Monday, July 31, 2006

Denver hires Convention Insider for bid - update

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In a clear sign of the seriousness of Denver's bid to host the 2008 Democratic Convention, as well as the financial ability to support consultants, Denver has hired a "heavy hitter" to run its bid:

Debbie Willhite will be named executive director this week, the host committee confirmed Wednesday. ...

Her hiring brings a major Washington connection to Denver's bid. It also reinforces the seriousness of Denver's host committee. "We feel very proud of the fact that we have had a volunteer group of people bring it to this point," said City Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth, who will take over as president of the Denver 2008 Host Committee in a volunteer role. "But to bring it home we need to hire professional people - people who have the capability of ensuring that we will get the bid."

The committee is also bringing in Paul Lhevine as director of operations. Lhevine ran Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper's campaign in 2003 and most recently worked for the American Red Cross.

Dan Slater lists Willhite's resume:

- Sr. Vice President, United States Postal Service
Executive Asst. to DNC Chair McAuliffe during the 2000 Democratic National Convention
– Executive Director of the Denver Summit of the Eight, 1997
– Co-Executive Director, 53rd Inauguration, 1997
Site Selection Committee, 1996 Democratic National Convention
– Coordinated Campaign Director for the DNC, 1996
– Events Director, 52d Inauguration, 1993
Deputy Convention Director, Clinton for President, 1992
Housing Deputy Director and Floor Whip, Democratic National Convention, 1988
– National Organization for Women Democratic National Convention Delegate Coordinator, 1984
– Advance for Geraldine Ferrarro, Vice Presidential Nominee, 1984

Debbie is a person who knows all of the intricate details of putting a successful convention bid together, as well as the details of putting a convention together, as well. Folks in the DNC know Debbie, and they know that our selection of her — and her agreement to join us — is a sign of a quality organization here in Denver.

It's clear having Willhite on Denver's team will give Denver a leg up. I know that Wally Podrazik, a key logistcs member of the Technical Advisory Group, also did logistics for the two Clinton inaugarations, and therefore worked closely with Willhite. I would guess she personally knows just about every member of the TAG.

Update: The Rocky Mountain News talked to Willhite:
She said a Denver convention would help the Democratic Party advance its successful strategy of attracting independent voters in the Mountain West to win back the White House.

"I think the No. 1 purpose of the convention is to be a launching pad for the presidential nominee," Willhite said. "Denver serves that purpose in a number of ways. The most important way is that it stretches the electoral map and shows that the Democrats are reaching out to the Rocky Mountain West."

She said that gives Denver an edge over the other two competitors for the Democratic convention - New York and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Denver hosts '08 convention (1908 that is)

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The Rocky Mountain News has a great look at the last time Denver hosted the Democratic National Convention:

A century ago, a smaller, more provincial and isolated city captured the biggest prize of all. Mayor Robert W. Speer was eager to show off the new Municipal Auditorium. With beaming smiles and firm handshakes, he welcomed his fellow Democrats to the grand opening of their convention on July 8, 1908.

The Denver Convention League had seduced the Democrats with offers of free use of the auditorium, free decorations, free drinks and cash to cover the party's costs. Denver, the DCL told the Democratic National Committee, would be cool, clear and scenic while lowland cities sweltered in July heat, haze and humidity.

The DNC quickly got down to dollars and cents. Exactly how much would Denver pay to get the convention? The DCL was ready. It had raised $100,000: $25,000 donated by the city of Denver, $10,000 by Arapahoe County and $65,000 from private sources. That captured the Democrats, who had apparently been offered less by the other contenders in Atlantic City, N.J., Chicago, Louisville, Ky., and St. Paul, Minn.

Hmm, Denver got the 1908 bid over St. Paul? Very interesting...

The party's choice as its presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan, was a foregone conclusion, so Denver provided drama in other ways. The Denver & Rio Grande hauled in carloads of mountain snow every morning so delegates could cool off with a snowball fight. A group of Apache Indians was recruited to entertain the delegates. Their war dances and war whoops mingled with the hoopla of the delegates wearing, as Damon Runyon put it in the Rocky Mountain News, "a lot of badges and yelling all the time."

