Why did it take Chambersburg Borough Council so long to cancel yesterday’s special meeting?

September 2 — A state of emergency had been declared in Pennsylvania because of remnants of Hurricane Ida coming up the coast.

Schools in the area had closed.

Colleges had also announced closings.

A lot of private businesses closed because they were concerned about the safety of workers going home if they stayed all day.

It seemed as though the special Chambersburg Borough Council meeting was the only thing still on as of late afternoon yesterday.

It was almost 5 p.m. before the announcement was made that the meeting would be postponed.

Attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen discussed the cancellation this morning during the Big Talk on First News.

Barkdoll said, “By definition, council meetings are scheduled or canceled really at the will and pleasure of the council president. A borough manager or a police chief, they do not have unilaterally have the authority to cancel a meeting. It really is up to the president of council, but the odd thing is, you look at the press release, it almost sounds like they were planning to still move forward. It was only canceled but for apparent electricity issues in the Capitol Theatre. Had it not been for that, it almost sounded like they were prepared to move forward last night as scheduled.”

Why doesn’t the borough manager have more of a hand in this? Why aren’t they having more high-level conversations?

Jansen said, “Public safety should be foremost.”

Ryan asked, “Why are we leaving someone agenda-driven, Borough Council President Alice Elia, why are we leaving it all in her hands?”

Barkdoll said, “I would hope that she was interfacing with the chief of police and the borough manager about this. I would imagine maybe they did.”

All municipal governments basically follow Roberts Rules of Order. By definition, a council president sets meetings, establishes the agenda and decides times for meetings.

Other officials can’t step in and say we’re canceling this. It really falls on the council president.

Barkdoll said, “I think in a situation like yesterday, I would hope that some of these other stakeholders were contacting the council president and saying you need to cancel this. This really is becoming a public safety issue.”

Jansen said, “Let’s be clear when the final message came out from the borough, it wasn’t public safety that was the reason this meeting was canceled in the end. It was because the lights were flickering and consultation with Capitol Theatre, they decided to postpone the meeting. It’s stunning to me with all the people calling and saying this is not safe, can you please postpone this that they would not listen. And that they would not listen to their own police that said this is not safe for people to be on the roads.”

Ryan added, “Remember it’s just not our radio station and the people in the camp of the radio station. Remember if you’re in the other camp here, they’re putting you at risk as well.”

Jansen said, “People were coming out to speak on both sides.”

“Right,” Ryan said. “It is about a power grab and it is about arrogance—”

“And not wanting to hear criticism,” Jansen said, “Just wanting to have an easy meeting where nobody was there and we’re going to take a vote and that’s what it made it seem like that’s what they were doing.”

Ryan added, “I want to know the Democrats on borough council that found the courage — and believe you me, the Right to Knows this morning are going to be flying here — I want to know what Democrats found the courage to contact on behalf of your constituents the Borough Council President Alice Elia.”

Here’s the timeline:

Late Tuesday, the governor issues a disaster emergency declaration in anticipation of everything Ida will bring.

When they make those declarations, it triggers things with Pennsylvania Emergency Management. It also opens the door to some PEMA assistance.

Barkdoll said, “My understanding is when those kind of declarations are made, anything that’s considered non-essential travel really should be limited. As a matter of fact, if you look at the declaration itself, it talks about that in there about motorists should be mindful of roads and flooding and to stay off the roads, etc. So I do think it raises a question in the context of this meeting that got canceled last night, how does that declaration of the emergency affect something like a special council meeting? Because it seems like having people turn out for that would be contrary to the governor’s guidance on keeping people off the roads.”

Jansen said, “He signed that on Tuesday and then he tweeted about it and put it out very publicly Wednesday morning.”

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Ryan huffed.

Chambersburg Police send out a memo talking about Ida and what could happen. A flood watch turns into a flood warning. Schools in Chambersburg and Waynesboro and the surrounding areas close. Colleges close.

The power was flickering mid-afternoon at the Capitol Theater.

Ryan said, “They had such a passion. Not looking at public safety, but we’ve got to jam this meeting in, we’ve got to get this damn thing going here. We’ve got to have this thing happen. You see the progressives going rain or shine, we’re going to have this meeting. The very people that they’re trying to champion are being used as well because this is a power grab and when you see warnings and you see people shutting down business…it couldn’t be more clear that you have an activist borough council president and I want to know out of this council who was talking to borough council president to say, ‘are you kidding me? Come on.’”

Barkdoll said, “I would hope during the day that she was interacting with borough people that were providing input on this but again, ultimately it comes down to the council president making these decisions.”

It remains to be seen when it’s going to be rescheduled.

Jansen said, “I know for a fact that Councilman Allen Coffman (because I talked to them) and Mayor Walt Bietsch both requested that this be postponed. So I know at least two members of the whole group there were asking this is not safe, would you please consider postponing it. They were just getting, well, we haven’t made a decision yet.”

Ryan said, “4:48 is when this thing came down. Of course it was earlier, but then they’re scrambling. We know the power was flickering on and off all afternoon and it didn’t matter to them. This should be a wake-up call for you on borough council and anybody in the camp for on the plus side of this issue. This should be the wake-up call. What really is at hand here? Why is the power grab? Why did we want to have this meeting? Why are we rushing to all of these things?”

Jansen pointed out, “There’s no reason to pass this right now. We found this out in the exploratory meetings, nothing is happening at this moment that proves we’re having these Civil Rights issues in the borough of Chambersburg. We know they want to get a state law passed. We know activists have helped coordinate this so that they could and that was fully admitted in the exploratory — I’m not just speculating. They said that. Mr. Summerson from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, he said that in the exploratory committee. He said you should go further. You should do these extreme laws like Lower Merion and Susquehanna because we really want to change the state law. So there’s no reason we had to rush this last night. If it happens a month from now it’s not going to make a difference to the borough of Chambersburg.”

It’s not clear when it will be effective if it’s passed.

The press release that canceled the meeting did attach the report from the exploratory committee as well as the proposed ordinance.

Barkdoll said, “Even if the votes are there to pass it, might there be further modifications to it based on what people may get up and say at the meeting? Ranging from the ordinance itself, perhaps? To things like the effective date, how it’s going to be enforced. All of those are in theory things that would still be open for discussion.”

“And they should be,” Jansen said. “And the fact that you were going to try to hold this meeting in the middle of a flood warning…and in the middle of a COVID spike. Does that show that borough council really wants to hear from the community? The whole community as they keep saying. Or does that show that they really just want to take advantage of a bad situation where nobody can show up so they can say nobody said anything. I guess they love it. We’re going to pass it. I’m sorry it’s very very tempting to think it’s the latter.”

Ryan added, “And for you in the other camp here, who is using you? The very people that think they’re preaching to you, we’re here to save you. And also, you Democrats on borough council, take a look at the emails. Take a look at this whole thing. Scratch your head just a hot second and have an honest conversation with yourself.”

To see an in-depth look at the emails, click here: https://tristatealert.com/emails-reveal-chambersburg-borough-leadership-more-concerned-with-punishing-citizens-business-for-discrimination-violations-with-ndo/