Norton Requests Meeting with National Zoo Officials to Discuss New Security Proposals
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today said that she has requested a meeting with the Acting Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Steven Monfort, to discuss the Smithsonian Institution’s proposal to install new security check points and reduce the number of entrances from 13 to three. Norton said the Zoo’s proposed security plans appear excessive, but that she desired a meeting to receive further details. Norton called into today’s episode of the Kojo Nnamdi Show on the security proposal and emphasized that the Zoo is distinctly different from other federal and Smithsonian properties because it is not a facility, but rather a park and recreational area for residents and visitors, located in a local neighborhood. The Smithsonian did not notify Norton before submitting its proposal to the National Capital Planning Commission. Norton said that her experience with federal facilities increases her appreciation for necessary security concerns coupled with the appropriate balance of public access and input from the community.
“The National Zoo is one of D.C.’s most precious local spaces and is unique for its open access to neighborhood residents,” Norton said. “It is unlike any other Smithsonian facility because it is a park, not a building, and is located in the heart of a local D.C. neighborhood. I have had to fight hyper-security proposals for most of my congressional career, particularly after 9/11. I want to hear more from the Zoo about its proposals, some of which I can understand given today’s security concerns. However, it is even more clear that the public needs to be heard on any changes to access. The current proposal appears to be a wish list of a government security agency rather than an approach that balances legitimate security concerns with public access.”
Last year, Norton introduced legislation to establish a commission to help the nation balance legitimate security concerns with public access to federal buildings and spaces. The commission would be made up of experts from a broad spectrum of disciplines to investigate how to maintain democratic traditions of openness while responding adequately to the substantial security threats posed by terrorism and other risks.