New York newspapers, perhaps reflecting that city's resentment about losing the convention to an upstart Western city, found fault. On July 10, The New York World claimed: "Denver is swamped. The restaurants today were down to stewed prunes with salt mackerel on the side, and tomorrow the chances are that conventioneers will subsist on ham sandwiches."

The New York Times commented July 7 that at this "populist" convention, "whiskers are in evidence everywhere, homespun suits are to be seen, also the 'biled' shirt and the hayseed."

The Rocky Mountain News reflected [on the convention]:

"The people of Denver have given a geography lesson to tens of thousands personally, and through the printed page to tens of millions. . . . They realize now that there is no vacuum between the Missouri and the Pacific coast, that the whole region between belongs to the same pushing, striving, energetic race that dwells on either side."

Stewed prunes with salt mackerel? Sorry I missed this one.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Bid cities to host receptions at August DNC meeting

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In April, the DNC held a meeting in New Orleans and I watched with interest how different cities were hosting receptions, and especially how Orlando's cancelling of their reception was followed 2 weeks later by them dropping out of the running to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Well the DNC is meeting in Chicago in August, and the three cities still in the running are all hosting parties:

New York: Thursday Aug 17 - evening
Minneapolis/St. Paul: Friday Aug 18 - evening
Denver: Saturday Aug 19 - morning

Unless the New York reception gets cancelled, I can assume the rumor about New York dropping out is unfounded.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Charleston Democrat rumor: New York is out

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I like to print all the rumors I see, but consider the source when deciding whether to believe this one:

DLC member, Phil Noble of Charleston was also impressed with Denver. “Everything you want is walking distance downtown,” he noted. “We all agree back home that the Democrats have get off the East Coast in ‘08." Then he whispered a secret: “We hear New York is out."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Denver Pepsi Center

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Denver is proposing that the 2008 Democratic National Convention take place at Denver's Pepsi Center.

The Pepsi Center opened in October, 1999, and is home to the NBA's Denver Nuggets, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche, and other teams. The bulding seats 18,000-20,000, depending on configuration, and 95 luxury suites. The building totals more than 675,000 square feet of building space, including a separate full-size practice basketball court.

A picture of the Pepsi Center and the surroundings is at left. Note that it is mostly surrounded by parking lots. But in the lower left, you can see Six Flags Elitch Gardens. I'm very interested to find out if Denver is planning to close the theme park during the convention. I would imagine they would want to use the parking lots for convention activities, and I would think that security concerns would not allow the public to park so close to a convention hall.

Update: The commenter and an emailer have both pointed out that there is a clear fence line between the theme park and the Pepsi Center parking lot, so an easy security line can be set up. There is also a lot of parking available at the college next door, as well as Invesco Field across the interstate. And by the way - the parking is not needed for cars - no one drives to a convention - but for any support space needed.

The picture is also old, as it does not show the CityLights Pavilion, which is in the parking lot just south of the "N". This music amphitheater could be used for a number of uses, either as media workspace, or as a place for VIP receptions.

At left is a diagram of the surrounding areas. What Denver doesn't have is a big building nearby to put all the media in. (St. Paul does, and New York does not). However, Denver has options. You could put up a temporary building, which Boston did in 2004. Or you could use buildings at the University of Colorado campus, right next to the Pepsi Center site. I would imagine either or both have been proposed.

I will update this entry as more information is found. Please comment or email any updates.

You can read more about the Pepsi Center in our Pepsi Center Tour post

Denver makes pitch to DLC Democrats

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The DLC was in Denver this weekend for a major meeting, and Colorado Democrats promoting Denver's bid to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention took full advantage of the opportunity:

"It was really well taken," Farber said Monday. Denver lawyer Steve Farber, who co-chairs the committee trying to woo the Democrats, hosted about 200 officials at his house Sunday night. He made a point to invite them back on the eve of the 2008 convention.


"Many of the delegates felt very comfortable with Denver, so it wasn't just pushing," he said. "It was letting them feel what Denver was about and knowing that Denver could do a good job hosting the convention."

In fact, the DLC gathering took the role of a kind of test run while Denver officials hinted, nudged and yanked the idea of a Western convention into conversations, or discussed the idea in informal meetings.

