Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More St. Paul notes

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It looks like the DNC may be focusing on the St. Paul Xcel Energy Center as the best choice for a Minneapolis/St. Paul convention:

The Democratic National Committee staffers scoping out the Twin Cities were reportedly very impressed with their visit to the Twin Cities -- particularly the Xcel Energy Center.
One tour guide told the Scoop that it wouldn’t hurt if you started thinking now about alternate commuting plans for the last week of August if you expect to be working in downtown St. Paul in 2008.
This may make sense. The Xcel Center is 10 years newer than the Target Center in Minneapolis, has more luxury boxes, and is right next to a convention center for use by the media.

The article also notes: "Some of the selection committee couldn’t make this trip and will be visiting for a much-less heralded reconnaissance mission later this summer"

Monday, June 26, 2006

New Orleans site visit scheduled in August

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The delayed site visit to New Orleans is now reported as being scheduled:
Next month the delegation will be in New Orleans, the fourth city on its list of host finalists.

I'll update when a date is available.

Minneapolis/St. Paul visit update

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The 2008 Democratic National Convention Technical Advisory Group is now in Minneapolis/St. Paul. After visiting New York and Denver, the TAG is evalulating the Twin Cities bid to host the convention:

Six members of the Democratic National Committee are visiting the Twin Cities until Wednesday, determining whether Minnesota should host the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
From a boat tour down the Mississippi River, to a dinner, then to a Pearl Jam concert -- the cities are throwing everything they've got into this effort
Officials said the Twin Cities can't out-perk New York City, but the cities offer the Mississippi River, the new Guthrie Theater and your choice of places that'll hold the 20,000 people you'd bring here. "I'd like to see someone else do that, because they can't," Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak challenged.

It's a whirlwind 72-hour pitch to six Democrats, included with dinners, parties, tours and the two Twin Cities mayors leading the sales pitch."I have plenty of time to sleep after they leave," Rybak said.On Monday, the group visited the Xcel Energy Center, the Metrodome, and took a light rail trip to the Target Center where they took in a mini-concert by the Twin City Gospel Choir.

The Democrats want to make sure there's enough security, public transportation, and hotel rooms. The mayors say the cities have it now, from Bloomington, to the downtowns, to Roseville. "When you look at going out that far, it's closer than quite frankly if you were three miles away in Manhattan," St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said.

The Democrats say they won't decide until the end of the year, but already, there was lots of talk on Monday about a competitor from the west. "The mountains (of Denver) are a pretty picture, but the Mississippi River is a political strategy," Rybak said.

Here's the strategy: The presidential nominee will jump aboard a boat, sail down the Mississippi, and make stops along the way to end up in New Orleans.

Two thoughts: First, I believe that boat could also start in New Orleans after a convention there and end in Minneapolis! Also, Minneapolis can talk all they want about how suburban hotel rooms are "close", but to compare it to "3 miles away" from Manhattan is a bit absurd, given that New York can house all its attendees within 30 city blocks or so.

Here's more from Minnesota Public Radio:
DNC Executive Director Tom McMahon says Democrats will make their 2008 convention site decision sometime in November or December.

McMahon says Minnesota's rich Democratic history and its Midwestern battleground location will be taken into account as they make their decision. But more than anything, McMahon indicated, the choice will come down to what city can best handle hosting 20,000-plus people for a national political convention.

"What we're going to come here and look at is the security aspects, the transportation aspects, hotel accommodations and then the arena itself and then a lot of those other considerations. You know, when you look at those things, those really are a big determining factors in terms of a city's ability to host a convention," he said.

New Orleans ALA convention mostly successful

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The American Library Association is holding its annual convention in New Orleans, and being the first big convention to be held in New Orleans, all eyes in the tourism (political and otherwise) industry are watching to see how New Orleans' infrastrucure is holding up. The verdict: mostly good, but some issues still needing work:

Participants and observers in town for the first major convention in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina offered mostly praise for the hospitality industry's handling of the event, but the limited number of flights into the city has emerged as an issue. More than 18,000 members of the American Library Association are in town for a conference at the Ernest N. Morial Convention
Center. It began Thursday and ends Wednesday. It is the first major event to test the city's convention industry, and the reaction to it will go a long way toward preserving or diminishing New Orleans' reputation as a premier convention destination.
Other conventioneers said they noticed that some operations were short-staffed, but they were not inconvenienced. "It's been great," said Dan Donovan, who traveled with his librarian wife from Raleigh, N.C. The hotel "is shorthanded, but everybody's doing the best they can. It
seems like people don't mind waiting."

Kevin Cleary of Cleveland said the hotel staff "apologized for (the service) upfront." "But it wasn't that bad," said Cleary, an exhibitor for Collegiate Directories Inc. "It's New Orleans. You expect a leisurely pace."
However, not everything has gone smoothly. The lower number of flights into Louis Armstrong International Airport has emerged as an issue. The airport has about two-thirds of the 166 flights per day it had before Katrina.
"That is a problem," said Roz Kriener, a meeting planner with the National Association of Realtors' conventions and meetings department. Kriener is in town to observe the library convention in preparation for the Realtors convention in November, when at least 25,000 attendees are anticipated. Kriener, who has been telling members to book flights early, said the city desperately needs more direct flights to accommodate large groups. Otherwise, Kriener said, she was encouraged by what she saw and is confident New Orleans is capable once again of hosting a large conference. "Everything seems to be coming back to life," she said.

