STAFF-LED TOURS OF THE CAPITOL -- (House of Representatives - March 05, 2009)
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my deep concern about the difficulties Member offices are experiencing offering staff-led tours of the Capitol.
As Chair of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, I am fully committed to making sure Member offices can continue providing this important service to their constituents.
The Capitol is not a museum. It is a living, breathing institution at the core of our representative democracy. Staff-led tours give our constituents a chance to experience the work that goes on here on a personalized level.
When there was talk last year about eliminating staff-led tours, we made clear at our oversight hearings that preserving those tours should be one of the highest priorities for the Capitol Visitor Center. Reflecting that priority, we included a provision in last year's Legislative Branch Appropriations bill prohibiting the elimination of staff-led tours.
However, preserving the existence of the tours and putting a button on the CVC Web site is simply not enough. We also need to make sure that the system in place doesn't diminish Member offices' ability to offer staff-led tours. Mr. Brady and I intend to work aggressively over the next few weeks to ensure that improvements to the system arrive before the peak visitor season hits.
Staff who give tours should receive training, but we need to make sure that the time requirements make sense, that the training is consistent and effective, and that classes are offered frequently enough to meet Member office needs. We also need to make sure that we don't homogenize the Capitol tour and turn this beautiful institution into a museum.
Staff-led tours offer something that guide-led tours cannot, a personalized experience that incorporates items of State and local interest. We need to make sure that we don't take that personal touch out of the tour process.
We also need to make sure that Member offices are given clear information about how to accommodate their constituents if the on-line reservation system shows all the slots for a given day are taken.
The CVC Web site and reservation system also could stand improvement, particularly standardizing the on-line process for booking staff-led tours so that you don't have to hunt and peck to figure out how to book one.
I look forward to working with Mr. Brady and the authorizing committees on these issues so we can make the existing system more user-friendly, without compromising security or overloading the Capitol building.
And I encourage and ask all Members if they have suggestions to please offer them to us.