Thursday, November 08, 2012

Battlefield Restoration Revisited

Many thanks to Dr. Brooks Simpson on his Crossroads Blog [Battlefield Restoration Questioned] for raising the issue of the Battlefield restoration project here at Gettysburg.  Dr. Simpson pointed to this article on the New Republic Blog by John Summers, author of Every Fury on Earth, a collection of political-historical essays. 

I think Mr. Summers misses the main point of Gettysburg National Military Park and the attached Eisenhower Presidential Site.  It is a Military Park.  It is not a nature park, a national forest, an arboretum, or a recreational park.  It is a Military Park.

Essentially, its first service as such is to the American military that it may study the events that occurred here before, during and after the battle, and make that a part of their military knowledge.

After Waterloo, it is perhaps the most studied and most written about battle in Western Culture.  Its effect on American culture is almost immeasurable. 

Indeed, as Mr. Summers asked, "If a battlefield is not a locus of authentic experience, then what is it?  A shrine?  A classroom?"

Actually, you can have it both ways.  And that is what the effort strives to do. 

Former Superintendent Latschar affected an amazing metamorphosis with his bold and well researched plan to transform the Battlefield to its 1863 condition with the addition of the monuments and markers, and the roads and private holdings that he could not have any control over. 

You see the beneficiaries of this work almost every day of the year when the chartered buses and white unmarked US Government licensed vans full of visitors with military haircuts are seen stopping at various locations around the Battlefield.

Those visitors leave the Battlefield with a clearer understanding of what occurred here and why, and the most accurate version of the terrain this piece of ground has seen since the 4th of July, 1863. 

This is what a 'Military Park' means.  The historical context supplants the natural context when that natural context has changed since the events that made the site famous occurred.  Indeed, as anyone who has visited Gettysburg can tell you, the natural context that was extant at the time of the Battle is extremely important, from the shape of the terrain to the presence of the many orchards in which the men sheltered, to the many fences that impeded their progress across the fields, to the wood lots from which they launched those attacks. 

What happened at Gettysburg is still relevant to today's military.  It is as relevant as what Alexander the Great did at Issus, and Gaugamela, and Hydaspes, as what Caesar did in Gaul, and what Sir Arthur Wellesley and Napoleon Bonaparte did at Waterloo.  And in that relevance it is studied today nearly as much as Waterloo. 

And there is still an abundance of trees on the Battlefield.

Many years ago on a bright summer Sunday morning, I had the honor and privilege to have the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens almost entirely to myself.  At one point I bent down and picked up a pebble.  I was immediately confronted by two guards armed with sub-machine guns slung around their necks.  Fortunately they spoke English.  They made the point that it was illegal to even take a pebble from the Parthenon.  I asked how a pebble can be so important.  Their reply was that I was one person, but they had millions of visitors every year...and if each one took a pebble, and they gestured around them...see, they asked, this is where much of the Parthenon has gone. 

On spring days at Gettysburg we see dozens of school buses, and when they stop in the Devil's Den area, the younger girls pile off those buses and start harvesting the forsythia, and the pussy willow.  Within the first few days it is all gone. 

On Little Round Top the Park Service is faced with troubling amounts of erosion caused by foot traffic.  They have tried different ways to minimize the problem all without success.  They periodically contemplate barring visitors from the crest.  Fortunately that is dismissed as a solution...for now. 

At the South End Picnic area, evenings can be entertaining when one sees the raccoons scuttling off into the woods after raiding the trash cans.  They can be tracked by the white KFC bags seen moving through the brush.  As a result, the raccoons no longer eat the crayfish in Plum Run and there is now an overabundance of them.  Additionally at least one small mountain lion has been seen in the South End picnic area, apparently feeding on the raccoons. 

These anecdotal incidents are a serious threat to Gettysburg Battlefield.  The good land management and Battlefield Restoration practiced by the National Park Service is not a threat but an asset, making this historical gem even more priceless.

GettysBLOG

We support the Roadmap to Reform!

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" -- GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” -- GettysBLOG

Remember in May and November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2005-2012: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tax Increment Financing – an insult to the taxpayers!

Something from our good friend W. G. Davis:

 The proposal by the developer of Gettysburg Crossing, the planned shopping center that would hold a new Walmart Superstore, among other retail outlets, is for the three local taxing authorities to float municipal bonds to cover what was a $6,000,000 shortfall, but now has become an estimated $12,300,000 according to a September 19, 2012 article in the Gettysburg Times.  By the time all is said and done, it could balloon higher still.  This proposal is called Tax Increment Financing [TIF].  This financing is necessary for the developer to complete the shopping center and make changes to existing infrastructure [new traffic lanes on US 30, Shealer Road, water, sewer and gas mains, and the moving of some high tension power lines]. 

The new shopping center would be a boon to the area, in terms of providing a wider variety of stores in which to shop, including a new, larger Walmart [which would provide direct competition for Peebles and with a grocery section that would compete directly with Giant]; more eateries [to compete with Subway, Hoss’s, Gettysburg Family Restaurant, etc.], and supposedly both a Lowes/Home Depot type store [that would compete with the lumber/hardware store at the edge of town on York street], and a BJ’s type store [that would compete with nearly all of the above]. 

