Tuesday, June 28, 2005

26: “News of Note”

The Governor of our esteemed Commonwealth, one Edward “Fast Eddie” Rendell, has taken it upon himself to begin a drive to restore the section of the Pennsylvania Gaming Law (Act 71) struck down by the Commonwealth Supreme Court on July 22. The section allowed the Gaming Control Board to locate a casino anywhere in the Commonwealth it wanted, regardless of local zoning laws. Sadly, Act 71 contains no language allowing input by the local population on the decision where to allow the casino. Passage of this bill was, of course, representative government at its worst.

What “Fast Eddie” is going to run into is a drive to repeal said legislation, and give it the funeral it deserves. It will be a double funeral, as with it’s death, it’s companion bill, Act 72, will die also, totally bereft of its sole financial support. And good riddance, too. No one beyond homeowners really likes Act 72, and Act 71 is perhaps the worst piece of legislation ever written, in terms of infringing on the rights of the local populace, and the major ethical lapse that designated casino-owning legislators as the people responsible for appointing members to the Gaming Control Board.

Bad is bad, and these two pieces of legislative “we tell the people what they need” hubris deserve their own landfill. GettysBLOG has previously called not only for the repeal of these two acts, but a recall effort the likes of which has never been seen before. If you live in Pennsylvania, contact your state assembly representative, and state senator, and tell them you want these two bills repealed, AND that you are starting a recall petition on them to make sure they do act to repeal the bills. This prevents the representative from saying things like, “I’ll look into it.” Keeping the heat on by running a recall petition holds their feet to the fire, and boy, do they ever deserve it! After all, they wrote, sponsored, and passed these two pieces of governmental arrogance and they did so in a very cooperative bi-partisan effort.

This is not an issue of political parties, it is a grass roots political movement. Let’s look at the benefits. For Gettysburg, it means no casino. It means, in all likelihood, there will never be a casino in Adams County. For the 501 school districts throughout the state it means maintaining the status quo. [Note: For the record, many school districts opted to reject Act 72 funding and then promptly raised their tax rates! But that’s another essay for another day.] For homeowners, it means the bad news of no tax relief in sight, but the existing Act 72 law was incredibly unfair in its application. A better form of tax relief for homeowners is long overdue, and not some contrived, and stupidly (yes, stupidly!) cobbled piece of verbiage that existed solely to give legitimacy to Act 71. Details on the effort to repeal Act 71 will be forthcoming in a few weeks. In the meantime, please keep up the pressure on our local and state politicians.

And now to other business. It seems that Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court David Souter is about to become victimized by a stroke of his own pen. Last Wednesday, Souter and four other Associate Justices (Breyer, Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Stevens) issued a decision expanding the government’s right to declare eminent domain and then turn the property over to a private developer (did someone just say, “That’s judicial corporate welfare!”?). But news just in from reliable sources report there is a move afoot to request Justice Souter’s New Hampshire home in the city of Weare so that a hotel can be built on it. Pardon me while I snicker and say, “there is justice!” Read all about it at
Free Star Media.

And finally, it is our sad duty to report the passing of a true giant in the field of American Civil War history. Shelby Foote, who’s segments in the Ken Burns PBS miniseries The Civil War convinced me that what he was telling us was legit because he was there, passed away last night at the age of 88. Foote was a longtime resident of Memphis, Tennessee, who favored writing by hand with a dipped pen as it slowed him down and paced his writing. His six novels were eclipsed by his epic three volume set of narrative history of the Civil War, which took him 20 years to write. He leaves a wife of 49 years, Mrs. Gwyn Foote.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

25: “..The Vision-place of Souls”

A very good friend of mine has his own blog and a website, both dedicated to the Battle of Gettysburg and the American Civil War. (see the link on the sidebar that leads to The Battle of Gettysburg and the American Civil War Blog, and right under it, a link to his website “The Brothers War”. Both are well worth your time.)

My friend posted an essay tonight on his blog that sounds a deep and meaningful theme that people seem to forget. Folks come to Gettysburg for a reason, and more often than not, that reason has to do with the battle that was fought here. Hundreds of thousands of people visit the battlefield every year, and some years that number rises above a million. At the end of his essay, my friend has a quotation from one of the more notable personages who visited the battlefield repeatedly over the years. His name was Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

Chamberlain is notable not just because he commanded the 20th Maine Infantry on July 2 at Little Round Top, but also for what he did after that. In 1864, while leading an advance on Confederate defenses in Virginia, Chamberlain stood in front of his advancing units to direct where they were to go. The attack was futile, as the Confederates had an extremely well entrenched position. Chamberlain was shot through both hips, and the bullet nicked his bladder. After he was struck he directed his men while leaning on his sword. He sank to his knees, and continued to direct his men. Finally, unable to continue, he slumped to the ground, and was eventually carried to the rear and to treatment. Severely wounded and almost given up for dead, this tough “Down Easter” rallied himself and returned to command a Corps in the Army of the Potomac in 1865. He distinguished himself in that role as well. At Appomattox, he was given the honor of accepting the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, and while doing so, ordered his command to salute the Confederates as they marched in to lay down their arms, and their colors. Chamberlain, a professor of rhetoric at Bowdoin College before the war, went on to be elected 6 times as governor of Maine. For his actions at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Some modern historians point to the fact that no one promoted Chamberlain’s war record after the war more than Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Indeed, he wrote several books, poems, and made countless visits to the Civil War battlefields where he fought, but Gettysburg had an attraction for him that was compelling. He kept returning here almost annually for decades after the war. When he spoke to veterans, or about the war, he spoke of Gettysburg. Regardless of his self-promoting tendencies, he was a courageous leader, and he certainly recognized the importance of what the Army of the Potomac did during the war. Most of all, however, he recognized the importance of the Battle of Gettysburg.

For the first time in two years, the Army of the Potomac totally frustrated Robert E. Lee and his vaunted Army of Northern Virginia. For the first time in two years, the Union troops severely hurt Lee’s army. Unlike Antietam, nearly a year earlier, which was no complete victory for the Army of the Potomac, the Battle of Gettysburg was as near a total success as any battles the Army of the Potomac fought before, or after. Lee was forced to take his shattered army on a long retreat back to Virginia after Gettysburg, and he suffered almost 27,000 men killed, wounded, or captured. Losses like that were losses that Lee could not afford. In the Gettysburg area, some of the names and events are legendary, from the sudden mastery by the Army of the Potomac’s young “boy generals” -- Custer and Merritt -- over James Ewell Brown (JEB) Stuart’s cavalry, to the individual valor of regimental commanders like Colonels Dawes of the 6th Wisconsin, Colvill of the 1st Minnesota, and Chamberlain of the 20th Maine, to the leadership of the “Old Man of the Army” Brigadier General George Sears Greene, who single-handedly defended the high crest of Culp’s Hill from ferocious attacks by two full Confederate Divisions, with only a single small brigade, and to Generals Buford, Reynolds, Howard, and Hancock, who all agreed on July 1st that the place for the Army of the Potomac was on the “fishhook line” from the Round Tops, north on Cemetery Ridge, over Cemetery Hill, and across the crest of Culp’s Hill.

