Let’s take a look at the make up of Chambersburg Borough Council

August 30 — With the special meeting of Chambersburg Borough Council coming up on Wednesday, September 1, in the Capital Theater, maybe it’s time to put the microscope on who is on the borough council — and are they up for reelection? 

But first: the meeting will be discussing the nondiscrimination ordinance fo the LGBTQ+ community as well as a possible Human Relations Commission for Chambersburg. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.

It’s unclear whether council will vote to approve the ordinance on Wednesday — someone could make a motion to think about it some more — but the pieces are there to pass it.

Assuming they approve it, it’s not effective immediately — it could take 60 or 90 days to go into effect.

Attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen talked borough council this morning during the Big Talk on First News.

Barkdoll said, “Anything could happen. I suppose if there’s a huge crowd there and they get a lot of pushback on this, do you get one or two council people to change their mind? Or do you get one or two that say they want more time to consider this? Those things could always occur in the context of a public meeting.”

Ryan asked, “What’s the recourse? Can you light this thing back up? Say we get a new council seated — which we will for next year, half of them at least — what’s their recourse? Can they light the whole conversation back up?”

Barkdoll said, “They could. A subsequent council would always have the right to repeal an existing ordinance, whether it’s this ordinance or any ordinance. That absolutely could occur if the composition of council would change after the November election.”

Jansen added, “What’s really disturbing is looking back at these emails from last August and September between borough management and some of the council members or one specifically where they’re talking about systemic racism. They’re talking about a council down in South Carolina…talking about the city council unanimously approved a resolution that acknowledges systemic racism and includes an apology for racial injustices and long lasting inequities and it talks about a council person there working on a resolution to address racial equity in city hall. This is where this is coming from.”

News Talk 103.7FM filed a Right to Know request to get these emails between the Borough Manager Jeffrey Stonehill; Deputy Borough Manager Phil Wolgemuth; and Council President Alice Elia.

Jansen said, “She (Elia) actually brings up ‘we could do something similar in conjunction with the South Gate deal. The time would be right. I wonder if we could get the council to unanimously agree there’s systemic racism.’ This is ideology. This is their personal, leftist, progressive ideology and they’re trying to get it enshrined into law by using these ordinances. Jeffrey Stonehill talks about ‘well it wouldn’t actually help our citizens who suffer from racism each day to get a resolution. I think, instead, the previously discussed zero tolerance for discrimination of any type policy for employees, volunteers and vendors would be a much more practical solution.’ This is terrifying to me. I’ve studied this ideology and how it can work and this idea that you’re going to look for not actual acts of racism or violating people’s Civil Rights because we keep asking them where’s the examples locally of that happening? We’ve gotten zero except for little second-hand anecdotal stories. So now what you see them doing is we are going to as then Jeffrey talks about the ordinances says it’s a mechanism to punish individuals and businesses for discrimination and you’re talking about it in terms of systemic racism. That’s not addressing actual individuals doing Civil Rights violations. That’s applying your ideology so you can pick and choose which institutions you think are in line with your way of thinking about systemic racism. That’s not what government is meant to do here.”

Barkdoll said, “None of this stuff is really organic in as much that as you can see through those email chains and from some of these interest groups, this is all being modeled after what towns, cities and municipalities throughout the US and here in Pennsylvania have been doing. Even the ordinance itself is basically copied from Gettysburg which of course was copied from prior municipalities that did it and it was all generated from suggested language from some of these interest groups so that is something you’re absolutely seeing here locally.”

Getting back to the upcoming election this fall — this is why elections matter.

Barkdoll said, “If people feel strongly about this, if they elect new council people in theory a new council could repeal it. On the other hand, you may have a lot of people in the community that totally support this and if they turn out and reelect or elect council people who endorse all of these things that are being proposed well then obviously it’s going to stand. That’s why people particularly in the borough need to be engaged in this because this will largely then hinge on what happens at the November election.”

Barkdoll predicts these off-year municipal elections will be very low turnout so we will have a very small group of voters that will ultimately make the decisions.

Ryan said, “After watching what Joe Biden and his party have done to America is there some sort of appetite going, ‘Not in my backyard’? The Democrat Party has really become quite weaponized and activist here. Does that help the cause on the Republican side? See what’s happening on the national platform, do you want more of this on the local platform?”

“Well it might,” Barkdoll said, “But remember in Franklin County, even though the Republican Party has an over 2-1 voter registration edge over the Democrats, that is not true in the borough of Chambersburg. Chambersburg has more registered Democrats than any other municipality in the county. We also know that historically Chambersburg has elected many Democrats, whether it’s at the mayoral level or even at the local precinct level. There are actually scenarios within local precincts that Democrats have a substantial voter registration edge so that’s what makes the dynamic of Chambersburg borough politics probably unique actually to the entire county.”

Allen Coffman is up for reelection in First Ward for Chambersburg. He will face off against Heidi Frye.

