Friday, October 27, 2006

Edwards supports Denver convention

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While meeting with Colorado bloggers, former Senator John Edwards endorsed Denver's bid to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention:

“I think having the convention in Denver would be a great thing,” said Edwards. “We want all of America to feel like they are a part of the Democratic Party. It would be a really positive thing.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Local businesses will see little convention benefit

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History has shown that many local businesses see little economic benefit from a convention, and 2008 will be no different, as this article about St. Paul shows:

When Boston won the 2004 Democratic National Convention, boosters dreamed of economic riches. They never imagined security that would close 40 miles of roads, fence off a dozen blocks downtown and cripple local businesses during convention week. After that experience, one Boston veteran was convinced that neither political party would ever hold a convention downtown again. David Passafaro, president of Boston's host committee, figured future conventions would be held in suburban arenas surrounded only by parking lots.

Instead, the 2008 Republican National Convention is coming to two downtowns, St. Paul and Minneapolis. And if Boston is any guide, the Twin Cities are in for heady times — and big-time headaches. The Twin Cities will buzz with the excitement of hosting 45,000 visitors for a major national event. But in a post-Sept. 11 world, downtown businesses and commuters will face unprecedented security disruptions.

Caterers, party planners and hotels are poised for a bonanza. But many local shops, restaurants and bars will be left in the cold. Presidents, movie stars, media celebrities, corporate titans and VIPs will flock to town. But they'll be strutting at private parties, and you're not invited.
Before the convention even begins, every state delegation throws a party. That means 50 party sites, 50 caterers and 50 teams of waiters. Then come the glittering events for the big donors. The lavish bashes sponsored by corporate lobbyists. The fundraisers for candidates. The rockin' after-parties. Not to mention the issue luncheons, media fetes, cocktail receptions and hospitality suites during a weeklong schmooze-a-thon.

"It's a rolling series of events," said Mark Andrew, chairman of Meeting Planners International, a national planners group. "The best part about it is, it really is only three hours a day where (the delegates) are going to be at one location. That's a planner's dream."

Said Passafaro: "The businesses that deal with conventions — florists, catering, chair rentals, table linens, transportation, taxis, hotels, all that kind of stuff — it's a huge boon to them because it's so intense."
Ironically, the crush of parties undercuts other local businesses. "If restaurateurs and bars are hoping for above-average business, they ought to think long and hard," warned Frank Conte of Boston's Beacon Hill Institute, a free-market policy group. "Conventioneers get most of their dinners and drinks for free. Why buy something when you get it for free?"
Security, clearly above and beyond everything else, was the No. 1 issue we had to face," Passafaro said. "And that won't change for you guys." The 2004 conventions were the first to have to deal with post-Sept. 11 security measures. The Republican convention in New York City that year was unique in many ways, including its 10,000 police officers. So Boston's experience may be the closest parallel of what the Twin Cities can expect, if an inexact one.

In Boston, three factors raised concern: protecting against a potential terrorist strike, the convention's downtown location and the arena's exposed site near highways, waterways and mass transit. Still, the scope of the security clampdown was a shock.

Interstate highways were closed each afternoon, even 10 miles away. So were tunnels, bridges, transit stations and more than a dozen blocks of downtown. Many businesses told employees to work from home or go on vacation.
There's no way to know, nearly two years before the convention, what security steps the FBI and U.S. Secret Service will require in the Twin Cities. St. Paul is better positioned in one regard: the Xcel Energy Center is far less exposed to transit and freeways than Boston's arena.

But the Xcel is downtown, and if Boston's measures are any guide, block after block of downtown St. Paul will be fenced off, affecting hospitals, businesses, restaurants and museums.

Traffic on the nearby Mississippi River probably will be halted. The downtown St. Paul airport will be closed. All roads leading to the arena, including nearby interstates 35E and 94, are likely to be restricted, perhaps closed.

The east metro's largest hospital, United, is about a block from the convention site. Spokeswoman Terri Dresen said discussions have begun about how United's 3,500 employees will get to work during the convention, how its patients will get care and how its emergency facilities will be readied in case of large-scale disaster.

In Boston, convention-goers were protected, but at a cost. Boston commuter traffic fell 40 percent during the week, and the security gantlet kept convention-goers inside the perimeter. "It was as if an invisible blizzard had hit town," the Boston Business Journal reported from the city's empty streets.