Before his remarks Monday, Mayor John Hickenlooper made sure to draw attention to the city's ability to host a large convention. "It is not just the hotel rooms, and it's not just how clean the city is," Hickenlooper said after he addressed the DLC. "I think they have been generally impressed with the spirit of the city. It's Republicans working with Democrats, and it's all important issues rather that just bickering over somebody's interpretation of a problem."


Local officials have been frothy on Denver's chances since New Orleans pulled out of the competition this month. Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff said Monday that the convention "is ours to lose."

Denver is very optimistic, but St. Paul has a lot going for it also.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Why the Democrats chose the St. Paul Xcel Center

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Last week the Democrats chose the St. Paul Xcel Center as the best venue for the Minneapolis/St. Paul bid to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Here are some details behind the choice:

"There are pros and cons to hosting a convention at any of the three facilities, [Minneapolis spokesman Jeremy] Hanson said. The Xcel Center is the newest of the three and is a state-of-the art facility, but it is located outside Minneapolis and will create logistical difficulties in having to shuttle attendees back and forth. The Target Center is in a prime location, but Hanson said the security perimeters around it would be the most difficult to arrange and several surrounding blocks would need to be closed off. The Metrodome has sheer size, but it is the oldest of the three facilities.
Very interesting. There's no doubt that having isolated arenas make it easier to set up security perimeters, and the lack of nearby buildings mean less effect on nearby businesses. Denver's Pepsi Center is similarly isolated. New York's Madison Square Garden is not, not to mention there's a major commuter hub sitting under the potential convention site. But there have been 4 conventions there in the last 30 years, so any issues have been already worked out.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Denver thinks it's the front-runner

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While some Colorado Democrats were pushing their convention bid at the DLC meeting in Denver, Dan Slater, Vice-Chair of the Denver 2008 Host Committee, was in Washington DC in a late effort to try to get the DNC to give an early caucus date to Colorado. While Nevada got the early caucus date, Slater thinks there is a reason Colorado lost:

One of the reasons we could not gain any traction was a feeling among committee members that the Convention is likely to be awarded to Denver. I heard from a lot of Committee members that they really wanted to see the Convention in Denver in 2008. Only one of the three remaining cities has that groundswell of support and momentum — and that’s Denver. On that front, I think it is safe to say that the Host Committee will be announcing more news of progress in the next week or two.
Denver has a been a bit quiet the last few weeks, especially compared to Minneapolis/St. Paul's recent announcements. I'll keep an eye on what Denver announces.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Did the Democrats pick the best date?

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Pontificator believes the Democrats made a mistake when they chose their convention to be held the last week in August. I just wrote a response, arguing that Dean chose the best week possible. Read both posts, and let us know what you think. (Also cross-posted at Daily Kos).

For previous articles on this, see: Link, link, link, link, link, link, link, link, link and link.

DLC to meet in Denver this weekend

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The Democratic Leadership Council will be meeting in Denver this weekend:

The Democratic Leadership Council will hold a "national conversation" July 22-24 at the Hyatt Regency Denver. Speakers will include Sens. Hillary Clinton, of New York, and Evan Bayh, of Indiana, and Govs. Janet Napolitano, of Arizona, and Bill Richardson, of New Mexico. All have been mentioned as possible candidates for president.

Many of Colorado's top Democratic politicians will attend, including Sen. Ken Salazar; Reps. Mark Udall and John Salazar; Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper; and state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.

And, of course, it gives Colorado Democrats another opportunity to promote their bid to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Democratic Convention Quotes

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Here are some recent quotes from and about the cities bidding for the 2008 Democratic National Convention:

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman:

I am very optimistic that one of these conventions would be held in the Twin Cities. When you look at the amount of time that the Democrats spent in the Twin Cities, they're doing it for a reason."
DNC spokesman Damien LaVera:
"In the end, we're sure we'll select a city that will position our candidate for a great campaign," LaVera said, adding that logistics are the main factor in deciding where the convention is located.
City Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth, co-chairwoman of Denver's host committee, discussing St. Paul and New York:

"Denver is the only one not bidding for the Republican National Convention as well."