It's clear New Orleans essentially passed its first test, although it's also clear that the bar was not set too high. The larger Realtors convention in November will be an even bigger test. However I wonder if New Orleans will even still be in the competition by then. Let's see when the site visit gets scheduled. The longer it gets put off, the less likely New Orleans will stay in the competition to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Update: Some facts about the ALA convention: "The attendance was 11,605 registrants and 4704 vendors, for a total of 16,309—a little more than ten percent below the 18,344 figure for the Orlando conference in 2004 at the time".

Update 2: The site visit to New Orleans is reported to be scheduled for August.

Update 3: And from Chris Rose in the Times-Picayune:
I don't think I'm quite ready to climb to the top of the Superdome and scream "We're BACK, baby!" But as harbingers of recovery go, the American Library Association convention this weekend was a serious step in the right direction.
I have probably covered 100 conventions in this building over the years and the difference in appearance between this one and all the others was . . . nothing.
And the bottom line?
They were here. They got their work done. They had a great time. And nobody got shot.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Logistics keeping cities from bidding for conventions

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At one point earlier this year, I questioned whether any more than two cities would bid for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Congressional Quarterly looks at the reasons:

It is hard for officials and boosters of many American cities to avoid getting stars in their eyes when the major parties start soliciting potential sites for their next presidential nominating conventions. The quadrennial gatherings hold out the prospect of revenue streams and days of free publicity — not to mention a chance, perhaps, to share the stage with the current or next president and to hobnob with celebrities from the worlds of politics, media and entertainment.

But then they get a load of the details. There are long lists of logistic requirements demanded by the parties, including a single convention venue that can accommodate thousands of delegates and party officials and many thousands more journalists who will cover the proceedings, and at least 20,000 hotel rooms and 2,000 suites for participants that are located within a reasonable commute to the arena. And this is on top of security measures and costs that have greatly escalated since the onset of the “9/11 era.”

It is not very surprising, therefore, that most cities take a deep breath and decide that it would better to watch the conventions from afar. Of 66 cities initially considered to host the 2008 Republican and Democratic national conventions, only six are still in the running.


Cities that dropped out couldn’t meet the parties’ strict criteria for a number of reasons. Some didn’t have adequate facilities. Others had scheduling conflicts with other major events. Others felt their cities simply weren’t ready to host in 2008.

Detroit had originally been eyed by both parties as a potential host, and local promoters’ interest was piqued by the economic benefit the city enjoyed from hosting the NFL’s Super Bowl last January. The infrastructure in place would meet the demands of the Democratic National Committee, city officials said. But the city’s convention drive ended up a victim to its own success at lining up a series of other major events, including the 2008 PGA golf championship and the Final Four in the 2009 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau spokeswoman Renee Monforton said it would be too much to ask for the additional significant corporate contributions that would have been required to stage a political convention in just two years.

Las Vegas, which has never hosted a national presidential nominating convention, early on was a hot prospect for the Democrats...

“Many travelers come to enjoy themselves to relax and have fun, because Vegas is about fun. It has evolved into a business place as well,” said Vince Alberta, spokesman for Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. But it was that very popularity that undermined the city’s bid for the 2008 national convention. “We were honored, but we had commitments from other trade shows and special events during that time frame. It prevented us from exclusively dedicating a facility,” Alberta said.

Seattle dropped from consideration because the city doesn’t have an arena with the capacity for either party’s convention, and also doesn’t have enough guest rooms in close proximity to the downtown core. “Simply, because of a facilities issue,” said Tom Norwalk, spokesman for Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau.

While prospective cities foresee increased cash flow, experience has revealed another side that can dampen some of the initial enthusiasm. The heightened security around the 2004 Republican convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City — about three miles north of the site of the deadly Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center — diverted customer traffic from some local businesses.

“The expectation was that there would be a lot of business as a result of the convention. But because of the level of security that had to be maintained around [Madison Square Garden], most of the delegates spent most of their time within the security network and did not spend a lot of time or money in the restaurants,” said E. Charles Hunt, executive vice president of the New York State Restaurant Association. “Overall, the restaurants didn’t see the level of business they expected.”

One vendor in the Madison Square Garden area told Hunt the only patrons in his restaurant as a result of the convention were police officers and fire department personnel on hand as part of the security detail. Hunt added that caterers were kept busy inside the convention center itself.

One of these years, there won't be any cities that want to put up any money to host the convention, and the parties will have to raise a lot more money if they still want to have them.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Denver TV report on DNC visit

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Denver's local CBS station reported on the DNCs Technical Advisory Group's visit to Denver to evaluate the city's bid to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention. See the report here.

