Saturday, February 28, 2009

NYC newspaper to charge for Web content

According to Agence France Presse, "New York newspaper Newsday plans to start charging users of its Web site, a top executive of the company that owns the daily said Thursday."

This is an approach that has proven successful for the Wall Street Journal but was tried for some services by the New York Times a couple of years ago and later discontinued.

One of the top 15 newspapers in the country, Newsday has a strong base on Long Island and also serves the greater New York metropolitan area, competing with the Times and the Post.

Publishers from throughout the country will be monitoring Newsday's -new approach carefully because its success or failure will be an important indication of options for the struggling print medium. The bankruptcies within recent days of the two Philadelphia newspaper and Denver's Rocky Mountain News are signs of the considerable financial pressures that virtually all newspapers face today, Lancaster included.

As recently commented upon at NewsLanc, the success in charging for Web site content by the Wall Street Journal is attributed to the exceptionally high value readers place on its economic and financial coverage. Whether Newsday's local coverage of Long Island will be in sufficient demand to generate revenues is problematic but a fascinating experiment.

Friday, February 27, 2009

LETTER: LNP Conspires With Project Partners

Editor's note: The following comes from a representative of TRRAAC.

"Lancaster Newspapers refuses to report that the project partners are responsible for submitting false statements to the state government in their attempt to obtain millions of dollars to cleanup the LCSWMA dump in Manheim Township. This week, both Lancaster Intelligencer and Lancaster New Era reported on developments with the proposed relocation of the Dillerville Rail Yard. Both reporters were informed that an application submitted to the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) falsely represented that the project had already "committed" and 'awarded' $ 1 million from Department of Environmental Protection. However, neither story noted this significant fact.

"TRRAAC's investigation has confirmed the DCED application was submitted by EDC Finance in December. As recently as February 11, 2009, DEP wrote to Keith Orris of F&M and informed him the DEP application was only in process. This is evidence that the DCED application falsely represented to DCED that DEP had awarded and committed $ 1 million toward the cleanup of the dump.

"LNP is one of the largest contributors - to the tune of $50,000 annually - to the Economic Development Council of Lancaster County. EDC Finance is described on its web site as a division of the Economic Development Council of Lancaster County. Board members of EDC Finance include Larry Downing, president of Manheim Township Board of Commissioners; Michael Davis of Barley Snyder, the attorney who is representing F&M College and convinced Manheim Township that federal law preempted local floodplain ordinance; and a partner at Hartman Underhill & Brubaker, the law firm representing LCSWMA (the beneficiary of the state grant to pay the tipping fees to relocate the waste). The Board of Economic Development Council of Lancaster County includes Tom Beeman of Lancaster General Hospital, John Buckwalter of LNP, a partner at Barley Snyder, and Keith Orris of F&M College.

"It is interesting to note that TRRAAC has discovered an e-mail dated August 19, 2008 where the head of DEP's Brownfields Action Team wrote to Kathy Horvath, the DEP official responsible for reviewing the proposed cleanup plan and public involvement plan, about a conversation she had with Keith Orris of F&M. The e-mail notes that Jill Gaito, the DEP Deputy Secretary responsible for the Growing Greener grant program, had agreed that 'we would use [Growing Greener II] funds for remediation work at the Norfolk Southern project. Keith will send a scope of work so that we can start the paperwork.'

"So, while DEP was reviewing the cleanup plan and public involvement plan, apparently somebody high up at DEP decided the project would be funded before it was ever approved. Is it any wonder that DEP rubber stamped the plan on October 3?"

EDITORIAL; Bitter sweet news. An end of the Robber Barons?

News reports that the "Rail yard move is under way" bring mixed feelings.

Yes, enabling the expansion of Franklin and Marshall College and connection of road patterns in North West Lancaster are very desirable things.

But the underhanded, undemocratic manner in which the dump site was chosen should concern citizens not only because of the abridgement of the rights of the neighbors, not only because F & M and General Hospital should know better, but also because tens of millions of tax payers' money to relocate a benign asbestos ladened dump may have been saved if a more suitable location indeed exists.

We at NewsLanc are hoping this episode bring an end to an era dominated by the self serving dealing of S. Dale High of The High Group (The Convention Center Project) and , on behalf of F & M, by college President John Fry, (the Norfolk Southern railyard project.)

In both cases these community leaders dragged along unwitting accomplices who should have known better. Fulton Bank was sand bagged with the Convention Center Project and stopped funding the partnership and separated itself as quickly as possible after sordid facts were brought to its attention. Lancaster Newspapers, Inc. was involved because the misguided Steinman heirs sought to help downtown, and mediocre executives unwisely collaborated with what High for the prospect of owning the Marriott for only a token investment.

Worse, the Lancaster Newspapers, Inc. trashed journalistic standards and used its power to further its financial interests in Penn Square Partners and to destroy the public careers of two decent officials.

All that the future rail yard neighborhood was asking was that an impartial expert examine alternate locations and confirm that the dump site was preferable, all things considered.

All the former County Commissioners and convention center critics were seeking was a professional feasibility study and abidance with its conclusions.

NewsLanc hopes and believes that the future will be better. Dale High and John Fry have been unmasked for what they really represent. No longer will Lancaster Newspapers, Inc. be able to mis-lead with impunity.

NewsLanc is small but growing; we are tough minded and well funded. Like George Soros, we believe that an informed public over time will make better decisions. We pledge to stay the course!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Current LCCCA committed to transparency

At the Feb. 26th monthly public Lancaster County Convention Center Authority meeting, a modest public request was honored by the Board.

Randolph Carney, a city resident, noted that, according to the LCCCA website, the project current value stands at $174.4 million. However, Carney observed, the actual project cost has fluctuated over the course of the past year. Being that "well over fifty percent" of the cost of the hotel and convention center is comprised of tax-payer dollars, Carney asserted that it is the duty of the LCCCA to present the public with accurate and accessible figures. Carney later told NewsLanc that "The convention center, of course, is 100% taxpayer dollars."

Chairman Art Morris acknowledged that the numbers posted on the website have not been updated since last year's audit. Secretary Kevin Fry committed to doing all he can to ensure that the data provided online is appropriately updated.

Mock trial final a cliff hanger

Last year's runner up for the county championship Catholic High was once again locked in battle with 2008 winner McCaskey High before four jury members in a court room presided over by County Judge Jeffrey D. Wright.

After evaluating the impressive presentations by both teams, the jury split 2 to 2 between McCaskey, representing the Plaintiff, and Catholic High, for the Defendant.

As a tie breaker, points awarded to attorneys and witnesses through out the contest were added up. Again the teams were dead even.

Finally, a third tie-breaking criteria was applied, and Lancaster Catholic won by the narrowest of margins.

For the victors, regional contests lie ahead and aspirations of reaching the state finals.

For the losers....there's next year.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Building Character: Pulsates spirit of adaption and reuse

(First report by Cliff B. Lewis on the Downtown cultural scene)

The 300 block of North Queen Street may well be the cradle of a cultural Renaissance in Downtown Lancaster. And the glowing center of this gestating movement would have to be Building Character.

Tucked away from the west side of Queen, Building Character's exposed brick walls and bare rafters have come to shelter a colorful arrangement of local music, art, clothing, and film. The now city-wide tradition of Music Fridays (on the third week of each month) first pulsed through these very walls to the tune of the Faux Minx, Lancaster's hardest-working jazz-funk quintet. And, from the looks of things, this is only the beginning of Building Character's impact on Lancaster's local culture.

Before April 2007, Building Character was a drab and silent warehouse. Had it not been for the efforts of local preservationists, this 19th century structure, designed by the same architect as Penn Square's Greist building, would have been flattened into a parking lot. Instead, the building served as a small-time storage facility until less than two years ago, when Tony Nies and Marty Hulse conceived the idea for a Downtown-based market for antique architectural salvage material.

Not long after its initial opening, the facility became a fresh venue for emerging Lancaster musicians—apparently a hot commodity at the moment: "The Chameleon," Nies explained, "kind of lost the [status of being] known as the local, raw, underground space for up and coming local artists. Now they're booking David Archuleta." Two years ago, when folk artist and former "Vigilante of Love” Bill Malone visited Lancaster, he performed at the Chameleon. This Saturday, February 28, Malone will perform at Building Character.

Building Character bears a stark and stylish atmosphere, setting a new local standard for the adaptive reuse of historic industrial structures. Indeed, its entire eclectic block is defined by a spirit of adaptation and reuse—from clothing, to windows, to vintage cigarette lighters. As Nies puts it, "Almost everything in the block reuses in some way….That's one of the things that the block stands for."

