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“Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton Criticizes National Zoo Leadership for Changing Morning Hours”

by Prince Of Petworth December 11, 2015 at 3:45 pm 23 Comments

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From a press release:

“Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today released a letter she sent yesterday to National Zoo Director Dennis Kelly criticizing the zoo’s decision to change its morning hours, from opening the grounds at 6:00 a.m. to opening them at 8:00 a.m., without holding a public meeting beforehand. Norton said she has heard from many constituents who use the zoo grounds to exercise in the morning and who are outraged that a public meeting with the Woodley Park Community Association was held only after the decision to change the morning hours had been made.

In her letter, Norton wrote, “Making decisions that affect the daily lives of District residents requires you to include them in that process, not simply make a unilateral decision and then attend a community meeting as an afterthought. The long experience of democracy is that such public participation before decisions are made yields better and less contentious outcomes. I ask that you respond to the residents’ pleas for a compromise and that you keep community input at the forefront of your decision-making process in the future.”

Norton’s full letter is below.

Dennis W. Kelly

Director, National Zoo

Smithsonian Institution

P.O. Box 37012, MRC019

Washington, DC 20013

Dear Director Kelly:

I write regarding the National Zoo’s decision to open its grounds to guests later in the morning. As you very well know, many zoo neighbors use the grounds in the early morning to walk, jog, or exercise. I understand that the Woodley Park Community Association recently held a public meeting with you to discuss these changes. That meeting should have been held by the National Zoo before it changed its hours. My staff was in attendance at the meeting, and I am told that many neighbors from Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, Adams Morgan, Mt. Pleasant, Columbia Heights, and other areas of the District were dismayed to learn that the zoo was adjusting its hours and disrupting their early morning activities on zoo grounds. The zoo may have legitimate safety concerns as articulated at the meeting, but I will not have my constituents offered the opportunity to provide input only after the zoo has already made its decision. Informing residents of what you intend to do after the fact is autocratic, antidemocratic, and personally offensive to me as the congresswoman who represents the District.

Making decisions that affect the daily lives of District residents requires you to include them in that process, not simply make a unilateral decision and then attend a community meeting as an afterthought. The long experience of democracy is that such public participation before decisions are made yields better and less contentious outcomes. I ask that you respond to the residents’ pleas for a compromise and that you keep community input at the forefront of your decision-making process in the future.

Sincerely,

Eleanor Holmes Norton”

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