"More from Wedgeworth:

"It's been 100 years since we've hosted a convention here," she said. "We're also casting it as a regional bid - Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Kansas - we look at it as a place focusing on the Midwest and the West."
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, on New Orleans dropping its bid:
"It's hurricane season and that makes it tricky," he said. "They were certainly a sentimental favorite, but after Katrina it will take a few years before people feel comfortable. I think they will come back, though. It's a great city."
"And just like the last time I did this, I couldn't find one quote about New York. There's just nothing interesting to say about New York's bid, and I don't think that's a good thing for New York's chances.

Live from St. Paul...

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Back in December, when the list of the 33 cities invited to bid for the 2008 Democratic National Convention was first released, I wrote:

The list is basically the same as the 35 cities on the 2004 invitee list, with the following differences:
In 2004, Minneapolis and St. Paul were both on the list (which made no sense), but only Minneapolis is on the 2008 list.
"Only Minneapolis is on the 2008 list."

Well, as the St. Paul Pioneer-Press notes, times have changed:
If the Democratic National Convention comes to these Twin Cities in 2008, the network anchors will have a terrible time figuring out exactly where they are. And that could be a very good thing for St. Paul.

The convention headquarters would be in Minneapolis. Many events and organizations would be based at the Minneapolis Convention Center and at downtown Minneapolis hotels. But the actual Democratic National Convention — the main evening event, where the party nominates candidates for president and vice president and politicians orate as if microphones haven't
been invented — would be at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

"This is Katie Couric, reporting from Minneapol- … from Minnesot- … from St. Paul."

Visiting scribes and pundits invariably tell the world they are in Minneapolis even if they are in Oakdale or White Bear Lake or St. Paul. But this time, they may have to learn St. Paul's name.
New York City, which is never referred to as Newark, and Denver, rarely confused with Colorado Springs, are also in the running.
Jack Larson, vice president and general manager of Xcel Energy Center, said the Democratic inspection team appeared to be impressed that Xcel's arena space is linked to the RiverCentre convention space and to Roy Wilkins Auditorium. Both could be used for media facilities and the many sideshows to the main event. "It's almost exactly what they need,'' Larson said. "Each area we took them to, their eyes lit up a little more.''
Network anchors and reporters, please take geographic note: "Welcome to the
Democratic National Convention, from St. Paul, Minnesota.''

Sounds good to us.

We'll start to take more comprehensive looks at each cities' facitilies soon.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Twin Cities also push region's strength

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I wrote yesterday about how Denver is promoting its bid as representing the whole Mountain West region. Well Minneapolis/St. Paul is playing that game also:

"Here at the headwaters of the Mississippi River, you can be at the headwaters of a political strategy that will win the next election," Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said at a news conference Monday with his St. Paul counterpart, Chris Coleman.
But the mayors are working hard to repackage Minnesota as part of a region that could determine the outcome of the 2008 election. Together with the swing states of Wisconsin and Iowa, there are 27 electoral votes in play in the Upper Midwest, or the equivalent of Florida. Go downriver to up-for-grabs Missouri and Arkansas and the tally rises to 44 votes - not quite California-sized, but bigger than any other single state.
WCCO adds this:
The crux of their pitch? Midwest values -- red and blue river states up for grabs. "All of those states will be in play in the next election," said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. "What we are saying to those candidates is nominate your candidate, put them on a boat, head down the river, and from this great vantage point you can campaign through the heartland of America."
Rybak said a couple of weeks ago:
"The mountains (of Denver) are a pretty picture, but the Mississippi River is a political strategy.

Well, Denver clearly has a region behind its bid also, so this regional battle may turn out to be a wash.

Oh, and by the way, the most successful post-convention "trip"? That would be the Clinton-Gore bus trip in '92, first stopping in Pennsylvania and continuing west through all the major battlegrounds states. And where did that bus trip originate? New York.

Dems choose St. Paul Xcel Center for Twin Cities bid

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It was an unconfirmed report I noted 3 weeks ago, but now it's official. The DNC has told the Minneapolis/St. Paul bid committee that if Minneapolis/St. Paul gets the 2008 Democratic National Convention, the convention itself will take place in the St. Paul Xcel Energy Center.

The arena would host the evening events, including nomination speeches, endorsement votes and the candidate's acceptance speech, the mayors said at a press conference at the arena. They said there would be plenty of hospitality across the Twin Cities.