Building Character is located at 342 North Queen, Warehouse B. Building Character houses a diverse array of cultural events, all of which are listed on their Event Calendar.

Will Philadelphia become a one newspaper city?

According to the Feb. 25th Philadelphia Daily News, one of the main issues between creditors and management is whether to continue to publish the Daily News in addition to the Inquirer or allow Philadelphia to become a one newspaper city.

According to the article, Brian Tierney, publisher of both newspapers, declared "We've been able to save $75 million in costs in Philadelphia by working with people and treating people with respect... As long as I'm running the place, the Daily News will never be closed and we'll never rescind our contracts."

CORRECTION to Veri & Jamanis concert time

Veri and Jamanis are scheduled to perform the full Gershwin program at Weil Recital Hall (Carnegie Hall) on March 26th at 8pm, not at 12:15am as was previously reported during a moment of our publisher's mental lapse!

Commissioners Adopt "Greenscapes" Plan

by Cliff B. Lewis

"Greenscapes" was formally adopted today as a new element in the Lancaster County Comprehensive Plan. The Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the initiative after a public presentation by Michael Domin, Principal Planner for the Lancaster County Planning Commission.

Prior to the final vote, County Commissioner Craig Lehman asserted that Greenscapes has everything to do with Lancaster's economic development, in as much as young American families will be more likely lay down their roots in an area with preserved and accessible natural "amenities." And ultimately, Lehman noted, this initiative serves to ensure that "the Lancaster County we love will remain 100, 200, 300 years from now."

As defined in the official document, Greenscapes will exist to define "a vision, goals and objectives, strategies, and tools to preserve, conserve, restore, and enhance natural resources through the establishment of a countywide, integrated green infrastructure system." It should be noted from the outset that this plan does not initially institute any 'hard' legislation to plant trees, protect developable land, or 'green' our existing infrastructure. Rather, "Greenscapes" serves to set a clear vision for local growth.

The term "green infrastructure," in itself, projects a focused vision for our local community.

Distinct from the 'gray' infrastructure of transportation, plumbing, and energy lines, green infrastructure consists of the rivers, fields, and forests that serve to "protect, enhance, and restore the natural functions and services of an ecosystem." The Greenscapes initiative emphasizes the economic and social 'services' provided our surrounding eco-system and places these services on par with those provided by our roads, pipes, and telephone lines.

The plan will pursue its four goals of Preservation, Conservation, Restoration, and Recreation through several "action initiatives," including

• A Lancaster County Green Infrastructure (GI) website,
• Local GI-related events,
• Municipal GI plans,
• A GI overlay zoning district,
• County GI funding program,
• Completion of the Countywide Regional Park and Greenway Trail System,
• A local GI summit,
• A local GI coalition,
• And the formation of Environmental Advisory Councils.

Several local community members took the floor to commend the planning and approval of Greenscapes. Ralph Goodno, President of the Lancaster County Conservancy, praised this natural preservation initiative for living up to the County's past accomplishments in preserving its agricultural land.

A document detailing the complete vision of "Greenscapes" is available at .

Veri and Jamanis in Budapest

For admirers of the Lancaster piano duo, artistic founders of the Pennsylvania Music Academy (PAM), and for those who simply enjoy good music and travel, visit: .

Veri's former Lancaster piano student, now Budapest resident, and current East European real estate developer Richard Field 'filmed' the couple with "a hand held high definition HDCCD video camera and a cheap tripod" as they went sight seeing in Budapest and during their concert. He then edited their sight seeing and concertizing into a very educational and entertaining short video.

The concert sound track is actually from Veri's original two piano transcription of "An American in Paris" that Veri and Jamanis recorded and released in 1997 to mark Gershwin's 100th birthday, which explains its high reproduction quality.

Veri and Jamanis are scheduled to perform the full Gershwin program at Weil Recital Hall (Carnegie Hall) on March 26th at 8:00 pm.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Green Infrastructure Plan to be Presented Tomorrow

by Cliff B. Lewis

A new Green Infrastructure Element in the Lancaster County Comprehensive Plan will be presented tommorow for final affirmation at the Lancaster County Commissioners' weekly meeting.

The new initiative, known as Greenscapes, will serve as a replacement and expansion upon a similar Lancaster open space plan from 1992. Greenscapes will provide the county with guidance from a variety of avenues — from planning to public events — with the purpose of promoting environmentally considerate growth in Lancaster County.

Tomorrow's meeting will be held at 150 N Queen, in Room 701, beginning at 9:15 am. The event is open to the public and will feature a formal presentation of Greenscapes, including a visual presentation of the plan’s priorities and components.

All who value the clean and responsible growth of Lancaster County should be encouraged to lend their presence and voice to this meeting.

For more information regarding the Lancaster County Commissioners, visit

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cliff Lewis joins NewsLanc staff

NewsLanc welcomes Cliff Lewis as a reporter and feature writer.

He is a 2008 graduate of Millersville University, majoring in English with a minor in History.

Cliff is also a local musician, a coffee aficionado, and a card-carrying Downtown Lancastrian. He and his wife currently reside on West Orange Street.

Until accepting his new position, Cliff was employed as a technical writer. Cliff learned of the opening from announcements on the NewsLanc web site. He responded to the challenge!

Is F&M's application for a rail freight assistance grant a travesty?

John Fry, President of Franklin and Marshall College, is consumate at framing matters in a self serving manner. Small wonder he is the product of business schools rather than academia as were the college's prior leaders.

The matter is deemed newsworthy because it raises the issue of why a joint effort by F & M, General Hospital and the Norfolk Southern railway was set forth as an F & M application as though F & M indeed was in the railroad business. Also many representations seem questionable.

The following is condensed from a submittal by a representative of TRRAAC. The article can be viewed in its entirety at

On March 15, 2007, PennDOT entered into a Capital Project Grant Agreement with F&M College ("Agreement"). The Agreement is for the period October 1, 2006 through September 30, 2008 and provides the state's 70% share of the $ 1,000,000 estimated cost for the "engineering of a construction project to relocate Norfolk Southern's Dillerville Yard." The funding appears to have been originated in the 2005 Capital Budget. TRRAAC has obtained a copy of F&M College 's application and the Agreement.

The application was submitted by F&M College , but the copy provided by PennDOT in response to TRRAAC's Right to Know request, is not signed or dated.

As with the application for $ 9.3 million submitted to PennDOT last year, there is "troubling" information in this document. For example, the applicant is F&M College , a self-described railroad user seeking funds related to construction of a rail yard. (PennDOT officials told TRRAAC in a meeting in January 2009 that F&M is not eligible to receive grants under the Rail Freight Assistance Grant program.)

"F&M then lists the revenue and expenses of its "railroad or business operation" for 2004, 2005 and 2006. For 2005, revenues were $ 85,795,874.00 and expenses were $ 83,230,129.00.

In the section asking about current litigation, F&M identifies its litigation and does not disclose, for example, Norfolk Southern was facing corporate criminal charges for a derailment in northwest Pennsylvania .

Why didn't the state require disclosure of Norfolk Southern's litigation and safety record before awarding this grant?


In response to whether the property is owned or leased, F&M responds the property is "owned." Of course, they do not disclose the property is owned by LCSWMA and not the railroad.

Newspaper bankruptcies strike close to home

According to the Feb. 23rd issue of The New York Times, the filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection by the Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc. is in large part the result of paying too high a price, $562 million, in 2006 for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News.

It quotes Brian Tierney, Publisher of the Inquirer, as stating: "Philadelphia Newspapers' goal is to bring its debt in line with the reality of current economic conditions."

An Associated Press article published in the Intelligencer Journal quotes Tierney as saying "In the last two years, we experienced the rare trifecta of a dramatic decline in revenue, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and a debt structure out of line with current economic realities."

NewsLanc scoffs at Tierney's assertion that "This restructuring is focused solely on our debt, not our operations."

When NewsLanc brought information to the attention of the Inquirer from the first stage of its investigation of the roots of the Convention Center Project, it was told the matter would have merited investigation in the past but was out of the question given the current skeletal news staff due to financial constraints.

The Lancaster Newspapers, Inc. probably does not have a problem of heavy debt since earlier generations of competent management created a thriving enterprise. Yet it too suffers from a loss of revenue due to the current recession and migration of advertisers and customers to the Internet. The editions get thinner and thinner. It is more intent on not "making waves" than ferreting out wrong doings... which in past cases would require a mirror!

