Not Many Cities Are Vying to Host Costly Political Conventions

Jul 19, 2006 9:18am

Hosting a national political convention is supposed to be a boon for a city’s economy, but today’s increasing security costs and transportation hassles may make these conventions more trouble than they’re worth. Last week, New Orleans withdrew its bid for the Democratic National Convention as the costs of holding the convention and the stresses it would put on the city were deemed too high for a city still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. That leaves five cities: Cleveland, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York and Tampa in the running — a far cry from the 30 cities that were invited by both parties to compete for the conventions. The 2004 conventions shed light on the post-9/11 security concerns that are driving up the cost of hosting political parties. For 2004, Congress appropriated $50 million each for Boston and New York for security. They doubled the original allotment based on terrorism worries. Yet, the total security cost of the Republican Convention in New York was $80 million, which included overtime for NYPD officers who kept an eye on thousands of protesters. The Mayor’s Office said the city picked up $8 million of that remaining tab. Meanwhile, the Boston local economy lost approximately $8 million by hosting the Democratic Convention in 2004, mostly in lost productivity due to the closure of I-93, which runs through the heart of the city, according to the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston. Despite these economic hits, Minneapolis-St. Paul is vying to welcome either convention in 2008, and the city is confident that it will be chosen as one of the host cities. "There will be an absolute economic benefit," according to Bob Hume, spokesman for the St. Paul’s Mayor’s Office. And financial gains aside, he said that the convention would be a great way to showcase the Twin Cities just as the 1988 DNC "put Atlanta on the world map." Tampa, also in the running for the Republican convention, believes hosting a convention will bring dollars to the city.  The Tampa Mayor’s Office said in a letter to the city council that hosting the RNC "would result in significant economic benefits for the City of Tampa and the Tampa Bay Region." Tampa has already declared it will spend no more than one million dollars of its own money, expecting the rest of in-kind donations to come from the party’s corporate sponsors.

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