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Government Shutdown Begins: Tourists Locked Out, Blood Drive Canceled

| October 2, 2013
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Tourists at Alcatraz, a National Park Service facility that's closing as part of a federal government shutdown.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images).

Tourists at Alcatraz, a National Park Service facility that’s closing as part of a federal government shutdown. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images).

Update, Wednesday, Oct. 9: Government Shutdown Week 2: Bay Area Impact Widens

The latest on the federal government shutdown

Update, 10:30 a.m. Wednesday: The predicted shutdown mess is occurring. Thousands of tourists visiting the Bay Area are suddenly finding that attractions like Alcatraz and Muir Woods are no longer accessible.

From the San Francisco Chronicle this morning:

“It’s quite a shock,” said Emil Labossiere, 49, of British Columbia, who went to Muir Woods National Monument with his wife, Karen Irvine, to celebrate their 20th anniversary, only to be told the park was closed. “We weren’t quite aware of what was going on.”

The furlough of thousands of workers who work for federal agencies in the Bay Area is having some unintended consequences, too. Here’s part of a pointed press release just sent out by the Stanford Blood Center:

The Stanford Blood Center currently has an urgent need for O-negative blood, and the shutdown of the federal government is affecting the center’s ability to meet that demand.

A blood drive scheduled for Oct. 2 at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., was canceled because more than 1,000 Ames employees were furloughed Oct. 1 after Congress failed to agree on a spending bill. The drive was expected to collect 75 units of whole blood.

“It’s unfortunate that the government shutdown is impacting the local blood supply,” said blood center spokesperson Deanna Bolio. “NASA Ames employees have been tremendously supportive of the blood center over the last 27 years, having donated thousands of units to help patients in the community.”

Update 11:30 a.m. Tuesday: One example of the government shutdown at work. Amanda Stupi, the online producer for KQED’s “Forum,” is part of a Facebook group organized around swimming at San Francisco’s China Beach. The beach, a gem on the edge of the city’s Sea Cliff neighborhood, is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area — thus, it’s federal property officially closed to the public. Members of the Facebook group say that U.S. Park Police are warning that beach trespassers are subject to arrest.

Update, 11 a.m.: In a White House appearance today originally scheduled to herald the launch of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama called on Republicans to drop their demands to delay or defund the law and to reopen the government.

“At midnight last night for the first time in 17 years the Republicans in Congress chose to shut down the federal government. Let me be more specific: One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government shut down major parts of the government, all because they did not like one law. They’ve shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans. … As long as I am president, I will not give in to reckless demands by some in the Republican Party to deny affordable health insurance to millions of hard-working Americans.”

But GOP leaders continue to blame the president and his party for the crisis. From The New York Times:

Republicans continued their efforts to shift blame for the shutdown to the Democrats, whom they accused of intentionally letting the clock run out so they could point fingers back at conservatives.

“Well, Democrat leaders in Congress finally have their prize — a government shutdown that no one seems to want but them,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader. “House Republicans worked late into the night this weekend to keep the government open. And Senate Democrats dragged their feet.”

Update, 8:45 a.m. PDT Tuesday: President Obama is expected to speak at 9:25 a.m. Pacific time to address the shutdown and the official launch of the Affordable Care Act.

Update, 9 p.m. PDT Monday: It’s official. Time has run out. The Republican-led House insisted on some form of delay for Tuesday’s scheduled launch of the federal Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, in order to agree to continuing funding of government services, and the Democratic-majority Senate refused to give in. So the federal government is closing down.

Here’s the latest on the situation from NPR’s Two-Way Blog. And also from The New York Times: Government Is Shutting Down in Budget Impasse.

Tens of thousands of federal workers in the Bay Area (and at least 800,000 nationwide) face furloughs in the shutdown. The Washington Post has published an excellent FAQ on what government employees can expect.

Around the Bay Area, the impact will be felt almost immediately, with National Park Service facilities from Alcatraz to Pinnacles National Park being closed to visitors. Many employees at federally supported research facilities, including NASA Ames in Mountain View and the national laboratories at UC Berkeley and Livermore, face furloughs.

Original post: What parts of your life will be affected if the federal government is forced to shut down by the continuing spending/Obamacare deadlock in Congress? If you’re a federal employee — either a contractor or worker employed directly by an agency — you may well face a furlough. The rest of us, who sometimes use federal services every day without knowing it, will be impacted in a variety of ways.

If you want to cut to the chase, here’s the White House master list of shutdown preparations for more than 100 federal departments and agencies: Agency Contingency Plans. The guidance ranges from directives for Transportation Security Administration personnel at the nation’s airports — their function is deemed essential, and they’ll stay on the job — to what State Department employees should do about planned speeches (they should probably cancel them). Also note: The Associated Press is reporting the National Zoo’s panda cam may go dark.

