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'Potty Parity' hearing set for today

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Amid a disastrous oil spill, a Supreme Court nomination and the ongoing financial regulatory reform debate, some lawmakers will spend a few hours on Wednesday worrying about restrooms. Specifically, restrooms in federal buildings.

Crack all the jokes you want, but advocates think it's a big deal. Most federal buildings are about 40 years old and current federal standards still allocate more restrooms for men than women. Legislation introduced by Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) tries to right the imbalance by requiring an equal number of bathroom fixtures for men and women in buildings owned and leased by the feds.

Kathryn H. Anthony, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign School of Architecture, will appear before Towns's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday to talk about an issue "near and dear to the hearts and bladders of women and children all across the United States," according to her prepared testimony.

The problem is rooted in an era "where women were not as prevalent in the public realm and in the workforce as we are today," she'll say. "Until recently, most architects, contractors, engineers, building code officials, and clients were not concerned about this issue. They rarely contacted women about their restroom needs, women were rarely employed in these male-dominated professions, nor were they in a position to effect change."

The federal government is well behind several states and cities and Japan, where public restrooms are "integral parts of the urban landscape," according to Anthony.

"If it were up to me, constructing cutting-edge, well designed, safe 21st century public restrooms should be part of another national stimulus package." Hmm... really?

Is "potty parity" worthy of Congressional concern? Have you had issues with this problem?

UPDATE: Via Twitter, Washington Sketch artist Dana Milbank wants your "potty parity" puns: Will the bill stall? Is there an overflow room at the hearing? Let him know

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Hot Link: Check out the daily rundown of Defense Department contracts issued each day. The list updates around 5 p.m. daily. (Hat tip: Tom Shoop and Marc Ambinder.)

Question of the Week: How will the federal base realignment and closing plans affect your commute, if at all? Will it make your ride to work longer or shorter? E-mail your answers to federaleye@washingtonpost.com and please include your full name, home town and the agency for which you work. We might include your response in Friday's Washington Post.

William Bratton meets with performance managers: The former New York and Los Angeles police chief will share his thoughts on performance management today with the government's public improvement officers. Administration officials consider the chief's appearance as another example of reaching beyond the Beltway for "real world" management ideas, similar to the January CEO summit and President Obama's new management council. Bratton used the COMSTAT program in both cities and crime dropped -- so officials hopes his experiences remind federal managers that performance management isn't just rhetorically appealing, but also practical.

Cabinet and Staff News: First Lady Michelle Obama unveils the goals for her childhood obesity campaign. Elena Kagan will hold seven meetings with Senators on Wednesday as the White House defends her diversity record and we learn that she once represented The Washington Post in court. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to lead first Cabinet-level trade mission next week to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Jakarta.

CDC:
Premature birth rate drops 2nd year in a row: From the early 1980s through 2006, the rate of babies born prematurely, or at less than 37 weeks gestation, rose by more than one-third, the agency said.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
BRAC move will give Army post more workers than Pentagon: The $4 billion realignment campaign at Fort Belvoir is not the biggest in the Army, but it certainly is the most complex, involving 160 Defense Department agencies and a myriad of local governments.

EPA:
Chesapeake Bay Foundation settles suit against EPA: The deal comes a day before the federal agency is to announce a major cleanup strategy mandated by a presidential executive order.

FCC:
FCC weighs plan to warn of high cellphone bill: The initiative is intended to help consumers avoid what the commission calls “bill shock.”

FEDERAL RESERVE:
Senate votes 96-0 to audit Federal Reserve: The congressional audit would examine the its emergency aid program and disclose previously secret recipients of bailout money.

GOVERNMENT WORK/LIFE/OPERATIONS:
House unites to call for federal workers' safety: Lawmakers unanimously approved Tuesday a resolution that expressed their continued support for the safety and security of federal workers.

For applicants, federal hiring reform a relief: Frustrated federal job seekers say they like the changes proposed by President Obama.

NGA headquarters will be largest LEED-certified building: The Defense Department agency that develops map-based intelligence for military and civilian leaders is putting itself on the map when it comes to environmentally friendly buildings.

INTERIOR DEPARTMENT:
Offshore drilling agency to undergo radical overhaul: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he would divide the Minerals Management Service in an effort to separate its apparently conflicting missions.

NASA:
Absent a Moon or Mars, recreating Space 65 feet under the sea: On Monday, a crew of six, including two veteran astronauts, descended to Aquarius, an undersea laboratory next to a coral reef about three miles off Key Largo.

SEC:
SEC suspects it knows what didn't cause Dow's 'flash crash': Pointing out the market's short-circuiting may have been the result of many factors, the agency's boss told lawmakers that the agency discounted rumors, including a "fat finger" mistake.

TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT:
Dealers-turned-candidates run into trouble: Four dealers-turned-candidates, all Republican, are under attack by opponents from both parties for railing against taxpayer bailouts less than a year after benefiting from the $3 billion program created in 2009 to boost car sales.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | May 12, 2010; 5:56 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Workplace Issues  
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Comments

More bathrooms for females? I suppose next they'll want suffrage or something.

Posted by: DPoniatowski | May 12, 2010 7:11 AM | Report abuse

Potty Parity? Depends!