Barkdoll predicts Coffman will win that seat. He’s someone with a lot of experience and built-in advantages because a lot of people know him. 

Barb Beattie is up for reelection in the Third Ward. She’s facing up against Dom Brown.

Barkdoll said, “I think this could be an interesting race. I don’t know Barb well. She is from a very well-known political family I think in Chambersburg. I think she’s well-connected. She has a lot of resources, a lot of people that will be working for her and that’s going to be difficult for Dom to overcome, but we know from last time when Dom ran, he ran a very good race. I think he’s done a lot in the last few years to get his own name out and I think he’s actively campaigning. Of the races maybe in the entire borough, this may be the one that could be the closest.”

The rule of thumb is campaigns start in earnest after Labor Day, which is next week.

A door to door grassroots campaign has proven to be effective in the past.

Ryan said, “Dom’s a smart character here. We’ve seen him already making a lot of footprints in his ward.”

Sharon Bigler, Alice Elia and Bill Everly are safe.

Mike Herbert is not running for reelection in the 2nd ward. Tom Newcomer, former mayor of Chambersburg, will take on Amer Chaudhry former Fourth Ward council member. 

Barkdoll’s prediction is Newcomer will take that seat for the Second Ward because of his name recognition and built-advantages from when he was the mayor.

Jansen said, “We’ve seen comments on our Facebook page, oh stop worrying about Marvin Worthy becoming mayor. There actually are more Democrats registered here than people realize. If all the Republicans came out and voted, yeah they probably could get all the Republicans elected, but as you said it’s turnout. It doesn’t matter how many there are, it matters how many turn out.”

When Dom Brown lost the last election, he actually won the initial count, it was the write-in votes for his opponent that defeated him.

Jansen said, “Can you imagine if we’d had Dom Brown on the council now…how it might be better all around rather than what we’re seeing? So it mattered how many people came out. Dom was sure he won. We were sure he won and then some write-in votes defeated him. So do not take this for granted. We need to get people motivated and out to vote. I think what’s going to happen Wednesday when we see how much the council is actually listening to the whole community as they claim they want to do or are they listening to the Franklin County Coalition for Progress? That’s who pushed this whole movement. That’s who’s behind this whole thing. They got the petition. They got their folks to turn out. And they have every right to petition. I’m not saying they don’t but that is a relatively small group in terms of the ideological thinking in this area. Are they going to listen to the community members who have concerns that the exploratory committee did not address in their recommendation to the council? So when people are sending them emails asking questions and show up on Wednesday night, will they think about it and reflect and not take a vote immediately and maybe make sure they understand what’s the possible harm to all of the community before they vote on this? You look at those results and decide who should be put back in in November.”

Dennis Schmaltz a Democrat will be up for reelection in the Fourth Ward versus Larry Hensley a Republican.

Heath Talhelm is not seeking reelection for the Fifth Ward. Weston Waytow will take on Brendan Bittle. 

Barkdoll said, “Listeners in the area know Bittle, that is an old political name in Franklin County. There is a Bittle that was our state representative years ago in the seat that Rob Kauffman has and this candidate is a relative. The Bittle family is still very involved in things and they know a lot of people. Not knowing anything about them other than that, I would say Bittle has an advantage merely because of sort of the political machinery that that family has had historically in Chambersburg.

Jansen added, “The Bittle who’s running is a very young man. I think he’s just out of college. You know what’s interesting about him? He’s the one that accused me of attacking the LGBTQ community for my derogatory comments about Dr. Levine. Do you know what my derogatory comments amounted to? I said he’s a genetic male. He’s a he. I may have used that pronoun. You know what worries me? I’m worried that these new nondiscrimination policies that they put into place, just by saying that, I could be put up on nondiscrimination. That could keep our station from being able to do any business with the borough just because I said a genetic male is a genetic male. That’s what we’re looking at with these expanded policies, guys. It’s not about being against the LGBTQ community. I think the LGBTQ community is being used frankly for political purposes for woke industrial complex purposes and to spread an ideology that’s harming our country. It’s the same ideology responsible for defunding the police. It’s the same ideology that’s making it very difficult, you’re afraid to say things, you’re afraid you can get fired for having the wrong ideas. It’s the cancel culture. That’s what this is all tied into. So that young man has accused me of being somehow hateful because I dared to refer to Dr. Levine as a genetic male.”

“Science matters,” Ryan said.

Barkdoll added, “I think all of these candidates will need to go on the record on a lot of different issues of course, but on this particular issue with the NDO. I don’t know what the gauge of public support is. Obviously in our circles and the business community and a lot of people we talk to, they are adamantly against this, but some of these candidates may be in certain precincts and they think that they’re going to generate a lot more turnout from the people that want this ordinance in place. It will be interesting to see as we get into campaign season starting next week, what public positions they come out and say on this particular issue.”