December 04, 2006

Bucking Conventional Wisdom--Benefits Of Convention Uneven

Bostonians disagree over the positive economic impact of hosting the Democratic National Convention in 2004:
Hosting the convention would give Denver exposure on a Super Bowl scale and put the city on the international map - if only for a week. Those could be priceless benefits.

But meanwhile, security measures and traffic could bring everyday life to a standstill in portions of the city and there likely would be both winners and losers, Boston veterans say.

The 2004 event was held at Boston's FleetCenter, a multipurpose sports arena within a short walk of the North End business district.

Some businesses report doing well, including restaurants that landed lucrative events for well- heeled delegates.

"It was a good thing. There were just so many people in town, so even though we were going through a major road renovation, we still did a lot of business," said Andrea Procopio, manager of Ernesto's Pizzeria on Salem Street. " . . . If you have a business that is in maybe a two-mile radius of the convention center, you'll probably do well."

Not necessarily, said other North End business operators.

"It crippled us because the city came to a standstill because of security issues," said Lisa Cirace, who runs V. Cirace & Sons liquors, less than a mile from the event center.
Any large event like this will have disparate impacts on local businesses especially, but this in itself is not an argument against hosting the convention. The facilities to be used have all been built, and of course it is likely that many areas will see only indirect economic benefits, outside of the downtown Denver area.

Media types will inundate Denver for a week providing millions of dollars in free advertising time to Colorado by highlighting the state's natural beauty and no doubt encouraging tourism, especially skiing (even though the convention will be in August). It is hard at this point to see much of a cost other than traffic gridlock. Of course, any potential numbers at this point are nothing more than speculation. Nevertheless, the convention committee, convention delegates and the media will no doubt spend a great deal, and that can't be ignored.

Taking a stroll around Denver, circa 1908:
Proper ladies and gents wore hats to be stylish back when the Democratic nominating convention met in Denver in 1908.

Denver's own prominent suffragist, Mary C.C. Bradford, struck a dignified, hatted pose in her portrait in the Rocky Mountain News that July. Bradford, whom the newspaper lauded as "an eloquent platform talker," made history as one of five women credentialed as delegates or alternate delegates to the first national political convention to accredit women.

As Denver sweetens its financial bid to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention in anticipation of a decision this month, the clock turns back to yesteryear to the first convention of a major political party in the West.

The 1908 Denver convention was a frenzy of boosterism, decorated by bunting and punctuated by brass bands.

"At night, with that splendid star-sprinkled sky, which Providence seems to furnish all the time to Colorado alone, enhancing the glory of the scene, the streets are transformed into long lanes of light, the miles of arcs having been reinforced with canopies of red, white and blue incandescents at every cross street," the News reported breathlessly. "The effect is magnificent."

The success of the weeklong convention was joined by civic self-congratulation. The rough- edged frontier city embellished itself with such accolades as Paris on the Platte or the Queen City of the Mountains and Plains.

"We are proud of the clean, virile, energetic, art-loving civilization that has sprung up in one short lifetime on the land where the antelope pastured," the News editorialized.

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