Minnesota's convention planners say they've learned from Boston and are seeking ways to include local residents.

"We want people to experience it," said Jeff Larson, acting co-director of the Twin Cities host committee. "I think part of the message in Boston was, 'Don't come downtown; it's going to be a mess.' … We're committed to having the people of Minneapolis and St. Paul and the surrounding areas feel a part of this convention, instead of it being intrusive."

Ultimately, however, federal authorities, not local organizers, will determine what stays open and what is closed.

If you're a small retail business within a block or two of the convention site. might as well start planning your vacation now.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bloomberg confirms NY money problems

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When I noted last week that New York was having problems raising money for the 2008 Democratic National Convention, the consensus was that it was probably just a ploy to get donors to loosen their wallets. Well, the NY Times article should have been enough to get the message out. But today, Mayor Bloomberg raised the issue again:

"I think it will be difficult for the city. As you know, we are trying to raise a couple hundred million dollars to pay for the memorial and we have a poverty initiative which I'm really excited about, which we'll have to raise the money privately for because it is so innovative, and I think those things, in terms of raising money, would probably be much higher priorities for everybody. But we would be honored to have the convention. But these conventions have gotten so expensive."
This is bad news for New York's bid. Repeating the problem is not going to put any more pressure on donors than the NY Times article did. So it's therefore hard to read the above quote without thinking that New York is about to give up on this thing.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dem state party chairs want Denver

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In a sign of broad support in most of the country, Democratic state party chairs overwhelmingly prefer Denver as the site of the 2008 Democratic National Convention:

Of 36 state party chairs who gave a preference when surveyed by The Denver Post, 31 chose Denver and five New York. Hawaii did not respond; the rest had no clear favorite. Democratic Party national chairman Howard Dean will make the final decision, and the opinions of the state leaders are in no way binding.

And, based on interviews with party leaders, Denver must still contend with a lingering perception that the city is unfriendly to organized labor, and must satisfy the party that it will have the necessary hotel rooms, security and - most of all - cash.

“Ultimately, it probably comes down to the deal - what the city is able to provide in terms of logistics, money, security considerations, hotels, transportation,” said one chairman whose state has hosted a recent national political convention and who asked to speak anonymously about his experience.
The state party organizations form the core of Dean’s base within the Democratic Party, and a Western convention would spotlight the party’s revival in the region, said many Democratic leaders. “Colorado is a great venue to talk about winning the heartland of America and the West,” said Alabama state chairman Joe Turnham.

“I prefer Denver. That’s where our future lies, quite frankly,” said California chairman Art Torres. “It’s the Rocky Mountain strategy that is going to bring the Democratic Party to the White House.”
“It’s very gratifying,” said Debbie Willhite, executive director of Denver’s convention host committee, when told Tuesday night about the tally. “We have every indication that Gov. Dean is very favorable to Denver,” Willhite said. “The decision will be based on a lot of nuts and bolts, and we’re right in there with a lot of nuts and bolts.”

New York, of course, has its committed fans. Even those who like Denver acknowledge that the Big Apple is a national media center, chock full of restaurants and other diversions. “New York is New York,” said Nebraska state chair Steven Achelpohl. “You can’t beat the excitement, and it’s a political epicenter.”

Several state leaders had fond memories of the 1992 New York convention that chose the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton. New York “seems to be where we nominate candidates who later become president,” said Texas chairman Boyd Richie.
And Denver must still fight the perception that the city is not friendly to unions. Several state leaders said they have been told of objections to Denver by their allies in organized labor because of a lack of union hotels in the city. They had not heard that Denver labor leaders later withdrew their opposition, nor that workers at the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center have formed a union.

Still, Denver had broad support across the country. Western governors and party leaders have been pushing the city as a convention site, and 12 Western state chairs endorsed Colorado’s bid. And Southern chairs, who can also feel neglected in a party dominated by Northern states, sided with their Western counterparts. Six of the seven Southern state leaders who expressed a preference chose Denver.

“It is an area of the country we definitely need to reach out to,” said North Carolina chairman Jerry Meek. “And the people of Colorado think more like North Carolina than New Yorkers.” Only two of eight Northeastern leaders who had an opinion chose New York. And Colorado came out on top among the Midwesterners who voiced a preference, seven to two.

