Some interesting talk about press coverage at last night’s Chambersburg Borough Council meeting

December 13 – Despite the fact that NewsTalk 103.7FM has had Business of the Borough on the radio station for years, one Chambersburg Council member thinks there isn’t much media coverage. 

Before we get to that, let’s talk the actual business of the borough from last night’s Chambersburg Borough Council meeting. 

One item on the agenda was the authorization to approve the waiving of Chambersburg Police Department fees associated with the Friends of Doug Mastriano rally on September 16, 2022. 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “I’m a little puzzled at the very idea that any of Doug’s handlers would ask for that, but I’m more interested in it’s a 9-1 vote passing on waiving that fee.” 

The fee wasn’t waived. The dissenting vote was Bill Everly. 

Allen Coffman, borough council president, said, “He explained that he thought when important people – actually this was somewhat aimed at Donald Trump Jr. as well as Doug, they should be provided adequate protection when they come to the borough of Chambersburg. What did surprise me about this, I specifically asked, is there anybody here from the Friends of Doug Mastriano campaign to talk about this? There was no one there. I guess where I’m at, if I’m going to ask a board to excuse $4,436.36, I’m going to show up in front of that board and at least make my case. I was surprised that no one came to speak in that behalf.” 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “It never helps. If you don’t show enough to show that you’re even going to make a case for what you’re asking, it doesn’t really help people then to want to rule in your favor.” 

Ryan said, “I agree with borough council’s decision on this one wholeheartedly. It was Josh Shapiro, I didn’t see a security detail around Shapiro and the small group that he gathered up here in downtown Chambersburg. I mean he is the attorney general. In any case, the right move here in the borough for that one and a head-scratcher for the handlers of State Senator Mastriano.” 

The 2023 budget for the borough of Chambersburg was approved unanimously and residents will see a 1.5 mil increase in real estate taxes as well as a $.05/unit increase in water rate. 

The ambulance fee went from $7.50 to $9.50 as well as a sanitation fee increase. 

Coffman said, “One of the things that surprised me last night, we had a pretty full council chamber and we had about 40 items that were on the consent agenda. One of the things that was called out for a little separate discussion was the forgiveness period, let’s call it, of a 30 percent credit that we were giving to places that were working on MS4 storm sewer things. It was brought up by one of the council members, when are we going to stop this? It was very clear that this item talked about from the 1st of January to the end of 2023. That’s when we’re going to stop it and then we’ll look at it again. I don’t know why of 40 items on there, why that particular one jumped out that somebody wanted to talk about it separately.” 

Alice Elia was the council member who wanted to talk about it. 

Coffman said, “I guess she felt that we should be getting that extra money from those folks. I just thought it was odd that of 40 items, that’s the one that gets picked out. I thought that there’d be three to five items that had separate discussion on, but I was obviously wrong.” 

There were 34 people in council chambers and 18 on Zoom. 

Coffman said, “No one went to the microphone to talk about anything other than what was on the agenda. The other thing I felt that was kind of unusual is most of those people stayed until that last item was acted on, whether we would forgive or not forgive the $4,436.36 for the Friends of Mastriano.” 

Jansen said, “It almost feels like people were just wanting to rub salt in a wound.” 

Council also voted on fireworks last night. 

Coffman said, “The decision now is to move forward to get the legal wording down to what we want. We had a couple choices to make and I think we picked the most severe thing as far as curtailing the fireworks without having a license here in Chambersburg. That goes to the solicitor’s office for them to fine-tune it now to get that ready for us to properly advertise it so that it can come back and we can talk about it sometime probably January, February of this coming year. There’s been a lot of complaints about that, so we’re going to get to the bottom of this one.” 

Council member Kathy Leedy pointed out the lack of press coverage for council meetings. 

Ryan said, “I can’t do anything about the local newspaper in town. They were bought out by Gannett and it’s a shell of what it was. I’ve spent an enormous amount of time for years, Allen, you are the guy that we have gone to for years, talking about the business of the borough every Monday morning at 7:45 and then we put the recap on after meetings on the radio. I’ve got This is a no pay wall local news website in which you can read about things. Then I put all the meetings, all the agendas and all the people, no paywall here.”

