P.O. Box 27217
Washington, DC 20038
April 15, 1998
Department of Interior
National Park Service
White House Liaison
1100 Ohio Drive, S.W.
Washington, DC 20242
Dear Mr. McDaniel,
Thank you for keeping me informed of your plans for the
future of the White House and Presidents Park. Having reviewed
your "Environmental Assessment, Northside Barrier Replacement,
Lafayette Park for Presidents Park, February 1998"
The Assessment mentions Thomas Jefferson several times,
reminding me of a favorite Founding Fathers quote: "Those
who value Security more than Freedom will eventually lose both."
I would ask you to consider several thoughts.
First, I would like you to consider the possibility that
the Department of Interior (DoI) and the Secret Service (SS) are
looking at present security concerns from an extraordinarily pessimistic
perspective. Consider, if you will, that for just about two hundred
years -- or nearly the entire history of this country -- Lafayette
Park was open and free. Suddenly, in 1995, the SS took the revolutionary
step of closing Pennsylvania Avenue and barricading Lafayette
Park. Since then, U.S. Senator Rod Grams noted, "There are
barricades to the left of us, barricades to the right of us, and
yet directly in the middle sits what is supposed to be one of
this nation's most enduring symbols of freedom. Surrounded by
concrete, and ringed by armed guards, dogs, and patrol vehicles,
a roadway that once resonated with freedom now reeks of fear."
The Assessment seeks to make the police-state appearance more
aesthetically pleasing by substituting stately bollards for unsightly
Jersey barricades, but the heavy-duty barricades can help the
public remember that things havent always been this bad.
If you make the barricades too aesthetically pleasing, people
might resign themselves to the mistaken belief that this sad state
As Senator Grams also said, "Giving in to fear is
not an acceptable response in a democracy." I suggest that
DoI and the SS try looking at contemporary security fears as a
temporary, rather than permanent, situation. Assuming a more optimistic
perspective, the DoI and SS might consider that America will someday
overcome its present fears, and return to the opinion that armed
guards, dogs, and patrol vehicles are not fashionable. Given the
hopeful possibility that someday this country may overcome its
fears, it will be easier to remove the Jersey barricades than
to remove the bollards.
SUGGESTION: Take NO ACTION on Lafayette Park,
instead, assume a more positive view of the future. Begin from
the premise that your security forces will one-day be successful,
and that the country will once again return to a state of greater
freedom and less fear.
Considering what an amazingly strong driving force fear
can be, I realize the DoI and SS may ignore suggestions to take
NO ACTION, and insist on making the present climate of hyper-vigilance
a permanent state. In that case, I would offer the following alternative
ALTERNATIVE SUGGESTIONS: BOLLARD:
The Assessment repeatedly asserts that replacing the concrete
barricades with bollards will "enhance pedestrian access
to the Park." Yet, considering that there are presently gaps
between the concrete barricades, it is self-evident that stringing
lengths of chain between the bollards will actually have the effect
of decreasing "pedestrian access." In fact, since the
claim is that bollards are necessary to deter vehicular traffic,
and it is the bollards themselves which will serve that purpose,
it seems obvious that the lengths of chain will serve no practical
purpose whatsoever except to deter pedestrian access.
SUGGESTION: If you absolutely refuse to be dissuaded
from planting these bollards, please, Do Not string chains between
them, because doing so would only deter pedestrian access while
providing no additional protection against vehicles. Likewise,
I would suggest that the chains installed last week between the
bollards adjoining the street on the south side of Lafayette Park
also be removed as they also present an unmerited obstruction
to pedestrian traffic.
THE LODGE HOUSE
The Assessment proposes that, "The lodge structure
and its associated walled enclosure at the north edge of Lafayette
Park would be removed when NPS funding permits." You explain
that, "In October 1997 the National Park Service closed the
restroom facilities portion of the building in response to a U.S.
Public Health evaluation."
In September 1997 Mr. Payton informed me that the restrooms
would be closed because they failed a Public Health evaluation.