All of this takes nothing away from the men of the Army of Northern Virginia. It is hard to imagine a tougher, harder fighting, more courageous force ever assembled, and much of the success the Union had against them here is due to the judgment of the generals on the first day in the selection of the ground where they would fight. In fact, the quality of the Confederates at Gettysburg serves to point out the extreme competency, and high quality of the men of the Army of the Potomac. Other than two small raids later in the war, Lee never again took his army out of Virginia. Further, the losses he experienced here at Gettysburg were a harbinger of things to come, and in terms of leadership, severely diminished his command structure.

Lee was a remarkable general, but there were two things he could not do. He could not amass new soldiers to replace his losses at a fast enough rate to beat the attrition game, and he could not replace the experienced colonels, Brigadier, Major and Lieutenant Generals he was losing at every battle. From the Battle of Gettysburg on, Lee was in a war of attrition from which he knew he could derive no success other than to buy time in hope of affecting a political end to the war.

Strategically, the fall of Vicksburg on the day Lee retreated from Gettysburg held more immediate significance to the Union war effort. As Lincoln said on hearing of the end of the siege there, "The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea." The fall of Vicksburg signaled the doom of the South, for finally, the Union had completely surrounded the Confederacy, and was able to supply Union forces anywhere. Gettysburg, however, signaled the doom of the Army of Northern Virginia, where the “political war” was fought, in the east, in Virginia. That war, which was principally fought by the two armies between the two capitals, was the part of the war that got into the press. The Battle of Gettysburg's significance was felt in the Confederate capital of Richmond every bit as much as the dearth of food the previous winter, and the “Bread Riots” less than three months before the battle here.

No matter how much Chamberlain beat his own drum after the war, no one can take from him the fact that he successfully led his men in a desperate fight to protect the left flank of the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg on July 2. Chamberlain knew the Gettysburg Battlefield must be preserved, and it must be done with dignity. The desperate struggle of over 150,000 men over three days here was, in essence, a microcosm of the entire Civil War. He knew it, and so did President Lincoln. Dig out his Gettysburg Address and see for yourself. The words of Lincoln’s address could just as easily have been said at any Civil War battlefield, from the three day Battle of Gettysburg, to the smallest skirmish between patrols of cavalry along some dusty Georgia road. And they would be just as applicable.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain wrote some words that my friend placed at the end of his latest essay. I hope you will read those words, and take from them the concept that the Battle of Gettysburg does not end at the Park boundary; that the reason people come here is to honor those who fought here, and to learn about how and why they did.

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Friday, June 24, 2005

24: “…With Local Implications”, Part 3

Continued from Number 23: “…With Local Implications”, Part 2

Start at Number 22: "...With Local Implications" Part 1

According to the U.S. Department of State on its website US Info, an American farmer, writing at the end of the Revolution stated,

“The instant I enter on my own land, the bright ideas of prosperity, of exclusive right, of independence exalt my mind. Precious soil, I say to myself, by what singular custom of law is it that thou wast made to constitute the riches of the freeholder? What should we American farmers be without the distinct possession of that soil? It feeds, it clothes us, from it we draw even a great exuberancy, our best meat, our richest drink, the very honey of our bees comes from this privileged spot. No wonder we should thus cherish its possession, no wonder that so many Europeans who have never been able to say that such portion of land was theirs, cross the Atlantic to realize that happiness. Thus formerly rude soil has been converted by my father into a pleasant farm, and in return it has established all our rights; on it is founded our rank, our freedom, our power as citizens. [J. Hector de St. Jean Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer (1782)]”

Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision allowing eminent domain to be used to seize private property and give it to private developers includes properties owned by non-profit organizations, which includes churches. It also includes such places as the Daniel Lady Farm in Straban Township, a piece of property owned by the non-profit Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association. Straban Township has coveted the property for a long time so it could be developed. Its 140 acres are prime for housing, and commercial development, and even some small industrial plants. Straban needs the property to put a second exit/entrance from Pennsylvania Route 116 through to the development under construction beside the Giant Supermarket on the site of old Camp Letterman along York Street. The construction is on the property previously owned by former Straban Township Supervisor Roy Thomas.

Under the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Straban Township can declare the Daniel Lady Farm eminent domain, and take it for municipal and private development with impunity.

What can be done to stop this and other travesties here in Adams County? Let’s organize a list by priority:

  1. Force the legislature to repeal Act 71.
  2. File a suit seeking to overturn Act 71 based on its conflict of interest in the legislator’s power to appoint members of the Gaming Control Commission AND to own portions of casinos.
  3. Force accountability on local government by starting recall petitions. Do not wait until November. Start now. Target the Straban Township Supervisors, the Straban Township zoning Committee, the Adams County Commissioners, and the Adams County legislators, State and Federal. (Steve Maitland HAS come out opposed to the casinos, and then disappeared. Senator Santorum has also come out recently as opposed to a casino here. No one is actually doing anything about it.)
  4. Force accountability on the part of the Adams County Economic Development Corporation through legislative revisions to the laws enabling these Star Chambers. Shine some light on them. [Look for a blog, soon that exposes some problems with our own ACEDC!].
  5. Get Senator Santorum, and our local representatives to the U. S. House of Representatives to co-sponsor a Constitutional Amendment reversing the Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain issued on June 22, 2005.

Make no mistake about it, folks, your homes are in jeopardy. Those who sit there after reading this and say, “Oh, it wouldn’t happen to me!” had better take another look around their property, and picture a Sheetz on it, or a Ruby Tuesday or McDonalds – maybe even a casino.

These enormous erosions into your private rights, rights guaranteed by natural law as put forth by the likes of John Locke, and Thomas Jefferson, are extremely serious problems. They require strong measures. Nothing will get the attention of the legislators who have been doing this to you, to me, to all of us, faster than starting a recall petition. Make your voice heard. Demand IMMEDIATE action of your representatives, all of them. And just for insurance sake, start the recall petition anyway. Let them perform to YOUR satisfaction in order to keep their seats.

And for God’s sake, and for your sake, and the sake of your children, learn to avoid the Party Lever in the voting booth. Judge all of the candidates on their merits according to your personal yardstick.

Please remember to donate to NoCasinoGettysburg either at their office or website.