DNC visits Denver

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The DNC's Technical Advisory Group is visiting Denver this week to evaluate the city's bid to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention:

Officials from the Democratic National Committee were touring Denver on Wednesday to size the city up against three other finalists for the party's 2008 convention.
Neither the mayor's office nor the host committee has made the bid documents public, but Mayor John Hickenlooper's office insists local tax funds will not be used. "We are adamant that the host committee cannot come back to the city" for money, said Katherine Archuleta, the mayor's chief operating officer.

Tom McMahon, executive director of the DNC, said, "We need to make sure the city can accommodate roughly 30,000 people, and while we're here we're looking at the logistics, the arenas, the security and the accommodations. Those are the big-picture items we have to check."

Hickenlooper said he thinks Denver's chances of getting the convention are good, and he stressed that the city won't contribute any general-fund dollars to a convention. "I'm putting my reputation on the line. If we're selected, I'm telling you we will raise the money," he said.

He added: "Denver's a city that's being defined more by its future than its past. That's what the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have to look for."

Democratic National Committee officials also met with local labor leaders, some of whom are opposing the effort in an attempt to get the city's political leaders to do more to unionize hotel and janitorial workers.
Steve Farber, a lawyer who is serving as co-chairman of the host committee, ... hopes to enhance fundraising efforts by marketing a convention in Denver as a way for the Democratic Party to make inroads into the Western states, considered a prime presidential battleground in 2008. Hickenlooper is calling politicians in other Western states to see if they'll help solicit funds, he said.

It's obviously significant that the DNC met with local labor leaders to discuss their concerns. Hopefully the two sides can reach an understanding that helps both sides.

Also, the article has more on Denver's fundraising efforts which I didn't excerpt here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

New Orleans hotels look for tourists to return

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I've been tracking the recovery of New Orleans' tourism business, and the first big test starts tomorrow. New Orleans CityBusiness provides a good overview of how things are going:

About 25,000 convention attendees will visit New Orleans by the end of this month, which begins a crucial tourism return to downtown hotels post-Hurricane Katrina. At hotels like the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, where convention and meeting business made up 75 percent of the hotel’s bottom line, tourists have been absent since Katrina. But the Hilton Riverside is serving as headquarters for 3,000 attendees to the Air and Waste Management Association convention, which ends Thursday.

General Manager Fred Sawyers of the Hilton said he has worked with out-of-town meeting planners ever since Katrina inviting them to see core tourism areas are intact. Some clients, Sawyers said, have tried to drop out of 2008 and 2009 commitments claiming force majeure, an act of God rendering hotel services unavailable.

“If we get people to visit, we have a lot of success. But convincing them to come see it is a challenge,” Sawyers said. “Two important questions will be addressed in the summer: The first is ‘Can you really pull off a big convention again?’ and ‘Can you survive another hurricane season?’ ... If we do the first convention well, the pace should pick up by September.”

The first major convention calling on New Orleans will be the 20,000-attendee American Library Association June 22-28 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Convention Center officials are calling for 8,000 peak room nights while the group is in town.


Some downtown hotels are still repairing meeting space damaged by Katrina while others have booked local organization meetings and companies to fill the void of fewer conventions.

The Omni, which reopened to tourist reservations Dec. 1 after FEMA guests checked out, reports business in the spring is off 30 percent from the same 2005 period. The hotel recently held a wine tasting and Vintner’s Dinner event given by Rib Room chef Anthony Spizale and Gallo Family Vineyards as part of the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience. “The hotel is also still getting a lot of wedding business,” said Noto. “We’ve always done a lot of destination weddings.”

The Hilton Riverside has served as the temporary home of students from Dillard University, whose campus was severely damaged by the floodwaters that ravaged Gentilly. Sawyers said students will remain in class there until early July.

The hotel has given some Dillard students part-time jobs. Sawyers said 90 percent of the original management staff returned and he expects more of the line-level employees to return soon. Last month, 25 line-level employees at the Hilton Riverside returned to their pre-Katrina jobs, Sawyers said.

The Hilton Riverside had up to $50 million in damages from Katrina with water leaks from the roof causing a great deal of trouble. The storm tore the roof from the health club, which is above the meeting spaces. Water came through the hole and seeped down to the meeting spaces. Sawyers said 85 percent of the meeting spaces have been refurbished and a new ballroom was constructed in May.

The Marriott suffered minimal rain damage and has been open since Nov. 1. “We’ve had a solid first quarter,” Chambers said. “Room sales are comparable to the same period last year but the hotel’s ancillary business has suffered, like catering, food and beverage service.”

Flooding at the Fairmont damaged the heating, electrical and air conditioning systems, all in the basement. Roof damage also caused rain damage in the higher floors. Michael Touchy, Fairmont director of marketing, says the company plans to reopen in early fall. “You don’t get a medal for opening first. We want to do it the correct way.”

The Fairmont continues to assure clients its 70,000 square feet of meeting space and all rooms and restaurants will return with the old ambiance intact.


