Norton Introduces Bill on 9/11 Anniversary to Ensure Openness and Public Access to Nation’s Federal Buildings and Areas
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today introduced her bill to establish a commission to help the nation balance legitimate security concerns with public access to federal buildings and spaces. Norton introduced her bill on the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, which ushered in an unprecedented closing off of public spaces in the nation’s capital and elsewhere. A commission of experts from a broad spectrum of disciplines would investigate how to maintain democratic traditions of openness while responding adequately to the substantial security threats posed by terrorism and other risks. Norton began working on the bill after Pennsylvania Avenue was closed and high barriers first began to emerge throughout the District of Columbia following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and later after 9/11, when cars were lined up for security stops on streets near the Capitol while people were going to work and school. Since then, after considerable work by Norton and her office, steps have been taken to conform necessary barriers to architecture in this city.
“Government security agencies alone should not be determining security for buildings and spaces where the American public deserve and have always had access,” Norton said. “Creating an official forum for exchanges between security experts and advocates of public access would facilitate a balanced approach not only in the nation’s capital, but throughout the United States.”
The bill authorizes a 21-member commission, with the president designating nine members and the House and Senate each designating six members, to investigate the balance between openness and security. To allow the needed discussion between experts in security and others who support access to public places, members of the commission should come from varying fields. Among the represented fields are security, architecture, technology, sociology, psychology, the military, city planning, business, engineering, and history.