The Association of State Democratic Chairs wil be having their next meeting on November 17 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Dean will be attending. It's been suggested that this could be a great time and place to announce Denver as the host of the 2008 convention. And if not, I would imagine that many of these state chairs might just use the opportunity to mention their opinions to Chairman Dean.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Denver on a roll

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The week after Labor Day was "disastrous" for Denver, but since then, with the bid being better received, St. Paul being picked by the GOP, Denver getting a union hotel, and now New York's money problems, Denver's prospects are looking much better:

For several weeks now, Denver officials hoping to win the 2008 Democratic National Convention have admired how "things are falling into place." And reports Saturday that rival city New York and its billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg were having trouble raising money created an air of wonderment.

"It's kind of humorous to even think that New York would have trouble raising money," said Debbie Willhite, the executive director of Denver's host committee. "I do think there is some kind of destiny going on here," she said.
"Just weeks ago the bloggers were saying we were out of this," Willhite said. "But one by one, we're kind of looking like giant killers here." Willhite said she had "no doubt" Denver will raise the money necessary to host the convention. She said commitments continue to come in.

"Right now, everybody is distracted with the political races, so some events that we would have liked to have held already we postponed until after the election," she said. "But gosh, in light of the news out of New York, I'd say we are doing great."

Denver does seem to be doing well, but I would bet we get thrown a few more curves before a final decision is made.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

New York bid has money problems

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As rich as New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg is, apparently his friends have limited resources, and they appear to be overtapped:

New York City’s bid to land the 2008 Democratic National Convention is in jeopardy because Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is spread so thin with fund-raising commitments that he may not be able to raise the money from private donors needed to pay for it, an official said on Thursday. The fund-raising worries come as Democrats have been seriously considering bringing the convention to New York rather than to the other competing city, Denver, which offers a politically attractive location, but has logistical problems because of a scarcity of hotel rooms.
But now, administration officials are raising “grave concerns” about Mr. Bloomberg’s ability to cover the expenses. For 2004, when the city was working to show how it had recovered from the Sept. 11 attack, city officials promised Republicans $73 million for their convention and raised $85 million in a fund-raising drive headed by Mayor Bloomberg. This time around, the budget goal is for nearly $85 million, a figure administration officials say could grow to $100 million.

Given the roughly $250 million Mr. Bloomberg has promised to raise for the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation and for programs recommended by his poverty commission, an administration official who would speak only anonymously said there were “serious concerns” about his ability to hit that target. If Mr. Bloomberg and other host committee officials could not bring in the promised amount, the city would have to make up the difference.

It was not immediately clear whether officials would pull back from the bid or devise a new fund-raising strategy, but the financial issue is dampening what had appeared to be encouraging developments as New York pushed aggressively to serve as host to the Democrats in 2008.

From the beginning, few political analysts greeted New York’s attempt to snare the convention with much optimism, arguing that Democrats would be wiser to go to an area of the country where they stood to sway a few fence-sitting states to their side, instead of choosing a state that has long been in the Democratic camp.
Further strengthening New York’s chances was the sense among Democrats that while New York, with its large police force, transit system and other logistical advantages, can pull off a successful convention, Denver may not have enough space even to house the delegates. Denver itself has just 19,000 hotel rooms, according the New York pitch, compared with New York’s 63,200 hotel rooms.
First, that last paragraph makes no sense. There are four to five thousand delegates, maybe six thousand with alternates. I think they could somehow fit in 19,000 hotel rooms. More importanly, I can't believe that 19,000 hotel rooms would be a deal breaker at this point. The number of hotel rooms hasn't changed in a while. Tell the press they'll have to double up in some rooms.

Second, why was this information leaked by Bloomberg's people? The only thing I can think of is to put pressure on some of the donors, saying, if you don't give, you won't have any parties to go to in 2008.

Finally, I think its extremely ironic that New York's bid could fall short due to money problems. The availability of money in New York, and the problems the smaller cities might have in raising it, have been an underlying theme throughout this process. Where are all those donors that wanted the convention in New York? Actually, I wonder if the problem is that Bloomberg is not a Democrat. It would not suprise me if Democrats in New York are tired of giving to Bloomberg's causes, especially with his support of Bush in 2004, and rumors of him running as an independent himself in 2008. Bottom line, it would be sweet justice if New York didn't get the bid because New York couldn't raise enough money.

