DC During Shutdown – Part 1

US Capitol DomeFor the first time since 1996, the federal government shuttered October 1st.  When that has happened in the past, D.C. city government closed down too. Why?  Because the city receives direct funding from the federal government, it is treated as if it is a federal agency.

This time, Mayor Vincent Gray announced he would use the city’s contingency reserve funds to keep the city government in full operation, good for 2 weeks, granting an exemption from the federal shutdown. In the 1995 and 1996 shutdowns, this option wasn’t available.  (Both times, DC city employees were able to return to work after a few days)

As the days wore on, the Mayor became worried as the fund became low.  On October 9th, while Senator Harry Reid was winding up an afternoon press conference, Gray went to speak with him on the Capitol steps after doing his own press conference not far off. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton was also present.*  Their conversation was on candid camera for the local evening news.  At the White House later that day, she spoke with President Obama about DC’s budget.  As of this writing, nothing has yet to materialize.

For this blog post, these are my observations of the shutdown on the city.  With local and national media outlets covering the shutdown, I’ll leave it to them.  The “Washington Post” started a live blog for shutdown updates.

October 1st

On Tuesday morning, we opened with extended hours system-wide.  Phone calls come from patrons asking if we are open.  (Yes, until 9 pm!)  When I arrive for the evening shift, there are few patrons.  As the day continues, more arrive.  An evening yoga class bustles in.  As the week progresses, more people are taking advantage of our new hours.  For example, there’s an increase in room reservation requests for this month into the next.

The morning commute

On Monday morning (9/30) driving down I-270 is slow going. The traffic reports on WTOP take a few minutes to call since many major roadways in MD, VA, and DC are experiencing heavy volume and problems.  Once I’m in the access ramp to Shady Grove Metro station, I quickly pick up speed at last. On Wednesday morning, it appears to be no worse than usual.  In some stretches, I’m driving slow, others are at speed. I don’t have far to drive to locate a parking space in the Shady Grove Metro station garage.  Usually I’m on the 3rd or 4th level.  On the platform, the half the volume of the commuting crowd is waiting.  As a new week begins, traffic still is heavy in spots.  Because I leave home early on Friday (10/11), I miss the trucker protest convoy on the Beltway later that morning.

Cleveland Park/Woodley Park

On Connecticut Ave in the mornings, there’s a steady volume of traffic through the Cleveland Park area heading for downtown. (Not so much outbound)  It doesn’t appear to have been much of a change. People are still out and about during the daytime. While walking to the Woodley Park Starbucks location on Friday morning (10/4) I see the gates at the National Zoo are closed with large signs posted.  There are several Zoo police officers on duty and restricted admission to the parking lot next to the main entrance.  When I drive by on my way to Saturday evening Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle Church on Oct. 12th, there’s light foot traffic in that area.  Some people are sitting outside the Starbucks and other eateries.

Penn Quarter/Chinatown

DC Public Library Book PlateOctober 7th: I have a mandatory training at MLK Library that morning. As I come off the Metro at Metro Center station, I observe there are half the number of people transferring to the Blue and Orange lines downstairs or leaving the station.  Outside on the street, it’s lighter foot traffic.  Later, as I walk to Lawson’s for lunch, I see fewer food trucks parked along 12th & G St. by Macy’s (formerly Hecht’s).  Business hasn’t been great for them.

Closing note–Oct.13th: The “Post” reports that city has enough to pay city employees on October 15th.  If nothing is done, no guarantee about the next paycheck.

* Note: As a non-voting representative for DC, Delegate Norton is only allowed to speak on the House floor.  She can vote in committees which she’s a member.

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