And those required infrastructure changes surely would be nice to have in place…if the shopping center is built.

But along with the benefits comes the downside. 

Number one on your hit parade list is taxes.  As the new stores open, revenues from the property are taxed at higher rates as the revenues increase.  It is these projected increases the developer wants the County [AC], Straban Township [ST], and Gettysburg Area School District [GASD] to float the bonds to cover.  Normally, these increases would be part of the operating expenses: overhead costs of the developer/property management company, and retail stores.  But by replacing those increased taxes with 20 year bonds, the three taxing bodies [GASD, ST, AC], would get their taxes spread out over a twenty year period until the bonds pay off.  Thus, the $6,000,000 or $12,300,000, or who knows how many millions more dollars in infrastructure costs that are to be paid by the developer, will be transferred to the taxpayers, and those taxpayers will see increases in their township, county, and school taxes.  Therefore, every taxpayer in Adams County will collectively pay the $6,000,000, or $12,300,000, or however many millions of dollars are required to allow this developer to meet his obligations, so he can build stores and make money.

It sounds…socialist.  It is definitely a redistribution of wealth from the Adams County taxpayer’s pockets to the investors’ pockets. 
Additionally, all those businesses impacted by the presence of the new stores will have depressed sales, and therefore depressed revenues, resulting in lower taxes paid to the three taxing bodies. 

And then there is the risk.  Who pays if the economy stays down, or gets worse?  Who will pay the tax bills that people are now already struggling with?

Why are they even talking about it?

Oh, there is more, much more…

How about the legality of a taxing body entering into such an agreement as TIF, when it has no legal standing to do so because there is no interest in doing so?  There is no benefit to be derived by the GASD’s involvement in this TIF.  The school buses will continue over the roads they now travel, the movement of the electrical lines will be of no import to the GASD, and the new water, sewer, and gas lines will not have any effect on the GASD.  So, what standing does the school district have to be involved in this TIF scheme?  What advantage is there to participate?  Participating in the TIF does nothing to improve the standard of education in the school district.  A good school board would recognize that immediately and stop participating in discussions.  Yes, they get an increased funding stream from the revenues down the road, but is the risk of the economy going from bad to worse a smart risk to take?

And really, is it not time for local government to catch up to the rest of the country and start insisting their employees contribute to their health insurance and retirement funds?

Really!

Essentially TIF is corporate welfare.  The taxpayers bail out a company that failed to do due diligence when planning their development and came up short in the money backing the development, so they are begging the taxpayers to do the equivalent of paying for the rope used in their own hanging!  The developer and the retailers get several years of tax breaks that they NEVER have to make up, so their profits will be there right from the start.  And the taxpayer gets to make up the difference for their bad business practice. 

Is this who you want developing commercial ventures in Adams County?  Heck, is this the way you want growth to happen in America?  It is not growth, but rather it is redistribution of wealth.

Yes, the local populace and the visitors to the area, get greater convenience, and wider shopping choices closer to town, saving many trips to York, Waynesboro, and Hanover. 

The developer has little to lose and $6,000,000 to $12,300,000, or more, to gain by this plan.  Agree to the TIF and you reinforce bad business practices by rewarding the developer for those shortcomings with millions of dollars. 

It is shameful that three “elected” taxing bodies [Straban Township, Adams County, and Gettysburg Area School District] are even considering this.  It should have been rejected out of hand.  Remember this on Election Day!

W. G. Davis

W.G. Davis is retired and living in the Gettysburg area.  He is a frequent commenter on local government. 

GettysBLOG

We support the Roadmap to Reform!

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" -- GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” -- GettysBLOG

Remember in May and November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2005-2012: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mind-boggling: NCAA

$60 Million in fines?


Vacating all victories from 1998-2011?


Loss of some scholarships for the next four years?


No post-season games allowed for four years?  

Mind boggling.  

So hundreds of thousands of students are penalized, and fans, and supporters of Penn State are to be punished?


All because of some as yet unproven allegations against Joe Paterno, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz, and Graham Spanier?  

No ma'am, no sir!  I am NOT forgetting the victims.  But unlike most everyone else, I am seeing one, at least, and possibly 3 more victims here of a rush to judgment, and millions of Penn State students, alumni, and fans who are also made victims by the NCAA.  None of the allegations have been proven.   There are charges against two of the four, Curley and Schultz, that they committed perjury in their Grand Jury testimony. 


I have never liked the fact that the NCAA hands out such penalties to schools because of recruiting violations, or cheating, or providing freebies to student athletes...crimes committed by the coaching staffs.  And then the coaches move on to another school, leaving the student athletes, and their fan base, and boosters, and the school dangling in the wind for several years.  

What kind of message does that send to a university, its students, and its alumni?  And what does it say to those coaches?  Only that if you get caught you will wind up at a smaller school with a lower salary, or on national TV broadcasting or analyzing games. 