The combination of the Intell and New Era on a daily basis in the manner that they are jointly published Saturdays and holidays would seem to be the next logical step. So the question is how long will Publisher Jack Buckwalter fiddle while the Steinman fortune burns?

Real Estate boon of 1920s led to crash of 1929

Editor's note: The author, Polly Cleveland, PhD, shared the following with NewsLanc's publisher. It is posted at We published it because it provides a different perspective on the national economic crisis.

Economists conventionally attribute the Great Depression to blunders by the then-new Federal Reserve Bank. According to this story, promoted by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School, after the stock market crash of 1929, the Fed kept interest rates too high, strangling the economy. This story made most economists confident that it couldn't happen again.

But there's a different story: the story of the great 1920's real estate bubble. It began with cars.

Starting in 1899, the auto industry took off exponentially, dipped for two years during World War I, then took off exponentially again during the 1920's. Production reached a peak of over 4 million vehicles in 1929, before collapsing. It did not again pass 4 million until 1949!

The auto suddenly opened up vast suburban and rural areas to housing. Developers--legitimate and bogus--leapt at the opportunity. Banks jumped in too, creating so-called "shoestring mortgages"--effectively allowing property purchases on margin. Within a few years, tens of thousands of acres around major cities had been subdivided and sold.

In rural areas, developers bought up farms, dug a pond, built a "club house" and sold cheap "vacation" lots. As reported in Homer Hoyt's classic One Hundred Years of Land Values in Chicago, from 1918 to 1926 Chicago population increased 35% and land values rose 150%, or about 12% a year.

In 1926, land values stagnated, then fell. After 1929, home construction collapsed, and--paralleling the auto industry--did not again pass the 1926 level until 1950. Around Detroit, over 95% of recorded lots were vacant as of 1938. Nationally, there were an estimated 20 to 30 million vacant lots, compared to about 30 million occupied housing units. According to economic historian Alex Field, the barren subdivisions ringing the cities hindered the recovery of construction: Missing titles of defaulted owners and poor physical layout created de facto brownfields.

The real estate bubble helped set off and then worsen the Depression. Collapsing land values left people suddenly much poorer, so they cut spending. They also defaulted on mortgages, sticking the banks with "toxic" assets: liens on near-worthless property. The struggling banks in turn cut off lending even to good customers. Bank runs--panicky depositors withdrawing cash--further crippled the banking system. Between drops in spending and lending, businesses failed, unemployment soared, and prices fell.

Thus a radical innovation of the early 1900's--the automobile--set off destructive real estate bubble in the 1920's. Another radical innovation took hold in the late 1990's: "securitization", that is, the aggregation of consumer debts, especially mortgages, into marketable packages known as "collateralized debt obligations" or "CDO's." CDO's set off another giant real estate bubble by making houses "affordable" to poorer Americans. The collapse of the CDO bubble stuck banks once again with "toxic" real estate.

Fortunately, economists--and markets--now recognize that to limit damage, we must force banks to write down the garbage quickly. But write-downs will reveal that some big banks' liabilities exceed their assets, requiring drastic remedies, including restructuring, breakup, and possibly temporary nationalization. Unfortunately, so far our new Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, either lacks the nerve or the authorization. Unless he acts soon, we face another "lost decade" like the 1930's.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A modest suggestion to save chlildren's lives

NewsLanc inquired of the Lancaster Police Department concerning the recent lack of a well trained school crossing guard, if one is there at all, on Walnut Street in proximity to the Sacred Heart School and Reynolds Middle School. We received the following response from Officer M .Branner:

" ... I am in the process of attempting to make changes in the School Crossing Guard program, while this program has been in affect for over fifty years.,, We have great difficulty in finding and hiring qualified people to maintain approximately 30 intersections. In past years crossing guards received salary and benefits, now they are paid $13.47 but receive no benefits.

They only work one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. During the summer they are expected to be available for special events.

I am working with our insurance carrier and training division to get more training for these employees...."

NewsLanc responded:

"May we suggest that a very viable solution to the traffic guard problem at all grammar, middle and high schools would be the purchase and distribution of the stand up portable signs in the middle of the cross paths with the message "State law - yield for pedestrians within cross walks."

We have seen such signs downtown and in front of the Country Day School.

All this requires is for someone to arrive early at the school to place the sign and someone to collect it once school begins and again to place and correct at school closing time.

The portable stand up signs are more effective than untrained and inexperienced adult guards. Drivers are alerted and warned. No confusion results."

What City Are We In Today?

Excerpts below reproduced courtesy of

One of the most often used reasons given as to why the downtown Lancaster, PA taxpayer-financed hotel and convention center project will be successful is because of how unique the facility will be. The combined structure includes the façade of the once-historic Watt & Shand building (which before demolition was listed on the National Register of Historic Places), as well as the remaining portions of Thaddeus Stevens' home, the Kleiss Saloon, two buildings once owned by Stevens' confidante Lydia Hamilton Smith, and the Montgomery House.

Visitors to the convention center who enter through the Vine Street entrance will be able to see the unearthed cistern behind Stevens' home that MIGHT have hidden runaway slaves, as well as a part of the future underground museum. Hotel guests will enter through the Watt & Shand façade. The Montgomery House is being renovated into high-end hospitality suites, and will be off limit to the vast majority of visitors.

Once inside the hotel and convention center, what makes the facility unique?

Unfortunately, not much.

The hotel lobby and restaurant have a street-level view of downtown Lancaster. Unfortunately, both the first half-block of E. King St. and the first block of S. Queen St. primarily contain generic contemporary structures that could be in any city. Neither the hotel ballroom nor the convention center ballroom have windows that provide a view; only the hallways outside the hotel ballroom include windows in the Watt & Shand façade. There is no view of Lancaster from inside the convention center, other than in a small portion of the "prefunction" areas. And even the lowest hotel room (on the sixth floor) is too high to provide anything but a distant overview of downtown Lancaster.

In all fairness, four of the convention center small meeting rooms will have a view of Penn Square and/or the first block of E. King St., as will eight of the hotel's small meeting rooms. But the large glass windows in the hotel restaurant open into a courtyard surrounded by concrete walls, where the hotel tower stairways exit onto E. King Street.

The virtual tour of the convention center, being used to sell the hotel and convention center to potential clients, shows a facility that could literally be located anywhere. (You can see the virtual tour on the Interstate Hotels and Resorts web site, There is nothing inside this facility to differentiate it from any other hotel and convention center located anywhere else in the developed world.

There was one small way that the hotel and convention center MIGHT have made guests feel like they were really in Lancaster, and that is through artworks. Had the hotel rooms and hallways included art or photographs depicting Lancaster, it might have enticed visitors to go exploring beyond the hotel and convention center walls.

Unfortunately, the contract between Interstate Hotels and Resorts and the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority dictate that all art displayed in all parts of the "shared space" be supplied by a division of Interstate Hotels and Resorts. Penn Square Partners has also selected IHR to provide art for all of their meeting and hotel rooms. Rest rooms throughout the entire facility will display "institutional art", generic pictures purchased by the square inch. All that is left for the LCCCA to display art are the main convention hall, the prefunction areas, several hallways, and the corridor between the Penn Square (formerly King St.) parking garage and the convention center.

A committee was formed, led by representatives from IHR, to review and purchase artwork for the spaces available to the convention center authority. Unfortunately, questions about direction led to significant delays. A formal Request For Proposals to purchase art for the convention center was not published in the Legal Notices section of the Lancaster Newspapers until Thursday, February 19, 2009, with bids due no later than 5:00 PM on March 2, 2009. This means that potential bidders only have just over ten days to make a formal proposal, and for all intents and purposes prevents original artwork from being created specifically for the convention center. This also only allows just over 50 days until the convention center opens for business for the committee to review all proposals, select the finalists, present the artwork to the LCCCA board for approval, and mount the artwork in its final position.


The following notice has been recently published at

The Lancaster County Convention Center Authority requests proposals for works of art to be installed in the new Lancaster County Convention Center; situated in downtown Lancaster. The Lancaster County Convention Center features over 70,000 square feet of flexible meeting space; anchored by the 46,000 sq. ft. Freedom Hall. The facility includes two grand ballrooms and twelve meeting and boardrooms. The facility is integrates with the luxurious Lancaster Marriott Hotel. An Artwork Advisory Committee (AAC) has been selected to pre-qualify, review and recommend art projects to be displayed permanently and by exhibition in the public spaces of the Lancaster County Convention Center to the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority (LCCCA).


