Shame on Congress

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By Optic Editorial Board

Here we are at the start of another federal fiscal year and still no budget.

For about 800,000 federal workers deemed “non-essential” that means forced furloughs. For members of the public it means closures of national parks and monuments and other federal agencies, and fears that an already weak economy will get even weaker.

Worse yet, it’s a sign that our elected officials in Washington may just be irresponsible enough to refuse to raise the debt ceiling, a move that would force our nation to default on its financial obligations.

The federal government’s fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. With no budget, the order went out just before midnight on Monday to begin shutting down non-essential federal government operations. It’s the first time in 17 years that an impasse on the budget has forced a shutdown.

It’s also an indication of just how dysfunctional Washington has become.

Most Republicans in the House have so far been unwilling to approve a budget unless it comes with a provision that delays the president’s controversial health care law. Democrats in the Senate and President Obama are refusing to negotiate on that point, with Obama issuing a statement Monday that “You don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you’re supposed to be doing anyway, or just because there’s a law there that you don’t like.”

As painful as this government shutdown will be, we agree with the Democrats on this point. Obamacare was already passed by Congress, and the Supreme Court found it to be constitutional.

For tea party-backed Republicans to hold the federal budget hostage like this is outrageous and shameful. And it isn’t going to end well for anyone.

Sadly, this has become politics as usual in Washington.


Back to the drawing board

When city workers called up local real estate agents late one day demanding that they remove their signs from the public right of way, the Realtors didn’t take it lying down.

Instead they reached out to the mayor and to city councilors, and they eventually were told that the calls were made in error.

City officials went before the board of Realtors last week to explain what went wrong and to invite the group to help redraft the sign ordinance.

We applaud the city for taking this approach rather than digging in its heels and demanding that the signs be removed.

Let’s come up with a sign ordinance that we can all live with and one that can be enforced. And while we’re at it, let’s review other ordinances like the one restricting the amount of wood one can have on properties. It’s worth asking ourselves whether the current restrictions are fair.