The Minneapolis Convention Center would host an "energizing grass roots experience" for DNC delegates and Minnesota residents, the mayors said in a release handed out at their press conference at the Xcel this morning. The Hilton Hotel in Minneapolis would be the headquarters for the convention.

More from an earlier report:

St. Paul City Council Member Dan Bostrom, who sits on the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau board, said Sunday a focus on Xcel would strengthen the Twin Cities' bid. ... "Everybody that's been here, they love it," Bostrom said. "It's well-maintained, the sight lines are great and it's got great fit and finish. It sells very well."

But Bostrom stressed that the event would be a cooperative venture. The gathering typically fills 20,000 hotel rooms, more than 10 times the 1,500 rooms in downtown St. Paul.

And since local planners have suggested that the neighboring RiverCentre and Roy Wilkins Auditoriums could be used as media workspace, smaller convention-related gatherings likely would wind up elsewhere, in large Minneapolis hotels or that city's convention center, for istance.

The key here is the adjacent RiverCentre. Having a convention center right next to the convention arena provides excellent staff and media workspace that can be inside the security perimeter. Boston had to build a new building for the media in 2004. New York used the Farley Post Office building for the GOP in 2004, but it's not available for 2008. While there are many logisitical issues to look at, having large adjacent workspace available will be a plus for St. Paul's bid. (Denver and New York surely have solutions to this problem, but I'm not aware of them).

But there's even more. In what to my knowledge is a first, they are proposing to hold the daytime, non-televised events in a different venue :

Daytime meetings would be held across the river at the Minneapolis Convention Center, near the Minneapolis Hilton hotel headquarters for the convention.

To me, this presents a number of issues. While the daytime events are not televised by the networks, CSPAN does gavel-to-gavel coverage, and the cable nets normally would do their shows live from the convention hall even if boring stuff is going on in the background. So for CSPAN, the convention hall will still have to be wired and lit for television. And the cable nets will either have to set up studios in both places, or more likely, broadcast from a convention hall that will now be empty all day - not great visuals.

And while the daytime venue won't need presidential level of security, credentialing perimeters will still have to be setup. I understand the Twin Cities desire to spread the events around the two cities, but it would not suprise me if this separate daytime venue falls out of the bid at some point.

Update: Its pretty clear from news reports and the press release that the meetings at the Minneapolis Convention Center are smaller meetings (such as state caucuses, etc), and not part of the main convention proceedings. That would make more sense.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Denver looking for money from other Western states

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Denver is trying to get some money from neighbor states to help finance its bid to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention:

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper is asking governors of four other Western states to raise millions of dollars to bring the Democratic National Convention to Denver. While there is enthusiastic support for a Rocky Mountain convention in theory, governors are harder to pin down on dollars.

"What I said to John (Hickenlooper) is, 'Giddy-up, I'm in,"' Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer said. It's high time that Democrats across America see the kind of Democrats that we have in the West." While Schweitzer was ready to ride with the convention, he flinched at a $6 million figure tossed out by Hickenlooper on Tuesday. "Well, I'm a poor boy here in Montana," he said. "I told him it's going to be tough for us to round up a lot of money, but we would help however we could."

A private committee working to lure the Democrats vowed to cover the estimated $80 million cost with federal security funds and private donations. Hickenlooper has vowed not to use taxpayer dollars if Denver wins the bid, pledging instead to raise money around the region. He told City Council members Tuesday that he has spoken to the governors of Arizona, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming and hopes to bring them to Denver next month. "This is not just about Denver," Hickenlooper told council members. "It's really about Colorado, and it's actually about the Rocky Mountain West."
"It isn't just about fundraising for the convention. It's about a vision of a convention that represents not just Colorado but the entire Rocky Mountain West," Hickenlooper's spokeswoman, Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, said. "It's a platform to build more collaborative dialogues and efforts among the Western states."
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano also expressed support without committing to any actual money. This is good move by Denver. Even if it only gets a small amount of money, by promoting the idea of a regionally supported convention, it is assuring more supporters for the bid, giving Denver a better chance of getting the convention.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Daily Kos Poll - updated numbers

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Kos put up a poll yesterday. Current results (2064 votes):

Denver: 61%
Minneapolis: 26%
New York: 11%

In a May 25 poll, the results were (8033 votes):

New Orleans: 35%
Denver: 33%
Minneapolis: 23%
New York: 7%

so Denver has picked up most of New Orleans' supporters.