Why, when meting out punishment, is it necessary to create thousands of new victims?  And why must it be done before all the facts are proven?  There are far too many questions than answers in the Freeh report.  At the very least the NCAA should have waited until Curley and Schultz have their day in court, IF they indeed have one coming.  We still think there is something lacking in the perjury charges, and that is specificity.  


Talk about a rush to judgment!


Mind boggling. 


GettysBLOG


We support the Roadmap to Reform!


“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" -- GettysBLOG


“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” -- GettysBLOG


Remember in May and November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!


Copyright © 2005-2012: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Monday, July 16, 2012

…and another thing…


It seems we are not alone in our assessment of Louis Freeh’s report on the Sandusky affair and its fallout for Penn State.  In today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, Joseph N. DiStefano, a journalist for the Inquirer, writes an article noting the fact that there are some folks who are not sold on Freeh’s report. 

In another article last November, DiStefano wrote that that in spite of disclaimers about any prior connection with Penn State, it seems Freeh indeed made an awful lot of money working for a bank [MBNA] that paid Penn State’s Alumni Association $30 million between 1998 and 2006 for their mailing lists and some help with marketing their credit cards to the alumni.  Additional moneys were paid annually for exclusivity rights and to keep Joe Paterno in the MBNA fold as well.  In 2006 Freeh left MBNA just as it was acquired by Bank of America, and Freeh cashed out his stock to the tune of $20 million. 

Freeh’s  position with MBNA was as General Counsel and as such had little to do with the marketing of Credit Cards, but he certainly would have reviewed contracts, and amended or approved them as necessary. 

DiStefano also provides a link to a very good and longtime columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, Gil Spencer.  Spencer wrote, in an article yesterday titled “FreehReport is full of assumptions”, essentially along the same lines as our previous post.  There are assumptions and assertions in Freeh’s report that are simply not supported by the evidence he presents.  Spencer finds McQueary much more culpable than anyone else for not reporting the ”crime” he witnessed, and for not reporting it to Paterno, and later to Schultz and Curley as a rape, or sexual molestation.  Indeed, McQueary’s father, a medical professional, would have known the law required such a crime to be reported and he did nothing.  He obviously did not counsel his son to go to the police.  One wonders just what young McQueary actually told his dad.  Add that to the fact that Paterno, Curley and Schultz all testified that what McQueary reported was something far less serious than what he was saying to the Grand Jury and to the Sandusky trial jury. 


How could Freeh not see this commonality in what McQueary said then, and the contextual actions and eventual memories of the men to whom he reported it?

The more this gets looked at, the more McQueary’s actions and inactions come under scrutiny and they are not passing that scrutiny.  Yet Freeh uses McQueary extensively to provide the underpinnings of his condemnation of Curley, Schultz, Spanier and Paterno. 

Spencer writes, “The fact is, before this scandal broke, I couldn’t give two serious craps about Penn State or Joe Paterno.  I didn’t follow or care about his football program and I still don’t.  But lynch mobs offend me and so do people who leap to conclusions for the purpose of engaging in character assassination.”

Indeed there has been a rush to judgment, started first by the Trustees last fall, and picked up almost immediately by sportswriters and newscasters around the country.  It seems to be the prevailing sport among them, to see someone who is idolized for all the good he has done in his life and because he is better than they are, they must tear him down, find fault, regardless of its validity, and believe the worst about someone the bulk of the country thought was a good man who had done good things for a lot of people, over a long lifetime.  That is the kind of person they like to go after…with that “lynch mob” mentality.

The Paterno family reported today that it would conduct its own investigation and asked the Freeh investigators to preserve their notes and evidence and make it available. 

Others, like DiStefano and Spenser, are starting to see through the Freeh report.  That is a good thing. 

Please read Spencer’scolumn.  It is quite good.  It is an exemplar of the good writing and good sense that marks Gil Spencer’s reputation. 

He should watch out.  That marks him as a target for the “lynch mob.”

GettysBLOG


We support the Roadmap to Reform!


“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" -- GettysBLOG


“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” -- GettysBLOG


Remember in May and November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!


Copyright © 2005-2012: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Freeh Report: So much Swiss Cheese!


Poor Louis Freeh.  He was hired by the Trustees of Pennsylvania State University to conduct an investigation into the events involving Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children on campus and the administrators who essentially were responsible for not reporting it to the police or the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare.  Freeh was tasked with finding out who did what and why and when they did or did not act. 

This was a private investigation conducted by the former director of the FBI.  Hired by the Trustees in the wake of a total insurrection after they fired Joe Paterno late last year, without apparent just cause.  Without apparent just cause.  All they said at the time was, “He should have done more.” 

Sandusky is gone, convicted of enough charges of sexual abuse against minors to lock him away for two lifetimes. 

Spanier is tainted fish, suspended, never to return as President of the University.  He will never again work as such.  He may not ever work again after what he engaged in with Curley and Schultz. 

Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial on perjury charges that they lied to the Grand Jury.  It is likely that the perjury charges will be dropped against Curley and Schultz.  Memory of events and the order of events, vagueness in notes and emails, and alternate interpretations of notes and emails will make the case extraordinarily difficult to rosecute, and rightfully so. 