Proposals will be considered for artwork, including but not limited to paintings, photographs, textiles, and electronic media. There are no restrictions as to content, but artwork that connects to Lancaster County and the City of Lancaster’s rich heritage will be preferred.
If selected, it is agreed that the artwork acquired for the Lancaster County Convention Center will become the property of the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority. All copyright of the image, although a work for hire, will be shared by the Authority and the artist, each to use as they see fit. The schedule for delivery is contingent upon the Authority’s project schedule and may be changed at any time.

All proposals should;

 Consider the site/location creatively.
 Respect existing structural and non-structural site elements, including wall treatments, floor
and ceiling finishes, light and shadow, etc.
 Be designed for durability and low-maintenance.
 Include a plan for lighting, incorporating natural daytime lighting and artificial light for
 Consider scale of the artwork.
 Delivery and installation deadlines must be met.
Request for Proposals (RFP) page 2

This opportunity for artwork installation will be for the specific areas listed below. Floor plans with locations are included within this document. Additional floor plans and art location photos are available on the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority website; Updated RFP information will also be posted on the site.

Area Location Qty Dimensions Budget (ea)
Vine Street Lobby Wall A 5 80'L x30'W x2.5'd $3,000.00
Vine Street Lobby Wall B 5 Image - 20" X 20" $1,000.00
Vine Street Lobby Wall C 1 Framed - 30" X 30" W $4,500.00
Queen St
– Pre-function Wall A 1 Image - 72" X 72"
Framed - 74" X 74" $12,500.00
Ballroom 'A' Level Wall A 3 48” X 48” $3,000.00
Ballroom 'A' Level Wall D 1 Image - 52" H X 42" W
Framed - 60" H X 50" W $4,500.00
Ballroom 'A' Level Wall E 1 Image - 60" H X 54" W
Framed - 64" H X 58" W $3,000.00
Ballroom 'A' Level Wall F 1 Image - 72" H X 108" W
Framed - 74" H X 112” W $16,000.00
Ballroom 'A' Level Wall G 1 Image - 72" H X 108" W
Framed - 74" H X 112” W $16,000.00
Ballroom 'B’ Level Wall A 3 48" H X 48"W $3,000.00
Ballroom 'B’ Level Wall B 3 Image - 14" H X 11" W
Framed 30" H X 27" W $600.00
Ballroom 'B’ Level Wall C 2 Image - 96" H X 60" W
Framed 98" H X 62" W $8,000.00
Meeting Room Levels
- foyer Wall A 3 48" H X 48" W $3,000.00

The maximum art budget amount for this phase of the project is inclusive of all costs for artists, materials, building modifications, and installation; budget is reflected in the chart above and is for any and all commissions for this project.

Any artist resident in Pennsylvania is eligible to submit a proposal.

Proposals are due by March 2, 2009; 5:00 p.m. eastern standard time. The award will be announced by April 1st, 2009. Proposals which can result in delivery and installation of the artwork before April 18, 2009 will be preferred. Schedule is subject to change with or without notice.

Interested parties should visit for additional information concerning submittals.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

More from Charlie Rose re future of media

Viewers interested in the future of the Internet and the print medium might want to visit and view "A conversation with entrepreneur and software engineer Marc Andreessen" which was broadcast on Feb. 19, 2009, part of a series.

Andreessen, co-founder of NetScape and several other highly successful web sites, boldly suggests that most newspapers should "shut down the presses now" and focus on the Internet! He maintains it is foolish to put 90% of their efforts into what will disappear in a few years and only 10% into what can endure and prove profitable.

Guests on earlier programs stated that few sites will be able to support themselves with advertisement and the profitable ones will provide special information and charge viewers. (For example, most articles on might be available only by subscription.)

Guests on the show maintain only the Wall Street Journal and a few other highly specialized publications will be able to continue a print edition and also profit from the sale of on-line subscriptions and from advertisements.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Challenge to New Era's integrity

The following letter was forwarded to by a representative of TRRAAC:

"Jack [Brubaker] - why did Economic Development Company of Lancaster County (EDC) finance claim they had a commitment of $1 million from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) when DEP now denies any commitment?

"Three Manheim Township commissioners have now publicly come out against any further tax funding of the Dillerville project.
"Does the public have a right to know?

"Some people are saying the paper won't report these developments because of the Lancaster Newspapers' financial involvement with the EDC, whose staff filed the application with the Department of Community and Economic Development containing the false statements."

Lost opportunity

American Libraries Online, Feb. 18: Stimulus package will fund libraries. The $787-billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (PDF file) signed by President Obama February 17 includes several economic-stimulus provisions that could directly benefit libraries.

Last November, Karen Haley Field, then president of the Lancaster Public Library (Duke Street), urged that the remodeling and expansion of the library be broken down into two phases: Remodeling funded by major state and private grants already on hand and other donations would move forward immediately; Expansion would follow within a year or two, likely spurred by anticipated federal funding for "shovel ready" projects.

They panicked and turned her down along with a million dollars in grants and despite over $400,000 in plans.

The worn and over crowded Duke Street Library, square foot wise one of the busiest in the country, remains a monument to board members' ignorance and folly.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

LETTER: "Time for full disclosure"

Editor's note: A representative of TRRAAC forwarded the following with the side notation that "The plot thickens." The spokesperson also questions why the Lancaster Newspapers have not reported on the "on the Manheim Twp Commissioners and the stormwater issue." According to the below, the Lancaster Newspapers Inc. are tangentially associated with the project.

TRRAAC recently posted on its web site an analysis of EDC Finance's application to DCED applying for $1 million from Growing Greener II funds to pay for the cleanup of the LCSWMA dump in Manheim Township where Norfolk Southern intends to locate a new rail yard. In that application, which is still pending, EDC Finance claimed that they already had an award of $ 1 million from DEP Growing Greener II funds committed as of December 2008. That appears to be either a false statement or is misleading. DEP confirmed yesterday that they have not awarded any money for this project. Perhaps someone whispered to one of the project partners that the Governor will ensure the money will be awarded?

In response to TRRAAC's Open Records Request, DEP produced a copy of the Growing Greener II application. The application was not signed or dated. The identity of the applicant is not known. However, the documents provided by DEP included a memo dated November 18, 2008 from Keith Orris of Franklin & Marshall College to Tom Mellott and Tracey Vernon (no titles) providing information to begin the application process for DEP Growing Greener II grant. The Orris memo claims the applicant will be EDC Finance Corporation, an affiliate of the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County. EDC Finance was also used as the conduit to apply for the DCED grant.

The Board of Directors of Economic Development Company of Lancaster County include Keith Orris of F&M, Tom Beeman of Lancaster General Hospital, and Jack Buckwalter of Lancaster Newspapers. Barley Snyder is identified as its law firm. Lancaster General Hospital contributes $50,000 annually, the largest sponsor and Lancaster Newspapers contributes between $25,000 and $49,999 annually. LCSWMA contributes between $15,000 and $24,999 annually. Barley Snyder law firm, Hartman Underhill law firm and F&M College each contribute between $3500 and $ 7499 annually.

EDC Finance Corporation is described on its web site as a private, non-profit economic development lender. The members of its Board of Directors include the president of the Manheim Township Board of Commissioners (the host township of the rail yard) and the law firms representing F&M College (Barley Snyder) and LCSWMA (Hartman Underhill & Brubaker)(the beneficiaries of EDC's lending). Hartman Underhill represents both the Board of Commissioners of Manheim Township and LCSWMA in TRRAAC's appeal of the cleanup plan.

In the DCED application, EDC Finance, in the "profile" section, states it has zero full time jobs in Pennsylvania and in the "project site location" states that the remodeling of the existing rail yard will create 1000 full time jobs but the new rail yard to be built will create zero full time jobs. That's right, zero! $ 1 million of your tax money to subsidize the bottom line of LCSWMA and create zero permanent jobs!

Compare those figures with the representations made by F&M College in its applications to PennDOT for $700,000 for engineering design services and $ 9.3 million in rail freight grant assistance, where F&M said "the former Dillerville Rail Yard site can potentially create 2000 permanent jobs" and "Norfolk Southern will retain and expand its employment from 60 to 71 over three years."

Time for full disclosure regarding the purported economic development impact of this $46 million project before any additional tax revenues are diverted. A majority of the Board of Commissioners of Manheim Township oppose any further tax funding of this project.