Lafayette Park has a sizeable full-time maintenance crew, equipped
with state-of-the-art laborsaving devices. Considering that there
is only one toilet and urinal in the mens room, and two
toilets in the womens room, my knee-jerk reaction to the
restroom closure announcement was, "Why not just instruct
the maintenance crew to keep the restrooms clean enough to pass
Public Health inspections?"
SUGGESTION: Dont close the restrooms
clean them. In the unlikely event that major plumbing work
is required, the cost could be offset by the costs saved on the
bollards, which you wont need to install if the restroom
The Assessment states: "Homeless people are frequently
found in Lafayette Park, just as they are found in many other
urban areas. Some of these homeless individuals are mentally unstable
or intoxicated." Apparently this observation is intended
to provide an excuse for closing the public restrooms. But, unless
it is intended as an excuse to close all public restrooms in all
urban areas where homeless are found, it seems a poor excuse for
at least two reasons.
First, the Assessment claims, "prior to the closure
of Lafayette Park's lodge building for public health reasons in
October 1997, many park users reported that they felt unsafe and
uncomfortable using the lodge's public restrooms. This was because
the structure appeared to have been taken over by homeless individuals
who left it unsanitary."
Certainly, well always find someone who feels unsafe
or uncomfortable about something. Doubtlessly, we can even find
people who feel so strongly about public restrooms that theyve
never used one in their entire life. Still those dont seem
like great reasons for doing away with public restrooms. In light
of the fact that there are constantly at least a couple of dozen
police officers on duty within the one-block area of Lafayette
Park, it would seem that anyone who felt "unsafe
the public restrooms," suffers a phobia.
Arguably, perhaps closing public restrooms is an "efficient"
strategy for dealing with the homeless, but homeless people arent
the only ones who will be penalized by the restroom closure. While
the restrooms were open I personally witnessed long lines of tourists
eagerly waiting to use them while their buses idled alongside
the Park. Additionally, I have personally seen the restroom used
by office workers, who frequent the Park during lunch, as well
as Metro bus passengers waiting on H Street.
Second, the Assessment notes, "Even before the restrooms
were closed, however, homeless individuals have publicly defecated
and urinated in Lafayette Park and used its fountains for bathing."
Of course, if public defecation and urination are truly
problems, closing the restroom would seem likely to increase incidents
of public human waste elimination displays in Lafayette Park.
Anyway, given the profusion of police officers in the Park, increased
public defecation and urination probably wont create an
insoluble problem, because the police can just arrest the offensive
SUGGESTION: Dont close the restrooms because some
folks feel "unsafe or uncomfortable." Since police
security agents are presently so abundant in the Park, it would
seem more reasonable to leave the restrooms open for tourists
and other people who dont like to defecate or urinate in
public, and instruct the police to direct their energies toward
dealing with any non-anecdotal safety problems in the restrooms.
FIRST AMENDMENT ACTIVITIES
The Assessment "recognizes the important function
Lafayette Park serves for First Amendment activities," but
also notes, "the Supreme Court has recognized that the Park
Service is charged with responsibility for the management
and maintenance of the National Parks and is authorized to promulgate
rules and regulations for the use of the parks in accordance with
the purposes for which they were established." And
the bottom line of the Assessment on First Amendment Activities
reads, "Subject to various legal challenges over the years,
courts have upheld the constitutionality of the Park Service's
Because it is apparently unrelated to anything else in
the document, I find it difficult to imagine why a brief reference
to "First Amendment Activities" was interjected into
an "Environmental Assessment, Northside Barrier Replacement,
Lafayette Park for Presidents Park."
SUGGESTION: Please explain why, in a document which
apparently deals with the placement of bollards and the fate of
the restrooms, "First Amendment Activities" were deemed
a consideration worthy of mention.
RECEIPT OF MESSAGE
Received, April 15, 1998, by National Park Service, 1100
Ohio Drive, SW, letter from W. Thomas to James McDaniels.