So, why Joe Paterno?  Why go after the legendary coach?  “Because he should have done more?” 

Who should have done more?

How about McQueary and his father?  Should they have reported the incident McQueary says he witnessed?  Of course they should have!  Are they being penalized?  Well, McQueary is.  He is suspended.  And rightfully so.  We will return to McQueary shortly. 

How about Curley and Schultz and Spanier?  Maybe.

How about the local attorney called and asked for advice, and paid for that advice?  Is he not an officer of the court and bound to report crimes?  The criminal was not a client so there was no privilege attached. 

And maybe therein lies the crux of the matter. 

From the beginning, there has been great confusion as to exactly what McQueary saw and when he saw it [2001 or 2002], and most importantly, how he reported it to his father [never explored], to Paterno [several different variations exist], to Curley and Schultz [those same variations exist as they do with McQueary’s report to Paterno], and to the Grand Jury [very different than what Paterno, Schultz, and Curley remember, or recorded in notes and emails.] 

Let us make something very clear here:  Joe Paterno did not use email.  Joe Paterno probably did not use computers, unless someone set up for him what they wanted him to see, like films of a potential recruit on a prep recruit ratings site.  More than likely, Joe had one of those large key, large print cell phones…if he had a cell phone at all. 

Why does McQueary suddenly remember clearly what he said to each man, Paterno, Curley and Schultz ten years ago, and their emails and notes [Schultz’s and Curley’s] present a much different and far more vague account that McQueary presented then? 

Here is an email from Curley to Spanier and Schultz a day after discussing the situation with Joe Paterno.  In Freeh’s mind, as in the minds of the mass media, it is the smoking gun that puts Paterno, et al into the cover-up conspiracy. 

“On Tuesday, February 27, 2001, Curley emailed Schultz and Spanier:
‘I had scheduled a meeting with you this afternoon about the subject we discussed on Sunday.  After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday-- I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps.  I am having trouble with going to everyone, but the person involved.  I think I would be more comfortable meeting with the person and tell him about the information we received.  I would plan to tell him we are aware of the first situation.  I would indicate we feel there is a problem and we want to assist the individual to get professional help.  Also, we feel a responsibility at some point soon to inform his organization and [sic] maybe the other one about the situation.  If he is cooperative we would work with him to handle informing the organization.  If not, we do not have a choice and will inform the two groups.  Additionally, I will let him know that his guests are not permitted to use our facilities.  I need some help on this one.  What do you think about this approach?’”
Freeh, p.74

This is a curiosity in and of itself.  It is probably the most crucial part of the case, the single most important piece of evidence that cries out ‘cover-up!’  Indeed, it is the piece of evidence that shows the alleged ‘cover-up’ first being proposed.

Or does it?  “After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday-- I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps.”  He does not say ‘After talking it over with Joe yesterday and giving it more thought—I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps.’  This is important.  This is the sentence that pull’s Joe Paterno into the alleged cover-up, at least in Freeh’s mind [and of course, that of the press.]

There is no record of the conversation between Curley and Paterno.  With Paterno dead, we will eventually get [maybe] an accurate description of what that conversation went like.  Nevertheless, Curley was already having doubts about reporting the incident to the Police and the Department of Welfare BEFORE he went to see Joe Paterno.

So Freeh actually makes a quantum leap of faith to connect Joe Paterno to the cover-up. 

It stretches credulity to think that Joe would counsel or condone a cover-up if he thought there was enough evidence to go on. 

Joe is revered as someone who spent his life helping others become a success.  There is no arguing that fact. 

So, then, perhaps Curley and Schultz are telling the truth after all [and maybe Joe Paterno was, too!], and perhaps that most credible of all witnesses, Mike McQueary, on whose testimony the whole investigation was instigated, and who was the only third party witness to a crime committed by Jerry Sandusky to come forward, maybe did not report it to Paterno and then to Schultz and Curley the way he said he did.  Joe did not remember the word “sexual” when recalling McQueary’s report to him.  Neither did Schultz or Curley. 

Harken back a bit farther, to the 1998 incident.  A worried mother reported Sandusky’s shower antics to the police, who investigated.  Joe was aware of the investigation.  Joe followed up on the investigation.  When no charges were filed, what was Joe Paterno to think?  Does anyone in their right minds think that Sandusky wasn’t doing this for many years?  Does anyone in their right minds think that if it had come to light to any of Joe’s staff or to Joe himself during those decades of Sandusky coaching under Joe, that Joe would not have taken steps to handle it properly?  Nothing had occurred prior to the 1998 report that would have aroused suspicions.  When cleared of the report in 1998, Joe likely wrote it off as someone’s mistaken interpretation, or a kid’s false report. 

So, McQueary, in his distress [he says he was in tears when he told Joe what he saw], maybe used the term ‘horsing around’.  How else would that term get into the testimony of the three: Curley, Schultz, and Paterno? 

Maybe, just maybe, Schultz, Curley, Paterno, and Spanier didn’t have enough to go on.  Maybe McQueary’s report lacked the critical element of actually seeing a sexual assault.  Even in his Grand Jury testimony he does not quite go that far.  He is still vague, calling it something of a “sexual nature.” 

