,For the last 18 months, Denver Post staffer Chuck Plunkett's beat has been next week's Democratic National Convention and the logistical preparations his city has been making to host it... I called my friend and former colleague ... to find out if Denver is prepared for what one civic booster told USA Today was "the biggest event in the history of the city":
Q: Is Denver ready for the Democrats?
A : I think it's as ready as it could be. There aren't any huge lingering holes in their preparations that I see.
Q: What was the biggest problem the city has had to deal with?
A: The Denver Host Committee is the nonprofit organization that was formed to host the convention. Its main responsibility, above all else, is to raise the millions and millions of dollars in private cash donations that the Democratic National Convention Committee has to have to put this thing on.
The host committee has now raised the $40.6 million it agreed to raise and an additional $11 million in donated goods and services that was required of it.
Because Barack Obama moved his acceptance speech outdoors to Invesco Field at Mile High, they have to raise an additional $4 million to $6 million more. They say they will have that done with a little bit of mop up into next week.
In trying to meet their money-raising obligations, the host committee had some problems. They were $11 million behind in fundraising in June, their last deadline, so they had to scrap two dozen parties at prime Denver locations that they had been planning for months and months and months for all the delegations that come.
There are 56 delegations, and the host committee is required to welcome them all on the opening Sunday. It's supposed to be a chance to showcase the city and that kind of thing.
But due to the lack of money, they had to scrap all of that and consolidate it down into one big party on Sunday for 6,000 delegates and guests.
Q: How will this benefit the city and will it be a net plus or a net minus?
A: If it all goes smoothly, it seems like it could be a big plus. Denver now gets to say that it's now on a par with a Chicago or an L.A. or a Boston in hosting what is really an international event.
They can say, "We won' t just be flyover country any more."
If it doesn't go well, if there are lots of logistical problems, or if protesters cause trouble and police react in a bad way, it really could give the city a black eye. It'd make us look like a mean-spirited town...
They claim, using different economic models, that with the convention and the 50,000 guests who are coming -- which include the media, the delegates and Democratic VIPs -- that you'll get a direct economic impact of $160 million.
But they had big projections like that in Boston and there are reports that say the direct impact is actually far less because those projections didn't factor in what the city would have made anyway during that time period...
Q: Is the city well-prepared for street demonstrators?
A: The mayor says that he believes that they are and that the police are going to go out of their way to respect people's right to free speech and whatnot. But if they see someone preparing to cause trouble, they are going to sweep in with I guess overwhelming force to stop that from happening.
Q: If you were writing a novel about the convention and the preparation for it, what would be the story line you'd use to pitch the book to your agent?
A: Well, this may not be good fiction, but it is an interesting story line: Can a city -- a mid-sized city with little more than a half a million people in it -- be expected to host these conventions in the future? The price of these conventions just continues to grow and grow and grow. The amount of private cash that has to be raised and the security money that has to come in is so staggering; think about these numbers: ultimately $51 million in total private money, plus $50 million worth of security money, plus another $16 million worth of federal money that goes to the Democratic National Convention Committee from the Federal Election Commission's public campaign finance fund. That's $120-some million you're talking about.
Can cities like Denver and Pittsburgh really be expected to live up to that challenge?
Contact Bill Steigerwald at firstname.lastname@example.org