Providing Greater Lancaster with an Alternative Source for Local News and Commentary

  October 31, 2006                                         Publisher: LLC                                    Volume 1, Number 13
Make Your Voice Heard.
Write a letter, make a call:

Edward G. Rendell, Governor
225 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA 17120
(717) 787-2500
E-mail the Governor here.

Gibson Armstrong, State Senator
(717) 787-6535

Mike Sturla, State Representative
(717) 295-3157

J. Richard Gray, Mayor, City of Lancaster
(717) 291-4701

Ernest Schreiber, Editor
Lancaster New Era
(717) 291-8733

C. Ray Shaw, Editor
Intelligencer Journal
(717) 291-8650

Marvin Adams, Editor
Sunday News
(717) 291-8788

Gray Stuck with Smithgall
$7 Million Annual Deficit
and Millions More from
Convention Center /
Hotel Project

New Era / Sunday News
Wrongly Report Judge
Madenspacher's Ruling

In an astounding display of erroneous news coverage, the New Era on Oct. 28 and the Sunday News on Oct. 29 'reported': "Judge Joseph Madenspacher .. imposed a permanent injunction preventing the commissioners from reducing a countywide hotel-room tax that supports the project."

(When pressed by, a spokesperson for the New Era acknowledged their error).

The Sunday News stretched fantasy even further by stating that the judge had ruled that "construction can begin on the $155 million convention center and hotel proposed for downtown." This was not even an issue in the proceedings.

Madenspacher's only ruling was narrowly focused on the validity of the County's guarantee of $20 million of the $40 million bond guaranty. Not only did the judge not rule on the issue of "reducing a countywide hotel-room tax that supports the project" but he did not entertain the various other requests initially made by the Sponsors and the Convention Center Authority.

Madenspacher also interpreted the documents to require that the Convention Center Authority certify that it has sufficient funds available to build the project before receiving bond proceeds. This could prove to be a huge setback for the project.

Testimony by both sides indicated there would not be sufficient revenue to both pay debt service and maintain operations. Madenspacher opined that the county may face a "Hobson's choice": raise taxes to cover the deficit or allow the center to sit idle.
Mayor Rick Gray is stuck with the $7 million budget deficit that former mayor Charlie Smithgall left behind. Unfortunately, Gray cannot un-build the new police station and its associated debt. Nor can he put the Watt & Shand building back on the tax rolls, now that demolition has begun (which Gray could have stopped).

Smithgall agreed to gift $1 million to the project by waiving permit and application fees. The City of Lancaster recently forgave $497,000 for a building permit. (Given remaining funding and legal obstacles, the permit may be more show than go).

Gray came to office with laudable ambitions to balance the budget, assist needy residents, and encourage development. Unless he unshackles himself from the convention center / hotel project, city funds instead will be used to pay for Smithgall's extravagances.
Common Cause Pleads with Gov. Rendell to Investigate "Troubling" Lancaster Convention Center Project

In an explosive letter to Governor Edward G. Rendell that was virtually ignored by the monopoly newspapers, the executive director of Common Cause/PA, urges the Governor to review the "troubling" Lancaster County Convention Center project because of "a very disturbing lack of transparency with regard to how this project is being conducted."

Barry L. Kauffman also asks Rendell to review state grants received by project sponsors.

"There have been strong suggestions," Kauffman writes, "that the awarding of state grant funds for this project may have been determined more by political influence than demonstrated merit, need or viability of the project."

Kauffman concludes "The questions that most deeply concern us are those that speak to the lack of accountability and transparency in the administration of the project."

Letter posted at:

New Era Continues to Misrepresent
PricewaterhouseCoopers Market Studies

In a convention center-related article Oct. 27, the New Era yet again inaccurately reports:
"PricewaterhouseCoopers, an international consulting firm, produced two studies of the Lancaster [convention center] project - - in 2000 and 2002, finding it feasible."

The reports were merely market studies, not feasibility studies. A feasibility study is far more comprehensive and projects financial results. This was verified by American Valuation Group, Inc., engaged to review the studies. Click here for the report.

The studies raised serious concerns about lack of airline service, highways and downtown attractions.

Furthermore, PricewaterhouseCoopers withdrew its market studies last year, saying they were no longer applicable.

The only actual feasibility study was performed by PKF Consultants, Inc., and it concluded the project should "either be downsized or an alternate use found for the site." (Read PKF's study here).