Lacking that critical element these four men had nothing, really, to report to the authorities.  Had they done so, certainly McQueary would have been a questionable witness up front due to the fact that he DID NOT make the report himself. 

In their quandary, Spanier and Curley and Schultz turned to a local law firm with a long standing connection to Penn State, and for an hourly rate fee, were given legal advice by an attorney from there.  What do you think they were asking?  Obviously, they were asking “What are we obligated under the law to do?”  Additionally, they were obviously also asking, “What is the University’s risk of liability in this situation?”  Just as obviously, the answers were “nothing” and “no risk.” 

Any other answer would have required not only the University to take action by reporting the incident, it would also have required the attorney to report it! 

They would also have asked what the risk was if they reported Sandusky and he later decided after being cleared once again, to sue the University.

Why didn’t Spanier make use of the University’s legal counsel?  Obviously, they did not think the matter rose to the level that would require that, since it would require her to report the incident to the Trustees. 

Nevertheless, Spanier, Schultz, and Curley WERE going to report the incident to the Department of Welfare, so that body could investigate it, and not to the police since there was no evidence of a crime. 

Then Curley had second thoughts, and an inspired idea.  He would confront Sandusky, tell him he could not bring kids onto the campus again, have him present when they went to the CEO of The Second Mile [Jerry Sandusky’s foundation for helping troubled kids – a happy hunting ground for Sandusky], and lay it all out that Jerry has a problem. 

This is what they agreed to do.  This is what they did.  This is what they felt was the responsible thing to do. 

Once the Second Mile checked with their attorney they washed their hands of the incident.  They conducted no investigation of their own.  Having heard a report from Tim Curley that Sandusky has a problem getting too intimate with kids, bathing with them, wrestling with them and so on, they conducted no investigation of their own.  They never connected the dots.  And that was because there were no obvious dots to connect.  Not at the Second Mile, nor at Penn State.   

Freeh repeatedly charges all the Penn state people with failure to attempt to identify the victims.  But if they did not believe there were any victims, why would they then try to identify them? 

So maybe Curley, Schultz, Spanier, and Paterno were all telling the truth.  Maybe, just maybe, it is McQueary who doesn’t quite remember how he characterized his reports.

Finally now that we see that the Freeh report is full of holes, we can get to motivations. 

Why did the Board of Trustees feel the need to have this investigation carried out?  Would not the trial of Sandusky and the trial of Curley and Schultz suffice in clarifying exactly what happened, not just in the McQueary incident, but in subsequent incidents?

Of course it would…if Curley and Schultz are convicted of perjury.  Even if they were tried and acquitted, the sequence of events and the evidence would all be laid out and made public. 

But that does not answer the questions about Joe Paterno’s role in all this.  And that is why Freeh was hired to conduct his investigation.  There are many trustees who want to see Joe Paterno’s name cleared.  And there are many trustees who want to justify their precipitous action in firing Joe.  They are not the same trustees.

And Louis Freeh, of course, gave his employer exactly what they were looking for.  On the surface it condemns Joe Paterno not only as part of the cover-up but also as the likely source of the idea, and he does so by inference only, not by any direct evidence.  Underneath, if you go through his report carefully, you find the holes, which open up when the right questions are asked, or when what Freeh says simply does not add up, and Joe comes out clean. 

We found the holes.  

Nevertheless, Joe Paterno, and Penn State, are tarnished forever, and unfairly so.  


GettysBLOG


We support the Roadmap to Reform!


“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" -- GettysBLOG


“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” -- GettysBLOG


Remember in May and November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!


Copyright © 2005-2012: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Canceled Alert! Gettysburg not under new Casino threat!

...at the moment.

[Note: An early version of this post contained erroneous information which has now been removed.]

The Pennsylvania Gambling Commission will announce today that it will be taking applications for the unused dedicated casino license from the City of Philadelphia during the next three months.  This is according to Harrisburg Online today.

We had anticipated that this license would be auctioned off statewide, posing a potential threat to the Gettysburg Battlefield once again.  For now that is not the case.  

Nevertheless, it remains a threat, as posted in our previous entry [Casino Redux?].  

Once again we wish to rouse our readership to begin pressing their State Senators and Representatives to quickly pass House Bill 2082, which would protect not only Gettysburg Battlefield, but also the Flight 93 Crash Site Memorial north of Somerset, Pennsylvania.  The bill would provide a ten mile buffer around each of these sites.  Push your legislators to get that bill out of committee immediately and get it passed. 

Check often with the No Casino Gettysburg Network website for updates and details, and ways to contact your Pennsylvania State Assembly members. 

GettysBLOG


We support the Roadmap to Reform!


“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" -- GettysBLOG


“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” -- GettysBLOG


Remember in May and November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!


Copyright © 2005-2012: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Walmart Developers & Local Gov’t Sticking it to Taxpayers!


