By ‘hook or by crook’ and against the stated wishes of almost 80% of the public, a $176 million plus convention center and a hotel were built in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania largely at the cost and risk of tax payers. It has necessitated large annual subsidies and resulted in serious collateral damages. This is a series describing how all of this came about.
Lancaster County Pennsylvania is known for its rich farmland, a variety of industry, and major tourist attractions. It has a long history of virtuous and transparent government and leadership by a responsible print news media owned and guided by the socially responsible Steinman family.
But Lancaster was not immune to the alteration of values during the late 1980’s, 1990’s and most of the first decade of the twenty-first century during which ‘social democracy’ – transparency, fair play, and respect for one another – became hostage to arrogance, greed, and abuses of the public trust by some members of the government, business and media establishments.
Fortunately there has been a nationwide awakening to traditional American values and a growing awareness of predatory elements. Once again the Lancaster print media plays a constructive role through responsible reporting and restraint.
What follows is how the altruistic desire to develop the former Watt & Shand Department Store site morphed into a betrayal of public trust that brought about the Lancaster County Convention Center and Marriott Hotel. The project has caused irreparable damage due to a five percent tax on the countywide hotel industry, throttled downtown gentrification to the south, eliminated what otherwise could be a half a million dollars annually of needed real estate tax revenues, consumed funds for more worthy undertakings such as the expansion and renovation of the Lancaster Public Library, destroyed the careers of faithful elected officials, and was and continues to be at immense government expense and taxpayer risk.
The series was published in installments over three years and recently re-written for purposes of continuity and inclusiveness. Although principally authored by Chris Hart-Nibbrig and edited by the undersigned, there were many contributors and fact checkers to whom we are most grateful.
We trust that the publication of this series both at NewsLanc.com and as a separate web site, and perhaps someday in a print edition, will serve as a deterrent to future media abuse and private sector exploitations and will prove informative both to scholars and others interested in the history of the community.
Robert Edwin Field, Publisher October 30, 2011 Lancaster, Pennsylvania