In their latest effort to stir the National Park Service pot, 94 Republicans in the House of Representatives are striving to redefine "chutzpa."
Despite the estimated loss of at least $76 million a day in tourism-related business across the country, the furlough of more than 20,000 Park Service employees and hundreds more non-profit employees, and the ruination of countless vacations, the 93 members led by Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Michigan, are fretting over how many rangers it takes to keep the World War II Memorial on the National Mall open. Or should that be closed?
Not surprisingly, considered his unabashed rant against a park ranger in front of the memorial last week, Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, is among the signatories.
So, too, is Rep. Michelle Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican who, before she was frighteningly concerned with pinching federal pennies, pushed an earmark through Congress to spend an estimated 200,000,000 federal dollars on a bridge across the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. It was a project that four times the Park Service refused to permit because of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, as the St. Croix carries a wild and scenic designation, and which some thought was unneeded and unaffordable.
These 94 are in a tizzy over the barricades the Park Service erected around the World War II Memorial and other memorials on the Mall. They want Park Service Director Jon Jarvis to take a head count of rangers staffing the World War II Memorial and report back to them on whether the seven sighted there the other day was six too many (see attachment). Or maybe even seven too many.
They also want to know why the Park Service changed the wording on signs "placed at each of the closed memorials" from ones bearing the NPS logo to ones without the logo. Oh, and Mr. Director, please tell us how much it cost to make the switch.
We have small businesses that count on strong October tourism dollars to get them through the winter months that are losing tens of thousands of dollars, concessionaires that are losing almost $1 million a day for every day the parks are closed (let's see, today's October 10, so that's a tidy $10 million), and Rep. Huizenga and his co-signers are worried about printing costs for a few dozen signs.
We have had visitors from Japan, Australia, and China (and no doubt other countries) making once-in-a-lifetime visits to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, only to be locked out, river runners seeking a life-time experience on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon stuck on the beach at Lees Ferry, and these 94 Republicans are worried about barricades on the Mall posing an "unnecessary burden" to "the American people."
Make no mistake, the Park Service has stumbled a time or three in the way it has handled the shutdown process and enforced it. Tone deaf comes to mind in some instances, poor PR in others.
Indeed, in the case at hand, Rep. Huzinega cites a section of the Park Service's shutdown plan that states that Park Service facilities "located in urban areas where full NPS law enforcement coverage is continued due to the inability to control visitor access" would remain open.
And why would the Park Service send law enforcement rangers to shut down the Pisgah Inn along the Blue Ridge Parkway while reportedly allowing the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. -- a business the Park Service is trying to remove from Point Reyes National Seashore, by the way -- to continue business as usual?
Now, this isn't to say Democrats in Congress don't float some lead balloons, for they frequently do. But this GOP faction is rewriting the definition of frivolous and misguided representation.
Why are these 94 worried so about how much it costs "to operate an open-air site such as the World War II Memorial on a typical day," at a time when gateway communities are drowning in room cancellations and empty restaurants, when Park Service staff that wants to get back to work sits idly by and has to watch as visitors ignore barricades and enter the parks anyway, when there really, really must be something just a little bit more important to focus on?
Like, perhaps, ending the impasse that is causing this incredible dysfunction?
In the spirit of Rep. Huizenga's letter to Director Jarvis, we'd like to know:
* How much staff time it took to research and write his letter, and how much in salary that cost?
* How much time it took to seek out the 93 cosigners, discuss the matter with them, and get them to sign the letter, and how many representatives told them they were wasting their time and to take a hike (not in a national park, though)?
* Whether's he's calculated how much time, at taxpayer expense, it will take Director Jarvis to take a head count of his Mall rangers and track down the appropriate number assigned to the World War II Memorial?
* Has he given any thought to the pain and economic distress the rest of the country is going through while he's calling for a headcount of rangers on the Mall?
And as Rep. Huizenga wrote to Director Jarvis, we'd like his "prompt attention to this urgent matter."