A front page article in the Gettysburg Times on June 14th lays out a plan for the developers to defer payment on the up to $6 Million infrastructure improvements to roads, water, sewer, and the relocation of power lines on and around the construction site for the new Walmart Project at the US 30/15 interchange.  Named Gettysburg Crossing, the project is expected to house a Walmart Super Store, Kohl’s Department Store, Michaels Arts and Crafts, and perhaps a Lowes or Home Depot type store, along with banks, eateries, and the like. 

Under the plan, the repayment of the cost for these improvements, which will benefit local residents, will be deferred for several years and paid for when the taxes, currently assessed as unimproved, but then to be improved and eventually commercial space, would go up with those changes.  Those increments would be used to pay for the estimated $6 Million infrastructure work, much of it required by PennDot, the rest by Straban Township and various Adams County authorities. 

The repayment deferment would be guaranteed by none other than our old friends, the secretly operating Adams County Economic Development Corporation [ACEDC], and up to $5 Million of the project would be secured by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development [DCED].

According to the article, this “incremental tax financing plan” [ITFP] would not cost the local taxpayers anything, and that covers Adams County, Straban Township, and the Gettysburg Area School District. 

In another article on the subject, this in the Hanover Evening Sun, the spokesperson for the developer said, “Without the $6 Million, this project doesn’t get done.”

The developer claims this project would create up to 600 jobs.

All three County Commissioners came out of the meeting with the developer apparently enthusiastically pumped up by the concept, after voting to send a representative to meet with representatives of the other taxing bodies to decide to approve or not approve the financing plan.

Ahem…let us follow the money…and the facts. 

First, the guarantor, ACEDC, gets its funding from Harrisburg out of the Commonwealth’s General Fund, which gets its money generally from the tax payers.  The rest of the money generally comes in the form of grants and appropriations from the Federal Government, which of course, gets its money from…?...you guessed it...the taxpayers, meaning YOU!

Now let us take a look at ITFP itself.  As the project gets developed, the land use changes from “unimproved” to “improved,” and then, in this case, to “commercial.”  Each change would increase the taxes incrementally.  It is these incremental increases that would be used to pay for the up to $6 Million in infrastructure improvements MADE NECESSARY BY THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT.

The developer, and then the retailers, would have to pay those increases anyway!  So the money from those increases would be used to retire the $6 Million debt from the infrastructure work.  Sounds like the old shell game, doesn’t it?  Well, that is exactly what it is. 

So the developer, with the able and willing assistance of the Adams County Commissioners, the Straban Township Supervisors, and the Gettysburg Area School Board, along with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the DCED, and the super-secret ACEDC, are shifting the burden of up to $6 Million for this project to…guess who…YOU!  Every one of your tax bills will go up – Federal, State, County, School, Township.  Some of your transportation fees may go up as well. 

Welcome back to the “Adams County/local Township development shuffle!”

According to the 2012 Annual Report by the Walmart Corporation , the world’s third largest corporation generated $444 Billion in sales last year, from roughly 10,000 stores in 69 countries.  That, if our math is correct, averages out to about $44.4 Million per store for the year.  If you think that local government will see a juicy cut of that $44.4 Million from the new Walmart superstore at Gettysburg Crossing, you are sadly mistaken.  They will pay taxes on the same flat rates you pay to local government. 

Here is the rub.  Apparently, there are two developer companies working this project, and they both failed to do their due diligence.  If the developers were worth their salt, they would have had engineers check the roads, survey crews, and the like, and check the township and county and state requirements for development of commercial properties, even to the point, for example of consulting with PennDot over required road improvements.  They also would have made the cost of moving power lines part of their estimate of the total cost of construction of the development.  They did a shoddy job.  And ACEDC, and local governments want to back them anyway, and with YOUR MONEY. 

Oh, they will get paid for their work whether Gettysburg Crossing is built or not, it is a contract job.  But if the project is not built, they will not get nearly what they would get paid IF the project were completed.  Now we find their projected cost to completion is already $6 Million over budget, so they will lose from that as well.  And every day of delay costs them the rental money they will generate from the retailers once they open. 

In other words, the developers want to pass on the cost overrun to the taxpayers, to save themselves [and their investors] from taking the loss.  They are in a desperate situation as, we are certain, they have more than a few very angry investors!  So they are turning to local and state government to become complicit in what is, in effect, thievery from the taxpayers.   

Finally, the developer has fed local government and the public the dangling worm-on-a-hook of 600 jobs.  Let’s look at this.  By far, the majority of those jobs will be temporary construction jobs, not permanent ones.  Some of those construction workers may very well transition into building maintenance positions with the retailers, but they will be very few.  More of those 600 jobs will go to the existing staff of the current Walmart store [did you think they were just going to vanish?].  That will not leave many jobs to be had when the project is built and the retailers open.  And what jobs are those?  Store manager?  Nope, sales clerk, door greeter, stock person and the like.

The second worm-on-a hook is that these infrastructure improvements will benefit all local citizens.  Well, yes, but no one will be inconvenienced by the lack of those improvements if the project does not get built.  So that is a red herring.   

Don’t bite!

Weak, hollow arguments from the desperate developers, and confusing tax talk from local government are signs this project is in dire straits.

