Around The Shutdown: Lodging Blues, Apologize To The Ranger, Oil Keeps Flowing

As the partial shutdown of the federal government moved past its third day, news tied to the National Park System didn't evaporate. A glance around the system shows hard times for lodging concessions, a particularly outspoken congressman, and questions about websites and oil production.

* Lodging Blues

As the government's idleness drags on, it's exacting a severe financial toll from the major park concessionaires. Xanterra Parks & Resorts, which operates in Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Zion, Crater Lake, Death Valley, and Rocky Mountain national parks, loses just about $1 million in revenues every day the parks remain closed. That number does not include the ongoing overhead in the form of utilities and employee wages.

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The Old Faithful Inn is a relatively quiet place these days. Xanterra Parks & Resorts photo.

While Xanterra isn't able to guarantee work and pay for its employees, it is providing lodging and meals for up to three weeks, either free or at a nominal fee, depending on whether those employees are working during the shutdown. Salaried staff are receiving pay for three weeks.

While the Furnace Creek Resort Xanterra runs at Death Valley National Park is actually located on private property and not required to shut down, some guests with reservations are phoning in cancellations, which is understandable when you realize the surrounding park is technically closed to visitors. Xanterra also is seeing cancellations for its train that runs from Williams, Arizona, to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, and for its Grand Hotel in nearby Tusayan, Arizona.

ARAMARK Parks and Destinations, meanwhile, has an interesting situation at Olympic National Park, where it operates at Lake Crescent Lodge, Sol Duc Hot Springs, and Lake Quinault Lodge. While Lake Crescent and Sol Duc are inside the park, and so closed during the shutdown, Lake Quinault is just outside the park's southern boundary in the Olympic National Forest and remains open for business.

The lodge's occupancy has been hovering around 50 percent -- more on weekends, less on weekdays -- and is open year-round. You can check availability and make a reservation at this page. While you won't be able to enter the park unless the government gets back to work, there are lots of trails in the national forest to explore and enjoy.

* Apologize To The Ranger

U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, confronted a park ranger at the the World War II Memorial on the National Mall on Wednesday and got a bit outspoken in condemning the Park Service's handling of veterans wanting to visit the memorial.

Some visitors to the memorial took exception to the congressman's verbal tongue-lashing of the ranger, and complained that while the ranger was merely doing her job, Congress was failing at its.

The exchange between the Republican and the ranger, led to suggestions that people outraged by the congressman's behavior post "Apologize to the ranger" messages on his Facebook page.

* About Those Park Websites

It didn't take the National Park Service long to pull the plug on its park websites once the shutdown took effect. Some Internet surfers might wonder what the deal was, particularly when you consider 1) most of the content on park web pages is static, not posted daily, and 2) U.S. Forest Service websites were still operating.

Michael Litterest, a Park Service spokesman in Washington, said the decision to shutter the websites stemmed from the personnel needed to maintain them on a daily basis.

"All of the websites for the (Interior Department) bureaus are maintained in-house by our employees. Since all of those employees have been furloughed, there is no one to maintain NPS.gov, and with approximately 1 million hits per day, the site would crash without daily maintenance," he wrote in an email. "By contrast, some government agencies contract the maintenance of their sites and would be able to keep their sites live since the contractors wouldn't be affected by the shutdown.

"Of course, the sites were not taken down, per se; the pages still exists, we just added a service level redirect," he added. "The costs of that were negligible; essentially, it is the time that it takes to build a single page. That work was done by our Washington staff on Tuesday morning as part of the shutdown procedures before they went home."

* Oil Production From The Parks

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Gas production rolls on in the park system despite the shutdown. NPS photo of well at Padre Island National Seashore.

There are a small number of park system units where oil and gas production is not only allowed, but in operation. Big Thicket National Preserve and Padre Island National Seashore are two such units.

While those park units closed with the shutdown, the production did not cease.

"Oil and gas production is operated under a right-of-way, which conveys the legal right to access the sites, regardless of the status of appropriations," explained the Park Service's Mr. Litterest.

Comments

Ranger: We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/oct/3/pruden-the-cheap-tricks-of-the-game/

And think, if all those Parks had reverted to the states - they would be open now ;).

Yeah, and were it not for the writer's bitter slant against Democrats in general and the president specifically, the use of an anonymous ranger's ire might almost be believable...

Are you calling the reporter a liar? Have you not seen the dozens of other stories about the admin trying to inflict the most public pain?

How long do you think that ranger would have a job if they gave his name?

Oh - and perhaps you would like to identify any specific inaccuracies as opposed to generally attacking the source.

