Norton Meets with Smithsonian Officials on National Zoo Security Proposal
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) yesterday met with the Smithsonian Institution’s Secretary, David Skorton, and its Chief Operating Officer and Under Secretary for Finance and Administration, Albert Horvath, about her concerns with the Smithsonian’s proposal for heightened security at the National Zoo. Skorton had already been scheduled to meet with Norton on the Smithsonian’s programs underway for District of Columbia students and initiatives to highlight women’s history. Norton added the recently disclosed plan for added security at the Zoo to the meeting’s agenda.
Skorton and Horvath assured Norton that the only immediate changes to security were reducing the number of entrances to the Zoo from 13 to three and increasing and updating fencing on the Zoo’s perimeter. Norton has not opposed reducing the number of entrances because 90 percent of visitors use the entrances that will remain open, and the reduction of entrances is a typical and widely-used security measure that is not inconsistent with openness to the public. She is particularly concerned about the introduction of new security checkpoints, which were included in the proposal submitted to the National Capital Planning Commission. Although Skorton and Horvath did not rule out checkpoints in the future, Norton made it clear she strongly opposes that measure. Norton stressed the importance of keeping the Zoo an open park, and cited, as an example, the Capitol Grounds remain an open campus with often subtle security enhancements to prevent vehicular attacks, but no security checkpoints for local foot traffic. Norton also suggested the Smithsonian form a working group comprised of local and area residents to examine best practices for balancing public access and security concerns after Skorton told her of a panel of teenagers who regularly advise him on how to improve the Smithsonian experience for young people, including technology integration.
“I appreciate Secretary Skorton’s meeting with me yesterday to discuss not only security, but also the Smithsonian’s educational initiatives for the District’s children,” Norton said. “We also had a fruitful discussion on balancing necessary and legitimate security at the National Zoo with maintaining public access to this beautiful space in the heart of the District of Columbia. I fully understand the need for increased fencing, but installing security checkpoints with metal detectors at the Zoo’s entrances for non-vehicular traffic has not been shown to be necessary for security. The Smithsonian would likely need appropriations to install such security structures, and I would strongly oppose that funding. If Capitol Hill can remain an open campus, so can the Zoo.”