Thursday, June 30, 2011

Last Open Day at the "People's House"

I have been going to the Capitol since 1964. I lived in the neighborhood.  I would play in the tunnels, go to the Historical Society Building, of course, say Hi, to Mr. Graham, who served as the Governor's reception person. My ma knew him from the old neighborhood. I introduced myself to him.

The Capitol has always stood for me as the symbol of the people, the "People's House.  It is where people go to see government in action, to assert their 1st Amendment Rights, and to participate in the making of law.  I have done this for nearly 35 years.

In those decades of voluntary public service I strive for accountability, transparency, and openness in our government.  Many of bills I have helped become law. I have helped make the law through lobbying, research, and just being there.

Now with shutdown the "People's House" will be closed.  Only essential personnel and the news media will be allowed in the building.

I decided to spend the last two hours of the people's accessibility to it's building.  When I came to the Capitol today the security was beefed up.  One of the first things I saw were 5 Minnesota State Troopers in front of the Senate Chamber doors.  I asked myself, why?  I even made a statement to them, Is there a need for all of ya in front of the doors. or something to that effect.

There were demonstrations throughout the Capitol today.  I have to give credit to Capitol Security and Senate Sargent of Arms for the professionalism they showed during the time I was there and what I saw.

But to close the Capitol and sweep out all non essential people out the door at 5, and then not to be open to the public until the shutdown is over with top elected leaders in the State discussing our fate is incredulous and not in the ways and spirit of our open government traditions.

I started tweeting about what was happening at the Capitol. Knowing practically everyone there, spoke with Capitol Security, said hi to the staff and elected people, and small talk with reporters. Observed how the public were asserting their First Amendment Rights when the GOP Leaders went by.

But what stuck in my craw and what I saw as sad was this building which is such a great place for me and the public to do our work in as citizens, and to observe the political process will be only open for the selected few while the people's business is being done behind close doors. I understand that because of the shutdown.  My core principle of accountability, transparency, and openness of government opposes the reality.

As I saw the last protesters be asked nicely to leave by the Troopers, I knew I was next.  I could not blend in. I am too well known.  Plus my handle bar moustache gives me away pretty quick.  The Trooper said it is time to go, closing time.  Well I turned off the lap top, and my core principles hit me hard. As I was gathering my stuff, I said to the media who were in front of the Governor's office, keep the public informed.  I then said something like, as I was going towards the south front door of the Capitol. Accountability, transparency, and openness sacrificed because of the shutdown.  The People's House closed to the public.

Last time I actively said something in a sense of demonstration like this was in the early seventies when I would go to stores in support of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers.

I have to thank Captain Mock, and the professionalism of his crew.  As I was told they are only following the orders of the Department of Administration.

It is a sad commentary on our political process and where we stand as to the state of Minnesota politics today

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