What Tom Brokaw labeled “Our greatest generation” was the product of the hardships of the Great Depression and service during the Second World War. They had a strong sense of the requirement and honor of serving the community above self. When asked to participate in something that would benefit the community, they would volunteer their services. For most of that generation, what was good for the community was their goal, not personal considerations.
We are not suggesting they were angels, but they were part of a very positive culture, one whose byword was “You can’t stop progress.” When did you last hear that? For those under 40, have you ever heard it?
Times have changed. We now have what is referred to as the “me generation(s)”. Self fulfillment by advancing economically and socially is the main goal for most voluntarily serving the public. And perhaps because the economy is not experiencing the rapid growth that resulted from the pent up demand from the Depression and World War II, things are tougher for the average Joe or Jane. Those making ‘big bucks’ have ever so often found ways to feed from the public trough or to bilk stock market investors.
So it is not so easy today to recruit knowledgeable, successful and altruistic people for non-profit boards. Often those who do join may do so because they see an opportunity for social promotion and perhaps even career enhancement.. And because they have little if any qualifications, they sometimes propose and usually consent to the dumbest things.
Perhaps this was an omen of things to come, but I recall appearing before a township zoning board to request a very minor change to a subdivision plan to provide space for a trash container. A woman proudly announced that her daughter was a professional landscape architect / planner and went on to propose some of the most asinine suggestions that I ever heard about moving the parking from the fronts of the apartment buildings into their back yard. I told her what i thought of her intelligence and walked out of the meeting. (Others made the change without my knowledge and we never heard word one about it form the embarrassed township officials.)
I recently witnessed the most profound ignorance by a board exploring, at considerable pubic costs, options that were patently just plain absurd. Why? Because the person proposing and the other board members just were so clueless that no one either recognized or had the gumption to point out the obvious. And, when such groups do seek outside opinion, they are likely targets for persons not that competents or those who would exploit their client’s trust for their own benefit.
During the Convention Center development controversy of almost a decade ago the four majority members of the Authority voted as a block. Members of that group were not interested in becoming knowledgeable about the issues. They just played “follow the leader” for whatever personal reasons and benefits they may have had.
The minority consisted of a nationally recognized expert in hotel development and management, an NGO leader from the northern part of the county, and a successful business woman. They took their positions very seriously and offered valuable input and insights. They were trampled by the majority whose leader, a decent person, was conflicted because the very proponents of the project were major contributors to the estimable non-profit organization with which he was associated.
Then there was the more recent billion dollar give away of Lancaster General Hospital to a Pennsylvania Hospital medical system. Had it been sold to private investors (not that we advocated its sale), it would have been a huge windfall for our community and indirectly for tax payers.
We now have the absurdity of the CRIZ program that annually misdirects needed future state revenue and makes gifts of the proceeds to private developers at the expense of future tax payers and with the City of Lancaster as the guarantor of repayment. (By borrowing against those annual state gifts, the developer can pocket all of the value of the future gifts at the outset of the project.)
The parent company of LNP, owner of valuable downtown real estate, has been and is likely to be at a future date a prime beneficiary of this largesse. Who criticizes this other than NewsLanc? No one.
We admire LNP for much of its coverage and editorial commentary. But when it comes to its owner’s interests, it is hardly the vehicle to sound an alarm concerning it and its cronies feasting at the public trough.