Glen Rock neighbor protests taps with Baha Men, Spice Girls
Joshua Corney and his attorney, Witold Walczak, speak to media following the Glen Rock Borough Council meeting on Wednesday, July 19, 2017.
In the nearly two years since Joshua Corney started playing taps through loudspeakers at his Glen Rock home, neighbor Scott Thomason has been quiet.
But in the past month, Thomason has started playing his own recordings, including songs from Baha Men and Spice Girls.
“I’m just as free as he is to play his music,” he said.
Corney, a lieutenant commander in the Navy, has been playing a 57-second recording from his Glen Rock home just before 8 p.m. nightly for about two years now. Last spring, he added loudspeakers at his property that make the music audible throughout the borough.
After complaints from neighbors, the borough council ordered him to play once a week and on "flag holidays," such as July 4, Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
That didn’t last long, because the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania threatened to sue the borough if Corney wasn’t allowed to play his music.
In July, the borough council discussed moving the music to the Glen Rock Park as part of a memorial. In the meantime, Corney's been playing his music nightly.
But in the three months since, Thomason said, not much progress has been made, and it looked like the music would continue to be played well into next year.
Thomason originally complained about the volume of the music.
“Being his closest neighbors — it’s just too loud,” he said.
Music: Thomason said he was left without much legal recourse. He said he complained to Corney and to the borough council, but nothing has been done about the music.
Since Sept. 30, he’s played various music from his home about 10 times, all at the time Corney played his recording.
“We have nothing as loud as (Corney plays),” Thomason said. He's been playing the music from a handheld speaker, sometimes in his yard or on his porch.
The neighbor said he has a busy life, so he can’t play music every night.
Since playing the music, he said, he hasn’t heard anything from the borough about it. One neighbor did call the police, though.
“The only thing that resembles a problem was the officer that was coming to our house,” he said, adding that he didn’t get in any trouble for playing his music.
He said he doesn’t like playing the music but felt he had no choice.
“What other recourse do we have?” he said.
The music he’s played include songs from Spice Girls, Baha Men, Creedence Cleerwater Revival and Aqua. He said he doesn't play anything profane.
Corney: Corney said he has no problem with Thomason playing music and added that he fought for everybody's rights.
However, Corney said he doesn’t like that Thomason is playing the music when he is honoring the fallen.
“He’s deciding to protest during the same time,” he said. Corney added that there are other times that Thomason could play his music.
Thomason, a veteran of the Navy himself, said he honored veterans on his own time, privately.
Committee: Thomason said he was included as part of a “taps committee,” made up of borough council members, Corney and himself, that is looking for a new location to play taps. He said initially the committee meetings went well, but progress was slow.
He said he was excluded from an email chain in the committee and excluded from its fourth meeting. He said Corney told him, “There was a reason for that.”
“I assumed he didn’t like me asking questions,” Thomason said.
Thomason said he was the only one on the committee who opposed the nightly playing of taps.
“Everybody else was a cheerleader,” he added.
Corney said that Thomason told the committee he didn’t care about the proposal to move the music to a park, which would serve as a memorial to veterans.
“If you couldn’t care less about that, then why are you there?” Corney said.
Thomason is no longer with the committee, according to Corney, and he said Thomason was causing problems.
Corney declined to go into specifics but did say that any time the committee tried working toward a solution, Thomason would interject and derail the conversation.
“He is causing more harm than help,” he said.
Thomason said Corney was trying to make a "grand memorial" and that he just wanted to get things moving.
Future: According to Thomason, talks with the committee led him to believe music at Corney’s home would keep being played into next year.
“We’re talking about maybe April, May, and it’s just completely absurd,” he said.
However, Corney said that the planning process takes time.
“I know he wants this done yesterday. These things take time; we’ve got to make sure we do this the right way,” Corney said Wednesday, Nov. 1.
He said the committee is trying to decide between playing the music at the Glen Rock Park or at the Glen Rock Star, which is on top of a hill in the borough.
“We just need to decide between the park and the star, but we’re getting close,” he said, adding that the committee would like to have a plan by Dec. 1.
Council president Doug Young said in an email Wednesday that the committee is working to find a new location and that the borough council hopes to have a final resolution soon.
ACLU: The ACLU said in the summer that church bells, concerts, vehicles and other noises frequently heard in the borough are louder and last longer the Corney’s music, so limiting him would be a First Amendment issue.
Witold Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said Thomason should be free to play his music just as Corney is.
“The First Amendment doesn’t discriminate … as long as he’s not playing louder than the other noises tolerated by the borough, he’s within his rights,” he said.
Thomason said he plans to keep playing music, and he might change it to religious music next.
He said he might even get a more "permanent fixture" for the music to be played.
"Nothing will happen if we stop doing this," he said.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at email@example.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.