If the developers can’t rework their project contract with the world’s third largest corporate entity to cover their own lack of due diligence, then perhaps the project should wait until another developer comes along and does it right.  One also wonders what other errors were made by these developers, errors that might escape the local authorities in their inspections after the fact. 

You deserve better than this.  You deserve a better developer for this project, and you certainly deserve much better from your elected officials than the “incremental tax financing plan.”

Don’t bite. 

Don’t bite.

Don’t bite.

GettysBLOG

We support the Roadmap to Reform!

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" -- GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” -- GettysBLOG

Remember in May and November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2005-2012: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Anniversary Series to start June 26th

Just to let you all know, starting June 26, we will begin posting the Anniversary Essays, a series telling of eight chronological episodes [and one editorial] in the Battle of Gettysburg, as we approach the 249th Anniversary of that great Battle. 

GettysBLOG

We support the Roadmap to Reform!

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" -- GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” -- GettysBLOG

Remember in May and November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2005-2012: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wal-Mart and Straban Overreaching Again


Recently, the developer for the new shopping center to be constructed on the northwest corner of the US 30/15 interchange requested that Straban Township exercise the use of eminent domain in order to finalize some land and/or right-of-way acquisitions within the scope of the project. 

While we are in favor of the project, as it has been presented so far, we firmly believe that both Wal-Mart and Straban would be misusing eminent domain in this case. 

First, let us read the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor 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 Fifth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights written by James Madison and adopted in 1791, shortly after the Constitution was ratified, is a sweeping piece of law.  It says that in serious crimes, meaning crimes rising to the level of felonies, you cannot be held without being charged formally in court, nor can you be tried twice for the same crime, nor can you be forced to testify against yourself.  It also says you cannot forfeit your property without due process of law.  Finally, it says that you cannot have your land seized by the Government for public use without a fair price being paid for it.

“No person shall”…[have] “private property”…[]…”taken for public use, without just compensation.”

This Amendment guarantees protection against an over-reaching government, at any level. 
[Note] “James Madison…had a more moderate view [than Jefferson], and struck a compromise that sought to at least protect property rights somewhat by explicitly mandating compensation and using the term "public use" rather than "public purpose", "public interest", or "public benefit".”--[Wikipedia entry on eminent domain, sourced from Bruce L. Benson, The Independent Review, v. XII, n. 3, Winter 2008, ISSN 1086–1653, Copyright © 2008, pp. 423–432.]
Clearly, Madison saw a difference.  The implication is that eminent domain may be used by Government to acquire land for public use, meaning for the public to use, not for other purposes.  The intent was for building roads, public [government] buildings, bridges, and such. 

Madison’s intent, which was clear to those who ratified the Bill of Rights, did not include taking property for commercial purposes.  Indeed, Straban exercised eminent domain several years ago when taking a strip of land from a local property owner when it wanted to widen the intersection at York Street and Granite Station Road.  The argument there was that the homeowner would have to relocate his septic system at some great expense, and Straban was unwilling to pay for the land AND the inconvenience to the homeowner.  While the township had the right to do this since it was for ‘public use’, it was wrong in not compensating the homeowner enough for the additional expense involved.

Here, we have the giant corporation with the third highest revenues in the world, Wal-Mart, refusing to pay the asking price of the landowners involved in the construction of the infrastructure [roadwork – including changes to the on/off ramps between US 30 and US 15, traffic signals, electrical lines, gas, water, and sewer lines]. 

In other words, this is being done so that Wal-Mart, and the developer, and the other retailers and real estate management companies involved, can build their money-making shopping center at a reduced price.  

The difference is that in the first case, only the taxpayers/public benefit from the taking, but in this case, while the taxpayers/public would benefit, they would only do so if the major benefactor, the retailers, did not build here.  Ergo, since there is no need to take the land unless the project is constructed, it is done solely for the benefit of the developer,Wal-Mart, the other retailers and the investors.

Otherwise, the work would not be done, or not be done as extensively as Wal-Mart requires.  Indeed, much of that section of Shealer Road, which crosses York Street just west of the US 15/30 interchange, was rebuilt recently at taxpayer expense. 

God forbid that Wal-Mart slip to fourth place!

[Now they want to rewrite the tax load on the project so they can better afford it!  Boggle!] 

Imagine that you want to build a house on a small lot, but in order to put a driveway in, you need to have a small slice of your neighbor’s land.  Under the interpretation that Straban is using, you, a member of the ‘public’ can ask the township to take the land by eminent domain for you, getting it at a reduced price from what the neighbor wanted.  That is "public purpose", "public interest", or "public benefit".  Not what Madison [or the Framers, or the country that ratified the Bill of Rights] intended.

Here we get into a short discussion if what ‘just compensation’ is.  Just compensation is a fair price for what you wish to sell or buy.  Compensation could mean trading one small strip of land for another.  But 99% of the time it means cash value.  If you want to sell your home, you set an asking price.  If it is close to the market value of the property you will likely get a buyer to pay that price or something around that price.  If it is too high, you will not sell your property.  If it is too low, you will sell the home fast, but you will not get what you think is the true value. 

