Vol. 8, No. 36
Sept. 7-13, 2000
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At the State House,
Open-Door Policy Should Prevail

Word on the street is that the Bad Boy Baking Brigade is preparing Boston cream pies with which to assault legislators who sit on obscure General Assembly committees.

Quick, lock the State House doors. At the sole remaining entrance, line up visitors at attention, search their boxes for whipped cream and march them through the arches of new magnetometers. Buy a fancy, color closed-circuit security system, probably from a campaign contributor, to train on shifty-eyed people. Black and white no longer will do.

That ought to foil those Bad Boys.

We're just teasing about the pie brigade. But legislative leaders are serious about closing the main entrance to the State House and instituting a series of expensive security measures to fend off attacks.

We think the General Assembly should lighten up. While it's prudent to be on the lookout for sinister tricksters and people parking rental trucks outside your door (á la Oklahoma City), there's no evidence we've heard of imminent threats to Maryland officials.

In fact, we think it's a tad presumptuous for them to think that they would be singled out.

Locking doors that have remained opened to all for over two centuries sends the wrong signal to people already feeling disconnected from their government. On the contrary, citizens should be encouraged to participate in their governmental workings with appropriate monitoring and without harassing security and time-eating lines.

(There is an illusion that the Internet enables people to connect better with their government. In fact, some officials hide behind their Web sites, using them to control the flow of information.)

Once Draconian barriers go up, they never come down. Witness in D.C. the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue, an act of paranoia that has removed the White House from the flow of capital life and tied up traffic in downtown Washington for hours each day.

A relatively few incidents around the world have caused some bad cases of nerves. (We recall the ex-neighbor who suggested a guard shack for our Bayfront community.)

Like our old neighbor, legislators must be pretty nervous to consider spending $2 million to protect themselves. Gov. Parris Glendening, a co-conspirator, was quoted as saying, "The reality is, times have changed and there are some very strange and very dangerous people out there."

That may be true. But the state also should understand that many will regard it as very strange behavior for officials to lock themselves away from Marylanders at a time when people expect neighborly behavior from their government.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly