Everyone’s cramped in the temporary Statehouse, none more so than the press. The Statehouse press corps is crammed elbow-to-elbow into a 10-by-10 foot room, with overflow space consisting of a table in the basement hallway downstairs (pictured here, with AP reporter John Miller working away). We installed a small coatrack on the back of the door of our room, but with way too many coats, needed more. The free-standing hall tree that once stood in the spacious, though dark and airless, Capitol basement press bullpen disappeared in the move. So lacking any other option, I bought a new free-standing wooden coatrack at Fred Meyer, assembled it, hauled it down here and set it up in the basement hallway next to the overflow table on the first day of the session, with a label noting it was for press use. That worked for one day. The next morning, it was gone.
Within hours, the errant coatrack had been recovered from a second-floor office, where one of the secretaries had appropriated it. One Statehouse pundit theorized that the incident is a sign of a changing culture here, where lawmakers and staffers bereft of their usual surroundings are grasping at anything – even other people’s coatracks – to try to settle in. I’m not sure I buy that. But there’s definitely a big adjustment under way as Statehouse denizens try to adjust to their new, much smaller surroundings. The former Ada County Courthouse has just 36,000 usable square feet, compared to more than 67,000 in the state Capitol. Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, has compared the situation to going camping for two years. To stretch that metaphor even further, it’s kind of like a big group camping trip, a family reunion, say, where Aunt Martha turns up in the wrong tent, the cousins are squabbling and the grandkids rampage noisily through the group campsite at dawn after the grownups were up late around the campfire. Unfortunately, there’s no fresh, pine-scented air.
An update to lawmakers on the Capitol renovation this morning said the “substantial completion date” is now targeted for Nov. 13, 2009, with final completion, when the Capitol would become usable again, “at least 30 days after that.” That’s cutting it close, certainly. If the schedule holds, just two legislative sessions will be held outside the Capitol. If it slips, it could go to three.