The truth behind the headlines

The headline in the Lancaster New Era dated Thursday, April 7, 2005 boldly proclaimed in large type “Found: answers to hotel questions”. In my previous article, I had continued the story of the proposed publicly funded hotel and convention center project in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Two of the Lancaster County Commissioners had developed a list of 57 questions about the history and financing of this project, which they felt needed to be answered before they could approve the proposed Tax Increment Financing. The headline and attached article was intended to lead the public to believe that the elusive answers to these questions had been available for some time.

But what is the truth? Some of the answers published in the Lancaster New Era, and on the Lancaster Online web site, had already been characterized by Howard Kelin, special counsel to the Lancaster County Commissioners, as “incomplete” and “deceptive” at a public meeting. The Lancaster County Convention Center Authority had already sent their partial replies to the Lancaster County Commissioners, which published them on the Lancaster County web site. Mr. Kelin analyzed these answers, and found that most were either incomplete, or raised even more questions.

Unfortunately, the article in the newspaper, along with the files referenced by Lancaster Online, address only about 30 of the 57 questions. Many of these answers are worded like “still under negotiation” or “will through some legal mechanism”, or even “The project budget is not set up to make an allocation of the full costs”. There are a lot of “yes, but” answers, and others that refer to reports that are 3 to 5 years old. Unfortunately, answers to nearly half of the questions are nowhere to be found.

The truth behind the headlines? Nowhere to be found.

The original documents can be found on the Lancaster County Government web site.

-Artie See

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