Posted by: anonthistime | May 12, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Yes, it matters. Equality is not just a word. It matters because it says half the country is not very important.

Posted by: 7467pilgrim | May 12, 2010 8:06 AM | Report abuse

A ratio of 2:1 is more realistic. Two stalls and sinks for women for every one for men. Haven't you seen lines at the women's restrooms at just about any venue?

Posted by: ColleenKKing | May 12, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Washington, D.C. needs to build restrooms that are available to the public. Tourists have a dreadful time finding a place to "go." In Charleston, S.C. they have public restrooms in every parking garage.

Tourists have tried to come into Federal buildings just to use the restroom. This situation needs to be addressed, too.

Posted by: Whazzis | May 12, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Potties are really important IF you need to distract attention from real issues. For new building, or new leased space, this is a no-brainer (a subject Congress is fully qualified to discuss). Tell Rep Towns to put on his Depends and get to work.

Posted by: pjohn2 | May 12, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Kathryn Anthony needs a reality check. Hello lady, the USA is broke. The current bathrooms have flush toilets, sinks and running water. I doubt anyone is waiting in long lines at any federal agency. Nobody is forced to use an outhouse. Cutting-edge 21st Century bathrooms for federal employees? Give me a break.

Posted by: AnnsThought | May 12, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Crack all the jokes you want, but when you are a female working in a building without a women's rest room, you realize that this is a real issue. A bathroom break can take 15 minutes because you have to go down four flights of stairs and across the road. Then again, we have several buildings without bathrooms at all b/c the director didn't want to pay to have any plumbing run to the building, so I guess that was some sort of parity.

Posted by: rubytuesday | May 12, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

AnnsThought - I have been out for field work where an outhouse would be a luxury. Two females in the middle of the nowhere with 150 males for 14 hours a day. No, that wasn't an everday occurance, but if you are going to send female civilians out for that, there should be somce provisions for normal biological functions.

Posted by: rubytuesday | May 12, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Instead of "potty parity", why not just fix the bathrooms that are already there?

Most of the time when there's a problem, it's because a bathroom is out of order.

Posted by: postfan1 | May 12, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Years ago I was the senior person & hence de facto "in charge" of a somewhat remote gov't building that had originally been built as a lab/test facility, but became home to about 15 persons, mainly technical office people. The test area contained a rather large male restroom with multiple seats (I don't recall the exact number) as well as a couple of urinals, and a single-seat female restroom. In the original administrative area there were two adjacent single-seat restrooms - one rather more capacious than the other. Both had by custom become male.

When in our new personnel complement reached 3 females, we 3 decided it was time to reclaim a second restroom. The negotiations were extended and complex. One especially stubborn male wanted the most obvious candidate - the smaller single - to remain male because it was directly opposite his office, and therefore more convenient that the 5-6 extra steps around the corner. The women preferred be silent over the fact that the latest female assignee regularly monopolized the single female restoom for a very long period directly after lunch.

The negotiations involved not only the ratio of males to male seats vs females to female seats, but finally arguing the probability at any given time that no female seat was unoccupied vs the probability of the same situation for males. And they were long and contentious, before agreement was finally reached. (And in the end the stubborn male continued to occasionally use the room across from his office.)

All of this is amusing now, but I can only say -- good luck achieving "potty parity".

Posted by: icyone | May 12, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

"Crack all the jokes you want"

Crack jokes.

Get it?

Posted by: ObamasGulfResponseIsMuchWorseThanKatrina | May 12, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

They passed a potty law in Texas for public venues, and it did largely eliminate the extremely long lines of Females at concerts and sporting events. It was so bad that even when a crowd was 2/3 male, the women had to wait twice as long.
However, it still makes sense to consider how many males and females are employed at each location. The goal should be to make access and wait times equal, not to make the number of seats blindly the same. Note this meant in Texas, that women got more seats, because men do not take as long per average trip.

Posted by: Muddy_Buddy_2000 | May 12, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Then the question will be: How long before they start looking into accessible stalls, regardless of the gender the bathroom is intended for?

You know, those really wide ones everyone uses as changing rooms or to read the newspaper while wheelies have to wait?

Posted by: Moonwolf | May 12, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Women need more restroom facilities simply because they take longer, as research studies have proven. Females face the possibility of long lines in often crowded bathrooms because there aren't enough stalls.

A 1:1 ratio of male and female restrooms is simply not enough - readily observable at places of assembly (stadiums, airports, entertainment arenas, etc.).

Further legislation needs to be enacted that would require the doubling, tripling and maybe even quadrupling of the ratio of women's to men's toilets.

Carol Olmert
Author, "Bathrooms Make Me Nervous"

Posted by: colmert2 | May 12, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Simply make ALL restrooms available to everyone and Put a lock on the door.

Posted by: jaspeck | May 12, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Potty Parity? Depends!

Posted by: anonthistime | May 12, 2010 8:01 AM
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GRO-O-O-O-A-A-N-N-N!

No wonder you are "anon" "this time"!

But you know what? God knows who you are and there is a circle of hell reserved for punsters. ; )

Posted by: lquarton | May 13, 2010 12:53 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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