Glimmer of Hope

The last two weeks of the federal government “shutdown” have made plain that the Obama administration has been picking and choosing the programs it wanted to shutter, and which programs it would continue despite the inability of the Senate and House to negotiate out and pass a budget for the next fiscal year.

The Obama administration has been deploying a “Washington monument” strategy: shut down highly visible memorials and parks in an effort to stir discontent. One egregiously fake closedown was of the World War II Memorial in Washington, an open-air memorial requiring no government funds to allow visitors to pay their respects.

Over the past week, the administration twisted and turned. It reserved itself and allowed all government employees at the Defense Department to begin working on Monday, after previously saying they couldn’t work in a “shutdown.” Federal employees have attempted to aggressively promote websites for administrative priorities such as the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. According to the Associated Press, only 7 percent of Americans say the rollout has gone well or extremely well.

When it comes to taking sides, the administration has ordered numerous websites off-line, including the sites of the Agriculture Department, the Census Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Park Service. They've done this even when the cost and work involved in blocking access to websites is greater than leaving those sites up and running.

All of this is why Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s successful efforts to open up National Parks in Utah is so worthy of praise. Beginning today, all five national parks – Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Zion – plus Cedar Breaks and National Bridges monuments and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, will be fully open.

This is an example of common-sense, businesslike administration of the government: Recognize that the benefits of opening the parks would be far higher than the cost of keeping them closed; calculate that the cost of running a national park is $166,572 a day, or $1.67 million for 10 days; press the federal government to let Utah run the national parks within its borders; wire state funds to the federal government; press the state’s congressional delegation to seek reimbursement from the federal government for those costs; and, in all of this, recognize the urgency of acting – even if Washington politicians can’t.

With an increasingly dysfunctional federal government, Gov. Herbert’s bold and successful gambit to operate Utah’s national parks could well be a model for future interaction between state and federal government.