Perhaps the Office of Attorney General and its new grand jury should investigate these alleged false statements about DEP awarding $1 million and the role of certain members of the board of these economic development organizations possibly acting to benefit their enterprises.

Authority delays access to Stevens and Lee invoices for 30 days

Over the course of planning the Convention Center, the law firm of Stevens and Lee was paid over $7 million dollars by the Authority, all on the basis of invoices that disclosed nothing other than "For professional services rendered."

Authority board members and critics have long sought and been denied the usual information that accompany legal invoices, to wit: Dates and times worked, rate per hour, person performing the work, and a very brief description of the purpose (as little as a few words.)

Ted Darcus, then Authority Chairman, evoked ongoing litigation as a reason not to permit access to the requested normal information. Critics believed this to be disingenuous, since confidential information was unlikely to appear on invoices and, if it were, could be readily redacted.

All litigation came to an end during 2008. In January, 2009, NewsLanc filed a Right-to-Know request with the Authority requesting the long sought after information. Earlier this week NewsLanc received notification that the LCCCA was exercising its legal right to extend the deadline for response by 30 days.

Controversy is not new for the Reading law firm's activities in Lancaster County. Serious questions were raised concerning the amount of its invoices pertaining to the sale of Conestoga View. Also a member of Stevens and Lee was county solicitor and guided the former commissioners concerning compliance with the Sunshine Act.

NewsLanc concurs with board members and public critics that access to the records is indispensable to achieve the public’s lawful right and need for transparency.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Exhaustive research behind LCCCA series

The following exchange between a viewer who closely monitored the evolution of the Convention Center Project and investigative reporter Jim Sneddon both sheds light on the forces driving the project and the depth of Sneddon's research.

The issue contended is at what point in time was the future sale of the Watt & Shand building from Penn Square Partners to Redevelopment Agency of the City of Lancaster (RACL) under consideration. (Later in the series, NewsLanc will address the propriety of the sale price.)

LETTER re LCCCA series:

From Sneddon's report: "A number of things were happening at this time. Significant progress had been made in 2004 to get the Convention Center moving toward construction. Among items that remained, however, was a revision of the contract between Penn Square Partners and the Authority because of the new role of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Lancaster as the owner of the land and new hotel. That was necessary in order to gain additional state funds and grants for the project."

RACL wasn't even mentioned as a potential owner of the Watt & Shand property until March 28, 2005. Title to the property was transferred on January 31, 2006.

The reason for RACL owning the property, building the hotel, and "leasing" it back to Penn Square Partners in exchange for payments on a $24 million bond over 20 years is because of S. Dale High's demand that the hotel not be obligated for paying ANY property taxes for at least 20 years. I have no evidence that the hotel received any additional state funds or grants because of RACL's ownership of the building.

RESPONSE by reporter Jim Sneddon:

While I stand in awe of and recognize [the letter writer's] expertise and long history with this project, I have to disagree with him. I do not write that these things happened, but they were "items that remained."

What has transpired repeatedly with these folks is that they hold non-public meetings and little discussion of those meetings occur in the public Authority meetings. And that discussion is often not until they have all of their ducks in a row, allowing the board to unanimously approve things with little or no discussion.

I cannot find the March 28, 2005 reference, but I can assure you that RACL discussions were happening far earlier than this date. Note that I write:
"Among items that remained, however, was a revision of the contract between Penn Square Partners and the Authority because of the new role of the RACL as the owner of the land and the new hotel. That was necessary in order to gain additional state funds and grants for the project."

First there are snippets of public references of Chris Cicconi of Stevens & Lee meeting for years with Penn Square Partners over various kinds of negotiations and agreements.

As early as the June 2, 2004 Authority meeting, Cicconi states:
"…that the main issues remaining, including additional state funding, the transfer of Watt & Shand to RACL … shared space costs and over runs, implementation of PSP financing plan, taxability of new public funds as well as others. …"

I believe there were ongoing meetings and negotiations about this during the summer, if not earlier. At the August 11, 2004 meeting we find:
Tom Smithgall states in his report that there were "lots of meetings held and more ongoing." They traveled to Atlanta for some of those meetings.
David Hixson states "...we continue to work on a business deal and structure for the convention center hotel project."

Then on August 27, 2004 Jones Lang LaSalle and Kauffman & Canoles are hired. Obviously there had to be significant prior discussion about this with Penn Square Partners because they initiated the discussion to hire these two firms and share the $30,000 cost. Why did they do this? I suspect Penn Square Partners [PSP] wanted to nail down some things before they went public with them.

Hixson states: "The thought process was to bring business advisors on board to help us to strengthen the mutual operations between the two parties and also some of the processes that we have associated with our partnership."

We do know from expense documents that the "secret" meetings with the consultants occurred between Sept. 1 and 4 and it appears they took place at Franklin and Marshall. There is nothing stated publicly about these meetings. The scheduled October 2004 meeting of the board did not occur. Then there was a report, given to someone, on Oct. 25, but as I wrote in my story there is no evidence of any "legal, public meeting" of the board.

We do find out, however, in the Nov. 11, 2004 meeting that there have been numerous meetings with PSP and others. Some of those meetings related to additional state funding grants through the newly passed ACT 23 and the need to find additional funding for the hotel side of the project.

Hixson states: "As for the $22 million funding gap, in mid-August, after the state budget was approved and after we had begun schematic designs, Sen. Armstrong convened a meeting in the Mayor's conference room and that meeting was attended by Sen. Armstrong, Rep. Sturla, Mayor Smithgall, the County Commissioners and representatives from the Governor’s office as well as representatives from both PSP and the Authority. Armstrong and Sturla encouraged the two owners to look at that process by utilizing a tool that was part of the Economic Stimulus Package approved last spring, and specifically it was SB 10 which now ACT 23." (Any discussion of ACT 23 funds would have had to focus on RACL owning the property and hotel.)

Armstrong then spoke of the other $12 million needed: "I can assure you that I have these commitments as of today … we have identified $6 million from the Governor and I have two commitments for $3 million each."

Then at the Dec. 16, 2004 meeting there is the first public mention of RACL being involved. Hixson tells the board: "Look at the critical partners that we have here. Up front I could call these the contractual partners, the Authority, PSP and now some of you will hear for the first time our proposal to include RACL in this project to make this project a reality. Under this structure the ownership of the hotel tower will lie with RACL and that includes the Watt & Shand. As required by ACT 23, RACL owns the building in title only." (Various other topics in relation to this are discussed.)

Then the board unanimously approves this motion:

"Authorize the Executive Director to negotiate modifications to the existing contracts with PSP and High Associates and enter into any new contracts required to implement the core deal structure …" ( I can assure you there have also been behind the scenes meetings and discussions before this ever became public before the Board.)

Nevin Cooley states at the same meeting: "In the spring of this year we came before the county commissioners and explained that we had a $22 million gap in our total funding plan and that we were going to be seeking additional state support in the form of grants. … this creative use of RACL allows our community to access $22 million of additional state funding. It took a lot of time and meetings to get to that point."

Some of the confusion between myself and [the letter writer] is that ACT 23 funds, which amount to state sales taxes collected at the hotel and personal income taxes by the employees are to be retuned in the form of "grants."

I hope this explains the background of my writing. As is the case with having to condense things that happened over several years, it is impossible to provide this kind of background in an article of approximately 1,000 words.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


A frequent patron was surprised to see only one other party at a popular ethnic restaurant which normally is half full even during weekdays and normally enjoys a large evening take out business.

By the time the first course arrived, he and his son were the only customers.

Exchanging information with the proprietor while settling the bill, he learned that business is off by 60% not only at this normally thriving establishment but also at similar restaurants. In exchange, the patron confided that three of his company's four hotels were doing only half the business of previous years and the other was off 20%.

Both agreed that they had never experienced such a sharp drop off in business. If indeed "misery loves company," that was about the only comfort they could offer one another.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

$15,000 assignment evolves into $1.1 million plum

Third in a Convention Center Authority series by James D. Sneddon

Virtually unknown to the public, in the summer of 2004, Penn Square Partners recommended to the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority that each agree to spend $15,000 to bring in a couple of high-powered, out-of-state consultants.

For Penn Square Partners it was an inexpensive investment. For the Authority, however, that $15,000 would eventually drain more than $1.1 million of tax dollars to another consultant over a 22-month period.

