It’s been a while. I’ve been busy.
The whole Ohio Statehouse thing has gotten rather interesting. I attended the Board Meeting of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board on April 21. It was held in the State Room in the Statehouse, a very nice hearing room with a really nice carpet (very nice for bare feet!). Acoustics stunk, though.
First bit of news: they are going to change the way they make their rules. According to their current rules for rulemaking, they have to include in their meeting notices a notice of any rules they plan on changing. The didn’t do this when they enacted their shoe rule, which means that that violated Ohio’s Open Meeting Act, and their enactment was therefore invalid (yay!). However, they are going to fix that. They will probably re-enact it in their July 21 meeting, or maybe as late as their October meeting, and they will just change the way they make rules in their
After the meeting, I managed to talk to some of the Board members. It became quite clear quite quickly that their concern is not about safety (it never really is) but simply decorum. They just don’t believe that bare feet belong there.
They are changing their rulemaking to make it more secretive. This prompted an April 27 story in the Columbus Dispatch, Capitol Square board to make rules in private. Coincidentally, a reporter for our local ABC station happened to see the meeting minutes for the Board meeting, saw the bit about bare feet, and decided to do a story. That is here. And that prompted the online Dispatch to put out an AP news bulletin on me, Pickerington man fights for right to go barefoot at Statehouse.
After that, all hell broke loose. The story went out to all the news outlets and appeared in a lot of newspapers across the country.
I also got a call from our local CBS TV station and they did a story that evening. (Sorry, their news stories are not on-line.)
Finally, I got a call from the PBS Radio show, Whad’ya Know?, and I appeared on them this past Saturday. You can listen to that by listening to the third segment of their May 1 show, here. (If you are reading this later, you may have to go to their archives.) The live radio format is really much better for getting our point across: we can have real discussions instead of having a news producer take small snippets of a taped interview to make the point that they want to make.
And our battle with the Statehouse should not yet be over. It is still okay to send letters and emails to Board Members. Also, we’re going to think about other actions we can take to apply pressure to the Board.
This past Monday there was a reply letter from a spokesman of the Statehouse, Gregg Dodd, in the Dispatch: Public has input on rules of Statehouse. Notice that, without mentioning the specific issue, he carefully tries to set up a reason for their barefoot rule:
the board adopts rules that provide for the health, safety and convenience of those who work in or visit the complex.
While we know that’s not the real reason, that is the way they will portray the barefoot rule. They are going to rely on the myths and misconceptions.