The column as a whole has a decided slant, which colors it and causes the eyes to roll....

Perhaps the "slant" is because you have your head tilted ;). Again - what specific statements do you believe are inaccurate - or for that matter slanted.

Do you think the author made up the ranger quote? Do you believe the admin is not trying to inflict pain at the most public points?


and causes the eyes to roll


That's an understatement. My favorite part of the piece might be its final paragraph:


Frustration turned violent Thursday, when a woman rammed her car into a barricade at the White House and then led 20 police cruisers up Pennsylvania Avenue to take a run at the Capitol. Shots were fired. It was not quite clear what she was mad about, but there’s no shortage of prospects. No targets of her rage were hurt, though the cops killed her. It was an unhappy third day of Obamacare.

“The rangers are caught in a system they can’t get out of. They’re obligated to follow orders and are not the problem — it’s all about the process,”

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/10/04/park-rangers-guard-inn-parking-lot-from-guests-during-shutdown/

True, shutting down national parks from Acadia to Zion in places from Boston to tiny Torrey, Utah, and even off-shore at St. John in the Virgin Islands can't be hidden from the public.

And that certainly is painful to the small towns and businesses whose livelihoods are tied to the parks, and it no doubt is difficult, too, for travelers who might have crossed oceans or the U.S. in a car or cramped airplane for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation only to discover that while they don't have to go home, they can't stay in the parks.

Of course, the fact that small factions in the House of Representatives (and the rest of the Congress as a whole for not pushing back) forced all this pain and difficulty is a trivial point. So, too, is the support that National Mall ranger received from the general public when she was accosted by Rep. Neugebauer at the World War II Memorial.


And think, if all those Parks had reverted to the states - they would be open now ;).

And maybe not. Just a few examples:

"California Gov. Jerry Brown, whose state is home to 26 national park units, from Yosemite to Death Valley to Point Reyes National Seashore, said no state money will be offered to keep the gates open."

"Not only are there a lot of parks, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance, but California's budget is finally balanced after years of multi-billion-dollar deficits, and can't afford the expense."

The track record of some states in terms of funding their own parks hasn't been encouraging in recent years:

During the peak of the tourist season in 2011, due to its own government shutdown stalemate, the State of Minnesota closed all of its 66 state parks. "Park staff closed up facilities, shut off water and electricity, and told visitors it was time to leave."

March 2010: "Arizona's parks system is limping into the next fiscal year with few assurances it will exist after June 30, the result of lawmakers reducing its budget by nearly 80 percent since 2007.

In California every year since 2008, the closing of numerous state parks has been announced, then delayed, then threatened again. The California State Park Foundation says, "Over the recent decades, enacted budgets have provided only short-term budget relief and lacked the forethought for future generations. As a result, the state parks system now endures constant underfunding and erratic funding proposals."

http://dailycaller.com/2013/10/02/monuments-and-memorials-remained-open-during-previous-shutdown/

Monuments and memorials remained open during previous shutdown

Kurt - its not an issue of hiding anything. It is closing things that don't need to be closed only because it will inclict the most visable pain.



Of course, the fact that small factions in the House of Representatives (and the rest of the Congress as a whole for not pushing back) forced all this pain and difficulty is a trivial point.


You conveniently omit that the House Republicans overwhelmingly voted to fund the Parks and the VA with no strings attached. The House Democrats voted overwhelmingly to keep them shut.

Techically, EC, the Park Service owns the Pisgah Inn and leases it out to concessionaires, so it would appear closing it down is no different than closing the Old Faithful Inn or the Ahawahnee Hotel down.

Jim - Some valid points. Thats three states out of 52 (or is it 57??) or 6% that might be affected and only 1 that actual was. What percent of the Federal Parks are closed? More than 100% since they are shutting down private businesses as well.

C'mon, EC, if the House Republicans were so concerned about the parks and the VA they would have approved the CR without strings in the first place. No, this was just a PR-seeking gambit they turned to after they realized their faux pas and read the public outrage.

And why should the Dems give in to this charade? What will the demands be in two weeks?

So "technically" shutting down the Pisgah Inn cost the government money. There is no excuse to close any park facility that has no daily operating expenses (that need funding) and even less to close a facility that is generating revenues - lease fees.

How do you justify shutting the US WWII cemetaries in Europe - which have $80 million in operating funds already allocated, but keep Obama's golf course at Andrews Airforce base open? Oh, thats right, there are far more people that visit those cemetaries than play golf with Obama.