But if someone comes to you and asks to buy your home when you are not prepared to sell it, then the value goes up, and it goes up to a point where both the buyer and seller agree is worth it to each.  If you are the buyer looking at a property worth $200,000 if it were on the market, you would likely approach the owner with an offer significantly higher than that to make it worthwhile for the owner to uproot himself and his family from the property.  If it is a property that has been handed down over succeeding generations, the value to the owner will be much higher. 

Where eminent domain comes in to play in just compensation is to fix a price the owner is unwilling to accept because the government has made a decision that there is a limit to the value of the property.  The government does not care about generational farms, or even the fact that you will be inconvenienced by the sale, and maybe forced to move. 

Well, perhaps the government should care.  The word ‘just’ should cover that caring. 

If the government comes to me and tells me I have to move because in three years an 8-lane Interstate Highway will cover the ground I live on, I will expect a higher than market price from the government because of the fact I must move [which is expensive], and buy another home to live in [which may or may not be more expensive but likely will be more so]. 

If John Smith knocks on my door one night and says, “I’d like to buy your house and property”, and I have not thought about it all, but considered leaving it to my children, then I would have a realtor suggest a market price and I would really look for an increase over that price, perhaps as much as 40% higher.  If it is important to Mr. Smith, he will pay the price.  Fair is fair.  Just is just. 

Local governments, like Straban and Cumberland Townships, that play the “development shuffle pyramid scheme” game, exercise eminent domain to ease the path of developers so they can generate more taxes down the road.  But let’s look at this for a moment…who pays for the property acquired by eminent domain?  Well, if it is part of the development land, then the developer must re-pay the township.  If it is part of the infrastructure, as listed above, then the taxpayers pay the price. 

But wait!  There’s more!  Who pays for the process of exercising eminent domain?  Legal costs, filing fees, and the like can go pretty high, especially if the property owner does not agree to the price offered and the fight goes to court.  And once again, the taxpayers pay the price. 

In this case, the world’s third highest revenue earning corporation is refusing to pay to inconvenience a landowner so it can go in and in one year make a profit on that store that is a hundred times or more than the difference in price between what the owner wanted and the price set by the township under eminent domain.  And you are paying taxes to do this.   

So, Straban township is robbing Peter [the landowner], to pay Paul [Wal-Mart, developers, other stores, and investors], and billing you for the tools used in the robbery! 

If that is not over-reaching government, what is?  James Madison is spinning in his grave. 
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."
We look at the words, “… governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” and we are struck by that word again: “just”. 

Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines ‘just’ as [F. juste, L. justus, fr. jus right, law, justice; orig., that which is fitting; akin to Skr. yu to join. Cf. Injury, Judge, Jury, Giusto.]
1.             Conforming or conformable to rectitude or justice; not doing wrong to any; violating no right or obligation; upright; righteous; honest; true; -- said both of persons and things.
2.             Not transgressing the requirement of truth and propriety; conformed to the truth of things, to reason, or to a proper standard; exact; normal; reasonable; regular;
3.              Rendering or disposed to render to each one his due; equitable; fair; impartial.

It is a word that goes deep into English language’s Proto-Indo-European roots.  It has likely been a word to describe a sense of rightness, and fairness about a matter, or person, or event almost as long as the word has existed.  Look at the definitions above: not doing wrong to any; upright; righteous; honest; true; reasonable; to each one his due; equitable; fair; impartial. 

Ask yourself, “How does what Straban Township, Wal-Mart, the Developer and the other investors and retailers are doing fit the word “just?”  Everything about the definition says it is a two way street, not tilted in favor of the government or those the government is representing [which begs another question…why is Straban going to represent the developer and Wal-Mart, and NOT its constituency?  This is clearly a conflict of interest, if not misplaced interest to start with!]

Here we have a clear conflict between the interpretation of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution and the founding document of our Nation, the Declaration of Independence, which lays out the specific causes that compelled the Founders to rebel against the King’s government, and what defines a just and free society: “…unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;…”. 

Unalienable rights cannot be taken away or abridged by any person or government.  ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ is generally taken to mean the ownership of property.  “…to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;…” means just what it says, that government power is given by the people, and it must be ‘just’ and ‘fair’, honest’, and ‘equitable’, and ‘righteous.’

Tell Straban Township to abstain from eminent domain.  And tell the Wal-Mart developer to stop whining and pay the price.  Whining really does not sit well, particularly when done on behalf of the world's third largest company!  They complain about the necessary changes the township requires, and they complain about the tax burden for infrastructure which they claim will benefit everyone.  They forget it will benefit their clients, Wal-Mart and the other retailers the most, and would not be required if their project did not exist. 

So tell Straban to tell the developer to shut up, stop whining, pay the owners what they want, and pay the taxes on time.  It’s all part of the risk of doing business, and that is the investors’ risk, not the township’s and not the residents’ risk. 

And if Straban doesn’t listen, “…that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

That would happen in November.  


GettysBLOG


We support the Roadmap to Reform!


“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" -- GettysBLOG


“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” -- GettysBLOG


Remember in May and November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!


Copyright © 2005-2012: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.