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23: “…With Local Implications”, Part 2

Continued from Number 22: “…With Local Implications”, Part 1

Mark June 22, 2005 on your calendars. It was significant not just because the State Supreme Court upheld a state law that has serious ethical shortcomings, but because the sound you heard coming from Washington, D.C. was the sound of your right to own property being yanked out from under you. In the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, it states, “No person shall be… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The U.S. Government website “US Info”, put up by the Federal Department of State says in a section on the right to own property:

“But the right to own and enjoy property has always been an important part of the rights of the people. At the Philadelphia convention that drafted the Constitution, John Rutledge of South Carolina reminded the delegates that "property was certainly the principal object of Society." They did not really need much reminding, because the Framers all believed that respect for an individual's property rights lay at the heart of the social contract. Not only did they build institutional safeguards into the Constitution to protect those rights, but the nation soon added important provisions through the Bill of Rights to buttress that protection. Moreover, the Founders did not intend that these protections extend only to land or discernible assets, but to all the rights inherent in property — real or personal, tangible or intangible. They believed that property was "the guardian of every other right," for without the right to own and use and enjoy one's property free from arbitrary governmental interference, there could be no liberty of any sort.”

The Supreme Court decision issued on Wednesday has immense implications, and we can use as an example the casino issue here in Gettysburg. For example, in a recent news article in the Gettysburg Times, (an article that looked more like a Hollywood spin story!), local developer Robert Monahan stated the casino was a done deal, and if he didn’t build it, it would still get built here. Let us assume that Mr. Monahan suddenly develops a civic conscience and decides not to built the casino on his property. Perhaps he might do this because the property is adjoined by a Straban Township Park that the township can not get rid of, and must use as a recreation or education facility under federal law. Currently, the park is home to several ball fields where local youth play baseball. Hardly a suitable neighbor for a casino, don’t you think? Anyway, this open up Straban Township to declare eminent domain on any homeowners, any farmers, to give up their property so a casino can be built on it.

A fantasy? Hardly. After the Supreme Court of the United States says the township can take your land and give it to a developer for private development, there is nothing fantastic about the above scenario. Here’s what that “US Info website says about property rights and eminent domain.

“Ownership in land — the most tangible, and in the early days of the Republic, the most important form of property — had never meant absolute control over that property or an unfettered right to use it in any way the owner wanted. Traditions going back to English common law have always placed restrictions on property. The common law doctrine of nuisance, for example, prevented owners from using their land in a way that interfered unreasonably with the rights of their neighbors. Custom often allowed hunting on private, unenclosed land, or required that an owner allow access to rivers and lakes. Property in the form of businesses also had regulations on them; taverns, ferries and coach lines, for example, were often heavily regulated in both England and the North American colonies. Governments could and did tax individual wealth, and while most people recognize the importance of taxes in providing governmental services, taxation is a taking of property from individuals. Perhaps the most drastic form of interference with private property rights is the concept of eminent domain, by which authorities can compel the transfer of property from a private owner to the government for a public purpose, such as the building of a road or canal.”

The Supreme Court extends the end use of eminent domain to private development now. With one stroke of the pen, the United State Supreme Court has wiped out any Constitutional protections for property owners. Justice O’Connor’s warning in the dissenting opinion is already too late. Private and political interests with power and money now can seize property at will, using YOUR tax dollars to do it, and allow the developers to make their profits on that land.

To beat this back will require an amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

Continued in Number 24: “…With Local Implications,” Part 3

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22: “…With Local Implications”, Part 1

Yesterday, there were two court decisions released that have local implications. Both were bad news.

The United States Supreme Court issued a decision on a Connecticut case that now allows local government to declare eminent domain on any personal property and turn that property over to private developers.

If that doesn’t send a Big-Brotherish chill through you, read what implications Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Conner wrote as part of the dissenting opinion:

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

The plaintiffs filed suit after the city of New London declared eminent domain to take their property in a reported “working class neighborhood” to turn over to developers for a hotel, a health club, and offices.

This blogger imagines the celebratory partying in Straban Township is still going on. Mr. Monahan, Mr. LeVan, and "The Strabaddies" were probably doing circle…dances.. all night. And not without good reason. There was a second opinion rendered yesterday.

The Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania rejected suit to declare the state’s gaming law, Act 71 of 2004, unconstitutional. The suit had claimed that the original bill, which started out as something regarding the State Police, was amended into the now infamous Act 71. What was originally 31 lines of incomplete legislation, was crossed out and 146 pages of Act 71 was inserted into the bill. According to the plaintiffs, the state Constitution does not permit a bill to be amended to change its purpose. Also, the plaintiffs claimed the state Constitution limits a bill to one subject. In his opinion, Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Ralph J. Cappy held that:

"Keeping in mind the trepidation with which the judiciary interferes with the process by which the General Assembly enacts the laws, we conclude that as a matter of law, there was a single unifying subject to which most of the provisions of the act are germane, the regulation of gambling."

One other point in this ethically challenged piece of legislation was tossed out of the bill, and ruled unconstitutional – the section that allows the new Gaming Control Board to ignore local zoning ordinances in determining where a casino can be built. Cappy wrote:
"The General Assembly has failed to provide adequate standards and guidelines required to delegate, constitutionally, the power and authority to execute or administer that provision of the Act to the Board."

Lest you get all excited about this one minor victory, just keep in mind what "The Strabaddies" did on May 2 when they reclassified almost 80% of the open and agricultural land in the township for commercial, residential or industrial use. They will not pass up an opportunity to pave anything over. They’ve done their work. Today’s Gettysburg Times triumphantly blares its front page banner headline, “Court upholds slot machine law”.

The real newspaper in the area, the Hanover Evening Sun, includes a sub-article to its front page coverage of the state Supreme Court decision. In the article, titled “Straban back in the game”, Evening Sun Reporter Travis Lau writes: “Don’t complain to us. That’s what Straban Township officials have told residents who oppose a casino proposed to be built at Gettysburg Driving Range, near Routes 15 and 30 on the township’s southwestern fringe.” Later, he quotes Supervisor Jay McDannell, “We still stand in the same place that we did…We’ll do what the people want.”

