Campus Notebook: Safety Comes First

Posted December 9, 2008 at 5:24pm

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah) sent a letter to the D.C. City Council and Mayor Adrian Fenty on Tuesday, asking that they reverse their decision to allow bars to be open until 5 a.m. during the week of the inauguration.

[IMGCAP(1)]In a press release, Feinstein said she had “grave concerns about the unintended consequences of this legislation.”

“What is clearly meant as a boon to local businesses may instead create tremendous problems for already overwhelmed law enforcement agencies,” she said.

Feinstein is chairwoman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which helps organize the inauguration. Bennett is also a member of the committee.

Earlier this month, the council passed emergency legislation allowing bars, nightclubs and restaurants to serve alcohol until 5 a.m. from Jan. 17 to Jan. 20. Usually, such establishments have to stop serving at 2 a.m.

Some have criticized the decision, pointing out that it could cause more work for police officers and create mayhem.

In their letter, Feinstein and Bennett make some of the same arguments, asking Fenty and the council to reverse the decision “to ensure the safety of residents, workers and visitors.”

“There is great cause for celebration at this historic event,” they wrote in the letter, sent Tuesday. “But we believe that the benefits of this emergency legislation, passed with little public notice, are far outweighed by its possible consequences.”

The Back-Up Inauguration. Rain, snow and even bitter cold probably won’t drive President-elect Barack Obama inside for his inauguration — especially considering that more than a million people are expected to show up.

Nonetheless, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies has to come up with a back-up plan.

In recent months, officials considered using the Capitol Visitor Center if inclement weather strikes on Jan. 20. After all, it’s new, has views of the Capitol Dome and houses Emancipation Hall, the largest gathering place on Capitol Hill.

But the committee has decided to err on the side of tradition and will prep the Rotunda for the unlikely event of an inside inauguration, said spokeswoman Carole Florman.

The CVC’s main hall is almost three times larger than the Rotunda and can fit about 4,000 people. But, Florman said, outfitting the CVC for such a ceremony is more complex and costly.

The last time a president took his oath inside was 1985, when Ronald Reagan held his second inauguration. At noon, the temperature was just 7 degrees, making it the coldest Inauguration Day in history.

Greening the House: Phase Two. The Green the Capitol Initiative — Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) pet project — has a new director.

Robert Lane recently replaced Grant Scherling, the project’s original executive director. Scherling still works in the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, now as the special assistant in the House Information Resources Division.

Pelosi began the greening initiative when she became Speaker in 2007, aiming to make the House carbon-neutral by the end of this Congress.

But House officials have yet to declare carbon neutrality and probably never will.

That may be due to the politics that surround the term. In the past year, Republicans have criticized Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard for spending about $90,000 on carbon offsets, which is currently the only way to make the House “carbon neutral.” Other measures — such as using a greater percentage of natural gas in the Capitol Power Plant and composting cafeteria food — can only go so far.

Lane has already begun working on “phase two” of the initiative by promoting recycling and reuse during the transition to the 111th Congress, according to a press release.

Next on his list: tackling employee parking and transportation.

“We know we can modify our space,” he said. “The next step is going to be about modifying behavior to not just reduce our carbon footprint, but to become more carbon healthy.”

Shaping a Diverse Congress. New Members will be able to easily create a diverse office with the help of an electronic book filled with the résumés of minority job candidates.

The Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association, the Congressional Black Associates and the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association announced Tuesday that they have compiled 2,500 résumés for positions ranging from staff assistant to chief of staff.

They are presenting the product to “new Members of Congress, leadership, committees and the executive branch transition team,” according to a press release.

The groups — collectively known as the Congressional TriCaucus Staff Association — created the book in “an effort to bring diversity into the Hill’s hiring process,” said Carmela Clendening, president of CAPASA. “During this time of change, it is critical that the people shaping our nation’s policies reflect the the experiences of all Americans.”

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