Hotel officials say it is vital for out-of-towners see tourist areas are doing fine. At the Omni, Noto brought in clients for the French Quarter Festival and Jazz Fest to spread good word-of-mouth. Chambers says most prospective clients worry about staffing levels at hotels and restaurants, the condition of downtown and the status of the airport. “People need to be convinced we can weather another storm,” he said. “The New Orleans you know and love needs you right now and we can deliver.”•

I'll update here with reports of how the ALA meeting at the Convention Center goes this week.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Denver site visit preview

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The TAG visits Denver this week:

A Democratic National Committee team begins arriving in Denver this evening for a three-day tour to determine if the Mile High City has the right stuff to host the 2008 presidential nominating convention.

The Denver 2008 Host Committee is eager to showcase the metro region, buoyed by buzz that Denver’s stacking up well against competing cities — New York, Minneapolis and New Orleans.

"Our motto is ‘We’re better by a mile’ and we believe it," said Denver City Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth, a co-chair of the host committee. "We have the infrastructure. We have the great people. We have everything going for us."

Denver boosters continue to stress that it would be the "Western states" Democratic National Convention, tapping into the reported DNC strategy that the Mountain Western could deliver a bounty of swing states key to winning back the White House in 2008.

The nine-member DNC convention technical team will tour the prospective convention site, the Pepsi Center, meet civic and business leaders and tour some of the region’s signature attractions, from Red Rocks Amphitheatre to a Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field.

"We think our chances are looking very good," said Denver attorney Steve Farber, another committee co-chair. "We know we have competition out there. We’re just going to put our best foot forward and showcase Denver and the West."

Denver this week, and Minneapolis next week.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Minneapolis site visit preview

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The Technical Advisory Committee will be visiting Minneapolis/St. Paul starting on June 26 to evaluate their bid for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The AP provides a preview:

They'll be treated to a $20,000 reception at the Walker Art Center. They'll also find $500 worth of flowers in their hotel rooms and they'll each go home with gift bags valued at $200, according to documents obtained by the Star Tribune.
Greg Ortale, the Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association president, wouldn't make the bids public, citing an exemption under the state public records law. But he said the two parties want everything from venue to transportation free. Ortale estimates the tab to be $53 million, with $15 million coming from the federal government.

Ortale estimated that more than $100 million would be spent here. That compares to the 1992 Super Bowl in Minneapolis, for which the city had to raise $3 million and reaped about $55 million, he said.

He said about 20,000 partisans attend the conventions and that each will spend $1,500 while they are here. Television networks alone spend millions for production. But the real reason to host a convention: "You're going to have credentialed press from all over the world datelining Minneapolis-St. Paul," he said.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is excited to pitch the city, and plans to run around the lakes with the visitors and go to nightclubs with them. "I am going to show them a good time or die trying," he said, adding, "We do not get the national attention that a great city like this deserves."
Minneapolis and Denver both look at this as a way to being the world to their city, and are probably willing to spend a little more to get it. New York doesn't need it in the same way. And politically, the same holds true - Denver and Minneapolis are much more politically attractive to the DNC than New York is. (New Orleans remains forever the wild card in all this). If I were Denver, I would be talking up Minneapolis' bid to the GOP - a major contender might fall out of the competition.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Convention-al Wisdom

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I've been waiting to use that title for a while. Here are some thoughts, opinions and quotes from some news articles on the site selection process for the 2008 Democratic National Convention:

Also that New York is the safe bet, a tried-and-true convention city that can handle the logistical details at least as well, if not better, than it did for the Republicans in 2004. And, this being a Democratic town, empty some of the deepest Democratic pockets to pay for a spectacular event.
“Nothing could more eloquently speak to America’s resolve not to be defeated,” Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff told The Observer in July 2002, “than to see democracy celebrated in this city.” Expect that tone in one of New York’s competitors’ bids: New Orleans, still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, is another finalist for the convention nod.
The final decision will be up to Howard Dean, the Democratic chairman, a New York native—but also one who has been pushing a 50-state policy, intent on winning support anywhere and everywhere, even in traditional red states. In pursuing the policy, though, he has been butting heads with Rahm Emanuel, an Illinois Congressman and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who favors investing money in races the party already has a chance of winning.
“Rahm Emanuel might favor New York, thinking it’s a place where you may be able to pick up a few upstate seats, versus Howard Dean, who would say, ‘Why not go to Denver and eventually turn it into fertile ground for Democrats?’” said Ross Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “It never works. Frankly, I see no advantage in where the convention is held in terms of how many votes it pulls in. There may be some symbolic significance in having it in one place or another. But frankly, I think everybody wants to come to New York and will look for an excuse.”

In other words, New York is no longer the sentimental choice; that would be New Orleans. But right now the local committee is working on answering additional questions raised by its first bid, submitted in May, according to Damien LaVera, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. No visit has been scheduled.
The Minneapolis visit, scheduled for June 26, will take D.N.C. members through a onetime capital of the Democratic heartland that has been exhibiting Republican tendencies lately. The site selection committee will also visit Denver, where Democrats run both state houses and recently recaptured a Senate seat.

