Editorial: More reasons to reopen
Op-Ed · October 18, 2013

Writing this editorial two days away from the Oct. 17 deadline on the federal debt limit, we see some positive signs that Congress may reach an agreement that will include a continuing resolution on the budget that may reopen the national parks, like the Hoover Complex, even if just for a few months.

When the shutdown of “non-essential” government agencies loomed prior to the Oct. 1 budget deadline, we knew some of the local impact beforehand: closing the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum and the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. We knew the two agencies would furlough 33 staff and that those staff would not get paid during the shutdown.

We assumed that businesses in downtown West Branch would suffer, too. However, that turned out with mixed results. While Reid’s Beans coffee shop, Pink Pony ice cream shop and the Brick Arch Winery — establishments which border Hoover Complex — each report a drop in sales, we learned that retail establishments like Main Street Antiques and Art and Marg’s Little Red House saw higher-than-average sales.

From what we can tell, many visitors did not connect the Hoover Complex with the 17 percent of the federal government that is shut down. We don’t know if they assumed the Hoover Park is run by a private entity or state or local government, or if when they think of “national parks” they think more along the lines of mountains, canyons, forests and waterfalls, rather than historic sites. They also may not consider that the library and museum as falls under a different federal agency — the National Archives and Records Administration — since it sits inside the historic site.

Nonetheless, it seems that when tourists found out the federal park was closed, they decided instead to use the time to shop, but not eat.

Further, utility companies became aware of the possibility that delayed Social Security and Women Infants Children checks may mean customers cannot pay their bills on time. So far, none of their customers has said so, but some have called with concerns that could happen. Part of that could be that not enough time has elapsed until the “next” bill is due.

For those employees who were furloughed without pay, they have been paid, or will be paid, on time for days worked through Sept. 30. For the National Park Service, those first partial paychecks will come this week.

Then there is the uncertainty factor. The U.S. House unanimously passed a bill that would pay furloughed employees retroactively once the shutdown ends, but that bill has not even been taken up by the U.S. Senate, even though President Obama promises to sign it. If you’re a furloughed employee, that does nothing but frustrate and worry.

So we have learned more about the secondary effects of the shutdown, things we could only speculate on before. Should the government reopen those areas of government, like our Hoover Complex, we need to share what we’ve learned throughout this ordeal.

Perhaps it will convince Congress to work harder to get the budget passed the first time.

We can only hope.

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