Will Chambersburg Borough Council actually VOTE on Wednesday night on the nondiscrimination ordinance?

August 30 — A special meeting of the Chambersburg Borough Council on Wednesday night at the Capitol Theatre has a number of people speculating whether an actual vote will be taken.

Council is looking at a nondiscrimination ordinance for the LBGTQ+ community in Chambersburg as well as the creation of a Human Relations Commission.

The public will have the chance for their voices to be heard on Wednesday night.

Allen Coffman, Council member for the First Ward, joined Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen this morning on First News to discuss the upcoming meeting.

Coffman said, “Some people that I’ve talked to say they’re going. It’s going to be also a Zoom meeting. The quality of what that will be like, that might be anybody’s guess. There’s nothing like being there live when something’s going down. There’s things that you can’t get out of a Zoom meeting as we all know. My recommendation if you have even the least bit of interest and you should have an interest in this, you should come out to this meeting.”

Jansen said, “If you have something to say, come down in person.”

On the Zoom platform, participants will not be able to make comments.

Jansen said, “There are a lot of unanswered questions. How do you vote on something to which the concerns and questions that were brought up in the exploratory committee where we had business leaders, we had some attorneys that brought up alternate rights could be violated. The exploratory committee addressed none of those in their advice to council. I saw none of those addressed and how can they vote on something when questions and concerns by community members who are worried that this could cause more harm than good to the community are not answered?”

Coffman said, “The outcome with this is quite interesting. I’m sure the vote will be taken on Wednesday night because that’s the way it appears, the way it’s laid out on the agenda. I watched all the meetings that were held and I didn’t see a thorough analysis, a public analysis, of a lot of things that were brought up.”

Ryan asked about the borough manager’s role in this. “If it was an exploratory committee, why is the borough manager being almost a referee on some things? That caught me by surprise. That’s not your role. I’ve got three people on an exploratory committee and then I have an injection here from the borough manager who we know now through our Right to Know had extensive conversations, email conversations, that we’re going to publish for you so you can see this thing has long legs on it from a long time ago and the activism that’s actually happening here. Why did the borough manger inject himself into any of this conversation?”

“That’s a good question,” Coffman said, “I can’t answer that. As you know, though, the three members that were picked were hand-picked for this commission.”

Ryan added, “Right. A Democrat picks two Democrats and a left-leaning Independent.”

Coffman said, “There was no dissension whatsoever on the commission, so why would they look at the other side of it? The perfect thing to me is the thing that Mike Ross said: what are we trying to solve here? That’s it. In one sentence there’s nobody that’s been more precise about asking a question then Mike Ross.”

Jansen pointed out, “We sent questions to the exploratory committee. Never got an answer. I never got one email back from the exploratory committee to answer questions that I asked. I heard from others who said the same thing.”

Ryan added, “And then it goes to: what are you hiding? Where are the answers? I also would ask, no, don’t vote on this on Wednesday. That is not the night to make the final decision. You might want to go back and think a little bit. Let it marinate. Now I know the Democrats love to we’ll sign it now and we’ll read it later and we all know how that worked out for us. You know what? Let the emotions cool a little bit and think a little bit more thoughtfully and also look at the emails from the borough manager and the borough council president and ask yourself as a business owner or someone that’s trying to do business in the borough…oh my God.”

Coffman said, “This thing has some really far-reaching repercussions that could come out of it, there’s no question about that.”

Jansen asked, “What’s allowed? I imagine as an exploratory committee they did get together and talk about this. You would think they would have to talk about the information they received, talk about the testimony they heard and then make a recommendation. Well then they write this recommendation. Who actually wrote that? I’d love to know.”

“I have no idea because no one signed it,” Coffman pointed out.

Jansen said, “When it comes to taking the vote, you guys can’t, you cannot discuss this in private it has to be done in public. Shouldn’t there be debate and discussion over all these concerns before they take a vote that they show they actually understand what the risks are to the community?”

“You would think so,” Coffman said. “It’ll be interesting to see how much time will be allowed for discussion on Wednesday night. That’s the other part. There might be a lot of people there that have a lot of things to say. I’m not pleased at all with the way this thing was handled. It was put out as a committee that was hand-picked and they worked, literally, behind closed doors. You could call it transparent if you want to, but you had to do it all via Zoom or you had to be a presenter and I suspect there may have been presenters that didn’t get to present in this issue, so I’m not happy with the methodology the way this thing was done at all. We talk about transparency on this council all the time. Even our sidewalk discussions were open to the public and for some reason, this one isn’t open to the public to sit there and hear it. I’m just disgusted with the way it was done.”

Ryan said, “And wait for the opinion piece that is coming out here on the emails back and forth between someone that should be worried about Halloween and Trick or Treating, which I did see a memo about that. That’s your lane and keeping a good steward of the money as a manager. Not injecting yourself into an exploratory committee meeting and also what appeared to be leading some information there. Very disturbing.”

Jansen said, “There’s much better ways we can handle real issues in our community. We want dialogue. We want discussion. I said that from the start.”

Ryan added, “The very people that are saying they aren’t being heard are the organizations that are being paid to actually listen. When I see chief doing custard with a cop or I see the police walking around in downtown or I see interaction with folks in the communities that they need to be in here and then I see the very people that are wagging their fingers not doing anything and then saying we need more activism here.”

Jansen said, “This was all supposed to be about LGBTQ and how they’re not protected which I will still keep disagreeing with Kathy Leedy when she says all they want is the protections everybody else has. They already have the protections that everybody else has. It was all supposed to be about them. Then what do they do? They bring in these groups that were for the comprehensive plan that did focus groups on race and all the sudden we’re talking about race and that’s where you get these people saying — and yet no specific acts of Civil Rights violation — they say oh, they weren’t listened to.”

Coffman said, “The very last thing about this that really disturbed me about it was the innuendo  that’s out there that it’s not safe to come to this meeting on Wednesday night. That’s been put out a couple of places I’ve seen it. There’s nothing more ridiculous than that statement. I’ve seen it if you have comments to make send them to us if you’re afraid to come to the meeting. That’s just beyond belief.”

Jansen said, “This is what you call a straw man argument and the president of Wilson College made the same thing. He said, ‘oh one of my staff members said did I need an escort to come down to this meeting safely.’ I’m sorry, Chambersburg, listen to that carefully. We’re not a community that’s making physical threats towards anybody because of their ideology and they’re acting like it is. And then they want to put that out there as if it’s truth. Folks, that’s called propaganda. That’s called propaganda.