Denver is the supposed front-runner, with a seven-year-old arena and a brand-new convention-center hotel. Sources said Denver also fit in with Dr. Dean’s “50-state” strategy, in which the Democrats attempt ambitious wins in previously hostile territory.
Denver is the supposed front-runner, with a seven-year-old arena and a brand-new convention-center hotel. Sources said Denver also fit in with Dr. Dean’s “50-state” strategy, in which the Democrats attempt ambitious wins in previously hostile territory. Another source said that the size of the Denver and Minneapolis arenas would allow Dr. Dean to hold a convention that accommodated the largest possible number of people.

Neither theory of the D.N.C.’s motives would seem to put New York—or its small, somewhat haggard convention site at Madison Square Garden—in a particularly good light by comparison. The Minneapolis Metrodome, for instance, could hold some 10,000 more people when configured as a convention site.

But whether Denver or Minneapolis could deliver the hotel accommodations needed might be another question. Denver’s bid has already been cursed by labor leaders angry because the city’s hotels have been unfriendly to unions. That could turn the party’s most important constituency against it. In New York, by contrast, the Central Labor Council favors a convention in 2008 and has already begun discussions for a no-strike agreement, according to Carolyn Daly, a spokeswoman.

Mr. Sheekey downplayed the Garden’s lower capacity, saying that the main point was to give ready access to media outlets and thereby a national television audience—that is, assuming people actually watch party conventions these days.
Rutgers University political scientist Ross Baker said and Democrats [would benefit] by selecting New Orleans. Democratic Party leaders have tried to make the Katrina catastrophe a metaphor for Republican incompetence and cronyism.

"To have it in the Superdome, where all those people were abandoned, would be a great symbolic gesture for Democrats," Baker said.

There's some good analysis here. I'm not sure the size of MSG will make a big differerence versus the other arenas, although if the Democrats want to be in a dome, both New York and Denver could lose out. I didn't focus on the money issue here - I will soon - but it's going to be a big part of the equation, and New York will usually win any money competition.

Southern Baptists decide against switching to New Orleans in 2008

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The Southern Baptists considered switching their 2008 convention from Indianapolis to New Orleans. What happened?

A tide of contracts, finances, logistics and security concerns swamped a sentimental appeal for the Southern Baptist Convention to change its 2008 meeting location to New Orleans. David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, asked his fellow SBC messengers June 13 to move the 2008 annual meeting to his city, which was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina last year.
But reality overcame sentiment when messengers considered actually forcing the convention to change plans in order to meet in the Crescent City.
The SBC already has an ethical commitment to Indianapolis, and backing out of legal contracts would cost the convention thousands of dollars, Jack Wilkerson, Executive Committee's business manager, said. Also, much of New Orleans' infrastructure has not been restored and may not be even by the proposed meeting date, he added.

"We could not feed you, house you or properly protect you [in New Orleans] in 2008," he noted.

Those are harsh words, which I'm sure would be disputed by New Orleans' supporters. But the DNC will be keeping an eye on what other groups think about New Orleans' infrastructure.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

New Orleans site visit not scheduled

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New Orleans is the only one of the four cities vying to host the 2008 Democratic Convention that has not has its site visit scheduled:

Right now the [New Orleans] committee is working on answering additional questions raised by its first bid, submitted in May, according to Damien LaVera, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. No visit has been scheduled.
Between the lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina, and the mayoral election occuring a day after bids were due, it's not suprising that New Orleans is running a little late in their bid process. Democracy in Action reports that New Orleans was granted an extension, so its unclear when New Orleans submitted their bid. So while its certainly reasonable for the DNC to give New Orleans a little extra time to get their bid in order, additional delays would certainly raise the question about whether New Orleans is really ready to host the convention.

New York site visit starts today

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As I write this, the Technical Advisory Committee for the 2008 Democratic National Convention is having dinner at Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s East 79th Street townhouse. Its just the first step in a three day visit, and the first visit of what should be four visits to the potential host cities: New York, Denver, Minneapolis and New Orleans. From the New York Observer:

The party starts Wednesday evening, when the national committee team arrives, trots through Central Park in hansom cabs and heads to Mayor Bloomberg’s townhouse for dinner. The next morning, the Democrats will convene for breakfast at Gracie Mansion, followed by a tour of Madison Square Garden, which would again host the convention, and 1 Penn Plaza, the neighboring high-rise where the convention’s offices would be. The visitors will break out into subcommittees to hear about security preparations from Police Commissioner Ray Kelly or to visit the city’s fanciest hotels, along with some of its humblest.

The show-off event will be the dinner Thursday at Top of the Rock, the newly opened restaurant on the top floor of Rockefeller Center, with some of the city’s leading political operatives and donors.
Friday morning, they will travel across the East River for breakfast at the Bridge Café, arguably the Manhattanest restaurant in Brooklyn, and, last but not least, a boat tour of the city’s waterways.
Pretty standard stuff for one of these things.

