The Big Talk tackles a bunch of topics — gubernatorial candidates, schools going virtual again, the president getting cut off, Blinken’s Afghanistan hearing and issues in the Chambersburg borough

CHAMBERSBURG – Every weekday morning on First News, the local – live morning radio information show with Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen features the big talk topics and opinion from local Attorney Clint Barkdoll.

On September 14, the Big Talk took a look at the Republican candidates for governor of PA, Shippensburg Middle School’s move (for now) back to virtual classrooms, White House staff shutting down the president’s mic, the Secretary of State answers tough questions about Afghanistan and vaccines and Southgate in Chambersburg.

William McSwain throws his hat in to be governor

William McSwain joined quite a list of folks hoping to get a run at the governor of Pennsylvania next November.

Others include Lou Barletta, Charlie Gerow, Joe Gale, Scott Martin, Dan Laughlin and possibly our own Colonel Doug Mastriano.

McSwain is not a pure political figure. He was the appointed US Attorney for the eastern district of PA under Trump. He has been known to lock horns with Larry Krasner, the DA in Philadelphia.

Barkdoll said, “Very bright guy. This is a graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School. Has extensive background in the legal community even before he was appointed US Attorney. Also is a Marine Corps veteran. I think he is a very viable candidate. Of course with all of these candidates, fundraising is always a big if.”

Will McSwain be able to raise the $15 to $20 million it will take to even get near the running? And will Donald Trump back him?

Barkdoll said, “We know that Colonel Doug is jockeying for that support as well, as is Lou Barletta.”

Ryan asked, “Is Lou Barletta really a viable candidate here? He’s a former Congressman…he runs for everything.”

Barkdoll said, “I don’t think that Barletta is viable. Yes, he’s going to run. I don’t see him being the nominee. I think Pennsylvania voters have had a look at him now in some different races. They’ve obviously taken a pass on him.”

Barletta was the mayor of Hazleton in the Scranton area. He could peel some votes away in the primary next spring, but it’s not clear (and possibly quite doubtful) that he will be the frontrunner.

Barkdoll said, “Right now you have these four or five candidates. You have this other attorney from out in Pittsburgh that announced a few weeks ago. No one, though, is really emerging as the clear choice for now.”

McSwain had a run in with Bill Barr, Attorney General under Donald Trump, over investigating the 2020 election. The two argued over who said what during the investigation of election fraud. Barr accused McSwain of outright lying. Republican competitors in the primary are very likely to bring that up.

Could that have an effect on whether Trump would support McSwain?

Barkdoll said, “It’s going to be an interesting situation for the Republicans in this primary to sort out who they want to be their nominee for next fall.”

Shippensburg Middle School goes virtual again — at least until next week

Shippensburg Middle School moved to remote learning this week after a jump in COVID cases. They hope to return to in-person classes on Monday.

Barkdoll said, “It sounds like they’re technically below the threshold that would trigger a closure, but the superintendent is saying they want to get ahead of this, get in front of the curve, shut it down now, briefly, before this COVID outbreak would get worse. Apparently they conveyed this to the Department of Education and they’ve endorsed it as well. I think this is an issue over the next few weeks to watch over the various districts.”

Some districts actually post their numbers daily. Some don’t seem to be having a problem with outbreaks, but others really are.

Once they get over 5% of the population in the building with COVID, that triggers the need to go virtual until the cases go down.

Barkdoll said, “I would not be surprised if you see some more of this over the next few weeks.”

Biden’s microphone gets cut off when he goes off script

President Joe Biden was in Idaho yesterday talking with workers at a lumber mill when he made the claim that his first job offer in life was at that very lumber mill.

The people that run the mill dismissed the claim as untrue.

Barkdoll said, “It’s not clear what that was about. Clearly, Biden, even as a child, living in Scranton and Delaware would not have had a job offer in a saw mill in Idaho, but that was said and then it was a few minutes later in some of this Q&A with the press and some of the people at this mill that the White House staff cut the audio feed so you weren’t able to hear any more of the exchange.”

Jansen said, “Cut off in mid-sentence I understand.”

Ryan said, “You’re cutting off the most powerful man in the world. God help us all. You’re cutting his microphone off. What the hell?”

Barkdoll pointed out, “This goes into this whole series of comments, you go back over the last six months, so many of these press conferences, how many times have you heard him say, ‘I’m going to get in trouble now if I answer this’ or ‘I shouldn’t say this’ and then you see that yesterday and it just makes you wonder. It continues to confirm this idea that they’ve got a pretty tight bubble around him and the minute he goes off what they believe should be any Q&A or comments about issues, someone on that staff is able to step in and just disconnect it.”

Jansen pointed out, “A report just the other day that the White House staffers some of them, they won’t listen to him speak anymore because they’re so nervous he’s going to go wildly off script.”

Barkdoll said, “It’s a bizarre situation. There’s no other way to put it. By the way, he did leave Idaho, went to California. They had a number of campaign stops in California. That all went on without incident, apparently.”

