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Impacted U.S. communities pay price of shutdown

October 14, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
From local economies dependent on defense spending to tourist hot spots reeling from closures, communities across the nation are feeling the pinch of the government shutdown. Judy Woodruff gets perspective from Cathy Lewis of WHRV in Hampton Roads, Va., Karen Kasler of Ohio Public Radio and Scott Shafer of KQED in San Francisco.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on what’s being seen in the states, we turn to other public media colleagues representing three different regions, Cathy Lewis, host of a public affairs radio call-in program on WHRV in Hampton Roads, Va., Karen Kasler, capital bureau chief for Ohio Public Radio and Television in Columbus, Ohio, and Scott Shafer, host and correspondent for “The California Report” on KQED Public Radio. He joins us from San Francisco.

Welcome back to the NewsHour to all three of you.

Scott, let me start with you out on the West Coast. What are you seeing in California?

SCOTT SHAFER, KQED: Well, there is a range of feelings and impacts, Judy, ranging from annoyance to anger.

California has about 150[,000] civilian federal employees. They are disproportionately located in places like San Diego, which has a large military presence, Twentynine Palms, Los Angeles, places where there are a lot of defense installations.

And so what you are seeing is the impact not only on those individual employees who have been furloughed or are still furloughed, but on the businesses that rely on those employees. For example, Yosemite Park, an iconic park in California, a lot of the businesses in small towns like Sonora rely on those tourists, but they are being turned away. And some motels, hotels, restaurants, cafes are really feeling the pinch.

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Karen Kasler, what about in Ohio? You heard what Scott just said. What would you say your sense is there in the middle of the country?

KAREN KASLER, Ohio Public Radio: Well, we had about 75,000 federal workers here in Ohio as of August. About 22,000 of them are post office employees. And our federal workers in Ohio are divided between Department of Defense and non-defense jobs.

And the Department of Defense jobs, most of them have been headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton. There are about 8,700 civilian employees who were furloughed at the start of this shutdown. They have been recalled under the Paramilitary Act. Same thing goes for the 1,800 technicians at the Ohio National Guard who were brought back. Ohio has the second largest National Guard in the country.

But we also have a lot of other non-defense workers who are still out of work; 3,000 workers at NASA’s John Glenn facility in Cleveland are out of work. Also, of course, Social Security offices, those workers are not getting paid, and then IRS offices. There is a big IRS office in Cincinnati, as you might remember from the Tea Party scrutiny scandal earlier this year, about 300 workers there. It is the largest employer in Covington, Ky.

So we have a lot of people scattered around the state. About 6,600 federal employees in Ohio have filed for unemployment as of last Friday.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, that sounds like in many different sectors of the state.

Well, let me turn to Virginia now.

Cathy Lewis, Hampton Roads, we know a heavy military presence here. But what are you seeing across the state?

CATHY LEWIS, WHRV: It is a very similar story, actually, to what is happening in Ohio, if you remove the IRS office, because we have most of our defense workers are back on the job now.

What’s been interesting to observe here is some of these shared relationships that happen at tourist venues, Jamestown, Yorktown. In Mount Vernon, which is privately owned, there was a little bit of a scuffle around the Park Service trying to close down parking lots leading into Mount Vernon. They were able to resolve that.

In the case of Jamestown, part of it is owned by the state, part of it is owned by the federal government, so the state elements are open for business, field trips being canceled and rescheduled early on in the shutdown. Yorktown is an interesting case, because, of course, this is a big weekend in Yorktown. This is the anniversary of the Battle of Yorktown, a decisive battle in the revolution and — Revolutionary War.

And you have elements owned by the state, and, of course, the battlefield is owned by the Park Service. So those state agency initiatives will continue. But the federal ones will not.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, again, so, a combination of the direct employees and the military and then people affected by that.


Scott Shafer, back to you in San Francisco. You touched on tourism. I mean, how much of — California is to some extent a tourist destination. How much of that is a factor in how…


SCOTT SHAFER: Well, the thing about California, Judy, is it’s such a large state. And although we have a relatively large percentage of the total number of federal employees here, we have 14 million non-farm jobs.

