Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

March 27, 2013

Locked out

Press excluded from mayors’ meeting with Mikulski

You’d think a meeting about how the federal government can help rural communities promote job growth would hardly be a topic for discussion behind closed doors. But that was not the case Tuesday.

When U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski met with the mayors of Cumberland and Frostburg, the press was not permitted to listen in.

It’s puzzling why that was the case. Unless there was some highly sensitive information under discussion — and we have no reason to believe there was — why the secrecy?

Emerging from the meeting, Mikulski gave our reporter a regurgitated account of what was discussed. “We discussed how the federal government can help rural communities in tight budget times. I’m on your side,” said Mikulski.

We’ve never doubted that the senator is on the side of Western Maryland. We’d just like to be able to report directly on such meetings, rather than be given an after-the-fact summary.

Mikulski went on to explain that the ongoing logjam in government has been broken on several fronts. She pointed out that the sequester was triggered on March 21 with its deep cuts, a threat of government shutdown for March 27 and a Senate that has not passed a budget in four years.

“Last week, we broke the logjam. The government will not shut down,” she said, citing a continuing funding resolution with a 76-23 vote that will keep government from closing.

Apparently other topics discussed in the closed session included the north-south highway, strained local budgets and public safety.

Those were all topics we would like to have reported on in more detail — if only our reporter had been permitted to attend.

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