Monday, April 9, 2012

Post-Session Silence Settles Over Capitol

Posted By on Mon, Apr 9, 2012 at 9:31 AM

The Idaho Capitol was silent, save for the echo of heels clicking across the marble floor somewhere on a lower level. The heels and their owner ducked into a Garden Level office, where she mingled with her fellow staff, each pulling from a pile of envelopes and letters, stuffing one inside the other and sealing them before dropping them into a separate bin.

“The clerical staff are getting ready for the end-of-session letters,” explained LaVerne Wieczorek.

She grasped the handles of a large wooden cart she used to move the boxes of letters, each printed on Idaho State letterhead. They are constituent letters from the building’s lawmakers, some personal, some explaining the session’s legislation. “I haven’t read them,” Wieczorek cautioned.

“We’re sending out about 30,000 letters,” she said, “but right after the lawmakers leave, our workload drops off a cliff.”

While the mail center of the Legislative Services Office was abuzz with correspondence to and from Idaho’s politicians during the session, after the members pack their bags, the room grows quiet. Wieczorek seemed excited to spend more time at home.

“Everybody in this office is retired; this is just seasonal employment for us,” she said. “This year, I’m going on a trip to the Oregon coast for a week with my husband, and on a trip to Michigan, where we’ll pop over to Canada.”

Many of the remaining staff were more than happy to chat with BW for a few minutes, perhaps missing the busy pace of life in the Capitol. Kevin Servatius, the man behind the Galley restaurant, located in the catacombs beneath the Capitol Mall, said business was steady, but far from booming.

“I really didn’t see too many politicians,” said Servatius about the session. “Mainly, it’s the state employees. But this [post-session] is my fighting time.”

Servatius said he struggled to compete with the cafeteria in the West Wing Garden Level of the the Capitol.

“They really got me good last year; I was losing $10,000-$11,000 per month last session,” said Servatius. “But that was before they raised their prices. For the $10 or $11 they want over there, you could go downtown to a nice sit-down restaurant.”

A line queued up at Servatus’ stainless steel counter. Two customers chatted as they reached for coffee.

“I brought in a value menu, and that’s helped keep prices down,” he said, gesturing to a chalk board above the grill line.

The 2012 Legislature generated more than its share of frantic buzz–including heated committee hearings, pre-dawn budget hearings, and even a live ultrasound demonstration. But the Statehouse in April is defined by a nearly empty building with only a handful of staff left to tie up loose ends.

But not everyone had time for a late-afternoon, casual chat.

“I can’t talk to anybody,” said a janitor, pushing a bin of trash filled with remnants of the legislative session. “No, not at all.”

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