And so it’s really kind of a drop in the bucket. And I don’t mean to diminish the impact. When it’s building felt by small businesses and individuals, that’s very real. But if — for example, if you are a tourist and you come to San Francisco and you find out that Alcatraz is closed, as it is, there are a lot of other things to do.

Not so true for Yosemite Park. But the point is, California is so big, unlike, say, Virginia or Maryland, where such a — they are so dependent on federal employees and the spinoff economic activity that they provide, that although, like I said, the pain is being felt here…


SCOTT SHAFER: … in terms of the overall economy, the overall impact and the long-term impact, I think it’s much less in California than it might be in some smaller states.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Karen Kasler in Ohio, you were telling us earlier that there are some unlikely effects of the shutdown. You mentioned a civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice into the Cleveland police force, for example. Remind us about that.

KAREN KASLER: Well, that’s an investigation that is ongoing right now. And, yes, that’s not happening right now because of the federal government shutdown.

There are a couple of other things. Here in Ohio, we’re not so dependent on tourism, especially at federally operated places. We do have the First Ladies Library in Canton, which is closed down. The Air Force museum in Dayton is closed down. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is closed down. And that actually resulted in the rescheduling of a marathon that was supposed to happen this past weekend; 1,200 runners were scheduled to run that. They have now been rescheduled to another weekend.

So there are some other impacts beyond just the job-related things here. But certainly we’re not feeling the pain I think as much as — as Scott said, as Maryland and Virginia are.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Cathy Lewis, do people talk about who is to blame, the people you talk to? Do they talk about that? Is it frustration in general with the federal government? What do you hear?

CATHY LEWIS: You know, it is deep frustration and deep anger.

I talked with someone today who said, look, we’re here, we’re doing our jobs. Our pay is going to be delayed. We have nothing to do with this. We’re here doing our jobs. And we can’t do anything to solve it. And yet we’re the ones who are paying the price.

So it is enormously frustrating. And you have to remember that here in Southeastern Virginia, Hampton Roads, what you have is a situation where folks have already been furloughed. They have already experienced that before the end of the fiscal year. Then you have the continuing resolution problem. Then you have the debt ceiling.

And we have been told in this region that there is going to be another round of sequestration cuts as well. So people are very, very frustrated. They’re frustrated as well with the uncertainty of it. I talked with a woman earlier today who said she really didn’t know until Friday whether her mortgage payment was going to clear, because the supervisors at her husband’s job really weren’t clear, because they didn’t know who was going to be paid and when those payments were going to be made.

So, I think there is a lot of frustration , particularly as we look to the end of the month, with retiree pays coming out.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, Scott, to you, and then Karen.

Scott, what about in California? People you talk to, what do they say about what they see coming out of Washington?

SCOTT SHAFER: Well, they’re very frustrated. They’re angry. Some people in this more liberal part of California do tend to blame Republicans.

But even in deeply Republican parts of the state, there is a lot of anger. The good thing about California, I suppose, is that we have been through this so many times in Sacramento with late budgets and 11th-hour negotiations and missed budgets and huge budget cuts that maybe we’re a little harder to rattle out here.

It is having a big impact on the Republican Party. There’s concern as they try to rebrand themselves here in California that this isn’t helping them to get their message out to, say, women and minorities and younger people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Karen, just quickly, 20 seconds, what about there in Ohio?

KAREN KASLER: Well, Ohio is a unique state, in that President Obama won Ohio in 2012, but Republicans have dominated the last two congressional cycles. And that’s been the case in the last situation here with regard to the Republican Party really having a situation where they have to think about the next election.

And though the way the districts are drawn, it seems unlikely that there is going to be any long-term effect, at least looking at it now, on going to Congress from Ohio, the Republicans seem to be pretty safe, even though polls have shown a lot of people are very frustrated with the Republican Party in particular, though there is still some anger toward Democrats as well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Karen Kasler in Ohio, Scott Shafer in San Francisco, Cathy Lewis in Hampton Roads, we thank you all.

SCOTT SHAFER: Thank you.

CATHY LEWIS: Thank you.

KAREN KASLER: Glad to be here.