Denver comments on New Orleans

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Dan Slater, Vice-Chair of the Denver 2008 Host Committee, is very happy that a potential contender is gone:

This is obviously great news for Denver’s ongoing bid. New Orleans’ exit leaves Denver, New York City, and Minneapolis - St. Paul as the only remaining finalists for the 2008 Convention (and both New York and Minneapolis - St. Paul are also bidding for the Republican Convention). (Caveat: for those of you who are unaware, I serve as the Vice-Chair of the Denver 2008 Host Committee.) The Denver 2008 Host Committee is continuing to work hard to raise the money and exceed the expectations of the DNC. Expect to continue to hear good news about our bid in the next few weeks…

Thursday, July 13, 2006

New Orleans is out - updated

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As I posted yesterday, New Orleans is no longer in the running to host the 2008 Democratic Convention:

New Orleans has dropped out of the race to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention, saying the cost of holding the event after Hurricane Katrina last year was too massive.


"The main reason is that we're not at a point to raise the millions and millions required," said Kelly Schulz, vice president of communications with the city's conventions and visitors bureau. Schulz estimated it would require at least $11 million in in-kind donations.

"If we're going to raise millions of dollars in sponsorship, it can go to other needs," Schulz said. "We're definitely open for business again, but there were larger needs. It might be a little early to host something this large."

It all came down to money for New Orleans, and this is the right decision for the city. While they could host the convention in 2008, and they would have done a fine job, the focus just needs to be on more important things.

I would also expect Howard Dean to be breathing a sigh of relief as he doesn't have to be in the position of saying no, or saying yes, to New Orleans.

A source tells me that they were told that New Orleans never really submitted a bid, or maybe never submitted a complete bid, after they supposedly got an extension. The details at this point are not important. No more posts about Librarians or Realtors. And then there were three...

Update: Comments from news reports from the cities:

New Orleans' WWLTV:
New Orleans Convention and Tourism President Steve Perry said the city would have needed to raise $70 million to host the event, money which generally comes from big Fortune 500 companies.

Perry said in a post-storm environment, New Orleans does not have any of those companies to turn to for help in raising the capital.

“The Democratic National Committee would have definitely loved to have come here, it would have been a perfect fit for them from the political side and it would have been a great fit for us from the tourism, and convention and meeting side. But the sheer finances of it now have just put it out of our range.”

From Denver's Rocky Mountain News:

Colorado Democrats aren’t breaking out the champagne just yet, but New Orleans’ decision to drop out of the race to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention certainly improves Denver’s odds.

"Clearly, the fewer contenders, the better," said Pat Waak, chairwoman of the Colorado Democratic Party. "I think many worried New Orleans would draw a sympathy vote. Now, with them out, we clearly have a better chance of hosting the convention," she said.

Still in the competition, however, is New York and Minneapolis-St.Paul, both strong contenders because they are so well-known to the eastern establishment, political observers say. "But I think Democrats are looking to the West, and Colorado certainly is one of those states that could switch from red to blue, so along with our scenery and proven capacity to host a convention, I think we are in a strong position," Waak said.

And from Minneapolis, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press:

“Given the current situation in New Orleans, when we looked at what we had to raise, financially -- $70 million -- we felt that wasn’t a good financial decision,” said New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau director of communications Mary Beth Romig when the Scoop called her this afternoon.

The dropout was first suggested by Democracy in Action and by the Demconwatch blog, so we thought we’d just ring up the Big Easy and see if it were true. Shore ‘nuff.

“Certainly, we don’t want it to be a reflection that we can’t host a convention that size,” Romig said. ...
But given that parts of the city are uninhabitable and, well, it’s hurricane season again, New Orleans apparently thought it had better things to spend $70 million on than balloon drops and chain-link fencing.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

New Orleans drops out?

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Democracy in Action is reporting that New Orleans has decided not to pursue a bid for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. I haven't seen this reported anywhere else, but the DiA site is usually reliable.

