Capitol policies are capital failure
Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Dec 15, 2011; Section:Opinion; Page Number:6A
Capitol policies are capital failure
Walker administration should rethink security rule
Gov. Scott Walker’s administration announced new policies concerning events in the state Capitol. These new policies should be scrapped immediately and not wait for the American Civil Liberties Union to prevail in a lawsuit.
Any group of four or more people holding an event will need to get a permit 72 hours in advance. Four people is a ridiculously low number.
I’m trying to picture any possibility that four people could not be immediately dealt with by the normal security team on duty should they choose to become disruptive. I believe the police have handcuffs and pepper spray, right?
Of course, we are talking about the Capitol Police, infamous for taking demonstrators’ pizza orders instead of arresting them. More than four demonstrators and the police might forget that one of the pizzas is supposed to be vegetarian only.
Requiring a permit is not new, and the Capitol Police have a legitimate need to know who is demonstrating when and how in the Capitol. If only to avoid different events from interfering with each other and causing logistical headaches, requiring somebody to fill out a form to claim responsibility for an event is not going to infringe on anyone’s freedom of speech.
The new policy also requires that the organizing group will be held responsible for any additional cleaning costs. This policy is fair as it only affects those groups that can’t clean up after themselves.
Yes, this will fall disproportionately on liberal groups, but only because they are demonstrated slobs. I have yet to attend a leftwing protest that would not cause Chief Iron Eyes Cody to sob uncontrollably.
Cleaning up after Occupy Wall Street protesters, one sanitation worker told the New York Post, “… these were some of the worst smells I’ve ever experienced.” Madison janitors should know who gets the bill for the air freshener.
The worst new policy is the requirement that demonstrators will now be responsible for paying for the security of the event. Each guard is $50 per hour and the number of guards will supposedly be determined by the size of the event.
Let’s start with how the size of the security needed is supposedly getting determined. Does anyone really believe that 200 church choir members singing Christmas carols would need as much security as 10 neo-Nazis silently holding up swastikas? Some judgment will be required.
But it isn’t hard to imagine some Department of Administration secretary or some governor suddenly finding it convenient to double the security necessary due to the “controversial” nature of some protest.
While it sounds like a fun idea to stick it (the bill) to the Recall Walker protesters now, what happens when it’s a Democratic administration making the decision? Despite their best efforts, someday the Democrats will win again.
Armed with the precedent of the Walker administration’s policies for events at the Capitol, some future governor might decide that an inconvenient political event should be unduly financially inconvenienced.
How much security will be required for an NRA demonstration? How much will Wisconsin Right to Life be charged if they hand out fliers in the Capitol?
Freedom of speech should not be available to only those with the financial backing necessary to overcome the capriciousness of some future governor.
The First Amendment should be especially honored and defended at the heart of our government. That means that taxpayers may, occasionally, bear some financial burden. That burden should never be thought of as too much.
Unfortunately, the policies look like a poor reaction by the administration to the mishandling of the protests in the spring and summer. Had the administration properly dealt with the protesters then by requiring that proper decorum be maintained within the Capitol, including controlling for noise and size of the crowd, they would not be in the awkward position now of trying to justify keeping a semblance of order.
That lesson appears to be lost on Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch and Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs. When asked by the usual left-wing suspects what would happen when they did not bother to file for a permit, Tubbs had no answer.
Tubbs had no answers when the Capitol was overrun, either. The problem is not the policies, but the police.
(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)