Carlisle’s Employee Relations and Citizen Participation Committee meeting Wednesday showed evidence of a split between not only among Carlisle Borough Council members, but also among residents on whether or not such a committee is needed in the borough.
Borough Councilman Sean Crampsie led Wednesday’s discussion on creating an anti-discrimination ordinance and Human Relations Committee, calling it “something I’ve been very passionate about.” The Sentinel first reported on the proposed ordinance on June 16.
“The purpose is to create an accepting and non-discriminatory environment in our community. Within any proposed ordinance what I would like to see is an anti-discrimination portion as well as a Human Relations Commission, so you have your portion that would deal with discrimination, then you’d also have that body that would deal with any complaints,” Crampsie said. “I think it’s time for local control, and this issue is affecting our community, so I think it’s time for our local body to step up to the plate and have this conversation.”
Councilman Sean Shultz said the council must first authorize the borough’s solicitor to review the sample ordinance, which would then be considered at the July 14 council meeting.
If the council approves the solicitor’s review, the ERCP will have an evening meeting in late July to gather and provide further information and comment, with more residents perhaps able to attend the meeting, he said.
Council members were split Wednesday on not only the effectiveness of such an ordinance and commission, but also on how such a commission would be staffed, funded and how useful it would be to the borough.
Councilwoman Connie Bires was among the most vocal opponents of the idea.
“I don’t think you can force Carlisle to be an accepting community with an ordinance, I think that’s counterintuitive,” she said before calling Crampsie’s proposal a “knee-jerk reaction.”
“I think it’s overkill of nuclear proportions,” she continued. “Carlisle has been around 200-plus years; has there ever been any sort of anti-discrimination ordinance? It’s not like Carlisle has been welcoming to the Native Americans at the Indian School, or the African-Americans in our community, but are you going to force it? I don’t think so.”
She also criticized the proposal as characterizing those within the LGBTQ community as “victims and weaklings,” as well as a Human Rights Commission costing the borough “a fortune.”
“It’s one additional piece of government we do not need,” she said.
Shultz disagreed, claiming that the ideas were “absolutely not knee-jerk reactions to anything,” reminding those in attendance that six years ago a similar ordinance was drafted before eventually falling to the wayside.
“The suggestion that this is some knee-jerk reaction to the tragedy (Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting) is inaccurate, this is a conversation I’ve had with at least one or two other council members over the last couple of years and I’m proud of Sean for stepping forward in his leadership role now on council and pushing forward something that’s difficult for many,” Shultz said.
Shultz said he feels there is a great need to provide protection for those within the LGBTQ and other under-served minority groups in the community.
“I see this as another civil rights movement,” he said. “It’s time to move this forward, it’s the right thing to do, it’s the moral thing to do, and a resolution without any teeth does nothing, and I’m not interested in passing another ordinance that does nothing.”
Council members Perry Heath and Robin Guido also voiced concerns over the proposal, with Heath’s argument stemming more from the practicality in remaining fair to all individuals involved and the pitfalls of funding a potential commission. Guido said she felt LGBTQ discrimination rules should be handled on a state and county level before those in municipal government are forced to take action.
Councilwoman Dawn Flower was for the ordinance and commission, and read a statement on why such a conversation is overdue in Carlisle.
A number of residents jumped at the opportunity to speak, with all but one of them in opposition of the proposal.
Some said they didn’t see an issue in the community, while others cited that the anti-discrimination language in the ordinance actually discriminates against others (those within certain faith communities).
“I’m just trying to figure out what the problem is. You indicated this is an initiative started 10 years ago, so why if something was initiated 10 years ago is it coming back now? Why now?” said Scott Buran, who moved to Carlisle from upstate New York in 2008. “What is the problem? I’ll be the first one to protest any of these groups being discriminated against, but the thrust of almost the entire discussion has been about the LGBT community. I’m just trying to understand why this ordinance is needed.”
Carlisle resident Alan Howe quipped that like all of the previous “white men who spoke here today, I too find Carlisle to be welcoming to all,” however, he followed that by saying that doesn’t always apply to his wife, who is a minority.
Many residents who spoke also noted the verbiage within the ordinance was problematic in some areas, but Shultz mentioned multiple times that it was a rough draft and not meant to go public just quite yet.
Tyler Miles is a news reporter for The Sentinel covering Carlisle. Follow him on Twitter @TylerTMiles or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.