With the history that "The Strabaddies" have accumulated over the past 20 years in their relationship with developers, and their fetish for asphalt, McDannell’s words should read, “…We’ll do what the developers want.” Do not expect the Straban Township Supervisors to lift a finger to stop the casino, no matter how much they may publicly claim to oppose it. They have played that game for years, deploring this development, and that building and then voting to approve what the developer and builder want. Afterwards, they complain publicly how “painful” it was to vote that way. Remember, these are the people who have brought you their own “Golden Mile” along York Street from Route 15 to the Marsh Creek border with the Borough of Gettysburg. These are the wonderful folks who ‘zoned’ Camp Letterman out of existence – never mind it was the largest temporary Civil War hospital, and thousands of men who fought in the battle here were treated there, some passing away, others surviving. Certainly, according to "The Strabaddies", there was no real historical significance to Camp Letterman. They may claim that if it was significant, the National Park Service would have encompassed it within the boundaries of the Park, but do not be fooled. That is done only by an act of Congress, and it happens rarely.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

21: “You’ve got to get them all”

Living in an old rural house has its advantages. It fits in perfectly with its rustic surroundings, deer, fox, and other wildlife in the back yard, and the charm of sagging, uneven floors. Occasionally, however, wildlife tends to come too close. A skunk in the yard, or (God forbid!) a mouse in the house.

While sitting here the past few nights writing the blog, a very loud gnawing sound began emanating from my bookcase. I suspected a mouse, but was surprised to hear it as they should have moved outside by this time of year. So traps were set last evening, and the creature, reaching for its peanut-buttery treat, got its last earthly reward instead -- a trip to whatever afterlife mice believe in.

But the hole from which he entered the room is still there, hidden away where I can’t get to it under a radiator, and the damage to the bookcase remains. This got me to thinking about the current plight of our lifestyle here in Adams County.

The developers come out of nowhere. They suddenly appear at a press conference, or, more often than not, they simply appear at some meadow, or forest area, at the head of a line of bull dozers, where they begin gnawing away at the landscape. The hole they enter through is called the Adams County Economic Development Corporation.

Here’s how it works: a group of your neighbors (yes, that’s correct, the ACEDC is made up of folks who live among you) are collected together to form a non-profit organization called the Adams County Economic Development Corporation. They exist because forty or fifty years ago it was thought that a region should have some control over its own economic destiny, and should have a local agent to act in a depressed area, and during depressed economic times, to spur economic growth in an area through development and re-development. Nice idea, too few controls. Adams County’s EDC is a perfect example of all that can go wrong with the EDC concept.

First, these are private, non-profit organizations made up of business and government leaders from Adams County. Don’t ask who sits on this Star Chamber, they don’t make that information public. Oh, they don’t hide it, you can dig it out, but they do not publicize who they are, or what they do very often around here. That’s because they know they will incur the wrath of their neighbors if what they do ever got fully exposed. Not to worry, they are NOT bound by the Sunshine Law. Nor are they subject to government oversight, even though they receive YOUR tax dollars to fund their operations. For example, the $175,000 for the engineering study being done at the site of the proposed “Equestrian Center” comes almost directly out of your pocket in the form of state and Federal taxes. And the ACEDC does not have to answer to you.

This group of your neighbors operates in secrecy, such as they did a few years back in their attempt to bring a WalMart distribution center to the Hunterstown Exit of US 15, the very same place they want to put the “Equestrian Center”. They did it again a short while later when they tried to get WalMart into the site where the casino is planned, and wound up losing that deal, too. Both cases were lost because the word got out and the public went to war in the press.

So the ACEDC learned to keep silent, and the result is the mouse hole (or is it a rat hole) from which developers and investor groups (same thing) keep emerging with new projects, almost exclusively in Straban Township!

Second, there is no need for economic development in Adams County. Our economy is fine. Our unemployment is among the lowest in the nation at 2-3%. Yet the ACEDC keep cranking out deals at a feverish pace (at about the same rate that a mouse couple multiplies!). Adams County doesn’t need that kind of effort. What is driving it is pure greed. Adams County has become the pantry for all those developer mice to come in and get fat on, then move on to somewhere else. They don’t give a hoot what their project does to your county.

If you do not understand by now that a connection exists between the ACEDC, "The Strabaddies", and "The Addams Family" (the Adams County Commissioners), and that connection exists to turn Straban Township (and eventually Adams County) into a clone of what US 30 in York looks like, and US 15 in Frederick, Maryland looks like, then you have not been paying attention all these years.

The Casino is the first mouse though the hole. The “Equestrian Center” is the second. Look how fast the one followed the other. There is a reason for that. No one paid attention when "The Strabaddies" completely altered their zoning plan to open up 80% of the farmland and open space in the township to commercial, industrial, and residential development, just 7 days after the casino project was announced. All eyes were focused on the casino. Now, while the casino is still getting all the attention, they announce the “Equestrian Center”, and everyone thinks, “Who cares, that’s up the road!”.

I care. You SHOULD care. The “Equestrian Center” is just the second mouse. Wait until you see the rest of the pack. It won’t be long. Some of them will be along shortly, emerging into your neighborhood from the hole that your neighbors made. You've got to get all the mice, and you absolutely must locate and CLOSE the hole!

Please remember to donate to NoCasinoGettysburg either at their office or website.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

20: “A Special Plea for Help”

There was a meeting in Gettysburg tonight. The “NoCasinoGettysburg” folks assembled an All-Star cast from the national scene. The headliner for tonight’s shindig at the Gettysburg Middle School was the Reverend Tom Grey, the Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling (NCALG), and his Vice Chair, Mrs. Dianne Berlin. Pastor Wolf drew on his combat experiences in Vietnam to present examples of how to wage an effective campaign against the “casino interest”. Both he and Mrs. Berlin cited quite a few very impressive statistics on gambling, and its effect on the gambler, his family, and his community – all negative.

Alan Spears, representing the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), boasting 300,000 members, announced the organization was backing the “NoCasinoGettysburg” effort, as did Jim Campi, Director of Policy and Communications for the 25,000 member Civil War Preservation Trust. Also present was John McNamee, of the Constitutional Restoration Institute.

Representing the local interest were the almost ubiquitous Mr. Mark Berg, of the Adams County Citizens Alliance, and Mrs. Susan Star Paddock, Chair of the “NoCasinoGettysburg” group that sponsored the meeting, which brings us to the point of this essay.

No effort such as that undertaken by “NoCasinoGettysburg” can hope to accomplish its goals without support. While support comes in many forms, we are specifically referring to financial support. GettysBLOG is absolutely in favor of success for “NoCasinoGettysburg” in their efforts to stop the imposition of a casino in Adams County, and most urgently requests that you make whatever donation you can to this worthy effort. Running a campaign like this has costs; printing, mostly, for bumper stickers, buttons, t-shirts, and handouts. It all adds up, and does so in a hurry. Meeting space such as the auditorium of the Middle School does not come free, and neither does maintaining a website, mailing or calling people to make the case against the casino in Gettysburg, and even having a bank account costs money to start up. The leaders of “NoCasinoGettysburg” have been footing the bill so far, but they need your help now. Please send a check as a tax deductible donation to:

NO Casino Gettysburg
Box 3173,
Gettysburg, PA 17325

or contact them via the phone at 717-334-6333.

