To the Sunday News for publishing “Remembering Dick and Molly” as an “In My Opinion” column. Several persons contributed to the article but, for various reasons and by their choice, NewsLanc’s president Robert Edwin Field was designated as author. “Remembering Dick and Molly” can be read at at this URL.
Archive for 2007
State Senator Gib Armstrong as reported in the Dec. 10 New Era: “In today’s environment people think twice about getting into public office,” he said. “There are a lot of people now, with the Internet and bloggers, who try to destroy anybody on any issue. They don’t care. That’s just the way it is. I can live through that and run a campaign, but it’s not fair to my wife, and it’s not fair to my family.”
WATCHDOG: Apparently Armstrong does not like to have the public spotlight on his performance and much prefers to deal with the monopoly Lancaster Newspapers rather than receive suggestions and criticisms from concerned citizens. It’s encouraging that NewsLanc and local blogs are having their desired effect.
To the Sunday News for its Dec. 16th “‘Lords’ of the City” front page exposé and other related articles about the inability of the City of Lancaster to enforce Code Regulations for rental properties and the resulting dire consequences. NewsLanc will soon suggest corrective measures that work well elsewhere for similar municipalities.
A decade ago, McCaskey graduate and later real estate developer Richard Field and his father visited the planning office of District 9 in Budapest, Hungary. They were shown a detailed plan comprising dozens of blocks describing precisely which buildings were to be razed, which renovated, the type of new construction to take place in designated locations, proposed pedestrian pathways, street enhancements, new green areas, and improvements to existing parks.
At the time of the visit, the neighborhood consisted of many run down buildings, dingy streets, trashed littered empty lots, and buildings teeming with squatters.
When Field examined the detailed redevelopment plans, he recognized the direction, vision, and commitment of local officials. Over time, Field and his associates acquired four sites on which they developed condominiums consisting of a couple hundred flats with indoor parking and ground level shops.
Today when Field looks out from his eighth floor balcony, he sees that plan fully realized. Consequently, the district has become one of the most fashionable and sought after sections of Budapest and is experiencing rapidly rising real estate values.
In contrast, a developer interested in building similar residential condominiums in downtown Lancaster would have a very different experience. There is no comparable plan for orderly development. A prospective builder or apartment purchaser can only see what exists now; not know what will occur later.
Furthermore, prospective developers would be hard pressed to detect much civic interest in facilitating a downtown housing trend or appreciation of the resulting gentrification that would spread to currently distressed nearby neighborhoods.
Grim evidence of this apparent disconnect was the choice of the Watt & Shand site for the convention center project with no apparent recognition that such a massive commercial structure would block the logical and orderly spread to the south of housing for empty nesters and young professionals. Instead of asking what can be done to trigger downtown gentrification, concentration was on what could be done with the Watt & Shand site.
Most recent downtown residential activity has concentrated on converting deserted industrial and retail buildings, wherever they might be located, into loft type residential units. This indeed is progress, but hardly sufficient in itself.
Planning requires expertise and consensus, not gimmicks such as trolley cars. And making what is planned actually happen requires education of decision makers and the public, investments in improving streets and parks, federal and state subsidies, and leadership.
To lead effectively, one must know where one is going. Planning provides direction.
The Sunday News well knows how unfairly County Commissioners Dick Shellenberger and Molly Henderson were treated by the monopoly newspapers on the issue of the convention center project and the grand jury report. Yet it persists in publishing “Days left in terms of County Commissioners Shellenberger and Henderson” in each edition. The Sunday News calls for the community to put division behind pertaining to the controversial project and yet continues, perhaps in projecting its own guilt onto the commissioners, to denigrate honorable public servants. This conduct is unworthy of the editor.
