Wednesday’s Exploratory Committee meeting for Chambersburg Borough Council could turn into a mutual admiration society

June 14 – A meeting for the Exploratory Committee of Chambersburg Borough Council is set for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers, but the agenda seems quite pro-commission.

The meeting can only be watched via Zoom and no comments are allowed.

The exploratory committee is comprised of three borough council members who have been charged with looking into a possible ordinance in the borough of Chambersburg for the LGBTQ+ community as well as the creation of a possible Human Relations Commission.

Speakers this Wednesday include a Hearing Examiner from the PA Human Relations Commission, the Mayor of Carlisle Borough Council and the Borough Manager of Gettysburg (both of which have adopted these policies).

Attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen discussed the upcoming meeting this morning on First News.

Ryan pointed out that the hearing examiner from the state commission is “already part of the enforcement arm that we already have in the state. You’re the ones that brought it up that this would be redundant. This would be a redundancy, correct, if they would execute a commission?”

Barkdoll confirmed, “It’s redundant at both the federal and the state level. It’s interesting that he’s one of the quote unquote experts because again I share the concerns that if this truly is an exploratory committee, they would be looking at all sides, but when I look at this group that’s going to be testifying or presenting information on Wednesday, they all on the surface seem like they would be very pro local ordinance because you not only have the person from the state Human Relations Commission, but you have stakeholders from similar local commissions in Carlisle and Gettysburg. It’s okay if this committee is going to see them, but then the next meeting they better have two or three quote unquote experts that may be giving a counterpoint on why this should not happen.”

Jansen agreed, “That’s a great idea, to have three experts from a different point of view. How about somebody from a municipality that decided not to put this in place and their reasons for doing so. That might be a good counterpoint to the Carlisle/Gettysburg expert. We certainly could have someone in maybe from the Pennsylvania Family Institute who will be putting on a seminar on some of the problems with this tomorrow night.”

Ryan added, “All borough council members, if you’re going to vote on this, then you want to get yourself informed, there’s a standing invitation.”

The meeting with the PA Family Institute will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday on Scotland Campus and no cost is involved. Click here: https://pafamily.org/freedom/?fbclid=IwAR1b45Twiu2vmuMN0R3-kQVQHAWSzi24UtCWRA-_naOFZmXunSb9xWl4aSA

Jansen said, “It’s going to be Michael Geer, the president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Family Institute putting this on along with the Independence Law Center’s Randall Wenger and Cheryl Allen and they will be talking about what’s going to happen to other people’s rights, other considerations, how can we do this so that both recognizes and shows respect for all fellow community members.”

She continued, “Maybe there’s better ways to address this where we’re not going to be pitting different groups against each other which these laws have tended to do. That’s not going to bring harmony to our community so he wants to talk about all of these issues. Exactly the type of issues that the exploratory committee should be interested in and yet I cannot get them to answer me as to how I get other experts there for some strange reason.”

In terms of the exploratory committee meeting, Barkdoll said, “My concern when you look at the agenda and the people speaking and it’s fine that they’re gathering this information but does this just turn into the mutual admiration society? They’re all going to go around and say how great this would be and of course we need to do this. If they truly are an exploratory committee, then they need to have an upcoming agenda after Wednesday with two or three experts that are saying why this should not happen. It will be very interesting to see if they go down that road. If not, I think it’s confirming what a lot of us have felt from the beginning. This is just fait accompli. They’re going through the motions to appear that they’re studying the issue but they know going into it that they’re going to approve it anyway.” 

When it comes down to the final vote on borough council, it will not be anonymous.

Ryan said, “Let that reflect also when it comes to your voting in November. It’s also important as a borough resident, or a business owner or someone that’s involved with the church, you better know who your council person is and you better get into their ear about this because this is redundant, it sets up a lot of lawyer’s fees.”

Jansen added, “I would ask people to please email in to that exploratory committee email and join me in asking how do we get other experts in there because I can’t seem to get a response to that. They went ahead and rescheduled this meeting, changed the date to accommodate the guests that they’re bringing in from the Human Relations Commission so I would hope they would be just as accommodating to get some guests with a different perspective because if they’re really exploring whether this is good or not, they have to hear all pro/con arguments. That’s the only way to really do this.”

The borough has already spent more than $3,000 on one complaint and the meter is still running.

Barkdoll said, “Remember the borough solicitor’s office, they’re still acting as the liaison with this committee so presumably every week that they’re doing these meetings or whatever they’re doing outside of these meetings, would be involving additional legal fees, so I don’t think we’ve seen a final number on that yet.”