Their website is located at

http://www.nocasinogettysburg.com/


One of the things that Pastor Grey emphasized tonight was the need for speed. “NoCasinoGettysburg” has to pick up the momentum now, before it becomes too late, and the fight changes from one of prevention to one of removal.

GettysBLOG has been posting essays since April on the horrid state of affairs in the Gettysburg area – indeed, it is the reason this blog exists. 13 of the previous 19 essays are directly aimed at the problem of over-development of the Adams County countryside, including the casino project. All of this mess is a tangle of connections between our elected officials, who pave the golden path of development for the investors to make enormous profits, to our Adams County Economic Development Corporation, which gets Federal and State funds, but is answerable to no one for their actions, to the developers (including their investors) who have absolutely no conscience whatsoever, but see a grassy meadow as a place to pave over in order to turn a nifty profit. Its all tightly intertwined, and in fact, can be a bit overwhelming to follow. Indeed, they all want you to be, and to remain confused.

The fact is, the Casino developers, including the “civic-minded” Messers Monahan and LeVan, are part of a pretty well organized web of complicity aimed at stealing the very nature of our community from us in order to accumulate an astounding amount of profit, while getting your tax dollars to do it. This web includes the now invisible "Addams Family", as we so fondly call the County Commissioners (someone send out a search party for them!), "The Strabaddies", as we refer to the Straban Township Supervisors (who should be tried for crimes against humanity for the land grab they conducted in early May), and finally the legislators who gave us the ethically bankrupt Act 71, which needs to be repealed immediately (and in the process, take Act 72 with it!).

This stuff costs money to fight, folks, so please, send something to the good people at “NoCasinoGettysburg”, at the above address. And please do it today. Time really is short!

[Note: All of the organizations helping with this fight are now linked in the sidebar. Also linked there is another blog called Pennsylvania Laws, where you can find the full (though segmented) text of Act 71, and Act 72, along with the Pennsylvania Ethics laws, and the state Sunshine law.

Please send your donations today, and…

Remember in November, before you vote, GettysBLOG!

GettysBLOG

Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

19: “What next, NASCAR?”

The disgust is deepening. Our developer friendly county and township politicians are now planning to bestow a rodeo rink upon us. Oh, but not just any old rodeo rink, but a huge, acre-eating giant of a rodeo rink that they are calling and “Equestrian Center”, to nice-it-up for the show-horse folks from down Maryland way. “A rose by any name should smell so sweet”, wrote the Bard in Romeo and Juliet. And “a road apple by any name should smell so bad”, to paraphrase him.

The culprits? Need you ask? "The Strabaddies", of course. After their sneak-attack conquest of their own township on May 2, the night they laid waste to 8,000 acres of open and farmland in Straban Township (that’s almost 80% of the open and agriculture land in the township!), "The Strabaddies" now can talk openly about putting the Equine Center in where they once wanted so desperately to put in a WalMart Distribution center.

And nothing has changed about the property – it still drains into Marsh Creek with the same environmental problems associated with run-off that eventually caused WalMart to cave on their effort to build at the corner of US 15 and PA 234 (the Hunterstown exit from 15). Potentially it is worse. Where the distribution center posed an environmental threat due to chemical contaminants, the Equine Center would as well, with the additional threat of equine based bio-contaminants in the runoff.

Add to the list the Adams County Economic Development Corporation, and the Adams County Commissioners (whom I hereby formally dub “The Addams Family”, though there is little humorous about this version), as the ACEDC certainly worked hard to get this “Equestrian Center” to build here, and did so with the active assistance of “The Addams Family”, and of course, our old friends, "The Strabaddies".

How do we know this? Well, the investors received a tax-payer funded grant to do engineering and environments studies on the project from the Commonwealth Financing Authority to the tune of $175,000 of your tax dollars. It’s akin to the way the Chinese government does executions: you get a bullet in the back of the head, and your family gets a bill for the bullet. According to the website of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Economic and Community Development, “The Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) was established as an independent agency of the Commonwealth to administer Pennsylvania's economic stimulus packages. The CFA holds fiduciary responsibility over the funding of programs and investments in Pennsylvania's economic growth.”

Hello? I would like a grant to study the effects of putting up a cell phone tower in my back yard? Seriously, Pennsylvania citizens absolutely must get their priorities in order here. First, start asking your legislators the hard questions, like:

“Why is Adams County getting all this development money when we are “suffering” with 2-3% unemployment, and have three thriving economies in our county, none of which are dependent on the others, and while municipalities elsewhere are strangling in their own death throes?”

“Why isn’t this money going to some place like the City of Chester in Delaware County, which has become pretty much of a ruined ghost town occupied by low income residents, with no new industry, very little left of the older industries, and a school district that simply is unable to function at all. Please explain to us why this is allowed to happen?”

And if your legislator doesn’t answer satisfactorily, or he misinforms you by saying Adams County needs it just as badly as Chester, PA needs it, then you know to target that legislator for removal in November. Now, repeat the process for your Adams County Commissioners (“The Addams Family”), and your Township Supervisors, including, especially, "The Strabaddies".

So, what can we expect as our next “morning surprise” to come out of our newspapers while we drink that first cup of coffee for the day? How about a NASCAR track just south of Biglerville?

Next up: The Economic Development Corporations.

GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

In Memoriam Brian Pohanka

Brian Pohanka and I were acquaintances. We met the first time some years ago at a function in Gettysburg, and then again a few years back at another of the many Remembrance Day dinners. He in his full blue uniform, and Cricket in a gown, to look at them you thought automatically, “That’s the handsomest Civil War couple I’ve ever seen.” But it was more than that, Brian brought panache to the role of re-enactor, and an enthusiasm to everything he did.

Brian first came to my attention as one of the “talking heads” on the History Channel’s Civil War shows back in the mid 1990s. He brought a knowledge of his subject to the small screen, and infused youth and all his youthful exuberance into a Civil War awareness movement that was just emerging from the stodginess of the mid-twentieth century. Indeed, at that time most of the world’s awareness of the American Civil War was still based on the histories that grew from the Lost Cause mythologies. But the timing was right for things to start happening when that mythology was exposed as such, and the more realistic histories of the American Civil War began to be written. And Brian was right there, helping to lead the way.

Unknown to me, at the time, was the fact that by 1995, Brian had already put many years into the Civil War preservation effort, geared at preserving Civil War battlefields and their surroundings. Brian was a quiet leader in that field. He did not seek the limelight, but worked quietly, yet successfully, in the background, building coalitions, starting preservation societies, and getting people organized and started on the road to fund-raising.

Brian was a leader among leaders, who grasped life by the horns and lived it his way. Intelligent, kind, and gentlemanly, he was what so many of us aspire to be: a true hero in all he did. He is gone from us far, far too soon.

