By Karen Zamel
East Palo Alto Today
Posted January 12, 2011
Federal and state elected officials in and around the Bay Area are evaluating security procedures and resources for their offices and staffs in the aftermath of Saturday’s tragic shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, members of her staff, a federal judge, and other attendees at a public event in Tucson.
But these new and urgent evaluations are confronting a major challenge: the need to balance personal accessibility and availability with safety and security. Yet, this effort to find a balance between being open and being shielded brings up an interesting conundrum – the extent to which public officials need to be protected from the public.
The reactions of elected officials to the weekend attack on Representative Giffords and her staff have varied widely. For example, while Representative Dennis Cardoza (D-Modesto) reacted to the shootings in Tucson by planning to move his current Stockton office to a more secure location in a government building, Representative Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) is planning to conduct business as usual. “It’s not going to change the way I interact with my constituents,” she said.
For Richelle Noroyan, the district director in the Los Altos field office for former Assemblymember Ira Ruskin, cultivating open dialogue while effectively managing the sometimes heated interaction with constituents is an on-going and important priority for staff members in district and capitol offices.
She noted that Ruskin maintained an open door, open communications policy which was constructive, productive and successful, with a few concerning exceptions.
“Unfortunately, we had occasions when constituent phone calls and office visits crossed the line from passionate to threatening," Noroyan said.
"Sometimes the anger was related to a controversial issue; sometimes it was frustration with a particular state agency. When we had some credible threats right before a public appearance like a town hall meeting, we did request attendance of the CHP officer assigned to our office,” she said.
Given some of the new concerns that have developed because of the shootings in Tucson, there might be more requests for CHP officers to be assigned to elected officials.
To contact Karen Zamel, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org