Jonathan Tisch, chairman of Loew's Hotels and co-chairman of the New York host committee for the Democratic National Convention makes the case for New York:

"For Democrats, it would be an opportunity to hold a convention in a place that understands diversity, opportunity and responsibility, all of which is part and parcel of the Democrats' message," Tisch said. "For Republicans, much the same, plus the fact that they had such success two years ago. They could come back and repeat it."

The Hotline notes that New York and Minneapolis, both bidding for both conventions, may be going in different directions:
New York City doesn't seem to be doing much to promote their [GOP] bid beyond a general "We Did In '04; We Can Do It Again" angle. That may change as the city's host committee wraps up. The convention wisdom, which we don't know enough to refute or endorse, holds that NY poo-bahs really want the '08 Dem convention, or both conventions. We'll see.

Keep your eye on Cleveland and Minneapolis-St. Paul... especially the latter. The GOP likes the pitch and location of the state and the mechanics of the Twin Cities bid has already impressed some senior GOPers.
With the conventions back-to-back, (and even if they weren't), both conventions can not be held in the same city. Unless both parties really want to go to the same city, it would not suprise me if there were some communication between the two parties and the cities, with a city deciding to withdraw one of their bids in order to focus on the other. I think this is likely to happen with New York and the GOP, with New York dropping out of the GOP process at some point. Minneapolis may get sensitive if both parties really want to go there.

Site Visit Schedule - Updated

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This is the schedule for visits by the DNC Technical Advisory Group to visit the cities bidding to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention:

New York: June 14-16
Denver: June 21-23
Minneapolis/St. Paul: June 26-28
New Orleans: No visit scheduled

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Conventions in domes

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Two of the cities vying to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention, New Orleans and Minneapolis, are proposing to hold the convention in a dome. (Minneapolis is also offering 2 other, non-dome, facilities). Is a dome a plus or minus for a city looking to host a convention?

Only 2 conventions have been held in domes, both by the GOP. New Orleans in '88 and Houston in '92. Domes have both advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is the extra seats. I know that in Houston, they draped a curtain across the field, and put the podium in front of the curtain, facing a semi-circle of seats. Depending on where you put the curtain, you could probably keep 50-80% of the seats, easily giving 40,000 to 50,000 seats, way more than an arena can give. Another advantage is that behind the curtain, on the rest of the field, you can put trailers for dressing rooms, or tents for VIP receptions, or let the media use it for workspace.

One disadvantage is that many of the seats will be much farther away than the worst seats in an arena - you have to be careful you don't insult any VIPs or just IPs with bad seats. Also, for the less interesting parts of the convention, you will have lots of empty seats. The networks will try to show them, and the party will try to make sure there's no lighting up there.

Some have also asked whether you could have the first three days in a smaller venue, with the Thursday night speeches in the dome. The problem is it would greatly increase the cost of the convention. The host city/party has to build essentially a huge TV studio for 20,000 people, the networks and media have to do all the wiring to get the news out, and the security teams have to implement two totally different security strategies. To do that in two different venues would be extremely costly.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

American Library Association coming to New Orleans

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In the first big test of New Orleans tourism infrastructure, the American Library Association is bringing 20,000 delegates to New Orleans in 2 weeks:

Later this month, nearly 20,000 delegates of the American Library Association will arrive here for the first citywide convention since Hurricane Katrina. In the fiercely competitive meetings business, the event will mark a critical test of the city's ability to rebuild a mainstay of its economy. "It's not a matter of choice – they've got to get it right," said Steven Hacker, president of the Dallas-based International Association for Exhibition Management.


For the library convention, New Orleans tourism officials have invited meeting planners and journalists from around the country to see that the city is ready for business again. It's a message that's been difficult to convey since images of the disaster from last August are still so fresh and some sections of the city, including much of the lower Ninth Ward, remain uninhabitable.

Recent research showed that about 44 percent of people still think New Orleans has flooded streets, even though the water was pumped out within days of the giant storm. "All the things that visitors came to New Orleans for are still here," said J. Stephen Perry, chief executive of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau. "The damage was to the outlying areas, not the French Quarter."

Still, until recently, New Orleans was hardly in shape to consider handling a convention. The convention center, where thousands of evacuees were stranded without food or water, needed extensive repairs. And hundreds of hotel rooms were under contract by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Some groups didn't expect the city to be ready this soon and moved on to other host cities. As a result, New Orleans is expected to host less than half of the convention business it had on the books this year and about 75 percent of its calendar for 2007.

Many of those who work in the tourism industry here acknowledge that all eyes will be on New Orleans for the library association convention that begins June 22. "That convention center is the factory of New Orleans, and we need it back up and running," said Melvin Rodrigue, general manager of the 101-year-old Galatoire's Restaurant on Bourbon Street.

Mardi Gras and Jazz fest were "great psychological wins, but this convention business is the shot in the arm we really need, and we're ready for it," Mr. Rodrigue said.

