Providing Greater Lancaster with an Alternative Source for Local News and Commentary  _________________________________________________________
 January 26, 2007                                         Publisher: LLC                                    Volume 1, Number 22
Convention Center Construction: Deceptive, Reckless and Wasteful
According to the Jan. 24 Lancaster New Era, David Hixson, Convention Center Authority Executive Director, told City Council, "In September, we will be several months into the vertical construction of the project."

In a page and a half of coverage, the Sunday News of Jan. 21 neither mentioned the obvious

impediments, nor gave voice to project critics.

Yet uncertain financing, ongoing lawsuits (see below) and a likely sea-change on the Convention Center Authority board in September suggest insurmountable obstacles and that the Authority should not be reckless with millions of taxpayer


Nevertheless, the Authority and project sponsors are determined to give the impression that the center is a 'done deal.' In what appears to be a budgetary "sleight of hand," they are diverting revenues needed for operations to begin token construction.

Hold on to your wallets:

Former Mayor Charlie Smithgall is a candidate for county commissioner!

When former Lancaster city Mayor Smithgall first came into office in 1998, the annual City budget was a little over $24 million dollars with a $2 million surplus.

Eight years later, the Smithgall administration bequeathed Mayor Rick Gray and the City of Lancaster a first year budget of slightly over $39 million dollars, with a $7 million deficit!

Wishful Thinking?

Intell makes a 'Freudian' slip

"Resignation should soften media attacks" read the heading over a letter-to-the-editor to the Intelligencer Journal Jan. 19.

The problem was two-fold: Commissioner Dick Shellenberger had not resigned (He announced he would not run again) nor had the letter writer, Victor Capecce, suggested that he had! to become
a foundation announced the recruiting of a community advisory board in preparation for the entity soon filing to become a 501(c)3 foundation.

231 days left until county appointees become a majority on Convention Center Board and taxpayers get some accountability.

Sponsors Facing Legal Obstacles to
Convention Center Construction

  1. The County is appealing to the Commonwealth Court the decision by Judge Madenspacher that the County's Guaranty Agreement is valid.

    An issue being raised is whether increasing the amount of the Convention Center Authority's (LCCCA) bond beyond the amount guaranteed by the County requires the County's consent where debt service on the entire bond amount is equally guaranteed.

    Another focus of the appeal is that the Guaranty Agreement is invalid because it was signed by the former Chairman of the Board of Commissioners in violation of County Ordinance 73.

    This is because the Trust Indenture entered by the LCCCA did not contain taxpayer protections that were required by Ordinance 73 as a precondition to the County entering the Guaranty Agreement.

    Still another contention is that 2003 Guaranty Agreement is an invalid "midnight contract" that was adopted by the prior lame-duck Board of Commissioners just before leaving office, solely as a means to remove from the incoming Board the ability to decide whether the County should guaranty the LCCCA's construction bonds.

  2. The County is appealing to the State Supreme Court the Commonwealth Court's decision concerning validity of The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Lancaster's (RACL) Act 23 grant.

    The County's lawsuit contends that recent amendments to Act 23, which Senator Armstrong took the lead in arranging last year, violate the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution because they give unfettered discretion to a municipality (such as the City of Lancaster) to decide which Act 23 projects must pay local real estate taxes and which Act 23 projects need not do so.

    (That Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development has approved 20 years of annual $1 million grants to RACL under Act 23, which will be used to repay a $14 million Act 23 bond RACL is selling to help finance construction of the Marriott Hotel).

  3. Litigation concerning whether the hotel would indeed be exempt from real estate taxes could be initiated in the future by the School District or the County.

Commissioners Mull Swing Appointee to Authority
At a recent commissioners' work session, Chairman Dick Shellenberger outlined the criteria he was looking for in the county's pivotal appointment to the convention center authority board.

"Feasibility, transparency, audit, and accountability: These are the values the new appointee needs to bring to the Convention Center Authority board.

"The appointee must understand that highly reputable
companies have examined this project and that the Authority needs to take their recommendations into account.

"The person we select needs to remember their board is accountable to the taxpayers."

Commissioner Molly Henderson added, "This is a pivotal decision for our board. It might be helpful if members of the current Authority board come in to brief us."

Sunday News: Back To Bias
An article published by the Sunday News Jan. 21 ("Budget to build"), says: "The [Convention Center] project is eagerly awaited by many city residents, especially black and Latino business owners who hope to benefit from the predicted economic growth." According to whom? No poll or study of 'city residents' was cited. And the economic growth predicted was also not attributed. That is two unattributed assumptions presented as facts in one sentence!