Intelligencer Journal New Era article headed “Lancaster County Convention Center funding urged” and subheaded “New taxes possible” opens:
“A dozen years ago, when proponents of a Lancaster County convention center were proposing building a meeting center, county business leaders would annually drive to Hershey for the Chamber of Commerce dinner.
“On Wednesday, the morning after former British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed about 2,500 Chamber members upstairs, a consultant reminded many of those proponents how far they had come.
” ‘It’s not just about the money,’ J. Mark Tobin, a principal of Colorado-based Hospitality Real Estate Counselors, said of the benefits of the 3-year-old center.
“Yet the problems facing the center are financial problems.”
Yes, once a year the Chamber of Commerce is convenience not to have to sit in the Franklin and Marshall Field House or travel an hour to another location. Such an imposition!
Same old spin. Same old manipulation of data. Same old self serving reporting. It is so sad that even now the editors are blinded (or worse) to their folly, and to their incredible disservice to the community and vicious attacks on conscientious elected county commissioners.
What about the scrapping of plans to renovate and enlarge the Lancaster Public Library along with dozens — yes dozens — of like benefits that could have been achieved for the citizenry here and elsewhere for the almost $185 million in development costs (all things taken into account), the $100 million in taxes on local hotels over the life of the project (and they don’t benefit from the Convention Center), the $50 million in lost real estate taxes, the tens of millions of additional taxes to be levied to fund the Convention Center debt, and the specter of the ‘other shoe dropping’ and the City having to bail out the Marriott Hotel?
The article continues “Kaatz and Tobin said a proposal to raise the hotel tax by 1.1 percent, to 5 percent, could restore the money to the visitors bureau and help the center gain short-term financial footing. That would get the center past a scheduled March 2013 debt restructuring.”
Debt restructuring? As the economy improves, interest rates are certain to go up. How will refinancing the current relatively low interest rates at say a 2% higher rate do anything but make things worse?
That is just the beginning of the bad news: “Also cited by Kaatz was the prospect of a local restaurant tax or imposition of an additional 1 percent countywide sales tax. Those would require approval from the state General Assembly.”
Still more taxes on the citizenry. Another setback for the tourist industry and local businesses.
Then we receive worser news: “State Rep. Mike Sturla, who attended the presentation, said the additional sales tax could generate $66 million annually and could be done for a short time, such as a year or two. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh both have such additional sales levies, Sturla said. ‘That seems to be the easiest solution,’ Sturla said.” Easy for whom?
Guess who is quoted for the excuse on behalf of S. Dale High and the Lancaster Newspapers, principal sponsors of the Convention Center and equitable owners of the Marriott Hotel? “Nevin Cooley, president of Penn Square General Corp., which developed the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square hotel, noted that the facility opened in the worst economic climate ‘that any one of us will experience.’”
For newcomers to the County and those with short memories it was Cooley who five times in a letter to a public official maintained that there had been a “feasibility” study for the Convention Center, and there isn’t a shred of evidence yet produced that one existed until years later the County Commissioners funded the PKF Report. The PKF Report envisioned exactly what has occurred and urged that either the project be downsized or a different use found for the site.
In his blog “Center of Attention”, Sunday News Associate Editor Gil Smart at least half a day earlier accurately reported on the same story. Why didn’t the Intell editors publish his article?
It is disappointing that the readers and those whom the Intell viciously savaged in the past will never receive an apology from The Lancaster Newspapers.
We would have expected more by now from the Steinman family. If this happened on the Watchdog’s watch, heads would roll! It is bad enough to allow a terrible mistake to occur. It is another to continue to be in denial.