Matters of security and access

FARGO – Saturday’s shooting rampage in Arizona has officials at all levels of government questioning security practices and whether new measures need to be taken to ensure the safety of elected leaders.

For Tuesday’s edition of The Forum, we asked every representative in the North Dakota and Minnesota congressional delegations and members of local government bodies how they feel about their own safety. Read that story on INFORUM.

On the federal level, our regional members of Congress said they would adhere to the procedures of the U.S. Capitol Police, which oversees their safety in Washington, D.C.

They also indicated that constituents’ level of access to them likely wouldn’t change – which is positive news here in North Dakota, where that access seems to be much more on a face-to-face level than elsewhere in the country.

Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad | Republican Sen. John Hoeven | Republican Rep. Rick Berg

Here are the responses  we received specifically from members of North Dakota’s delegation:

Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad:

  • “The Senator does not comment on security issues.”

Republican Sen. John Hoeven:

  • Will this tragedy change how much access North Dakotans have to you as their representative?

    “Meeting with North Dakotans and listening to their views is one of the most important and rewarding parts of my job, and I don’t plan to change my approach to doing that.”
  • Is increased security necessary for members of Congress and their staffs? Would you support enhanced security measures, and if so, to what extent?

    “Being new to the Capitol, I’m not sure. But the Senate and House leadership have asked the Capitol Police to review current policies and procedures and we’ll see what they have to say. Meanwhile, all of us will continue to exercise reasonable and prudent precautions when appropriate.”
  • Do you feel public service is dangerous? If so, why take the risk and how do you handle that risk?

    “I don’t believe it’s inherently dangerous. Tragic assaults like the one we saw in Tucson on Saturday are relatively rare, and usually the actions of an emotionally unstable individual. Such an assault can, and does, happen to people in all walks of life.”
  • Have you ever felt threatened as a public official?

    “No, North Dakota is a wonderful state, with a very low crime rate. I have always felt comfortable getting out and meeting with people across the state.”

Republican Rep. Rick Berg:

  • “Congresswoman Giffords described our role best—being a Representative isn’t simply a job title, it’s a job description.

    Saturday’s events are both shocking and saddening, but it would be unacceptable for this senseless attack to prevent members of Congress from doing their job.

    My staff and I will gladly abide by any security recommendations offered by the U.S. Capitol Police, but we are also committed to maintaining open and regular contact with the people of North Dakota.  I look forward to meeting with North Dakotans as I continue to serve our great state.”