed heating and air conditioning ducts, electrical conduit, and sprinkler pipes. The walls are hard drywall on steel studs.

"I suspect it would be possible to convert the main hall so performances would be possible, but there are MANY obstacles. A performance would only be able to use the space in the barn, not underneath Ballroom A, since the low ceiling would mangle the acoustics and block the view. A stage would need to be constructed (I'm not sure if a portable one would be acceptable), and collapsible stadium seating would need to be added (which could interfere with some of the entrances to the main exhibit hall).

"Lighting, curtains, and other utilities would have to be hung from the barn roof trusses, and an acoustically designed ceiling would need to be added (requiring a redesign of lighting and utilities). Acoustic elements would need to be added to all four walls, including along Ballroom A where large windows overlook the convention hall floor.

"Plus, a sound and lighting control room would need to be added. After millions of dollars in renovations, the result would be a large hall with poor staging, lousy acoustics, uncomfortable seating, and less floor space for exhibits.

"In other words, forget about it."

Former Judge accuses deceased son of "insane delusion"; contests bequest to Lancaster Public Library

According to a Petition No. 36-2008-1522, recorded in the Lancaster Court of Common Pleas on August 21, former County Judge Wilson Bucher is contesting the estate of his deceased son, Thomas W. Bucher, who died in July, 2008.

Five years prior to his demise, Thomas Bucher signed a Will that states "I give the residue of my estate, real and personal, to the Lancaster County Library, Lancaster, Pennsylvania."

The library has subsequently changed its name to the Lancaster Public Library. It is located at 125 N. Duke Street in the City.

The estate is anticipated to be in the amount of $500,000.

Judge Bucher contends his son Thomas "was suffering from an insane delusion caused by a mental condition that was initially diagnosed in 1975 and from which he suffered for the remainder of his life… The aforementioned insane delusion was that his immediate family was conspiring to divert his legacy under a will by a related aunt by marriage that was being probated at the time decedent’s probated will was executed…. Moreover, the scrivener of decedent’s will, Attorney Theodore Brubaker, confirmed to the undersigned counsel that the decedent initially approached him the insane delusion that his family was stealing from him." (Note that it in the preceding sentence it is Judge Bucher and not attorney Brubaker who is describing the deceased as having an "insane delusion." Also, this is but a representation by Judge Bucher of what Brubaker told him.)

Black's Law Dictionary, Eighth Edition, defines insane delusion as: "An irrational, persistent belief in an imaginary state of facts resulting in a lack of capacity to undertake acts of legal consequence, such as making a will."

The son was gainfully employed, unmarried, and without children. As indicated above, five years had past since he signed his Will.

Due to Judge Bucher’s claim, what had appeared to have been a blessing for the library and the public has become a drain on the library's already scarce funds in order to defend the bequest against the judge's challenge.

Judge Bucher is represented by his son-in-law, attorney Steven R. Blair

Friday, January 2, 2009

Not all General Hospital activities promote good health

We receive an electronic version of the January edition of Lancaster General Hospital's "By your side.", which describes the many worthy health related events the hospital is sponsoring during the month.

Among them are Boosting Immunity, Weight Loss Surgery, Health Shopping Tour (at Weis Markets), 'Shapedown' (weight loss), Freedom from Smoking, Smoking Cessation Support Group, and Individual Counseling.

(You can sign up for the newsletter by calling 800-341-2121.)

Nevertheless, they have apparently left off the list one hospital sponsored (with F&M) planned health related activity: The excavation of a long buried and wooded over asbestos dump and the trucking of hundreds of loads of potentially friable material to another Lancaster site. (Not to mention the extra cost of moving an asbestos dump to the tax payers of perhaps $10 million.)

Is this worthwhile? Yes, even the neighbors agree provided the old Armstrong dump offers the best site for the relocation of the freight yard, all things considered.

But shouldn't LGH sponsor an engineering study by a neutral authority to satisfy the public and itself that one of the other sites is not safer, more eocnomical and functions just as well?

That's all that neighborhood group TRRAAC is asking. We think such a study is in the interest of all of us.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Reporter wanted ad at Columbia School of Journalism

Advertised position title: Reporter

News Organization Name (required):

Job Location: Lancaster, PA

Medium: Internet supplemented with newsletter and radio spots

Job Type: Full-time, minimum $40,00 plus benefits.

The position initially is as a reporter and feature writer but with the potential of becoming editor and ultimately publisher.

A privately own substantial real estate company has developed in order to provide an alternate source of news and commentary for Lancaster County residents. It also serves as a prototype for a for profit chain of such alternate web sites for cities such as Harrisburg, Reading and York, and conceivably someday nation wide.

The challenge is whether current on and off line readership of 4000 / 5000 per week can be increased to over 20,000, thus making the venture profitable. There is a potential for a weekly or monthly tabloid.

Candidate should have a strong social conscience, a flare for political activism, belief in the local media potential of the Internet, and a desire to take the lead for what could (but need not) become a highly profitable media chain. Although the publisher is 71 years of age, he has a long history of developing and operating apartment complexes and hotel chains, producing motion pictures, and as a national and international political activist.

Depending upon experience and aptitude, the position offers a minimum of $40,000 plus benefits.

Interested parties should contact publisher Robert Edwin Field at NewsLanc, 1377-C Spencer Avenue, Lancaster, PA 17603 Cell: 717-940-1221 Office: 717-393-0463

717-940-1221 (Cell) 717-393-0463 x 211 (office)

REF Productions, Inc, independent, but a member of The Manor Group (

Intell / New Era merge ads with news

On the first day of the new year, readers encountered the prominent front page headlines "Weis to lower, freeze food prices; 2,400 items affected; will last 90 days."

Although a by line was given to an Intelligencer Journal staff member, the entire article had all the markings of a promotional hand out from one of the Lancaster Newspapers' major advertisers.

No mention was made that each Weis market has a staff of workers devoted to going around marking up food prices. We can understand the necessity of this during times of inflation.

But prices have been precipitously falling recently due to the economy, with the Consumer Price Index down almost 2% over the past two months. The nation has suddenly found itself facing deflation, rather than inflation.

Any legitimate journalistic report would have raised the issue as to why Weis isn't lowering prices rather than simply freezing them!

Had the report interviewed other supermarket chains in our region to find out what they are doing, the headline may have been "Weis freezes prices; others lower them."

Let us hope that desperation for advertising bucks in the new year does not bring about the mixing of advertisement with news coverage. It is bad enough when the newspapers use news reports to promote fellow members of the Big Five.