With the National Cherry Blossom Festival underway, it's a season for visitors on the National Mall. For the most part, the National Park Service is responsible for the tourist hotspots on the Mall. But in the past year Congress has taken an active role in some areas. David Hawkings, editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, provides some of the details. Following are highlights of his analysis.
Hawkings on why Union Square was placed under the auspices of the Capitol police: "This is part of a trend that really got started after Sept. 11 and has been steadily becoming more and more evident ever since of the Capitol police -- and of the Sergeant of Arms who controls Congressional security -- wanting a bigger and better security perimeter around the Capitol. They began by seizing control of several streets around the House and Senate office buildings, sticking up those metal fence posts all over the place... They concluded that that west side is the softest, easiest point of access to the Capitol. There have actually been a couple of security issues on that side... and they just wanted to take that from the Park Service so they could have control of it whenever they wanted."
Hawkings on the practical implications this has for visitors: ": It's one of the best views of the Capitol if you can't actually go up to the Capitol, so there are a lot of tourists who like to sit there at the reflecting pool... moviemakers like that shot because it's about as close as you can get to the Capitol... and essentially what this means now, is whenever the Capitol police judge that there's any kind of security reasons, they can shoo people away and push people a bit farther back."
Hawkings on Eisenhower memorial debate: This is right around the corner from where we're talking about, right across the education department building, and across from the Air and Space Museum. There's a dispute between the architect who designed this memorial and the Eisenhower family... sort of the big aesthetic fight of the moment in Washington. And so Congress has stepped in and said we have hardly enough money to build this thing in the first place, much as we would like to, and we're just going to send every signal that unless there's an agreement on a design that everybody likes, there will be no money."
Hawkings on Congress and local real estate: I think in general, it is fair to say that the Republicans take a more assertive role in Congress over District affairs than Democrats. And of course Republicans now run the House. I think it's also the case that about."