- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2002

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton says Americans are frittering away freedom in the name of feeling more secure.
"Parts of our open society are gradually being closed down because of our fear of terrorism," Mrs. Norton said yesterday during a morning meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times. "September 11 accelerated the reach for blunt and often ineffective remedies to assure our security."
Mrs. Norton told The Times the indefinite closures of Pennsylvania Avenue and streets in the federal enclave around the Capitol, the closures of the Capitol and the White House to tours, and the unsightly barricades downtown are hurting the District's tourist economy.
Mrs. Norton, a Democrat and the District's nonvoting member of Congress, has called for the creation of an oversight commission that would force the federal government to do a better job of weighing security concerns against basic civil liberties.
"Maintaining safety and security in an open, democratic society is too important to be left to security officials alone," Mrs. Norton said.
Mrs. Norton said she is looking for congressional sponsors for her proposed Open Society With Security Act, which would authorize the president to establish a commission of representatives from the fields of law enforcement, business, the military, architecture, city planning, sociology and others.
"It is important to get all of these entities at one table to make our security experts think hard about compromises that can be made maintaining national homeland security without intruding upon personal privacy and freedom of movement," she said.
Mrs. Norton said she is particularly concerned about how the security measures have undermined the District's economy. She said tourists and D.C. residents mistakenly assume some of the Smithsonian museums and monuments are closed when they see them blocked off by barricades.
"The only time the Smithsonian institutions and monuments [the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials] were actually closed was the day of the attacks," she said.
Although the Washington region is getting a boost from wartime spending, the security crackdown in the District itself ugly concrete barricades downtown, street closings and limited flights at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport has suffocated the city, she said.
"The region is basically recession-proof with the number of people working for the government, but D.C. is not," Mrs. Norton said. "We have 25 million people coming in here every year. There is a large contingent of the [Districts] population depending upon jobs and income from the tourist and hospitality industry."
Mrs. Norton said she understood the desire for security but that the country could not have prepared for what happened September 11.
"I think these terrorist cells are a danger but we cannot allow ourselves to live in fear and give up the rights we are so accustomed to," she said.
Mrs. Norton also commented on the administration's proposed federal budget for 2003 and how it would affect the District.
She was pleased that President Bush fully funded the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program and increased the number of schools to which students could apply outside the D.C. metropolitan area.
She also was pleased with new grants in the budget that would help the District pay for the costs incurred by the Metropolitan Police Department during national protests in town.
"There is $15 million to help the city pay for the police to handle these World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund marches and protests," Mrs. Norton said.
She said the White House and Congress are starting to realize the strain the protests put on the city.
In addition, $1 million is being given to the city for a traffic study to help D.C. figure out how to maneuver people around the barricades on Pennsylvania Avenue, E Street and some other streets near federal buildings.


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