Molly Henderson describes why “Pressed: Public Money, Private Profit: A Cautionary Tale” was written.
Transcript: The reason I wrote Pressed: Public Money, Private profit, was one morning I was having some Quaker oats squares at breakfast during the end of my term as commissioner. And I was reading an account of a small battle in Dranesville, Virginia in the American Civil War. And the footnote said that it was using the local newspaper’s account of the battle as it’s primary source for this author was using. And I just stopped reading. It occurred to me in that flash of an instant, that future historians will use the Lancaster newspapers as the primary source for my term of what went on when I was in office. And this just couldn’t be because it was just so slanted, so biased and inaccurate, I decided I had to write a book to correct the information.
When I was running for office in 2003, I went to visit various community leaders, people that were engaged in the community to see what they had to say and get their advice and their guidance. And I went to see Pastor Edward Bailey, of the Bethel AME Church. And he gave me a thought that I went home and immediately wrote it down. He said, you can give me a fish, you can teach me to fish but I know very well who owns the pond. And that is what Pressed is about, it’s about who owns the pond. How they came to own the pond, how they restocked the pond, et cetera. And it just summarizes everything this book is about.
What Pressed does, is it takes apart the hotel and convention center project, piece by piece. It is an extremely complex and difficult project to understand. In fact one of the things we have in the book is what we call the map, and it is a graphic illustration of how the project work. You can follow the money, you can follow the political moves, you can follow the legal moves and the elections and everything and see how it works.
Although I was endorsed by the democratic committee in Lancaster County to run for a second term, I really had no illusions what was going to happen. I had been under assault by the Lancaster newspapers for three years steadily and had been in essence a whistleblower about this hotel and convention center project. Things do not end well for whistleblowers and that was the case for me and for Dick Shellenberger. The thing that is interesting about this and should give the taxpayer an people pause about all this, is that Dick Shellenberger, another commissioner and I who were under attack by the newspaper, were politically polar. And we both saw the same thing in this project, we both saw that is was the taxpayer, it was public money, private profit, that was happening in this project.
One of the things that Pressed shows is how the local institutions in Lancaster County and Lancaster City betrayed the trust of the people. A newspaper, elected officials, are there to serve the public and in this case they did not.