The Frederick News-Post (FNP) coverage of downtown hotel issues is awful. The paper recently gave huge play to an absurd threat by a hotel project consultant, the archeologist Mechelle Kerns of a libel suit against two critics at The Frederick Chronicles Facebook site. Kerns ‘threat’ was obviously dashed off in a burst of angry passion. It is littered with spelling mistakes, and illogic and shows naive misunderstandings of libel law. Its list of demands is absurd. No lawyer, let alone a court would take it seriously. A person merely threatening legal action is not news, especially when the ‘threat’ is so totally lacking credibility. But the Frederick News-Post gave it headline treatment: “City Notes: Hotel consultant threatens lawsuit based on Facebook feud”.
Compare this with the hotel issues the FNP has not covered at all, or covered poorly:
— the heavily documented case from the Jones Lang LaSalle consultants’ timesheets that the Mayor & Board and the public were treated to a sham competed procurement in the fall of 2014, that Plamondon’s proposal was received and chosen well before the RFP even went out
— that the City ’s purchasing rules were flagrantly violated
— that upfront costs to taxpayers have almost tripled in three years from about $11m to $31m now
— the sheer unfairness of this, not only to taxpayers but to hotels that fully finance themselves with their owner’s money
— the smothering effect on other hotel investment downtown of $31 million of public funding for a single City-sponsored project that has been talked about for some eight years now
— the City’s rationale for buying the land after the RFP had specifically precluded such, and the giveaway terms of the leaseback now proposed
— false and misleading City claims that public money is only going to “public infrastructure” when it is financing major portions of the hotel complex that will be an integral part of the developer’s business, under developer control, with the developer entitled to the revenues
— scoring of the Plamondon and Wormald proposals with, for example, Plamondon scored as more desirable on historic preservation grounds even though Plamondon proposes major demolition on two historic buildings, while Wormald required none.
— the City Attorney’s repeated misuse of ‘deliberative privilege’ to maintain a shroud of secrecy around the project by invoking this against documents generated more than two years ago, and deliberated at that time
— the doubtful legality under state authorizing legislation of the County’s recent deal with the Tourism Council under which the County outsources to a trade group (Tourism Council) selection of developers who will receive huge tax exemptions if they build approved hotels in historic downtowns
— the rationale for the City’s insistence on the downtown hotel being 200 rooms, have multiple restaurants, bars, gym, swim pool etc and that it be 4-star upscale
— a site selection process that chose a site within the historic district that requires demolition of 1.5 of 2 historic buildings, a complete redo of East Patrick Street, curbside parking, and two intersection signal systems, and which is out of proportion to all the buildings around
— news that Richard Griffin, a City official organized to stack hotel meetings of the Mayor & Board, calling on the chamber of commerce, downtown partnership, tourism officials and others to get 5 speakers each, offering them talking points
— City officials bait-&-switch over County employees parking next door to the County Board of Ed building, the promise of 200 free spaces being used to get County $s, then the switch to all-onsite parking, and dumping of County parking
— obscure hotel project accounting and repeated insistence that no City taxpayer money is being used on the project, only state grants when those require matching city funds
We have offered cooperation to the Frederick News-Post giving them access to the source materials we gather. They show little interest in using this to present a balanced coverage. We have written solidly based Letters to the Editor which are repeatedly suppressed.
You will notice that every FNP report on the hotel controversy they publish say the proposed site is owned by the families that run the newspaper. They don’t need to keep repeating that, their bias in favor of this boondoggle is so plain to see. P Samuel 2016-09-04