More than 30 people crowded into the meeting room at Greencastle Borough Hall Monday night, many of them there because of a resolution on the table to rescind council’s support of legislation to create an independent redistricting commission in Pennsylvania.
Council voted to support the efforts Fair Districts PA in June following a presentation by Peter Lagiovane of Chambersburg. Monday night, that support was revoked in a split vote with a tie-breaker by Mayor Robert Eberly.
In July, Council Charles Eckstine said he doesn’t think council did its due diligence on the issue and that after talking with state Sen. John Eichelberger Jr., a Republican whose district includes Greencastle and Antrim Township, he believes Fair Districts PA is a political movement.
Monday night, Eckstine said one political component of Fair Districts PA is the League of Women Voters which, according to information he found on the Internet, supports Democratic candidates and left wing and pro-choice matters.
Greencastle resident Michele Emmett said she does not see Fair Districts PA as a political issue. She sees it as a citizens uprising, a grassroots movement.
Claudia Peet, also of Greencastle, urged council members to get their facts before making a decision to rescind their support.
Wade Burkholder, who is running for a seat on council, said he does not understand how redistricting has become a political football. He said Fair Districts PA is calling for an independent commission and the legislation is support by local Reps. Paul Schemel and Rob Kauffman, both Republicans.
Lagiovane talked about the disfunction and expense of the state legislature.
“Gerrymandering (the redrawing of district lines to create a political advantage) has played a big part in creating this dysfunction,” he said in prepared remarks. “It undermines our democracy and makes it possible for legislators to ignore the concerns of their constituents. With our current redistricting process, district lines can be drawn to protect incumbents or to punish those who don’t do as party leaders instruct. As district lines are drawn to divide townships and counties, communities lose their voice and influence to an entrenched political machine. All voters are harmed by this, whatever their party affiliation or personal political views.”
Lagiovane was cut off at council’s five-minute time limit and Emmett finished reading his remarks before offering her own.
“How in the world George Soros enter this conversation I don’t know, but I do know that when an organization as old and respected as the League of Women Voters is attacked and demeaned then something has gotten seriously out of whack in our political discourse and in our community,” Emmett read.
Eckstine said in July he heard the movement is funded by George Soros, a billionaire investor who funds “protests and rabble rousers.”
“It’s a political movement and I don’t think council should be supporting a political movement,” Eckstine said Monday.
Council President Frank Webster added there is too much Soros-backing in the League of Women Voters, even if they deny it.
“I don’t want to be involved in a political movement,” said Councilman Duane Kinzer.
Eckstine, Webster and Kinzer voted to rescind the resolution supporting Fair Districts PA, while Craig Myers, James Farley and Matthew Smith voted against the move.
In breaking the tie, the mayor said he feels the Borough of Greencastle is being used when its support of Fair Districts PA is cited by the organization.