Ebensburg Borough Council President’s Town Hall Meeting Address

June 17, 2020

As indicated in the Agenda, my comments are broken down into three main areas: 1) the parade itself, 2) post-parade activity, and 3) some steps moving forward. Please understand that many of these comments reflect my personal thoughts and opinions, and as such, do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of the Mayor, other Council members, or Borough staff. Any formal statements or actions resulting from this meeting would require discussion, deliberation and potentially voting during a regular public meeting of Ebensburg Borough Council.


I’ll start by providing some background information about the recent Ebensburg Memorial Day Parade, which has been an annual community tradition as long as any of us can remember. The event is a cooperative effort between the Borough, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Dauntless Fire Company. Over the years, the Borough has evolved somewhat into the lead role as the overall event planner and organizer. In particular this year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, planning was disrupted, and it appeared there would not be a formal celebration. But the idea for a “roving parade” emerged, and plans were quickly implemented, on somewhat short notice. In an attempt to make the event as meaningful as possible and to appropriately honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans, an open invitation was offered for the solicitation of participants. As is in the past, participants were requested to contact the Borough office ahead of time, but not all did.

When the parade began to form, an individual from outside the Borough displayed the confederate flag, together with the American flag, on his tractor. The judgment of Borough police at the scene was that the use of that symbol was protected by the individual’s First Amendment rights, and as such, no action could be taken to stop the participation of the individual or to force him to remove the flag. This was confirmed by our Solicitor’s formal legal opinion which states:

“Had the Borough attempted to prohibit the flying of the confederate flag when participants were lining up, the Borough could have violated the First Amendment rights of the individual flying the confederate flag. The same could have been true had the Borough attempted to remove the flag from the parade once it began.” He goes on to say that the Borough “cannot prohibit individuals from presenting the confederate flag on public borough-owned property and in borough-organized parades open to the public and on public streets.”

Before going any further, I want to make it totally clear that no person or group involved with the Borough in any way had prior knowledge or indication that the confederate flag would appear in the parade. To the contrary, given that such an issue had never arisen in past years, its appearance was completely unexpected. That said, we do understand that the image of the confederate flag, especially with a Borough police car directly behind it, could give the impression that the display was somehow pre-planned or organized by the Borough. I am 100% confident in stating for the record that it was not.

From a purely legal perspective, the bottom line is this – as a governmental body, the Borough does not have the constitutional authority to limit speech, including the display of flags or other symbols, on public property. Period. Given that, although it may be deemed as offensive by some, in this instance, the display of the flag was perfectly legal and constitutionally protected. With that as a basis, please understand that we are not here this evening to discuss or debate the merits of the First Amendment. It is the law of the land, and it remains alive and well. As with all laws, the Borough will continually strive to fully respect it and abide by it.

But as we all know, just because something is legal, does not necessarily make it “right”. Regardless of one’s personal feelings regarding the confederate flag, the appearance of the symbol in our parade flies in the face of the very freedoms that so many before us have fought for – and died for – men and women, of all races, religions and backgrounds. Earlier today, I spent a few moments at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial in downtown Ebensburg which lists thousands of the names who served – all Cambria County citizens – and of course, some of were killed in combat. Almost 3,000 names appear on the 19 plaques dedicated to our Civil War servicemen. I was personally surprised by the fact that I recognized many surnames from families who still reside in town. Unfortunately, the presence of the confederate flag in our parade dishonored what was otherwise intended to be a meaningful and solemn tribute to those who paid the ultimate price in defending our country and our freedoms. If for no other reason, all of us, as Americans, should be outraged and offended.

But, there is more…. When a distinguished and noble institution such as the United States Marine Corps or the United States Navy takes the bold step to ban a symbol from their installations, we should all take notice. On April 20 of this year, in a letter to members of the Corps from Marine Corps Commandant, General David Berger, states that:

The Confederate battle flag “has the power to inflame feelings of division.” He added, “I am mindful that many people believe that flag to be a symbol of heritage or regional pride. But I am also mindful of the feelings of pain and rejection of those who inherited the cultural memory and present effects of the scourge of slavery in our country.”

