A standalone special meeting just for public input on the possibility of creating a Human Relations Commission would help

June 30 – The exploratory committee of the Chambersburg Borough Council charged with looking into the need for a nondiscrimination ordinance for LGBTQ+ community members as well as possibly creating a Human Relations Commission in Chambersburg will meet tonight via Zoom at 6:30 p.m.

Join the Zoom meeting here:

Because the meetings are less than a quorum and only a subcommittee of the entire council, members of the public will remain muted during the meeting.

This evening the committee will hear from Mike Ross from the Franklin County Area Development Corporation; Stephen Christian from the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce; and either or both Randall Wenger, Esq. and Jeremy Samek, Esq. on behalf of the PA Family Institute.

Attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen discussed the upcoming meeting this morning during the Big Talk.

Barkdoll said, “I think this board is definitely going to hear some counterpoints tonight. It will be interesting to see what, if any, response this board gives to tonight’s presenters. Do they get any feedback? Does this move the needle? Is this board genuinely interested in hearing this? Are they keeping an open mind in a way that they could eventually say we’re not going to go forward with this? Or are they simply going through the motions to create the appearance that they’re hearing from all sides when they know from the beginning they’re going to green light this thing anyway.”

The answers to those questions remain to be seen, but the exploratory committee seems to be moving along at a decent pace.

Final recommendations could come within the next few weeks.

Jansen wondered, “Why aren’t they letting the public come? They keep putting in this little caveat about well it’s not a full quorum so we don’t have to have the public there, but they could easily allow the public there. There’s no reason not to have this be a more public meeting where people could have some feedback before and after the meeting which is how these things usually would run. I asked them to please put this off until after COVID so this wouldn’t have to be conducted via Zoom. They refused to do that. That worries me because I think it gets much less attention from the public.

Ryan said, “Just like the school boards hiding behind the screens.”

Barkdoll said, “You see some of these bodies still using COVID as a reasoning or as an excuse to not have an open public meeting, but they absolutely would have the right to just open this to the public, have public comment. I think people in the public should encourage this board to hold a standalone special meeting just for public input. Let’s just have a meeting where the public can show up unlimited and make the comments they want this board to consider. But I don’t think they’ll do that. They like the idea of Zoom. It creates a barrier between the board and the public even though the public absolutely should have input about this.”

The entire issue came up because 70 members of the community showed up to speak during a public comment section of a Chambersburg Borough Council meeting recently where the council was urged to look into the need for a nondiscrimination ordinance and a Human Relations Commission.

Ryan said, “The whole thing smells like a set up.”

Jansen pointed out, “That was a non-agenda public comment where 70 people showed up and I’m sure the council president had no idea that that was going to happen that night. Every time they’ve mentioned this nondiscrimination ordinance they have not put in the public statements that this was specifically for LGBTQ+. That is the reason and that’s been very clear. The man from the Human Relations Commission from the state even said the agenda is to expand the law beyond what the state already has. That’s the reason that the activists want this.”

Ryan asked, “Are you being used again by some folks that are very interested in seeing some money and seeing some funding here? Take a good, hard look if that’s the community you’re running in right now, who’s running the show? Where is the money going? Are they asking for money? Are you being used? That’s the question you really should ask yourself. What’s the end game here?”

Barkdoll said, “My fear from the beginning on this has been that it’s a fait accompli. This committee knows they’re going to approve this. They’ve made that decision and they’re going through these motions to create the appearance that they’re engaging in due diligence. They’re studying the issue but they know up front that they’re going to approve it. They’re catering to a very small segment of the population and I think they’ve put themselves in a box because they feel like if they don’t approve it now they believe that this small group is going to come after them even more. I think they’ve just handled it very poorly from the beginning. Now they’ve gone down this path to the point that they’re not going to be able to get out of it.”

Ryan said, “The laws are already there. Why would you put it in the hands of a borough that should be focused on the borough business and you already have people that are being paid very well out of the state and federal level?”

Jansen said, “Nobody’s shown that anyone’s been unsafe. We’ve not seen any evidence of that. I’d love to see the documented evidence of that.”

Barkdoll concluded, “If you’re a small business owner and you’re looking to relocate in Franklin County I do think that this becomes an issue. If they think they’re going to land somewhere that they’re going to be subjected to all sorts of constant educational initiatives and the fear of a complaint I think it would give someone pause coming to Chambersburg.”