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    Convention thoughts from Tom Webb

    Friday, September 03, 2004

    Post convention thoughts 

    As the Republicans, the protesters and the media all begin to depart New York City on Friday, a few observations.

    First, thank goodness that both political conventions went as peacefully as they did -- despite all the pre-convention worries about terrorist attacks and so on. The police, the security forces and the planning in both New York and Boston were staggering, especially in New York, and the officers and planners deserve enormous credit. And our thanks.

    But this feeds into my second point, which is the increasingly impossibility of locating these behemoth conventions. Even before 9-11, it was hard for cities to shoulder the related security costs. After 9-11, those costs -- and the inconvenience to city residents -- grew enormously.

    It was stunning to me that both Boston's Fleet Center and New York's Madison Square Garden were chosen in 2004, considering both sit directly atop busy passenger railway stations. And that both were in the midst of bustling downtowns, requiring a security perimeter that shut down ordinary life for blocks around.

    One consequence of this is that, increasingly, the delegates, visitors and media seldom ventured outside the security "bubble," because it's simply too much hassle. And that means that the high-blown promises of a financial windfall for the host city almost never materialize, leaving restauranteurs, cab drivers and shop owners feeling betrayed by civic boosters, and angry about a week with sparse business.

    Bottom line: The next time folks from Minnesota think it would be great for the Twin Cities to host a national political convention, they should have their heads examined. Chances are, it would be a nightmare -- not for our Minnesota image, but for the staggering costs, the mandated security closings and the inevitable disappointment when the pre-convention hype fails to live up to reality.

    Tom Webb

    Tom Webb is the Washington correspondent for the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press. He can be reached at

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