I understand that it can be difficult for some to comprehend how a singular image – like that of the confederate flag – can elicit such fear, anxiety and division. But it does. And, it did in the case of our parade. Should an Ebensburg family ever feel the need to quickly rush their children into the house immediately as the confederate flag is paraded by their front lawn? Imagine the horror as their sense of elation, their uplifting spirit of patriotism and their feelings of gratitude toward our departed military were suddenly shattered by the passing image of that confederate flag. That thought disturbs me deeply.

Clearly, as a country, we have much work to do to address racism and intolerance at all levels – interpersonal, structural, and institutional. As a Borough, I believe we have an obligation to our community members to do this as well, and I, for one, take that obligation very seriously. For these reasons, I respectfully invite the Mayor, my fellow Council Members, and all Borough staff to join me in the formal denunciation of this offensive and hurtful display.


I believe that even before the parade had ended, the Borough began receiving complaints regarding the presence of the flag. These came from both white residents and residents of color, who told us in respectfully written messages, that they felt that the confederate flag was not welcome in the parade and that they and other community members watching with them were hurt to see it.

Let me just say that our overall response as a Borough was well below our own standards. Mistakenly, we handled this situation in the same manner as with other complaints – assess the relevance and urgency of the issue, consider possible courses of action, etc. This case was inherently more complicated by the legalities involved, which required research and input from our Solicitor. Although some Borough work was underway in the background, our limited communication created the perception that the issue was not viewed as important and was not being given adequate attention. An informal group named “Inclusive Ebensburg” was formed, and an online petition seeking a ban of the Confederate flag at all Borough-sanctioned events was launched. In short, we were slow to react and did a poor job of communicating in a timely manner with those who complained. As Council President, I accept full responsibility for this communication failure, and I offer my most sincere apology to those who had initially reached out to us, as well as to all other borough residents who are being negatively affected by this situation.


The online petition I mentioned seeks the banning of the confederate flag from all Borough events. Recently, both the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat and the Altoona Mirror have published editorials in support of that idea. But as already stipulated, as a governmental body, the Borough has no authority to limit free speech in public areas, including the streets and sidewalks where events are held. Therefore, no matter who might support the idea, or how many signatures may be obtained on a petition, we simply cannot legally do what is asked.

Yet, I believe that some concrete actions are warranted. All of us should be able to agree that the Borough and its residents do not want the Memorial Day Parade, or any other festival, event or celebration to become a hurtful or divisive issue in our community. We want Ebensburg, and any events that take place within it, to be welcoming and family-friendly to all residents and visitors. As such, and in accordance with the Solicitor’s advice, it is anticipated that the Borough would take future action which “prohibited the Borough itself from organizing parades, and required future parades and events, such as PotatoFest, to be organized by private groups. Any content restrictions would then be permitted at the sole discretion of the private organizer.”

The fact is that essentially every event held within the borough, with the exception of the Memorial Day Parade, is already sponsored and/or managed by independent, third-party organizations. Most fall under the umbrella of the Ebensburg Mainstreet Partnership, a separate 501(c)(3) non-profit that represents business interests in both the Borough and the surrounding Cambria Township. The Partnership has its own board and bylaws, and although it works in cooperation with the Borough in many areas, it remains a separate entity. Another example is the Thanksgiving Day “Turkey Trot” 5K, which is sponsored and organized by the Ebensburg Running Club, again, a totally separate organization. Such groups are free to design, organize and implement events and activities that they deem are appropriate to the message they wish to convey.

In addition to the Borough’s expected action to divest itself from the “organizer” role in parades or events, I further hereby request that the Borough Manager draft an ordinance to regulate parades, events and other demonstrations for future Council consideration. Such an ordinance is very common in other municipalities and cities around the Commonwealth, providing a general framework for various organizations to follow with regard to these activities.