Blinken’s hearing had some interesting questions

The Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday to discuss the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Blinken was on Zoom, as were many of the lawmakers. Delays in the questions and answers created some awkwardness — as did a few of the questions.

Barkdoll said, “He pretty much said what I would have guessed he would say. Of course, defending the administration’s role in this withdrawal. He praised the air lift. He talked about the service members who were tragically killed. I’m not sure there was a lot of new ground plowed. There were a lot of good questions asked of him, but he didn’t really give anything. I thought the Republicans tried to very effectively get him engaged on that issue of how about all this leftover equipment, the missiles and tanks and things that are there. All he would say is that was stuff that was left for the Afghan army and they were supposed to use it, but when they would really press him on why wasn’t there more of an effort made to get that equipment out of the country or even destroyed, I didn’t feel like he had great answers for any of it.”

Jansen pointed out, “Two of my favorites were when I forget which representative said to him, where are you right now and I guess he wasn’t that far away and he was like, ‘oh you couldn’t bother to come down here and talk to us in person?’ I thought that was a very effective comment. Again, we see this la-la land attitude of Democrats.”

Ryan added, “Hide behind the cameras. Hide behind the screens. Hide, hide, hide.”

Scott Perry asked if Blinken was recently interviewed by the FBI since he became secretary of state with an investigation about Hunter Biden.

Jansen said, “I don’t blame Scott Perry for going ahead and putting it out there. They only have such few opportunities to get people on the record for something. People might say well that wasn’t fair to ask him about that. I actually think it’s very fair considering how hidden that whole thing has been.”

Barkdoll, “I’m also puzzled that Perry brought it up in as much that it almost sounded like Perry had some inside information that there was an interview. After Blinken initially said he wasn’t going to answer because it is an investigative matter, Perry followed up with some very specific details about an FBI interview on some very specific instances involving Hunter Biden and related matters. I think you may hear some things today that how was Perry privy to that information and if he was privy to it in his role as a Congressman, was it fair game that he was allowed to bring that up in a hearing?”

Chambersburg Borough Council unanimously approves vaccine mandates for new hires

In a unanimous decision last night, Chambersburg Borough Council mandated vaccines for anyone that will be hired by the borough.

It’s apparently not retroactive for current employees — it only applies to new hires.

Jansen said, “What’s confusing to me about that is how does that exactly protect everybody then? If you’re just selectively saying a few of them have to have the double vaccine. That does practically nothing in my opinion.”

Barkdoll said, “It’s interesting it was a unanimous vote. My guess would be and if this was out of an executive session, they probably are getting advice from their solicitor. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s even some input from their medial insurance underwriter, making this a prerequisite for employment.”

Last week is when the vaccine mandate went into effect for state employees in prison and state hospitals. They either must be vaccinated or they can get a weekly test.

Yesterday, the union that represents prison workers filed a lawsuit in commonwealth court saying that the mandate is illegal. Borough employees should probably follow what happens with that lawsuit because it’s pretty similar to what Chambersburg borough decided last night.

The Southgate Shopping Center project sure seems speedy

With the Chambersburg Borough Council looking to green light millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act (from both the borough and the county) for a renovation of the Southgate Shopping Center, a lot of people are wondering why so fast?

It’s possible that time is limited on the business development deal with the gentleman who owns the property and the money needs to be approved ahead of time. Apparently within 45 days.

Barkdoll said, “There may be deadlines on when this recovery money must be used. That money is earmarked and we know that boroughs and counties are sitting on a lot of this federal money. They must use it for things like infrastructure, so they apparently have received an opinion that the Southgate redevelopment would qualify. Southgate has been a problem for decades. It’s been a headache for the borough. It sounds like there’s finally some appetite to do something with it. I’m still not clear what the redevelopment is. I’m sure a question you’re going to start hearing is if the borough buys it, does some or all the property then go off the tax rolls? I mean that’s a large tax parcel there, so that would damage the school district and the borough and the county if some of it or if not all of it would become exempt, but I guess the borough will have to roll out more specifically if they’re still going to use it for retail space or office space that’s rented then it would still be subject to taxation.”

Jansen said, “Mixed-use is how they said they’ll zone it. I’m nervous, though, because they want to use it for this transformational part of this ARPA stuff and to me, there could be strings tied to that that we don’t know about. I don’t think two weeks to allow the public any kind of an input is very much time. My suspicion is they’re rushing to get this done before the November election in case council changes in a way that doesn’t bode favorably towards some of the people who want this project done with this money.”

Barkdoll agreed, “That very well could be an explanation. They need to do this before the composition of it changes. They would never admit to that if that’s what’s going on and it’s also not clear if the county doesn’t give the other 2 million, are they just going to pull the plug on the whole deal or are they going to look for $2 million elsewhere?”

Jansen said, “Allen Coffman made a great point. The Chambersburg tax payers could end up being the ones holding the bag. If this seed money is used and then it doesn’t go the way they want and some developer doesn’t come in and develop this and take it off their hands, the taxpayers could be on the hook like they are with the pool.”

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