Tourism planners happy with Librarian convention

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The biggest issue New Orleans has to overcome to even have a chance of getting the 2008 Democratic National Convention is to show that the infrastructure is in place. Well, business convention planners attending the recently completed American Library Convention at the New Orleans Convention Center thought things went very well:

As the biggest conference held post-Katrina, national meeting planners watched the city perform for the ALA the last week of June — 10 months after the storm — to see if it remained capable of providing a world-class experience for an estimated 17,000 visitors.

Lingering questions about service staff shortages, a dearth of taxicabs and airport shuttles, and crime in the Crescent City remained. Patti Shock, chairwoman of the tourism and convention administration at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, said it’s one thing to convince a meeting planner to schedule an event but quite another to convince skittish members to attend.

“The images in my head are of the horrific things happening at the Convention Center — the reporter’s descriptions of the smell of death in the place. I would have a hard time walking into the Convention Center with those images in my head,” Shock said.


Deidre Ross, ALA director of conference services, said the media coverage wreaked havoc on the minds of her members. “People were nervous because of the stuff coming out of the media,” Ross said. “It was disgraceful. They always try to find the worst thing that happened and blow it up so our members thought all sorts of terrible things were going to happen to them.

“But the city was great. They immediately had an answer for any concerns and that was key. Because if they didn’t, our people would have been hysterical and no one would have come.”

The four-day ALA conference began June 24 and came off smoothly. “When we held the doors open and let them in building it was so emotional,” said Jill Alexander, Convention Center sales and marketing director. “We thanked everyone for coming and the attendees had tears in their eyes. They were so happy to be a part of everything.”

Ross said the ALA was concerned there wouldn’t be enough taxis to accommodate members but it turned out to be a non-issue. Staffing worries evaporated after the general service contractor said there was more than enough help. “We were last here in 2002 and there was no difference between now and then. I think New Orleans is back,” Ross said.

Sue Gourley, vice president of the National Realtors Association convention group, volunteered four staff members to work the ALA conference. The Realtors annual convention is scheduled Nov. 9-13 in New Orleans and Gourley wanted a behind-the-scenes look at operations. “We were very pleasantly surprised to hear that it all went very smoothly,” Gourley said. “The setups, the hotels and restaurants were all ready. In some ways it was smoother than it usually is.” Gourley expects a record 30,000 real estate agents to attend the New Orleans convention.

Brendan Lynch, senior associate editor with Meetings & Conventions magazine in Secaucus, N.J., traveled to New Orleans to gauge it as a premier convention destination. He said New Orleans aced the first post-K test of city infrastructure. “It passed with flying colors,” Lynch said. ... The Convention Center was in really good shape and some people said it looked better than before. Meeting planners out there are going to get that message.”


Not everyone remains convinced, however. Shock said librarians returned to New Orleans out of a strong sense of duty to help rebuild the city’s libraries.

“It’s not your typical group,” Shock said. “Most people are going to take a wait-and-see attitude because they’re afraid to risk their major fund-raising source for the whole year on a troubled city. You might be able to bring the meeting planner down there and do a site inspection and convince them all is well but you can’t do that for every single attendee.

Sounds like New Orleans made a major step forward here. The next test will be the site visit scheduled for August.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

TAG stragglers visit Minneapolis

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

Several members of the 2008 Democratic Convention Technical Advisory Group visited Minneapolis/St. Paul today, as they missed the main visit:

“They’re part of the technical advisory group,” Democratic spokesman Damien LaVera said Monday. “They didn’t get to visit with the other people because of scheduling conflicts.” He said he believed they were looking at hotels, among other things.
And while local officials have been positively ebullient about the DNC, some privately think that the Republicans might be a likelier option, and might be a more likely option for St. Paul in particular, because of the city’s tie to Republican first term U.S. Senator Norm Coleman. He lives here, you know.
Given the current schedules, it looks like the Democrats will choose their city before the Republicans, so if the Democrats want New York or Minneapolis, they may get first choice.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Minneapolis/St. Paul update

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

Jeremy Hanson, Communications Director for Minneapolis Mayor Rybak, emails to say that the DNC has not made a decision concerning the three potential venues for the 2008 Democratic Convention: Xcel Center, Target Center, and the Metrodome.

I didn't imply otherwise in my post last week. All I reported was the DNC may be focusing on the Xcel Center among the three venues.