Thank you all for your time and attention. For the record, I am happy to provide a full copy of these remarks in writing to the media or to anyone else who desires.
Faithfully prepared and submitted by:

Doug Tusing, President
Ebensburg Borough Council


We will now move on to the Public Comment portion of the Town Hall Meeting. To safely maintain a smooth flow of speakers, we will entertain comments in the following order:

1) Members of the group “Inclusive Ebensburg” and/or others who submitted written/email complaints
2) Ebensburg Borough residents and/or taxpayers
3) Any other participants who wish to speak


– I sincerely thank all who participated this evening

– I give my personal commitment to carefully consider all comments made from either side

– I am sorry that this incident occurred and for the hurt it has caused

– I appreciate those who were willing to step forward and bring this issue to the forefront

– This is a wonderful town, full of good and well-meaning people. Yet, we must all strive to do better with regard to tolerance and inclusion – not just with regard to race, but in other areas of diversity as well

– The only real way forward is through open dialogue, education and discussion; there are many resources available

– While we do have some specific actions to work on, we should all recognize that this is the beginning of a journey, not the end

– So let’s join together, as a community, and build a model to set an example of how this can all work – peacefully, intelligently and respectfully

– Because in the end, we cannot allow this incident to define us and we must not allow this incident to divide us

Thank you, good night, and please continue to be safe.


Ebensburg Set to Reopen Recreational Facilities


Ebensburg – Ebensburg Borough has announced the reopening of the Ebensburg Tennis Center, Memorial Fields, Lake Rowena Field, parks & playgrounds effective Friday, June 5th. The Young Peoples Community Center (YPCC) will reopen effective Monday, June 8th.

“We remind all residents that the threat from Covid-19 is not over, and that basic precautions are still important,” said Recreation Director Dirk Johnson. “All adults should still be wearing face masks and social-distancing guidelines should still be followed.”

Ebensburg Main Street Partnership Member Directory & Map

The Ebensburg Main Street Partnership will be printing new member directories this year which will include our new map of Ebensburg! If you’re interested in having your business listed on the back side of the map, join the Partnership today! It’s FREE for new members and just $50.00 a year for returning members. The deadline to be included on the map is Friday, February 14th.

Join Here!

Ebensburg Historic District Receives Listing on National Register of Historic Places

Contact: Danea Koss (814-472-8414)
October 15, 2019


Ebensburg – Ebensburg officials are pleased to announce that their historic district nomination has been approved by the National Park Service for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of properties that are recognized for their significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and/or culture. National Register properties can include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects and they can be significant to a local community, a state, a Native American tribe, or the nation as a whole.

Ebensburg’s period of significance spans 162 years, ranging from 1799 to 1961. Its areas of significance fall into commerce and architecture. There are three distinct eras in Ebensburg’s history:

• 1799-1850 saw Ebensburg’s early settlement and its importance was established as a turnpike route, securing its position as a center of commerce and service for travelers along this major east-west route;

• 1850-1915 brought the completion of the railroad, railroad era tourism and the rise and impact of the automobile;

• 1915-1961 started with the devastating fire of 1915 and then the rebuild as an automobile oriented commerce, which changed travel and spending habits until the opening of the US 22 downtown bypass in 1961.

The district is bounded roughly by Highland Avenue, West Street, Sugar Street and Triumph Street. It includes 422 contributing buildings and sites and 161 noncontributing. Buildings that contribute to the historic district retain integrity; their form and/or architectural details reflect their construction during the 1799-1961 period of significance. Buildings whose materials have changed, but without altering the overall design, still contribute to the historic district. The noncontributing properties were either constructed after 1961, or have been altered to an extent that they no longer reflect their historic appearance.

“The historic nature of Ebensburg Borough is one of the many positive aspects of the community that helped our family decide to move here in 2002. Thanks to the hard work of Borough staff and many dedicated volunteers, we can all be proud that Ebensburg has now been nationally recognized for its historic significance. This designation should prove to be a useful tool with regard to further economic development and increased local tourism,” said Doug Tusing, Borough Council President.

Efforts to establish a national register historic district began in the late 1990’s under the direction of local resident, Dr. John “Jack” Coleman. Dr. Coleman served as Professor Emeritus at St. Francis University where he taught history for 40 years and was past president of the PA Historical Association and Cambria County Historical Society. When Dr. Coleman fell ill, the nomination process was put on hold. Borough staff and officials revived the process a few years back, with the help of interested local residents. Mr. Dave Huber, vice president of the Cambria County Historical Society, and Ms. Gina Tusing were staunch supporters who volunteered their time for months to help put together a needed inventory of properties. “We could not have achieved this distinction without the help and support from many volunteers who championed our cause and saw this process through to the end,” said Danea Koss, Community Development Director.