On Nov. 30th, that bastion of public morality, the New Era, owned by the paragon of virtue the monopoly Lancaster Newspapers, Inc., (partner in the greatest rip off in Lancaster’s history) published the photo of a sad looking woman accused of offering to perform an act of prostitution for an ‘undercover’ detective who patronized a massage parlor. At a time of frequent murders, bank robberies and when the elderly are swindled out of their life’s savings, it is comforting to know that Rick Gray’s “finest” are ‘hot’ on the trail of victimless vice.
In response to a question from a NewsLanc reporter regarding the board’s position on the issue of trolley cars for downtown Lancaster, Executive Director David Kilmer said, “That effort is not being led by this authority” and “I think it’s too early to make any judgment about that and I don’t think we should be narrow-minded about things.”
Refusing to indicate any position on the issue, both David Kilmer and Board Treasurer Jon Farrell repeatedly stressed that further study is needed to determine the needs and concerns of the Authority’s client base.
According to figures made available at their Monday Board meeting, ridership of combined Red Rose Transit Services increased by 4.4% between October 2006 and October 2007.
213,838 passengers rode RRTA last month compared to 204,912 in October 2006. Over 2.2 million rides were taken on Red Rose Transit vehicles in Fiscal Year 2007.
At their Monday board meeting, the members approved a resolution to award a construction contract to Ebersole Brothers Construction of Mount Joy in the amount of $118,866.50 for improvements to the transit stop located at Locust & Market Streets in Columbia, part of which will be funded by a grant from PENNDOT.
The members also approved a resolution Monday authorizing the purchase of eight Wheelchair-Accessible Small Transit Buses from Shepard Brothers, Inc. for a total cost of $482,488. Eight buses were retired from RRTA’s fleet due to the fact that they have now accrued over 200,000 miles.
It was also announced at Monday’s board meeting that RRTA Executive Director David Kilmer has been appointed to a 3-year term on the recently-formed Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, which will advise Pennsylvania lawmakers on safety and efficiency issues with regard to motor carriers.
The Nov. 25th Sunday News confined news of the arrest of Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion, opposition leader and the foremost critic of President Vladimir Putin, to a single column on page A8 while devoting its front page almost entirely to four human interest stories of little if any news value. Readers are not so provincial as to not be alarmed about Russia careening towards its former totalitarian status and thus posing a greater threat to the world and the USA than a dozen North Koreas or Irans.
In a 22 column-inch puff piece in the Sunday News of Nov. 18th headed “Streetcar group picks board, seeks momentum,” less than one inch is devoted to the merest mention of wide scale public disenchantment with the proposal.
The article concedes in brief: “… there’s been considerable criticism from those who worry that a streetcar system would be an expensive anachronism, dependent upon public subsidies to survive.”
While trolley advocates are quoted at length, there isn’t a single comment from opponents of the project. This is typical of how the monopoly newspapers cover projects endorsed by their owners. Whatever happened to the days when the newspapers would take opposing sides on local issues?
Totally disregarded are the low ridership on the current “trolley bus” (only eight passengers per hour); traffic congestion caused by the trolleys running in the center of the street and, at intersections, in the curb side lane; dangers to pedestrians because of silent running and slow braking; and whether the estimated $300,000 annual deficit is a far too optimistic projection.
The power elite has been drafting board members from every institution in town to make a show (more a sham) of support for the project. But critics have yet to be invited to participate.
On Nov. 14th, the Intelligencer Journal reported that a spokesman for the City’s Bureau of Solid Waste & Recycling told City Council that “waste” collection averaged 46% less per home in 2007 than in 2006. It also said a city councilman stated that it “seemed too good to be true” and praised the accomplishment.
WATCHDOG: The NewsLanc reporter also noted what was said, since the information appeared “too good to be true.” In response to questions from NewsLanc the following day, Michael Devaney, the Bureau’s manager, implied that the 46% difference largely reflects the introduction in 2007 of the separate collection of recyclables. However, he declined to provide a statement clarifying the matter.
NewsLanc’s coverage had questioned the accuracy of so large a change. The Intell failed to question, let alone correct, the misinformation.