The chain of events began in August 2004 when the Authority board unanimously agreed to engage Jones Lang LaSalle of Washington, DC and Kaufman & Canoles of Norfolk, Vir. Jones Lang LaSalle is a real estate investment group and is involved with hotels world wide. Kauffman and Canoles is a law firm, specializing in many areas, including public-private partnerships.

David Hixson, the Authority Executive Director, told the board at the time:

"The thought process was to bring business advisors on board to help us to strengthen the mutual operations between the two partners and also some of the processes that we have associated with our partnership."

A number of things were happening at this time. Significant progress had been made in 2004 to get the Convention Center moving toward construction. Among items that remained, however, was a revision of the contract between Penn Square Partners and the Authority because of the new role of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Lancaster as the owner of the land and new hotel. That was necessary in order to gain additional state funds and grants for the project.

Beginning in the summer of 2004 and for months afterward, there were many discussions and meetings held outside of the public’s view. They led eventually to the first public mention of the Redevelopment Authority’s involvement in the project at the Dec. 16, 2004 meeting of the Authority.

Although meetings with the consultants apparently took place at F&M, very little information was made available to the public at that time, even though 2004 marked the beginning of an extensive, costly public relations campaign carried out by Kelly Michener of Lancaster.

Snippets of an extensive review of Authority records reveal the following:

• Herman Bulls and Alan Tantleff of Jones Lang LaSalle and Doug Smith from Kaufman & Canoles traveled to Lancaster from Sept. 01 to 04, according to expense reports filed for which they were reimbursed. They were to conduct interviews and then prepare a report.

• There is little evidence of participation in interviews on other consultant bills. Metro Vision billed $700 for a PSP/LCCCA history recap.

• Fairmount Capital Advisors, the financial consultant to the Authority, billed for 11 hours over this time frame. There is no description on his invoices for Thomas Beckett’s hours worked.

• Dan Logan of Growth Business Development has a vague "Community update meetings" on his bill for those dates, but no specific detail about meeting with any other consultants.

• According to Hixson’s expense statements, he had an "interview w/ Organizational Consultants at F & M." on Sept. 1.

• Then on Saturday, Oct. 25, again according to expense receipts, they returned to deliver that report. It isn't clear to whom it was presented. There was no Authority board meeting that day. Nor, according to its own minutes, did it have an executive session on that date. No mention of any meeting or report surfaces at the November board meeting. Kelly Michener, however, bills for four hours for a joint communications meeting with PSP on the 24th. There is nothing on the 25th, but Lori Hixon, an employee who handled a portion of the LCCCA account, worked most of the day Sunday on "core message development, special session talking points and joint meeting" according to the Kelly Michener bill.

Nothing further emerges from the two consultants except for final bills. Bulls, however, upped the Jones Lang LaSalle fee to $20,000 which was paid with no public questions asked.

Then, after several months had passed, Hixson felt compelled to add another consultant in the spring of 2005.

In March 2005, at $350 per hour, Bulls traveled to Lancaster. According to documented times on the expense records submitted, he was in Lancaster from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. That 4.5 hours cost the Authority $1,575. He also billed 5.5 hours for travel, an additional $1,925. There is no evidence of why he came to Lancaster. But this time Bulls was representing his own firm, the Bulls Advisory Group.

Another Bulls client, according to his company web site, was the University of Pennsylvania. And on April 5, Hixson traveled by train to Philadelphia where he met with Bulls for seven hours according to records. Hixson bought lunch at the Inn at Penn for $42.06. Bulls billed $195.75 for travel expenses.

At this meeting, Bulls began crafting a position that the Authority will fill with another member of the Bulls Advisory Group. Recommendations were made concerning a new strategy, structure, and systems and staffing plan for the Executive Director. It's not clear why Bulls was chosen to craft this, because he does not appear to have expertise in this area.

He does, however, have the man for the job. In June, the board approves a contract with Bulls that brings Maurice Walker on board at $300 an hour. Walker was Managing Director of Bulls Advisory Group.

His expertise was the commercial real estate and finance industries. Over an 18-year period Walker worked in the areas of development, technology, operations, investment asset management, compliance and business development/retention.

At the Convention Center Authority office his duties outlined in the original contract expanded before he started. And, they kept expanding. He took on the chief role for the project. Walker’s position expanded to reviewing all project consultants' roles and realigned responsibilities, taking on the roles of financial advisor, public relations and minority business administrator.

The contract, as with most the Authority approved, was open ended. It had a 36-month time frame, but no cap on how much would be billed.

Walker submitted bills that were far more detailed than any of the other consultants. While that was a major improvement over what the other consultants had been submitting, they reveal how Walker’s role kept expanding, overseeing projects and people that could have been done by the executive director.

It was an extensive examination of those billing details during this investigation that provided examples and raised questions if anyone at the Authority reviewed how many hours Walker was billing and how many hours he was actually working.

As with other consultants there appears to be little checking of his bills. He is paid for whatever he submits. Here are a few examples.

He bills twice for Sept. 21, 2005. The identical billing is listed consecutively. A mistake by Walker when he created his bill? Perhaps, but it should have been caught and flagged by someone at the Authority. That 14-hour double billing cost the Authority $4,200.

On one day Walker listed 17.75 hours worked from his office. He noted that he created budget drafts and distributed them to board members. Almost 18 hours worked is a lot for anyone on a single day. This day, however, was New Year's Eve. Dec. 31, 2005. That means he would have worked from 6:15 a.m. until the stroke of midnight, no breaks, no time off for lunch or dinner. What a dismal way to end the year.

Travel was included in the contract to be paid, but again, there were no stipulations or parameters. So for each four-hour round-trip from Bowie, Maryland to Lancaster and back again, Walker was paid $1,200. Walker also was paid mileage for use of his own car.

The authority also reimbursed Walker for meals, both while traveling and in Lancaster. Walker, in spite of being paid $300 an hour, often billed the Authority for very small amounts, such as $1.51 for breakfast on Nov. 29, 2005 for which he had no receipt. There were no receipts submitted on 26 different occasions between May 30 and December 31, 2005, but Walker was reimbursed for all of them. At other times the expenses don't match the time frames submitted, such as the $7.26 he billed for breakfast on Aug. 17, 2005, but the receipt from Greenfield Getty Mart shows the items were purchased at 9:32 p.m. the night before.

In October 2005, Walker submitted some substantial receipts for meals reimbursed by the Authority. He was reimbursed $233 for Carr’s, $103 for Molly’s Pub, $101 for the Belvidere Inn, $77 for Steakhouse, $64 for Lancaster Dispensing Co. and $55 for The Brassiere.

These few examples are enough to ask why more questions were not asked by someone at the Authority during Walker’s 22 months of consulting.

Finally, some $1,124,642.61 later, in April 2007, it all ended for Bulls Advisory Group when Interstate was given the reigns.

LETTER: $13 million rail yard relocation now $46 million

NewsLanc received information from a TRRAAC spokes person which we have edited and posted below:

"Monday night a bunch of Manheim Township residents and members of TRRAAC spoke to the commissioners. Mike Yoder of the Intelligencer Journal was present and spoke to us afterwards, but no article has been published yet to my knowledge.

"The issues are a little complicated, but let me try and summarize briefly:

"1.EDC Finance Corporation (EDC) is the conduit applying for state grants to cleanup the dump. In an application to the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), EDC claims to have a $1 million 'commitment' from the Department of Environmental Protection(DEP). DEP has not responded to an Open Records request and it has been two weeks...

"2. We wrote to Manheim Township on January 26 asking them to step up and pay attention to the storm water issues associated with the excavation of the dump. That letter is posted on TRRACC's web site. There was no response from the township. That's why we showed up Monday to complain.

"The first part of the excavation is in the floodplain. East Hempfield never was notified. There was no review by Manheim Township engineers. Application submitted by Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority. None of it has been posted on F & M's web site.

"3. A Right to Know request to PENNDot revealed interesting documents. F & M obtained a $700,000 grant to do engineering design study. The contract required monthly progress reports. PENNDot said all they have is the application and award of the grant. They do not have the actual work product.

"That application contains a copy of the letter of intent between F & M and Norfolk Southern. Originally this was a $13 million project and the proposal was to cap the landfill. Now it is $46 million and excavate the landfill (so Lancaster County Waste Disposal can charge $3.5 million in tipping fees to relocate the waste from its old dump to Frey farm. * (Editor's note: Frey farm, not Fry farm.)

* Emphasis added

More long time community papers fail

On Feb. 11, the Philadelphia Daily News reports the closing of a number of local community newspapers including the Germantown Courier and the Mt. Airy Times.

