WASHINGTON -- House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has sent an letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asking why Occupy DC demonstrators are being allowed by the National Park Service to remain in McPherson Square despite federal regulations prohibiting camping:
The NPS has an obligation to the American people to explain the decisions that were made regarding the Occupy DC protesters in McPherson Square. The NPS allowed the protesters to camp in McPherson Square and kill newly planted grass that had been funded by the stimulus. Now much of the grass has been destroyed, wasting much of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money used to rehabilitate McPherson Square. The Oversight and Government Reform Committee is seeking to understand how these decisions were made and why.
Issa estimates in his letter that "more than $400,000" in stimulus dollars were spent rehabilitating the park, which has hosted Occupy DC demonstrators since Oct. 1. The money, according to the letter, went toward new grass, curbs, refurbished benches, new light poles, water fountains, new paint, new chain fencing, trash cans and light meters.
Issa contends in his letter that the protesters have been allowed by NPS "to ecologically damage the park significantly over the past two months by camping and killing the newly planted grass." Issa does not, in the letter, estimate how much stimulus money was spent on the grass, or how much it would cost taxpayers to repair any damaged grass. The Washington Times reports that a National Park Service spokesperson said that "the grass itself only cost between $20,000 and $30,000."
Occupy DC protesters responded to previous complaints about their mistreatment of McPherson's park land by offering to rehabilitate the grass themselves.
Issa has demanded answers, no later than Jan. 3, to 16 questions about the National Park Service's dealings with Occupy DC -- among them, why the demonstrators have been permitted to camp in the park, a full list of arrests made in the park relating to the demonstration and an explanation of "when, if ever, the NPS plans to force the protesters to stop camping in McPherson Square."
Occupy DC's reaction to Issa's letter thus far? A tweet:
You know what, Issa? I'm with you. I too would like an explanation as to why $400,000 in taxpayer money was spent on a park in a 1% 'hood.
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