Jim - Some valid points. Thats three states out of 52 (or is it 57??) or 6% that might be affected and only 1 that actual was


Good grief, ec, you're always asking for sources. I gave you some valid examples; there's hardly space (nor is it appropriate) to expect a comment be a term paper.

As to "who's to blame" for the mess, there's plenty to go around, but here's an interesting take from tonight's NBC news. That story raises the belief that if Republican House Speaker Boehner would just allow a simple "yes" or "no" vote on a "clean" continuing resolution - one without any conditions - it has a good chance of passage ... and the shutdown would be over.

Boehner has so far refused to allow such a vote. Until he does so, it's pretty hard not to put the blame on the Republican leadership. The reason for his refusal, as this story explains, is raw politics: Boehner's fear that he will lose his position as Speaker.


C'mon, EC, if the House Republicans were so concerned about the parks and the VA they would have approved the CR without strings in the first place.


They rightfully have priorities well beyond the parks. You think the entire Federal spending should hinge on ones support of the parks? The truth is, when it came down to who was in favor of funding the parks it was the Republicans with the Ayes and the Democrats with the Nays.


[Democrats] rightfully have priorities well beyond the parks. You think the entire Federal spending should hinge on ones support of the parks?


The startling irony.

No irony justin because there was no trade off. The vote was on the parks and the VA and nothing else. The Dems didn't have to give up a single thing to vote to support the parks. They didn't. They voted to keep them shut.

That doesn't really address the irony I'm pointing out. But in any case, you still haven't addressed Kurt's point: Why did the Republicans force their shutdown in the first place?


You think the entire Federal spending should hinge on ones support of the parks?


Hmmm. How is that different from, "You think the entire Federal spending should hinge on ones opposition to the Health Care law?"

A continuing resolution should not hinge on opposition to any specific program. The place to settle those differences is in the annual appropriation bill that covers the specific program in question - not a holdup of the entire government. By definition, the need for a continuing resolution is an admission of failure by the Congress that it has failed to complete the necessary annual funding bills prior to the start of the new fiscal year.

In this case, of course, the shutdown has been a pre-planned crisis by the Republicans for many weeks.

In answer to Justinh's question, here's the take from one national news source: "After Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, spent the better part of two months galvanizing conservatives behind a strategy to use the shutdown (and the looming debt ceiling) as leverage to undo Obamacare, Boehner and a number of rank-and-file Republicans fell under intense pressure to follow through with the strategy in order to mollify the conservative grassroots."


raises the belief


Maybe, maybe not. But Boehner requiring conditions is no different than the Dems insisting there aren't any. You are right, there is plenty of blame/credit to go around. But then, that is why our system was designed the way it was, so that the "majority" could not impose their will by numbers alone.

When it comes to the parks - the lines are clear. The Republicans overwhelmingly voted to open them - no strings attached - and the Democrats overwhelmingly voted to keep them closed.


How is that different

Well since the park budget is a couple of billion and healthcare system is $2.5 trillion or 20% (the largest portion?) of the economy - I would say there is a massive difference. $2.5 trillion is worth fighting over.

This was Mt Vernon's(@VisitMtVernon) tweet at 10:30am EST on 10/1:

"UPDATE: Visitor parking at #MountVernon is back to normal."

Obviously, whatever happened at Mount Vernon was resolved in a matter of hours.

Well justin perhaps you could clarify your "irony".

As to Kurt's question, they were no more responsible for forcing a shutdown then the dems. The two have a different view on healthcare reform and the dems weren't willing to negotiate that as a seperate issue.

Speaking of unanswered questions - you never did tell us if:

1) You think Congress should be required to be under the same healthcare system as the people or

2) If Corporations get a delay in the mandate, whether individuals should get the same.


When it comes to the parks - the lines are clear. The Republicans overwhelmingly voted to open them - no strings attached - and the Democrats overwhelmingly voted to keep them closed.


They would not have to be reopened if the Republicans didn't force their closure in the first place. That's a fact. Why did the Republicans introduce a measure after they started getting creamed in the polls, when they could have introduced the very same measure a day earlier? Where did this new love of the parks come from?


They would not have to be reopened if the Republicans didn't force their closure in the first place.


The Republicans no more forced it than did the Democrats. That is a fact.


Where did this new love of the parks come from?


Apparently someplace the Dems haven't been since they voted overwhelmingly to keep the parks closed.

And one of the most delicious ironies so far in the mess:

A Raleigh, NC TV station contacted the two congresspersons representing that area, and asked if they would be willing to give up their own paychecks while the pay of 800,000 federal workers was being withheld due to the shutdown. Both (one Democrat and one Republican) said they would not.

"Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) told WTVD in Raleigh, N.C. that she won’t be giving up pay during the government shutdown she and her party created because, she said, “I need my paycheck. That’s the bottom line.”

Of course it is. After all, with her $175,000 annual salary (plus plenty of perks and other expenses, including travel), she really needs her check a lot more than all those government employees.

She must have heard from just a few of her constituents, since she's since backpedaled on that statement: "...if the shutdown continued, Ellmers said she will have another option to defer in November. “I may do it at that point,” she told CNN.

You're missing the point of my objection, ecbuck. I don't have an opinion on the healthcare law either way. My point is this: because they didn't like a law that was passed or the exercise of Executive power, the Republicans decided to shut down the government instead of actually governing. If the situation were reversed, I'd have the same criticism of the Democrats.

I agree with 1000% here Jim. If the managers can't keep the business running, they shouldn't be paying themselves. And they should not be granting themselves an exemption or special benefits to the healthcare system they are forcing on the public.

This one's almost as good, Jim:

Republican Congressman Lee Terry of Nevada told the Omaha World Herald that he “cannot handle” giving up his shutdown-earned paycheck.

“I’ve got a nice house and a kid in college, and I’ll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That’s just not going to fly.”

When asked by the newspaper whether or not he will continue to keep his paychecks, Rep. Terry answered, “Dang straight.”


because they didn't like a law that was passed or the exercise of Executive power, the Republicans decided to shut down the government instead of actually governing.


Justin, the healthcare law was passed four years ago. Many of the Congressmen that voted for it were voted out of office. Obama, unconstitutionally, has made many changes to its implementation. The current Congress is using its Constitutionally granted power and responsibility (all funding must originate in the house) and their obligation to their voters to make changes to the law. This is not some trivial item. Its 1/5 (and I believe the largest part) of our economy. You are basically argueing that once a law is passed it never can or should be reconsidered. I know you don't really believe that.

The Republicans, before the fact, were willing to approve the entire budget but for Obamacare where there are legitimate differences. When it came to the critical moment, they were even willing to even fund that but for two items (i.e. the questions you have refused to answer). There wasn't a single compromise on the part of Dems.

If you want to blame the Republicans because they approved of 99+% and the Dems would not bend an inch, that is your choice. All I know is that when it comes down to the issue relevant to this board - the National Parks - the Republicans voted overwhelmingly for funding them and Dems voted overwhelmingly to keep them shut when nothing else was at stake.

EC, why is it that the House GOP feels they needed to shut down government to force a "negotiation" to change/defund/delay/demolish the ACA, which was approved by Congress, upheld by the Supreme Court, and, depending on the poll of your choice and news reports, relished by the majority (albeit slim) of the country, rather than improving it through normal legislative channels?

Almost everybody seems to be an "expert" these days, but here's one take that suggests the shutdown won't be resolved until we're past the even bigger issue: the debt ceiling.

"If the speaker were to move on a stopgap spending bill now, without conservative policy priorities attached, it would most likely pass with Republican and Democratic votes. But the ensuing Republican uproar — on and off Capitol Hill — would ensure that there would be no Republican votes to raise the debt ceiling. 'It’s common-sense strategy,' one Republican strategist said. 'If you’re going to take a bullet, you want to take just one.'”

Not an encouraging opinion for all those folks (in and out of government) whose next paycheck is at risk.

Kurt - I think my answer to Justin addresses your question but the summary is:

1) The legislature has changed - in large part due to peoples' dissatisfaction with the passage of Obamacare. Laws aren't set in stone and continual review is warranted - in fact an obligation.

2) Obama has unilaterally (effectively) changed the law. It is not being implemented as passed.

3) Two major areas where the implimentation has changed are Congress' exemptions/subsidies and the delay in the Corporate mandate. When it came to the final hours the Republicans only wanted changes to address those two issues. They will willing to fund EVERYTHING else in the CR and EVERYTHING else in Obamacare.

There were 2 shutdowns in 1995-1996, one in November and another in December 1995-January 1996. There is a picture of the Lincoln Memorial with barricades during the November shutdown. The picture of the Lincoln Memorial without the barricades appears to be from December 1995.

http://photos.denverpost.com/2013/10/02/photos-history-repeating-the-1995-government-shutdown/#6

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/09/28/government-shutdown/2885749/

http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2013/09/20/224530832/not-so-fond-memories-from-the-last-government-shutdowns


Justin, the healthcare law was passed four years ago. Many of the Congressmen that voted for it were voted out of office.


