Thursday, October 10, 2013


Politics as risk

When I would tell clients that they should – I prefer “must,” but consultants only can suggest – consider “politics” as a risk, for most of the clients I was thinking locally: town councils, planning and zoning boards, streets, public safety. I also was thinking about state-level politics, but “not so much.” With the exception of vendors to the Federal government, Washington was almost an after-thought.

How much impact could the Federal government have on a local, or even interstate, business?

It turns out quite a bit.

Forget about the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that can shut down airports and disrupt business travel), or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that likewise interrupts business travel as well as import and export activities; these agencies must be considered risks for almost every organization that has any over-a-border interest.

Consider the Obama regime. It has shut down much of the government essentially over the Affordable Health Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare, including those agencies that generate revenue. It threatens to shut down most of the remaining services if an yet another hike of the Federal debt ceiling is refused. This follows a sequester of funds and services.

The President of the United States – POTUS – by fiat shut down the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the agencies that run Federal parks, monuments, etc.

In southeast Florida, that shut down means that the Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park are closed. Translation: For tourists, no entry and for the government, no entry fees. For businesses that operated on or into the park, it means they are out of busyness; they cannot get to their business.

Three headlines in the Miami (FL) Herald tell the plight in South Florida communities:

Keys fishing guides protest closure of Everglades National Park A

    ISLAMORADA -- Each day at noon, Capt. Matt Bellinger usually does his local radio fishing update from somewhere in the back country of the vast Everglades National Park, where he takes clients to fish for snook and tarpon or photograph birds and other wildlife.

    He always ends his updates with his mantra: “Get on the water. And go fish!”

    But on Wednesday, sunny with calm seas and a gentle breeze — a perfect day to be out on the water — Bellinger could not take clients to his beloved fishing grounds. Like all 401 national parks, the Everglades National Park was closed by the government shutdown.

Miami’s Biscayne National Park won’t be open to boaters during Columbus Day Weekend

    Like the rest of its counterparts around the country, Biscayne National Park is closed because of the federal government shutdown — but not if you want to fish, boat through on your way somewhere else, or seek shelter in a storm.

    But the thousands of powerboaters who normally gather in park waters over the upcoming Columbus Day weekend to anchor, raft, play music, dance and drink will not be welcome.

    Diving and snorkeling also are prohibited.

Fishing guides want back in Everglades

    ISLAMORADA, Fla. -- Frustrated by partial shutdown that has closed Everglades National Park and 400 other national parks across the country, fishing guides in the Florida Keys spearheaded a rally Wednesday hoping to convince federal officials to let them back into park waters.

    Although Keys state and offshore waters remain open to anglers, fall is a prime season for visitors to fish in the park's shallow estuaries for prized gamefish, such as snook, tarpon, redfish and trout.

    Guides who depend on that for income have lost money and are frustrated with Washington leadership's inability to pass a budget to fully reopen federal resources.

And that’s just the tip of the peninsula. I would provide a map of Federal parks in Florida but “Because of the federal government shutdown, all national parks are closed and National Park Service webpages are not operating. For more information, go to” And then we are told to “Experience Your America.”

An aside: the Interior Department’s Web site does provide Information on the Department's preparation of contingency plans for a possible government shutdown in October, 2013.

The DOI’s mandate includes:

  • Departmental Contingency Plan
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Bureau of Indian Education
  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
  • Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Fish and Wildlife Service
  • National Park Service
  • Office of the Inspector General
  • Office of Insular Affairs
  • Office of the Secretary
  • Office of the Solicitor
  • Office of the Special Trustee
  • Office of Surface Mining
  • US Geological Survey

Back in the day when I was an honest newspaper reporter & editor in Nevada, I came to learn how much ranchers, farmers, timbermen, and others depended on access to Federal lands controlled by BLM or the Forest Service, the latter’s Web site announces “Due to the lapse in agency funding, the sale of all types of permits (i.e., recreation, firewood, forest products, mineral materials for example) are suspended, reservations are suspended, and all federally owned recreation sites are closed. All offices are closed. These services will be available once funding is restored.”

Much of the Forest Service’s mandate includes revenue producing activities.

Another aside: I wonder what this means to people who have built year-round homes on Federal lands; will they be able to access them? Will the roads be allowed to deteriorate to the point where nothing less than a tracked vehicle will be able to travel on them sans serious damage?

Looking into the future and assuming the Affordable Care Act, apparently the major bone of contention between Republicans and the President - is sustained, what will happen to those insured under the Act if something like this political flap happens again? For that matter, on a personal level, what will happen to seniors who contract with Medicare vendors paid from Social Security funds? (The vendors get substantially more than the Part B $102/month per insured.) If Social Security shuts its wallet – the threat if the debt ceiling is not raised – and will the vendors continue to pay for the senior’s care; will the vendors be able to pay for their client’s care?

While many businesses are not directly impacted by the current and promised threats, many will indirectly feel the impact. (Consider education, veterans - already penalized. The list goes on and on.)

Bottom line: When thinking about “government as a risk” (and it truly IS a risk) practitioners must look beyond local and state governments and consider the Federal government as well.


If I wrote it, you may quote it

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