Special task forces have reviewed every detail that could cause challenges during a convention, from transportation and health care to public safety and hospitality training. "We've got a unified city at a level better than anywhere else," Mr. Perry said. "Our faces will be hurting, we'll be smiling so hard." Mr. Perry doesn't expect things to be perfect, however. "We expect that there will be wrinkles. There always are," he said. "But we're going to fix them immediately."

New Orleans still faces major challenges rebuilding the workforce it needs to support a big convention industry. It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg dilemma, as the city grapples with how to attract enough workers when demand for full staffing hasn't quite resumed.

Before Katrina hit, tourism employed 85,000 people in New Orleans. Nine months later, about half have returned, in part due to a shortage of adequate housing.

In the French Quarter, "Help Wanted" signs fill the windows of restaurants and shops. Some eateries have cut back hours or eliminated lunch service to have enough staff for the crucial dinner operations. Hotels have cross-trained employees to help balance staffing for lighter business and offer enough hours for workers to support themselves.


Questions about quality of service, costs and accessibility aside, some meeting planners aren't sure what the psychological legacy of Katrina will be for visitors. Many planners may remain cautious, watching the city's weather a few more hurricane seasons before returning.

"They did that in Florida, but they'll ultimately come back," said Deborah Sexton, chief executive of the Chicago-based Professional Convention Management Association. The experiences of visitors in the city's first post-Katrina conventions will be key, Mr. Hacker said: Will they "feel empowered and uplifted, or will it be a downer?"

Both Ms. Sexton and Mr. Hacker are optimistic about the city's ability to return and have already booked their next available conventions there.


After Katrina, officials from the library association – like many of its peers – considered relocating. But finding available space for a group of its size proved difficult. After getting encouraging reports from a site inspection in November, the group opted to stay.

"We just thought, 'What if every other conference bails on the city?' " said Leslie Burger, the association's president-elect. "We bring $20 million in economic impact, and we made a decision that we would help New Orleans get back on its feet again." The group worked closely with city tourism officials to get frequent updates on its rebuilding efforts.

Stories about the city's progress were posted on its conference Web site, along with information to allay concerns over health issues. The group set up volunteer events for members to help in the rebuilding effort. "People are really excited to help the city," Ms. Burger said.

As I've mentioned, rebuilding the workforce may be more difficult than rebuilding the hotels. And while New Orleans has a couple of years to get things in order before the 2008 Democration Convention delegates show up, its the impression they make this year that will impact whether they have a real shot a getting the convention.

Facilities Overview

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

Here is an overview of the facilities that may be proposed by the four cities bidding to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention. There are assumptions and estimates here which will be refined as the process moves forward.

  • Denver - Pepsi Center - Built 1999 - Cap: 19,000 - Skyboxes: ?? - Adjacent Media Workspace: None - Previous conventions: Dem 1908
  • Minneapolis/St, Paul - Previous conventions: GOP 1892
    • Target Center - Built 1990, Refurbished 2004 - Cap: 20,000 - Skyboxes: ?? - Adjacent Media Workspace: ??
    • St. Paul - XCel Center - Built 2000 - Cap: 18,000 - Skyboxes - 84 - Adjacent Media Workspace - RiverCentre Convention Center, Roy Wilkins Auditorium Complex
    • Minneapolis - Metrodome - Built 1982 - Cap: 30,000-40,000 - Skyboxes: 115 - Adjacent media Workspace: ??
  • New York- Madison Square Garden - Built 1968, Refurbished ~1995- Cap: 20,000 - Skyboxes: ?? - Adjacent Media Workspace: Farley Post Office?- Previous conventions: Dem '76, '80, '92, GOP '04
  • New Orleans - Superdome - Built 1975, Refurbished 2006 - Cap: 40-50,000 - Skyboxes: ?? - Adjacent Media Workspace: New Orleans Arena - Previous conventions: GOP '88
Minneapolis is proposing the Metrodome, the Target Center, and/or the XCel Center for the convention.

Notes: Adjacent workspace must be able to be in any security perimeter. (Javits Center in NY would not qualify). Some arenas, such as MSG in NY and Target Center in Minneapolis, have smaller separate theaters inside the building which can be used as media workspace. Capacities for domes assume curtained setup.

The Farley Post Office (adjacent to Madison Square Garden) was used to provide media workspace at the 2004 Republican Convention. It's not clear if the space will be available for a 2008 convention.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Come to Denver for the beer, food and kayaking

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Diane Carman, columnist at the Denver Post, makes the case for Denver to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention:

Denver has it all. Or at least most of it. Despite global warming, Colorado is still strictly BYOO (Bring Your Own Ocean). But we do make up for the water shortage in other ways.

"Denver brews more beer than any other city," says the Convention & Visitors Bureau website, and now with a Democratic brewpub owner as mayor, delegates needn't stress about contributing to the coffers of the Heritage Foundation and the Independence Institute through the Coors family of brewers.