So what? Are laws no longer binding because representatives come and go?


Obama, unconstitutionally, has made many changes to its implementation.


If his use of Executive power was unconstitutional, sue him. And if was unconstitutional, it should've been, and should be, pretty easy to take that case to voters and win back the Presidency.


You are basically argueing that once a law is passed it never can or should be reconsidered.


How so? Where am I arguing against the power to repeal the law?

In short, impeach the President, sue him, win back the Senate and the Presidency, and continue to govern in the meantime. But shut down the government? I think it's lazy, uninspired, reckless, and disgraceful. But we can disagree on this.

Ec, dinner's waiting, and a roaring wood stove. Justin has my proxy.


Are laws no longer binding because representatives come and go?


Is the Constitution no longer binding? Funding orginates in the House and no law can force Congress to fund.


If his use of Executive power was unconstitutional, sue him.


Still could happen


But we can disagree on this.


We do- at least as to where the blame lies. And your silence on the two questions is quite revealing.

I'm not really sure what you're arguing at this point. None of what you said above seems to addess what I'm saying.


And your silence on the two questions is quite revealing.


The questions about provisions in the law? It seems to reveal that you still don't undertsand my objection to the shutdown. See my comments upthread.


I'm not really sure what you're arguing at this point?


That the house is doing exactly what the Constitution intended it to do.


The questions about provisions in the law?


No the two provisions that weren't in the law that Obama implemented. Special terms for Congress and the delay in the Corporate mandate.

Should Congress get special provisions?

Should Corporations get a delay in the mandate and not individuals?

Two pretty simple questions which you have dodged for days.

Kurt - Enjoy your dinner and fire. I hope you have someone to enjoy it with.

And thanks for letting the thread continue. I tried to keep in on the parks and who voted to keep them open but others kept pushing it off topic.


That the house is doing exactly what the Constitution intended it to do.


I'm not sure how this is relevant to anything I said.

Dodging? (Why do I feel like I'm a kid in a schoolyard somewhere?) These questions still have nothing to do with my objection to the shutdown. Try to stay on target.

Those questions ARE the reason for the shutdown. When it came push to shove, those were the two issues.

Why the silence?


Those questions ARE the reason for the shutdown. When it came push to shove, those were the two issues.


Ugh. I've reached the Sisyphean point.

The front line folks are having a hard time explaining many of these closures to park visitors as many defy logic and even cost money to do. The tightness of the closures is an executive branch decision. Resources are being closed off that have may have some type of arrangement from the past to permit access. Some employees are working anyway, so protecting the open air resources would be taken care of. To Congress, please note that federal employees have families, pay taxes, volunteer in communities, and vote. They also keep their mouths shut and do their jobs whether they agree with what they are doing or not. To the legislator that asked everyone involved in the closures to resign, again these folks have families and loans like everyone else and are not the decision makers. Also, federal employees also run the gammit of political opinions. It is a mistake to believe they only belong to one party or another.


Ugh. I've reached the Sisyphean point.


Which is Justin for "I wont answer the questions because it will totally destroy my arguments."

Pretty simple questions and the failure to answer is quite revealing.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, this is the first time in history that private businesses like the Pisgah Inn have been forced to close by the administration in power. There have been 17 government shut downs prior to this one. Neither Ford nor Carter nor Reagan nor Bush nor Clinton ever did harm to the small private businesses and their employees. But Obama is doing just that. Why?

At Pisgah Inn (near Asheville NC), the federal administration actually made park rangers (whom I thought where furloughed?) **block the entrances** to private businesses so that clients could not access the inn, its rooms, its gift shop, its restaurant, or its bathrooms. The Parkway is open. The business is privately owned and managed. But Obama does not want private business owners and their employees to have jobs? Why? What insanity.

The private operator of the Pisagh Inn is a Park Service concessionaire, the private operator doesn't own the building nor the land. The Blue Ridge Parkway is open to thru-traffic, not for recreation. The last federal shutdowns happened in November 1995 and December 1995-January 1996 when the Pisagh Inn was likely closed for the season.

Sara, yes, the Blue Ridge Parkway is open for recreation. You can hike, bike, drive and picnic. Many tourists, visitors and locals have been doing just that this past few days. No problems with recreation on the Parkway during the government shut-down.

There have been 17 federal government shut downs prior to this one. Never in the history of the United States has a federal government shut-down forced the closure of the Pisgah Inn, a private business which has no government employees and relies on no government funding. Not a single president or federal administration has ever done this. Why is Obama the first and only president in U.S. history to do this to private businesses like Pisgah Inn?