I will remember him as I saw him last, standing in full uniform at the Dobbin House in Gettysburg, his arm clasping Cricket close to him, and his other arm raised as he proposed a toast to his beloved 5th New York Volunteer Infantry, “…To Duryea’s Zouaves! Huzzah!”.

Ladies and Gentlemen, charge your glasses, please. To Brian Pohanka! Huzzah!

GettysBLOG

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

18: “Kicking Butt and Taking Names”

The time has come to provide some factual documentation to some of the charges I have made about Act 71. I have repeatedly said it is one of the most unethical pieces of legislation ever contrived in this country, and that it deserves a quick and merciless death.

First some background. For years the Democrats had been yammering about “Riverboat Gambling” being allowed in the state, principally on the Delaware or Schuylkill Rivers in Philadelphia, the Monongahela, Allegheny or Ohio Rivers in Pittsburgh, and likely the Susquehanna at or near Harrisburg. I suspect it included farther up the Delaware above the Delaware Water Gap to attract some of the New York crowd, and on the lakefront at Erie, as well. After 8 years of Republican governors (Ridge and Schweiker), Pennsylvanians elected Democrat Ed Rendell and guaranteed gambling would come to Pennsylvania. Lest you think them blameless, the Republicans control both houses of the state legislature, and have for almost a decade. No legislation gets passed without the consent of at least some of the majority Republicans. One wonders how we got from riverboat gambling to casinos. One also wonders what that particular deal cost Rendell.

Act 71 authorizes the formation of a Gaming Commission in Pennsylvania, and gives that commission wide-raging powers to insert a casino anywhere it wants, regardless of local zoning ordinances, and regardless of local opposition. Act 71 includes verbiage that allows legislators to own a percentage of a casino. Act 72, the sister act to Act 71, adds legitimacy to Act 71 to get gambling past the moralists in Pennsylvania by designating a percentage of the profits from gaming to public education, in order to provide tax relief for homeowners. Act 71 also demands that all casino supplies be furnished by Pennsylvania companies. There is a lot more, but let’s take a look at some facts. You can read all of Act 71 (and the State Ethics and Sunshine laws, and Act 72, among other things) at the Pennsylvania Laws Blog:

http://palaws.blogspot.com

A recent article in the Philadelphia Daily News reported how State Senator Michael Stack III (D-Phila) owned, but did not publicly disclose his ownership as the law requires, almost half of a 46 acre plot of land in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia, along the Delaware River. In 2003 the state sold water rights to the owners of the plot for $100,000, less than 10% of their actual value, supposedly because the site is contaminated. Subsequently, a Las Vegas casino company, Ameristar Casinos, Inc., put an option on the acreage for $37 million. A federal grand jury is investigating. You can read about it at

http://www.philly.com/mld/dailynews/news/local/11860057.htm .

The State Republican Committee is sending this information out in the hopes that it will hurt the Rendell Administration and Democrats, in particular. And they are doing this while absolutely ignoring the fact that Act 71 and Act 72 were both passed by a Republican-controlled State Legislature. The egg is on the Republican faces!

The Pennsylvania General Services Administration now requires a specific act of legislation for all deals involving state land to include verbiage that would prohibit the use of the property for gambling. So much for the unsubstantiated rumor that the Governor was about to sell part of the Harrisburg State Hospital (now closed to patients, but open as the headquarters of many divisions within the state Department of Public Welfare) to a gambling syndicate to open a casino there.

In May, the Associate Press reported in an article by writer Marc Levy, that Robert Nix III, who is the son of the late Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, is the president of KGM Gaming LLC, which has an agreement with Aristocrat Technologies, Inc. to distribute Aristocrat’s gaming machines (slots) to Pennsylvania, if the state grants Nix a license. Anyone care to lay odds on this happening? Nix is a Philadelphia attorney.

The same article reports on Lobbyist Melissa Heller, one of the principals in Keystone Slots LLC, who is also a registered lobbyist for IGT Corporation, the largest manufacturer of slot machines in the country. Now, stay with this: Ms. Heller’s previous employment before starting out on her own, was as an employee of the Philadelphia City Council, and a fund raiser for Democratic campaigns, including that of Mayor John Street. Her last supervisor on City Council was Anna C. Verna, a deep political ally of State Senator Vincent J. Fumo, the chief proponent and sponsor of Act 71.

All nice and legal – made so by that wonderful piece of ethically challenged legislation, Act 71. I don’t know if they can smell it in Pittsburgh, but I sure can in Gettysburg -- and I’ve passed landfills that smelled better than this.

Call your legislator. Tell him in no uncertain terms that Act 71 has to go. Repealed! Absolutely, immediately, and without further ado. Do not fall for the link to Act 72 with its promised educational funding and homeowner’s tax relief. Act 72 died on the vine when 80% of the state’s school boards chose not to participate under its umbrella. Follow up your call with a letter, and an email. And if your legislator is slow to act, call him again, and write him and email him again. And do not forget your State Senators, either. Leave no stone unturned. To paraphrase a great American, “Mr. Rendell, tear down that law!”

GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

17: “Transitioning to Summer…or…What next?”

Note: This essay contains an offer.

Things are very quiet here in Adams County as the area transitions into high gear in its two major industries. The fruit season is starting up, with spring pruning out of the way, and spraying already underway. In and around Gettysburg, the tourist season hit full swing this weekend with the start of the Gettysburg Battlefield National Military Park and Eisenhower Presidential Site’s summer programming. “Battle Walks” conducted by the Interpretive Rangers, and the Campfire Series at the Amphitheater in the evenings got started last night.

And the Casino? Well, just about the only thing that really hit the papers in the past week that was remotely connected to the Casino project was the announced cleanup of the old Crystal Cadillac dealership on the northeast corner of the US 15 - US 30 interchange. The former owner is either doing time for rolling back odometers, or he’s on the lam from justice. It’s a hazy story of him being in Florida, and needing medical treatment, and the hardship of coming up here for trial, etc. So "The Strabaddies", as the township supervisors in Straban are called here, have mailed out letters to get the former owner, and another person who had an interest in the property to clean it up. We wouldn’t want to build a brand-spanking new Casino with an eyesore like that next to it, would we?

Oh, and all around good guy Bob “If I don’t build it, someone else will” Monahan once again stepped forward in the press to trumpet his “civic mindedness” by announcing he was filming a Civil War movie here that will show what the common soldier and civilian faced during the battle.

Outside of that, and the occasional “LeVan Treat” (the thunderous noise and vibration of 30-150 Harleys riding by your home at several times between 10 AM and 11 PM on all days of a three day weekend!), there was not much happening. All was quiet, except when the Harleys rumbled by.