The National Register of Historic Places program is administered by the National Park Service. In Pennsylvania, the program is managed by the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO), which is a bureau within the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). Under Federal Law, the listing of a property in the National Register places no restrictions on what an owner may do with their property up to and including destruction, unless the property is involved in a project that receives Federal assistance, usually funding or licensing/permitting.

The complete nomination can be viewed at the following link, along with a property inventory, and select photographs: https://gis.penndot.gov/CRGIS/Application/ASPNET/Report/Report.aspx?R=108&T=KEYNO&I=103074


Ebensburg Main Street Partnership Earns National Accreditation

Ebensburg’s Community Development Director Danea Koss accepts Ebensburg Main Street Partnership’s 2019 National Main Street Center accreditation certificate alongside representatives from DCED and other accredited communities. From left: Christie Yerger, DCED; Danea Koss, Ebensburg Main Street Partnership; Gordon Manker, Wilkinsburg CDC; Josh Rolon, Wilkinsburg CDC; Jeanine Henry, Waynesburg Prosperous & Beautiful, Larry Marshall, Waynesburg Prosperous & Beautiful; Mandy Book, DCED. Ebensburg was also recognized as the fifth “Best Performing Main Street Programs” behind Easton, Boyertown, Hamburg and Quakertown.

Ebensburg Main Street Partnership Receives 2021 National Main Street Accreditation

Ebensburg, PA (July 27, 2021) – The Ebensburg Main Street Partnership has once again been designated as an accredited Main Street America™ program for meeting rigorous performance standards set by the National Main Street Center. Each year, the National Main Street Center and its Coordinating Program partners announce the list of accredited Main Street America programs in recognition of their exemplary commitment to preservation-based economic development and community revitalization through the Main Street Approach®.

“Once again, we are thrilled to recognize this year’s nationally accredited Main Street America communities for their outstanding work,” says Patrice Frey, President & CEO of the National Main Street Center. “We are experiencing an exciting era for America’s cities and towns, with a growing recognition of the importance of strong local enterprise, distinctive character, engaged residents, and sense of place. These are things that Main Street America programs have been working to protect and advance for years, strengthening the economic, social, and cultural fabric of communities across the country.”

The organization’s performance is annually evaluated by the Pennsylvania Downtown Center which works in partnership with the National Main Street Center to identify the local programs that meet ten performance standards. Evaluation criteria determines the communities that are building comprehensive and sustainable revitalization efforts and include standards such as fostering strong public-private partnerships, securing an operating budget, tracking programmatic progress and actively preserving historic buildings.

“We are proud to be one of only 40 accredited main street programs in Pennsylvania” said John Paul Houser, president of the Ebensburg Main Street Partnership. “It sets us apart and affirms that we are following the national standard for all main street programs.”

The Ebensburg Main Street Program represents an important and unique partnership between municipal government (the Borough of Ebensburg) and private enterprise (the Ebensburg Main Street Partnership).  Combined with interested residents from the community, the Ebensburg Main Street Partnership is committed to increasing the economic vitality of the Ebensburg Central Business District.  This is accomplished through a coordinated program of promotional activities, façade and streetscape improvements and economic restructuring efforts.

Main Street America has been helping revitalize older and historic commercial districts for more than 35 years. Today, it is a network of more than 1,000 neighborhoods and communities, rural and urban, who share both a commitment to place and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development. Since 1980, communities participating in the program have leveraged more than $65.6 billion in new public and private investment, generated 556,960 net new jobs and 126,476 net new businesses, and rehabilitated more than 260,000 buildings. Main Street America is a program of the nonprofit National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.





2020 Census

The 2020 Census is fast approaching. Your participation in the census, and a full and accurate count, is very important to your local community. First, the census is the basis for equal political representation under the Constitution. Second, State and Federal dollars are allotted based on the number of people counted in the census.

BE COUNTED! It’s easy. It’s safe, It’s important. For the first time ever, the Census Bureau will accept responses on-line, but you can still respond by phone or mail.

For more information, visit: www.2020census.gov/en.

Census Jobs

The Census Bureau will be hiring thousands of workers to complete the 2020 Census. Job seekers can apply now. The first jobs will be in August 2019 conducting address canvassing.  www.2020census.gov/jobs -or- 1-855-JOB-2020.