Update (10/16): ABC's The Note agrees with my thoughts on why this was leaked:
The New York Times' Cardwell wrote on Saturday of the potential fundraising obstacles Michael Bloomberg may face in trying to woo the DNC to New York for its 2008 convention.
(Perhaps the article itself will cause some of those obstacles to disappear.)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

47 reps support Denver

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47 members of Congress have sent a letter to Chairman Dean urging him to pick Denver to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention:

Denver should host the 2008 Democratic convention, according to a letter sent Thursday by Rep. Diana DeGette to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and signed by 47 members of Congress.

Citing the party’s growing influence in the West, the Denver Democrat said it is critical for the Democrats to make a statement about the importance of the region in choosing its convention site.

“Although once solidly a red portion of the country, Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West are rapidly trending blue,” wrote DeGette. “In recent decades, the Western United States have seen rapid growth in cities such as Las Vegas. If a Democrat is going to win the 2008 Presidential election, they will have to win a significant portion of the West. “
The 47 Democratic members of the House of Representatives who signed the letter represented 24 states from every region of the country, and included Reps. Mark Udall and John Salazar from Colorado.

Four senators and 47 congressmen. Good PR, but probably not worth much.

Friday, October 06, 2006

New York actually comments!

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One constant throughout this whole process has been how quiet the New York bid team has been. While the other cities, especially Denver and St. Paul/Minneapolis have always had their supporters quoted in the press about how well their bid was going, New York has said very little. I imagine this is due to New York's willingness to let their bid stand on its own - given their history of hosting conventions, they don't feel a need to have a PR campaign. And even today, with quotes from both sides, New York is still staying low key:

From Denver:

"The momentum is building every day, not only locally and regionally but nationally," said Denver City Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth, president of the Denver 2008 Host Committee. "People are saying, 'Denver, Denver, Denver,' " she said.
Debbie Willhite, executive director of Denver's host committee, was on business Thursday in Washington, D.C., and said the buzz there about Denver is "extraordinarily positive. The stars are lining up because Denver has a strong bid and people want to come there," she said in a telephone interview.

New York responds in a written statement:
"New York City has a proven track record of hosting world-class mega events, and we look forward to working with the Democratic National Committee should they pick New York as their city."
A bit of difference in the tone, don't you think?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Reid and other senators back Denver bid - updated

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From the Rocky Mountain News:

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and three other Democratic U.S. senators are backing Denver's bid to host their party convention in 2008.

Reid and Senators Ken Salazar of Colorado, Max Baucus of Montana and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico wrote a letter to Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, endorsing the Mile High City.

"We believe the West to be the ideal setting for Democrats to showcase the strength, character and vision of our party and our Presidential nominee," the senators wrote in the letter, dated Sept. 26.

Not unexpected, but still good news for Denver's bid.

Update: Not suprisingly, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, Rep. Charles Rangel and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, all of New York, are all supporting New York's bid.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Hotline calls Denver union hotel deal "huge"

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While I would note we had the info here three days ago, the Hotline catches up to the announcement that workers at the Denver Hyatt Regency have formed a union:

This is a huge deal for the city's 2008 convention bid. National unions will likely withdraw their unofficial hold on Denver's bid, and that means that the only obstacle between the city and a convention comes from some of the party's major donors, who'd prefer New York. But since when has Howard Dean listened to the provincial complaints of his major donors? This column has noted before that Denver's attempt at a bid this year wasn't up to snuff. But two subsequent submissions were better, and the city now meets all of the DNC's technical requirements and even exceeds NYC in some intangibles.
Well the word they used about that first submission was "disatrous", but they've been walking that back ever since. And the Hotline gets the point about the unofficial hold exactly right. The local unions removed their objections a while back, because they have to keep good relations with government and business in Denver. But the national Democratic party obviously has strong labor interests running through it, and would not put up with a convention in a non-union city. This quote from August basically summed up Denver's problem:
Democratic delegates from states with strong union presences say they're uneasy about staying in non-union hotels. "We simply cannot," said Vivian Guinan, comptroller of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.
The Hotline is basically saying that with the new bid and the union hotel, Denver is the front-runner again. Very cool.