And that, my friends, is the trouble. Not a peep out of “Casi-NO!”, or any of the folks involved, (oh, Mr. Berg got his monthly letter to the editor published in the Hanover Sun). A photograph of a bunch of folks who got together to discuss development, and the occasional article stating Adams County is the second fastest growing county in the state.

Alan Berg is a community activist who has been out front on similar issues before, including the WalMart Distribution Center, and the WalMart Superstore. He has been working hard in the southern end of the county trying to help the townships down there (ironically called Freedom and Liberty) break the chains their own supervisors put them into with inadequate zoning ordinances over the years. Now a huge, out of state developer, Wormold, is trying to invade Pennsylvania and build enormous “Planned Residential Communities” in those townships – communities that even the above average Adams County resident won’t be able to afford to move into, communities that are not going to be built for Adams County residents, but for getaway folks from Washington and Baltimore.

Mr. Berg is, unfortunately, a Democrat. And Democrats do not carry a lot of weight in Adams County. The carry a lot of baggage these days, but not much weight. He has the unfortunate stigma of being a Greenie, as well. And Greenies, or Environmentalists, carry even more baggage and less weight (far less) than the Democrats. He works with the likes of local politician Gil Pringle, a man I have come to admire greatly over the years, and Diane Bittle, a local resident who has the moxie to stand up and demand to be heard, and to speak with a forceful community voice. Please understand I do not hold either Democrats or Greenies in contempt (well, some National Democrats are contemptible, but so are some Republicans!), so the “stigmata” is a reality not of my making. Mr. Berg’s valiant efforts to build coalitions, and lead causes in Adams County are almost doomed from the start. The anti-Democrat, Anti-Greenie Republicans hold the seats, and have the insider power, and they are wielding that power with great, though irresponsible effect.

Ask yourself, “Why is it that only one Republican figure from Adams County has stepped to the plate and unequivocally declared himself against the Casino?” I refer to State Representative Steve Maitland. Why is he the lone voice on “the inside”?

As I said in an earlier essay, I am ashamed of my Republican Party in Adams County (really, I am ashamed of my Republican Party in Pennsylvania! They are responsible for Act 71 and Act 72!). They have become a class of gutless wonders. Early in the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln wrote a response to a scathing editorial written by Horace Greeley, in which Greeley complained that Lincoln was giving in on slavery. Lincoln responded:

"As to the policy I "seem to be pursuing" as you say, I have not meant to leave anyone in doubt.


"I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the neared the Union will be "the Union as it was". If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.”

Lincoln was willing to do just about anything to bring the nation back together. But at the end of the letter, this cautionary note:

"I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.”

Oh! How I would like to see an Adams County Republican stand up like that.

I promised an offer at the start of this essay, and here it is: I would love to meet with Mr. Berg, Representative Maitland, Mr. Pringle, and Ms. Bittle any time, to offer the services of this, or any other Blog they would care to start, in order to get a single voice out over the Internet. I’d be happy to start the Blog and run it for them. I am already in contact with Representative Maitland, but the rest could contact me through a mutual friend of Mr. Pringle’s, who has the initials DJ. Any of them could leave an email address in the comments section, and I will make contact.

Anything is better than nothing. The pressure must be kept up on the Casino issue. And we can think about how to stop "The Strabaddies" and their land grab! Perhaps we could add “Republicans Against Development” (RAD) to the coalition?

GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

16: "Never in a Million Years!"

I had heard jokes about it for years. Lots of my friends used to tease me by asking the question. But never in a million years did I expect to read it in the Gettysburg Times. Yet, there it was the other day, in the Letters to the Editor section:
“Why didn’t the soldiers fight from behind the monuments?”

It was hard to tell if the writer was serious or not. I think the writer was. Some of the other statements in the letter were a bit off center as well. But that question just floored me.

It seemed so obvious that I had to go over the Battlefield again just to determine which monuments are the best ones out there to provide cover for the soldiers. Obviously, the regimental monuments, with some exceptions, would not be up to the task, unless the regiment was from New York, where they designed their monuments like castles; but the New York State Memorial was open on the wrong side to provide protection.

The Pennsylvania Memorial is another that would have provided great cover for the soldiers. So would the Congressional Monument to the Army of the Potomac on Hancock Avenue.

Then the problem presents itself: what about the Confederate Monuments? There aren’t that many regimental monuments on the Confederate side, but the Virginia State Memorial on West Confederate Avenue is probably one that would protect many troops, as is the Arkansas Memorial. The Texas State Marker might protect a Colonel and a Major, but not many others. The Louisiana, North Carolina and Mississippi State Memorials are aesthetically magnificent, but hardly offer any protection. The Tennessee Memorial is oriented in the wrong direction, being perpendicular to the line of battle, while the South Carolina Memorial is too far back to allow anyone to fight from behind it.

Then it occurred to me that since the Confederates were on the attack, they would not be able to hide behind monuments because they would be moving forward! Practicality solves a problem once again! In fact, that could explain why the Confederates burned the Bliss Farm, located between Emmitsburg Road and Seminary Ridge. They didn’t want their men collecting behind those buildings while an assault was on! They wanted them moving forward.

The writer complained about the Park’s plan to close at sundown, offering the fact that the men fought long after sundown, especially on the evening of July 2-3, so why couldn’t the Park remain open after dark?

Well, the soldiers did not require Licensed Battlefield Guides during the night actions, while visitors to the park would, after dark, require much assistance in moving around the Battlefield, identifying the various monuments and memorials behind which the men fought as the Confederates attacked. And I don’t think there are enough LBGs to provide a second shift.

And no, I just don’t think “orbs” would provide enough ambient light to allow people to see their way around at night.

Maybe, just maybe, the Park Administration might actually be right about this Park closing at sunset. As for the tree thinning, well, if the Park turns out to be wrong about the sunset closing time, at least there will fewer trees left standing in the way for nighttime visitors to crash into in the darkness.

GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, June 03, 2005

15: “A Legislative Action Agenda for Sanity”

The time has come for the Pennsylvania state government (the Governor, and the Legislature) to return to representative government, and stop governing by plutocracy. With the advent of Act 71 (authorizing gambling in Pennsylvania), and Act 72 (allocating a large portion of the profits generated by Act 71 to public school systems throughout the state), Pennsylvania government has become an embarrassment.

Of the 501 Public School Systems in Pennsylvania, only 20% of them opted to accept funding from Act 71 money. Most of the systems stated they did not believe they would ever see the money Governor Rendell and the legislative leaders promised would be generated by Act 71. Others refused to accept gambling-tainted money on moral grounds. All of those that opted out refused to give up the right to set tax rates, as opting in to Act 72 meant surrendering that authority to their constituents.