We also have more tamale kitchens, taquerias and big-burrito joints than the other three convention contenders combined, providing unlimited photo ops for candidates who want to get ethnic with the hot, sought-after Latino vote.

And with local Democratic icons former Gov. Dick Lamm, former Mayor Federico Peña and Sen. Ken Salazar weighing in variously on immigration, we've got every side of that issue covered.

Denver also is perfect for a party that wants to be on all sides of women's rights at all times. Here the Dems can showcase Rep. Diana DeGette and/or Bill Ritter, depending on which way choice is polling at the moment.

And with any luck, the bevy of anti-gay-rights initiatives coming out of Colorado Springs this year won't pass and the party's gay-rights activists will still be willing to spend their money here.

Forget windsurfing; John Kerry can appeal to the Gen-X voters by kayaking through Confluence Park. Al Gore will find it's easy being green with Rep. Mark Udall. Barack Obama can shoot hoops with former Mayor Wellington Webb and Carmelo Anthony. And Hillary Clinton can take a meeting with James Dobson to solidify her born-again conservative street cred.


Look at the galas we threw for the baseball and basketball all-star weekends and the Summit of the Eight. All we need is a few celebrities riding around town in limos, and we can make it till midnight, honest.

And with hundreds of bars, nightclubs and restaurants in the city, visitors can party like rock stars and hardly ever worry about being shot - singer Marc Cohn and Nuggets guard Julius Hodge being the notable recent exceptions.

(A note to the Democratic National Committee: Denver offers a unique opportunity to reach out to the NRA.)

We'll be whatever we have to be to get your support.

I know you'll feel right at home.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Why Las Vegas dropped out

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The Las Vegas Sun has a delayed but detailed look at why Las Vegas didn't submit a bid for the 2008 democratic National Convention:

Las Vegas has grown into a world-class entertainment capital, but it apparently still hasn't emerged as the kind of place where the next president of the United States will be nominated.

The city was among 11 nationwide being considered by the Democratic National Committee to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention. But Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman declined to bid on the prestigious political prize, telling Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean that the city's vast convention space was already all booked.

Las Vegas' decision to stick with its bread-and-butter regulars - the Las Vegas Convention Center will host the Men's Apparel Guild International of California (MAGIC) during the days that the Democrats will meet in August 2008 - rather than try for the chance to host the first national political convention in the city's 101-year history leaves one question unanswered:

Would the Democrats really have been willing to debut their 2008 presidential hopeful from Sin City? "That reputation certainly is out there. That certainly plays into it, at least on a national scale, for people who don't know that much about (Las Vegas)," said David Damore, an associate professor of political science at UNLV. A DNC spokesman declined to comment.

Goodman's office pointed to the potential economic fallout as the reason to pull out of the running for the 2008 Democratic convention. "We are honored to have been included on the list of potential host cities," the mayor wrote to Dean. "(We) hope you consider us for future dates for the Democratic National Convention."


Both parties are planning site visits this summer, with announcements expected late this year or next. In the meantime, political junkies in the blogosphere are touting the various sites and collecting readers' votes.

I think they're talking about us!

Las Vegas, with its 9.5 million square feet of convention space and 133,000 hotel rooms - the most in the nation - could have met the logistical needs of either party. The convention authority even had various sites in mind, including the Las Vegas Convention Center. But after considering Dean's invitation to bid, the city decided it had too much to lose.

The Democrats needed the convention hall for 75 days, and the Las Vegas Convention Center already booked 18 groups during that period, said Erika Yowell, a spokeswoman for the convention authority. "That is the clincher right there," she said. Those 18 groups are expected to bring $615 million in economic benefit to the city. MAGIC alone, which has the convention center booked from Aug. 17 to 30, is expected to bring in $183 million, based on the estimate of each conventioneer spending $1,531 during his stay, she said.

By comparison, the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston brought in $156 million and the 2000 convention in Los Angeles generated $147 million, according to the Democratic National Committee.


Nevada Democrats stood by the mayor's decision, and took the missed opportunity in stride. "It didn't work out this time, but Nevada is growing increasingly more important in the national political scene," said Kirsten Searer, a spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party.

"With the increased exposure that we're seeing, and we'll probably continue to see, people will see the full picture of Nevada. Does that include gaming? Yes. And that's important to our state. But there's so many other aspects to Nevada that people will see as Nevadans and our issues are more prominently played out in the national political debate."

Damore said chances were probably always slim at best that the Democrats would end up dropping balloons on their presidential nominee from the Strip. Nevada has been a swing state in recent presidential elections, going twice for Democrat Bill Clinton, then twice for Republican George W. Bush. But the Democrats might not have wanted to chance it on Election Day.

"Usually they go to really big cities or they go to friendly territories. So far, the Dems haven't won here (lately)," he said. Besides, he added: "Who wants to be here in August? It's kind of hard to get people to be here when it's 115.'' Then again, that just would have meant that there would be plenty of hot air inside and outside the convention center.

For cities that have huge convention business, such as Las Vegas or Orlando, I think it's clear that they will be better off financially with their normal trade shows.