The future of print journalism and the Internet is one of the topics of the Charlie Rose Show this evening on Channel #13. Or view it later in the week at when the Feb. 11th program becomes available.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Is F & M's campus worth only ½ the cost of Convention Center Project?

Information received from the City of Lancaster established the total tax assessment for the campus and all of the other taxable and non-taxable real estate owned by Franklin and Marshall College at $63,824,800.

Each year the State Board of Real Estate Tax Equalization provides and updated ratio of Assessments to Market Values for each county. For 2007, Lancaster’s ratio was 73.6%. Thus the theoretical Market Value for all of F & M’s holdings amounts to $63,824.800 / .736 = $86,718, 478.

If $86,718,478 truly represents the market value of all of F & M’s holdings, campus plus numerous satellite buildings, then the approximately $180 million Convention Center Project is worth twice as much.

Doesn’t this defy common sense? Can the convention center project really be worth twice as much as all of F & M’s real estate holdings? Not likely.

A drive around campus by an experience real estate developer and investor, NewsLanc’s publisher, suggested at least $120 million in market value, even after taking age into consideration. (It could be much more.) If the many off campus real estate holdings were included, the figure would likely be close to $130 million.

Why is the county assessment value out of line? Since much of F & M's holdings are not taxable, there has never been a need to precisely value them. Furthermore, setting values on campuses requires a lot of added work and expertise because the buildings tend to be for 'special use.'

Assuming that the assessment is only two-thirds of what it should be: The 33% payment in lieu of taxes instead of being $161,200 - $44,655 (for services in kind) = $116,545 might well be $241,800 - $44,655 (for services in kind) = $197,145.

Therefore, to indeed pay 33% in lieu of taxes, F & M owes the City an additional $80,600 annually!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

F & M contributes 1/3 of exempt real estate taxes

NewsLanc asked the City of Lancaster what Franklin and Marshall College was voluntarily paying towards real estate taxes that, if not exempt, would be levied on F & M's properties.

The response from Patrick S. Hopkins, Business Administrator, is 33% for the past year, provided the value of what F & M considers to be "services in kind" is taken into account. Below is an excerpt from Hopkin's response:

"Tax-exempt parcels owned by Franklin and Marshall College and their respective [county] assessments... The Mayor's request to all tax-exempt property owners in 2008 was to make a contribution of 33% of what their tax bill would be. For Franklin and Marshall College, this amount is $161,200. From this amount, we deducted the approx. $44,655 value that F&M places on the in-kind services it provides annually in maintenance services at Buchanan Park. The remainder, $116,545, is what F&M agreed to pay as their 2008 PILOT. F&M made this payment in October 2008."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Commissioners accept no credit for Solanco Trail resolution

NewsLanc interviewed Commissioner Scott Martin concerning the good news in the Feb 5th New Era that "Entire Solanco rail line will open to public."

The former rail line easement and future hiking and biking trail extends 23 miles from east to west across the southern portion of the county.

Martin said that All three commissioners had committed on the campaign trail that "a rail trail would be nice but the people in that area and their elected officials had to arrange it."

He said that they made clear that they were not going to "iron fist" or "ram rod" or "big brother."

According to Martin, some were enthusiastic about the trail, some luke-warm, and some had reservations. "Over the course of time, after going through a process, inter municipal cooperation began to show."

The commissioner indicated there was no County point person involved. Martin insisted "We let them know that we were as a resource if they wanted it. They responded on their own and pulled it together."

Lancaster piano duo feted in Budapest

Well known respected duo pianists and the heads of the Pennsylvania Academy of Music, Michael Jamanis and wife Fran Veri kept a busy schedule on Monday and Tuesday, visiting faculty and students at the Zoltan Kodaly and Bela Bartok primary and secondary music schools. They were both very impressed with the dedication of the teachers and the enthusiasm of the students. At Zoltan Kodaly elementary they observed a group vocal lesson employing the theories of vocal instruction developed by the school's namesake, the 19th century Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly. Veri was so impressed with the way the young teacher conducted the lesson she wanted to "put her in her suitcase and take her back to Lancaster."

Monday evening the duo visited the Franz Liszt Academy where they heard the famous Hungarian virtuoso András Schiff perform solo piano works by Schubert and Mendelssohn in the main concert hall.

On Tuesday they were able to discuss music education at length with Brigitta Kovacs, the director of the Bela Bartok Secondary Music School, as well as observe a number of individual and group music lessons. The school was kind enough to allow the use of one of the two piano practice rooms Monday and Tuesday evenings.

Wednesday was the big concert at the Budapest Palace of the Arts, widely considered to be one of the world's great music venues. Two nine foot Steinway concert grands were awaiting Veri and Jamanis on stage when they arrived at 3 pm to rehearse before the evening concert.

The concert started at 7 pm and lasted just over an hour. The couple opened the concert with "Variations on I Got Rhythm". Jamanis then performed Rialto Ripples and the Three Preludes, all of which was enthusiastically received by the audience, most of whose members were hearing these pieces for the first time. The two then performed Veri's transcription of An American in Paris, a piece familiar to most members of the audience even though they were hearing it for the first time on two piano.

Veri followed with several excerpts from the Gershwin Songbook, including Lady Be Good, Stairwell to Paradise, and The Man I Love. Both closed with their signature performance of Gershwin's original two piano version of Rhapsody in Blue to enthusiastic applause which quickly morphed into thunderous synchronized clapping, the Hungarian way of demanding an encore.

After two curtain calls Veri & Jamanis obliged their grateful audience (which included numerous high ranking government officials as well as students and faculty from Budapest secondary music schools, as well as a number of prominent local and foreign businessmen and their wives) with a four hand performance of one of Brahm's Hungarian Dances, which won them an additional three curtain calls, at the end of which they were each presented with a magnificent bouquet of flowers by Richard Field, their former student.

After the concert the pianists joined some 200 guests at an elegant reception in the magnificent Glass Room overlooking the majestic Danube where their host offered a toast to Veri and Jamanis, the Pennsylvania School of Music, Zoltan Kodaly, and the prospect of a long term cooperation between the Pennsylvania Academy of Music and Budapest Secondary Music Schools.

Thursday morning Veri and Jamanis were off to Zagreb, Croatia, where they will teach a workshop followed by a short concert to faculty and students of the Zagreb College of Music.

Highlights to date of LCCCA series

The owner of Growth Business Development, Daniel J. Logan of Medford, N.J., was paid more than $122,000 over a 12-month period for which he turned in no receipts or detailed records of what he did.

Additionally Logan was paid almost $38,000 that went to a paper corporation he set up after initially being hired as a consultant to do a marketing and sales review for the Authority. Records show that the bulk of that money went to a neighbor in Medford, N.J. He was pivotal in getting Logan the authority job through contacts he had with a Lancaster County dentist and consultant.

Logan was paid over $200,000 for a 14-month period in which he had no contract.

Over a four year period Logan receive almost a million dollars. Work product in the LCCCA files is scant. Despite the high earnings, Logan apparently had difficulty making mortgage payments on his home. Why?

Thomas Beckett of Fairmount Capital Advisors of Philadelphia was paid more than $283,000 for which there is no detailed record of what he did for the hours charged during a 20-month period. Beckett was also paid about $6,000 for unsubstantiated expenses.

Beckett eventually went to work for George K. Baum and Co., a Denver, Col. firm with offices in West Conshohocken. The Baum company was paid $130,000 from fees related to millions of dollars in bonds floated by the LCCCA. Beckett was the financial consultant to the authority and recommended the hiring of the Baum company for the bond work. Beckett collected another $25,000 from the authority for a three-month period while now working for Baum after the bonds had been floated.

The series continues bi-weekly. on the Lancaster scene

Christiaan Hart-Nibbrig is the editor and publisher of a new local entertainment web site at

Many will recall that he was the co-publisher with Ron Harper of the ill fated weekly tabloid, The Lancaster Post. But before then Hart-Nibbrig was the founding editor of

Two issues were cause for ongoing discussion with Publisher Robert Edwin Field. ("Edwin" is to protect the reputation of Bob Fields who also is in the real estate business.)

The first was whether it should be Hart Nibbrig without the hyphen which Chris asserted or Hart-Nibbrig with the hyphen which Robert maintained. A couple of years later Chris discovered his birth certificate showed Hart-Nibbrig. So the old guy felt vindicated.

