Charlie Smithgall’s two page letter of October 18, 2000 to High Real Estate Group could be summarized in a simple sentence: “As mayor, I will do my best to see that the City provides $5 million of financial support to the proposed convention center hotel.”
He kept his promise, for good or for bad, at taxpayer expense in the form of a city agency (RACL) building and leasing the hotel to Penn Square Partners (thus avoiding real estate taxes), arranging for millions in state and city aid, and causing the city to guarantee tens of millions in dubious debt. (He also appointed board members to the Convention Center Authority who walked in lock step to ram the project home, without regard to its feasibility.)
Love him or hate him, that’s Charlie Smithgall, who pushed the envelope of legality at another point in a letter anticipating action by City Council to get Clipper Stadium built.
Far more disturbing is the following Smithgall revelation to NewsLanc’s reporter Cliff Lewis:
“The former mayor said that, while he was in office, High representatives ‘were in every day with a different deal.’ At one point, Charlie Smithgall said, the High Group even pushed for the City to pay for the hotel in its entirety.”
This is evidences that rather than public spirited leaders they purport themselves to be, High and the Lancaster Newspapers, Inc. were acting in the tradition of nineteenth century Robber Barons or, as NewsLanc describes such antics, “predators.”
Any lingering doubt should be dispelled by Mayor Rick Gray’s account of a representative of High presenting a copy of the 2000 letter to him in 2006, implying that it represented an unfulfilled commitment by the City. How low can they sink?