Capitol idea

Now that the smoke has cleared and the structure has been ruled sound, the time has come to examine a much more difficult problem at the state Capitol: How to balance the right of entrée versus the need for security. We suggest that the scale be tipped toward leaving the stately building open to access.

This edifice, like no other in this state, symbolizes security and lasting strength. Even cranky journalists are impressed with the magnificent granite structure. After all, how many buildings put up recently could withstand a ramming from an 80,000-pound truck and come away with relatively minor damages?

Perhaps more important, the building itself symbolizes democracy. It is currently democratic in it accessibility, evidenced by the thousands of visitors who routinely walk in and take a look at history, or history in the making during the legislative sessions. You don’t need an invitation from a politician or other person in power to get in.

You may also gaze upon it without obstruction and that too is democratic. In Europe the grand palaces are set back behind high walls and fences to keep the rabble out. At the White House, Thomas Jefferson used to throw open the doors in the afternoon and greet world leaders and carriage drivers alike.

Here in Sacramento, visitors can still get a guided tour and absorb the history. More important, they can easily listen and watch their representatives in action. At times this is either incredibly boring, or more like a carnival act, but we have the choice to watch if we want.

It would be a shame to overreact and throw up barricades to block access. Listening to some of the legislators after the incident lead us to believe that fences and other structures are about to be built. Metal detectors and voice-print technology can’t be far behind.

Why should one incident, involving one deranged man, dictate how all of us get to view the most impressive, historic and democratic building in the state?

Experts in the fields of architecture, urban planning, security and traffic engineering will be called in to committees to mull over the choices for beefing up the defense. Will it be concrete Jersey barriers or the reinforced bollards like at the White House that will be put up to stop mad bombers? The answer is neither should be considered.

They should remember that an attack from a loony can’t be stopped by some cement planters. After all, the most secure building on the planet, the White House, was dive-bombed in 1994 by a nut in a Cessna.

We ask that someone involved in considering the Capitol security consult a historian of democracy and consider doing nothing at all.