The other issue was whether opportunity lay in a local weekly tabloid similar to the one Hart-Nibbrig had published elsewhere earlier in his career, or a pure web site, possibly branching out to other Central Pennsylvania cities at a later date. The matter was never fully put to the test because the Post was under funded and, though Hart-Nibbrig did a brilliant job with the features, the news content was lacking.

NewsLanc welcomes LancasterZcene. Although there are plans to be announced soon to add local cultural and entertainment features to NewsLanc as well as to strengthen reporting, Zcene will make informative and fun reading.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Governor to slash library funding for 2009 - 2010 Budget

Below are some of the library funding cuts that appear in Governor Edward Rendell's proposal to the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Public Library Subsidy: $74.00 million (2.3% less than current $75.75 million level)

Library Access: $ 7.00 million (4.0% less than current $7.29 million level)

Electronic Library Catalog: $ 3.54 million (6.6% less than current $ 3.79 million level)

State Library Operations: $ 2.39 million (50.0% less than current $4.85 million level)

Library Services for Visually Impaired And Disabled: $ 2.93 million (1.6% less than current $ 2.98 million level)

Billions for convention centers and other boon doggles to enirch powerful supporters. Still less for the general public who flock to libraries for essential information, important programs, Internet access, and child and adult education.

1998 study largely ignored

According to the web site of the Lancaster Campaign, a subsidiary of the Lancaster Alliance, "Early in 1998, The Lancaster Campaign contracted with LDR International, Inc. (sold to HNTB Corp. in 2000) to create a plan to 'stimulate the economic revitalization of the City of Lancaster by developing a community supported vision and action agenda'."

It indicated that "implementing the following strategies will help Downtown Lancaster develop as a destination."

Following are the various points. Noticeable for its absence is any suggestion of creation of a convention center or hotel. The idea was apparently dismissed as worthy of disucssion!

The entire study can read at

Develop new downtown attractions. New attractions, beyond bringing more people downtown, will generate excitement, publicity and other positive spin-offs. New entertainment venues such as a multiplex cinema/retail complex and new or expanded museums are needed.

Develop a full program of effective visitor information. Good visitor information should convey a consistent and interesting story about a place from the first point of contact (through a general fulfillment piece) to site-specific information (e.g., brochure for an historic building).

Implement a Comprehensive, Coordinated Signage System. The intent of a wayfinding system is to make a city more visible (to passersby) and more accessible and understandable to visitors by improving the physical and graphic image of a city’s directional signage. Of particular importance is the need for enhanced signage at the Route 30 exits, at the city gateways and within the city.

Increase the profile of Lancaster Central Market as a visitor destination. The Central Market is one of Downtown Lancaster's primary attractions, although current operations are not conducive to visitors.

Develop downtown retail. An aggressive retail retention and recruitment program should be implemented to create a thriving downtown retail environment that is appealing to both residents and visitors.

Build on existing strengths, such as Central Market, the Lancaster Heritage Center, a new interactive visitor interpretive center, and the development and expansion of Lancaster's "Lanes and Alleys."

Promote evening activities as a niche market. Downtown contains excellent restaurants and nightspots that are different from anything offered in the County.

Implement a building lighting program – "Light-Up Lancaster!" Many of Lancaster’s buildings are distinctive and beautiful. A dramatic building lighting program would both create a festive evening atmosphere and improve public safety by increasing light levels downtown.

Implement a public safety awareness program. The public must be made more aware that downtown is safe if one uses simple common sense. A favorable media campaign would greatly enhance this effort.

Ease parking restrictions. Convenient, reasonably priced parking is critical to a satisfying downtown experience.

Accommodate motor coaches downtown. A significant effort should be made to increase motor coach traffic by providing incentives to tour operators, providing convenient motor coach parking, and creating attractive, centrally-located drop off areas that meet the needs of visitors.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Budapest and Lancaster exchange culture

The co-founders and, respectively, president and dean of the Pennsylvania Academy of Music (PAM), Michael Jamanis and his wife Fran Veri, are exploring musical education in Budapest and also giving a Gershwin concert at the Palace of the Art to an expected audience of 450, including many of the nations political and cultural leaders.

Completed in 2005, the Budapest Palace of the Arts is considered to be one of the world's great performing arts centers.

After inspecting the 450 seat Fesitval Hall where they will perform Wednesday night and trying out the two Steinway 9' grand pianos, the couple took a tour of the 1,300 seat Bela Bartok concert hall.

Later they observed a 'sold out concert' for infants and young children featuring two students from the Franz Liszt Music Academy who performed a number of Bartok violin duets standing on a low podium. At the end of the concert children from the audience where allowed on the podium to touch the instruments and the performers themselves!

Veri and Jamanis also visited the faculty and students at Zoltan Kodaly elementary school where they are observing group and individual music instruction based on the concepts developed by 20th century Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly.

The recently completed $30 million signature building for PAM is the center piece for an eventual world class music academy for high school students from around the world. If and when their vision is realized, downtown Lancaster will become one of the leading cultural centers of the nation outside major cities.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

$7.4 million for historic buildings; library fears raising $1.3

The following article was prepared in early November but, through an oversight, was never published.

In response to an inquiry from NewsLanc concerning the status of the Stevens & Smith fundraising for preservation of historic buildings adjoining the Conference Center, Gail Tomlinson reports " We have raised approximately $7.4 million to date. Most of the $4.4 million was raised here in Lancaster from individual donors. "

If funding was available for the museums, then why did the Lancaster Public Library (Downtown Lancaster), one of fourteen in the county, miss a golden opportunity to renovate and remodel when most of the funds needed were on hand?

To understand at least in part, we must direct our attention to the larger issue of why the various libraries are autonomous and dependent upon a cooperative System for certain services, a System that absorbs over half of the county and state library funding.

The common and logical approach elsewhere is for a county authority to be in charge of all libraries to promote strong community leadership, efficiency, raise funds and champion its cause.

An extensive feasibility study on behalf of the Lancaster Public Library had indicated $2.5 of likely private contributions for the renovation and expansion of the facility.

There was a $500,000 state grant and $500,000 matching grant. About $600,000 had been expended in for plans, consultation and studies. No capital campaign had been inaugurated. All that needed to be raised was $1.3 million. (The library has over $3,000,000 in its endowment fund which could have been tapped, just in case there was a shortfall.)

A library feasibility study had encountered $2.5 of likely donors for the renovation and expansion of the facility, before even asking for help from the County.

If $4.4 can be readily raised from private donors to upgrade a local museum, does it seem unlikely that $1.3 could would have been forthcoming for the beloved Public Library that serves about 1500 Lancastrians each day?

The tragic loss of both the opportunity at hand and the making use of the "shovel ready plans" to qualify for federal funding for expansion will hopefully stimulate a general recognition of the dysfunctional current arrangement and bring about a merger of libraries and System.

Then at least the blunder will have served some useful purpose.

CORRECTION to "Contrary to member's assuarances..."

It was reported incorrectly that George K. Baum & Company was the underwriter for the issuance and remarketing of the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority Hotel Room Rental Tax Revenue bonds of 2003 and 2007. The underwriter was Wachovia Capital Markets. Thomas Beckett recommended George K. Baum & Co. as a financial advisor for the bonds for which it received fees of $130,000.

EDITORIAL: Ironies of two years too late

The Feb. 1 Sunday News editorial is headlined "In his debt; Gov. Rendell has spent the state into a hole. Legislators, who let him get away with it, now must rein him in, and fill in the hole." It goes on to say that Rendell "... apparently never met a new way to spend money that he didn't like."

The Sunday News is correct about Rendell's sorry fiscal performance. But coming from the print monopoly Lancaster Newspapers, Inc., a 50% partner in Penn Square Partners which sponsors the convention center / hotel project, is historically discordant.

Then commissioner Molly Henderson with the support of commission chair Dick Shellenberger pleaded with Rendell not to provide state funds for the project, providing him with the negative PKF Feasibility Study. She also let Rendell know that a Fox 43 poll showed 78% of Lancastrians with an opinion opposed the county bond guarantee. (Had they been asked about over $20 milllion in state outright grants, it might have been 90%!)

It was the political chicaneries of then State Sen. Gibson Armstrong, the business canniness (to put it politely) of Dale High, and the media muscle of the newspaper that induced Rendell to disregard the facts and the urgings of a leader of his own party.

NewsLanc welcomes the evaluation of today's Sunday News editorial. We regret that coercion from the publisher prevented the Sunday News staff and editors and other honorable local print journalists from speaking up when it really counted.