If the Government Can't Run, Then Neither Can Joggers, Apparently


When John Bell went for a run on Sunday, he never expected he'd become the poster child of the effects the shutdown is having on citizens. For running in a national park during the shutdown, he was fined $100. The government needs to stop actively making life more difficult for citizens whose actions would be completely fine if the House did its job in the first place. Targeting citizens does nothing to better the national situation.

An avid runner, Bell has run almost 100 marathons, including the Boston Marathon, the Philly Marathon, and the New York Marathon. He elected to drive half an hour to Valley Forge because the terrain of the park is ideal for his current stage of training. When he arrived, there was no indication that the park was closed. There were no signs or barricades, and plenty of citizens were running and biking.

Four miles into his run, Bell noticed flashing police lights by his car. He approached the officers, who fined him $100 for entering the park during the shutdown, despite the lack of official warning that the park was closed.

There was no reason for Bell to be fined. If officers wanted him to leave they could have just told him the park was closed. If their goal was to deter others from visiting, issuing a fine makes no sense. If they're seeking to collect fines to pay down the debt, $100 isn't even a drop in the proverbial bucket.

What this amounts to, at best, is a political ploy. With House Republicans blaming Democrats for not compromising, and key Democrats, including the president, blaming Republicans for acting like children, any negative impact the shutdown has on individual citizens should bolster each party's base.

However, citizens blame both parties and the president, for the shutdown, which affects citizens in a number of ways beyond the parks. Those enrolled in the federal Women, Infants, and Children food program can't access their vouchers, NASA interns are evicted from their housing, and furloughed government workers still don't know what's next.

Instead of targeting citizens like Bell whose actions would be perfectly ordinary if the House could manage to do its job, all those involved need to realize that the political ploys and rallying aren't working. Instead, they need to pressure the House to refund the government so citizens like Bell can return to their daily routines.