“And we record,” Jansen added. 

Ryan said, “Exactly. Since the borough council leadership, which is guided by borough council, didn’t seem to think, although they can do it at the school district in Chambersburg. They can do it at Mayor and Council in Hagerstown, but apparently Jeffrey Stonehill and the team haven’t gotten any direction from borough council to start executing, recording and posting the meetings, so we do that as well, and then I have to hear Kathy Leedy saying there’s no press coverage out there.” 

Leedy said, “I have people all the time tell me when I tell them some of the things that are going on in the borough, they say Kathy, if I didn’t know you, I wouldn’t know any of this was going on. I’ve got to believe that. We don’t have much newspaper coverage, media coverage.” 

“Stop right there,” Ryan said. “You’re right, Kathy, you don’t have much newspaper coverage, but don’t lie and say there’s no media coverage. I’ve spent enormous amount of time making sure that everybody gets a chance to be heard on the radio station.” 

Jansen noted, “I find it a little bit amusing to hear Kathy Leedy saying this because when it came to something very impactful and very important and very controversial that they tried to sneak in under the radar hoping no media would cover it and that being the non-discrimination ordinance that they just wanted to slip in there without people understanding what would happen. Allen, you personally experienced what could have happened if that had been put into place in our municipality. She wasn’t all that interested in media coverage and in fact, even when they had to do something because we did point out what was going on and they decided to do their quote unquote exploratory committee, she wouldn’t wait. Remember, we were all locked down. Nobody could go to those meetings. Nobody could ask questions. We couldn’t even ask questions over Zoom. I asked the council at that point, (Coffman wasn’t president at that time) would you please just wait? Can we delay this for several months? There’s no hair on fire reason we need this. Let’s delay it for a few months so that we can all rationally look at this. She wasn’t interested. She wasn’t pushing for that. She apparently only wants media coverage when she wants media coverage and she’s perfectly happy to allow it to slip by when it’s something that she thinks will happen in her favor for not getting media coverage.” 

“Remember,” Ryan said. “Kathy Leedy is also up for reelection next year. So let that bake in for a couple of seconds. And to the Kathy Leedy fan club out there, the radio station is more than capable of covering all the meetings, bringing you all the sound. Allen Coffman is very transparent with us, every Monday and Tuesday, the Tuesday after the meeting.” 

Coffman said, “We’ve done that for a lot of years, Pat. I think we’re starting about our seventh year now, I believe.” 

Ryan continued, “And if the newspaper which was bought out by Gannett, that is one big shell of nothing now, it’s the same thing in Greencastle, it’s the same thing in Waynesboro, it’s the same thing in Hagerstown. They are now stuck in a closet someplace on a strip mall.” 

Jansen said, “Unfortunately there is an attitude out there coming from a belief system that wants to marginalize certain people and certain groups. Boy, you want to talk about othering. We don’t exist, I guess. There is no radio station because she doesn’t agree with our politics so we don’t exist. We’re just person non grata. We’re othered to her. So she doesn’t even count us when she’s talking about media coverage.” 

Ryan said, “The mask is certainly something that might be causing some oxygen deprivation and I encourage her, she’s more than welcome to come on the radio station or more than welcome to talk a little bit with us here at NewsTalk 103.7FM, but we won’t hear that.” 

Coffman added, “The last word is we were sort of chastised by the former council president (Alice Elia) last night about actions that we’re taking concerning BoPIC, the nondiscrimination ordinance and the comprehensive plan changes. There was an audience there last night I feel that was being played to. I saw people in the audience last night I’ve never seen before. And there were people that did complain about the possibility of waiving these fees. They came, they had their night, they spoke to their group and we’re moving on.” 

Ryan said, “The other thing you’ve got to do is roll back the NDO on borough council employees.” 

Coffman said, “That’s still to be looked at.” 

Jansen said, “Because that’s not fair. You are truly forcing people to adopt a belief system that the more we’ve looked into it, we realize is fairly extreme and not based in reality. It’s based in what people want to be reality in some cases. It really shouldn’t be forced onto others and especially not from a government entity.”