While Act 72 provided for tax relief for property owners, it did nothing of the sort for renters; but, the real problem lies within Act 71, the gaming authorization act.

Act 71 is about as unethical a piece of legislation as one could ever find. First, the governing board of the new Gaming Commission would be appointed by various members of both parties in the state legislature, and by the governor. Then, incredibly, the legislature said it was okay for members of the legislature to own a portion of a casino. What in the world possesses basically decent people to place themselves in harms way like this? Clearly it is a conflict of interest. Clearly and unequivocally it is a conflict of interest.

To compound the ethical lapse, the governing board has the authority to totally ignore not only public and/or local opposition to a casino, but also local zoning ordinances. If a parcel of land is designated a potential casino site, but it is zoned for agriculture, or for residential occupancy, no matter. The casino goes in anyway, and the local ordinances be damned. In other words, your friendly state government gaming commission, stocked with members appointed by your friendly legislators, have decided you have no right to stop them from putting a casino in your neighborhood. Whatever happened to representative government?

In Adams County, the man who is selling the plot of land to the potential casino owners, Bob Monahan, a local developer, tried to clear himself in the newspaper by stating he had no knowledge of who wanted to buy his property, and what for, until he had signed a confidentiality agreement. Well, okay Mr. Monahan, so what? No one says you have to sell the land to them. Take it off the market for a while. But, he insists, it’s a done deal, Gettysburg is getting a casino whether it is on his parcel of land or another. Please Mr. Monahan, spare us the innocent act.

Mr. Monahan has been working hand in hand with the other parts of the cabal to develop Gettysburg, the Adams County Economic Development Corporation, and the Straban Township Supervisors. Now he doesn’t want to be the bad guy here. Its bad for business. Gee. How long has Monahan been doing business in Adams County? And he does not know this is a very religious community that would naturally have objections to gambling in its midst? Businessmen are supposed to be more astute than that. Monahan claims ignorance, and that it doesn’t matter, so he might as well be the one who makes the money off the real estate deal for the new casino. This is not the first time Mr. Monahan has misjudged the people of the Gettysburg area. But, we won’t go into that.

Let’s focus on what can be changed to affect a solution at least for Adams County, if not for the entire state.

  1. Repeal Act 71. There is much more wrong with this legislation than there is right with it. It deserves a quick and merciless death.
  2. Repeal Act 72. This is merely “fruit of the poisoned tree”. Without Act 71, it is a meaningless piece of legislation, ill conceived, ill written, and intrinsically corrupt.
  3. Enact legislation forcing the Economic Development Corporations to be as transparent as the government agencies they truly are. The EDCs, generally one for each county, are non-profit corporations set up locally, to bring business and development to that county. They are, because they are private corporations, allowed to act in secret, as the Adams County EDC did several years ago in an attempt to bring a WalMart distribution Center to the Hunterstown Exit of US 15.
  4. Enact legislation making the local EDCs answerable to the local population via referendum. The Adams County EDC continues to beat the bushes to bring big businesses to Adams County in the name of progress and jobs, even though Adams County perennially has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. If only they were as effective up state where some counties are struggling with 8 percent unemployment rates.
  5. If Governor Rendell insists on pursuing Acts 71 and 72 farther, institute a recall for his removal from office.
  6. Recall all the Straban Township Supervisors. (see any number of previous blogs on “The Strabaddies”).
  7. Recall the Adams County Commissioners as they have been totally invisible throughout all of this Casino and Straban land-grab business.

It is time for the legislature to go back to representing the people, instead of themselves. It is time for the people to hold their elected officials accountable on all levels, from the townships to the governor’s mansion. If they are unfit for office, throw them out. Do NOT wait for the next election.

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

GettysBLOG

Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

14: “Met on a Great Battlefield”

From time to time we do have some nice things to say. And this is one of those times. Ground was broken today for a new Visitor Center at Gettysburg Battlefield National Military Park and Eisenhower Presidential Site. This $95 million project has been in the works since the mid-1990s, and promises to be perhaps the crowning achievement in the massive undertaking of battlefield restoration.

The design of the new Visitor Center fits into the Adams County landscape magnificently, at once reminiscent of the many farms and barns of the mostly agricultural Adams County, yet modern, and appealing, with enough room to combine the contents and utility of the current Visitor Center, and the Cyclorama Center.

The location of the new building, south of Hunt Avenue, between Taneytown Road and Baltimore Pike, is where the old 1950s-60s Fantasyland was located. This blogger remembers two things about his first visit to Gettysburg about 50 years ago: Devils Den, and Fantasyland. Fantasyland was one of those impositions onto the Battlefield that the National Park Service has managed to get rid of over the years. From Stuckey’s to sandwich shops, to motels, to just about anything commercial you could think of, it was probably located somewhere on the Battlefield at one time or another. But Fantasyland is long gone as a business, and soon, all traces of it will be gone as well.

Unlike the current Visitor Center and Cyclorama Center, the new Visitor Center (which will replace both buildings) will be located in an area of little historical impact regarding the Battle. Perhaps the most significant aspect to the parcel is that much of the overshot by Confederate Artillery on July 2, and particularly on July 3 prior to the Pickett-Pettigrew Assault, landed here. At the eastern edge, on the corner of Baltimore and Hunt, is Kinzie’s Knoll, where the battery commanded by David H. Kinzie was located. It is my understanding that this ground will remain as it is.

One of the many upsides to this project is the eventual restoration of Ziegler’s Grove, the small woodlot on the southwest slope of Cemetery Hill, and extending south along Cemetery Ridge. Long desired, and only partially imagined in the minds of the historians who have visited here, this is one of the prime areas of the project. It was from the edge of these woods that the Federal troops defended the line north of the Bloody Angle on July 3rd.

Another upside is the move of the archives and collections into a climate controlled area in the new Visitor Center. Long threatened by the degradation of the current building, the relics and collection of literature surrounding the Battle will be well protected in the new building.

It will not be too awful long now, before these events come to pass. Completion is set for sometime in 2007, only 2 years from now. In the meantime, while construction continues, the tree clearing, and thinning goes on, as does the installation of miles of fences, acres and acres of orchards, and many small woodlots throughout the Battlefield.

The effort has its detractors – no one likes to see trees cut down less than I do, but what those detractors fail to mention is the acres of trees being planted at the same time.

Always a beautiful sight, the return to near 1863 conditions of the Battlefield will finalize the enhancement of the historical and learning experience to be gained at Gettysburg. The more natural surroundings will eventually give us a clearer understanding of what occurred here on those fateful July days in 1863; and with a better understanding, hopefully, will come a greater appreciation of the events here, and the men and women who were a part of those events.

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