Here are a few local details about what you can expect if the government shuts down:

Parks and tourist sites: The Department of the Interior announced Friday that the National Park Service will suspend operations. That means attractions like Alcatraz, Muir Woods, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore will be officially closed (though parts of those properties, especially the wide-open GGNRA, will remain accessible to the public). The Bay Area’s national parks draw about 17 million visitors per year. Overnight visitors at Yosemite and other national parks will be given 48 hours’ notice to leave.

Courts: Federal courts will continue to operate normally until mid-October in the event of a shutdown. After that, furloughs of court personnel are possible.

Post offices: Will remain open and mail deliveries will continue.

Passport offices: The State Department says it will try to keep passport and visa services open, since they pay for themselves. But it might not be possible if offices are located inside federal government office buildings that themselves have been shut down.

Military personnel and facilities: Uniformed personnel in all branches will be unaffected by a shutdown. But it’s a different story for the Defense Department’s civilian employees. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said today “a large number of civilian employees and contractors would likely be temporarily furloughed.”

Department of Veterans Affairs: Hospitals and medical services will remain open. Some claims processing and other functions will be suspended. The department has issued a Veterans Field Guide to Government Shutdown.

Social Security: All checks will be mailed on schedule. (During past government shutdowns — the longest of which stretched for 21 days from 1995 into 1996 — there were delays in issuing Social Security, Medicare and veterans’ checks, and passport and visa applications could not be processed, according to federal officials.)

Internal Revenue Service: The agency plans to furlough 90 percent of its employees if the shutdown takes place. Audits will be suspended and the agency won’t handle tax returns that don’t include payments. That being said, all tax deadlines remain in place.

Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control: The Department of Transportation says all operations will continue.

Amtrak: The Bay Area is home to one of the national passenger rail network’s most successful operations, the Capitol Corridor trains. The rail agency said today it will continue rolling through any “short-term” government shutdown.

* * *
How many federal employees work in the Bay Area? The state Employment Development Department estimates (by way of statistics available here) that there were 249,800 federal employees in California last year, and about 190,000 if you exclude civilian workers with the Defense Department (those figures do not include uniformed military personnel).

The EDD database also yields this county-by-county rundown of federal employment (apparently including Defense Department civilian workers but excluding uniformed personnel) for the Bay Area:

Alameda County 9,600
Contra Costa County 4,600
Marin County 800
Napa County 200
San Francisco County 14,200
San Mateo County 3,700
Santa Clara County 9,600
Solano County 3,900
Sonoma County 1,500
Total 48,100

The EDD numbers also show that Southern California is the big center for federal employment in the state, with 48,100 workers (equal to the estimate for the whole Bay Area) in Los Angeles County and 46,700 in San Diego County.

Marc Sandalow is Washington editor of the California News Service and associate academic director at the University of California’s Washington Center. KQED’s Mina Kim interviewed him about the likely effects of a government shutdown on California and the Bay Area.

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* * *
Some other links to the impact of the impending government shutdown:

Whitehouse.gov: Agency Contingency Plans

Washington Post: Absolutely everything you need to know about how the government shutdown will work

Wall Street Journal: What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Shutdown

U.S. News and World Report (via NBC): A government shutdown: What could it look like?

USA Today: 66 Questions and Answers About the Government Shutdown

New York Times: Who Goes to Work and Who Stays Home?

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Category: Politics and Government, Science

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About the Author ()

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.
  • http://www.cyclelicio.us/ Cyclelicious

    Regarding Capitol Corridor, operating subsidy is 100% provided by the state of California, isn’t it?

    • Dan Brekke

      That’s a good point, C’licious. The state pays for the service, Amtrak runs most of it; presumably, that would mean the service would continue unaffected even if other Amtrak services are shutting down

  • Stephen Sayad

    Please do not believe everything you hear. The tidelands at beaches such as Crissy Field and Ocean Beach are not federally owned. They are, respectively, State owned and City owned. Pursuant to the California Constitution, they are held in trust for use by the citizenry. The GGNRA only has a management permit over them. That permit cannot by any means be used to deny you access to the tidelands. If the GGNRA even attempts to block your access to the tidelands, they will have violated your civil rights.

  • Larry

    Will big basin be open since it is a state park, not national!

    • Dan Brekke

      Hi, Larry: Yes, Big Basin and all other state parks will be open. They shouldn’t be affected by the federal shutdown.

  • Sherry Ramos Resurreccion

    So I am planning to get a passport for my children this coming November will I have problems trying to obtain a passport for them?

  • hanspeter

    We are planning a visit and picnic at Millerton Point near Point Reyes Station this Sunday. Will Millerton be affected by the shutdown? How about State beaches or Parks like Hearts Desire or Tomales Bay?

  • Media Mentions

    I spent most of today reading up on the various consequences of
    the shutdown, and yet the bit that strikes me deepest isn’t all that’s happened
    because of the shutdown, but how easy it was to avoid. Case in point:
    http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/showlink.aspx?bookmarkid=V8P16797DH67&preview=article&linkid=2337e997-879e-43ad-95b8-237f83fd6005&pdaffid=ZVFwBG5jk4Kvl9OaBJc5%2bg%3d%3d