Saturday, July 05, 2008

NYT: Denver convention prep way behind, way expensive

The Times, late as hell too, casts a comprehensively critical eye on preparations for the Democratic National Convention:

With the Denver convention less than two months away, problems range from the serious — upwardly spiraling costs on key contracts still being negotiated —to the more mundane, like the reluctance of local caterers to participate because of stringent rules on what delegates will be eating, down to the color of the food. At last count, plans to renovate the inside of the Pepsi Center for the Democrats are $6 million over budget, which may force convention planners to scale back on their original design or increase their fund-raising goals.

Some of the Democratic missteps started almost immediately after planning for the event began. The Democratic National Convention Committee decided not to take cheap office space and and instead rented top-quality offices in downtown Denver at $100,000 a month, only to need less than half the space, which it then filled with rental furniture at $50,000 a month.
Missed that one.

And in a costly misstep, the Denver host committee, early on, told corporate donors that their contributions were not tax-deductible, rather than to encourage donations by saying that the tax-exempt application was pending and expected to be approved.

Overly ambitious environmental goals — to turn the event into a “green” convention — have backfired as only three states’ full delegations have so far agreed to participate in the program. Negotiations over where to locate demonstrators remain unsettled with members of the national news media concerned over proposals to locate the demonstrators — with their loud gatherings — next to the media tent.
Darn kids. They better not piss off the MSM.

And then there is the food: A 28-page contract requested by Denver organizers that caterers provide food in “at least three of the following five colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple and white.” Garnishes could not be counted toward the colors. No fried foods would be allowed. Organic and locally grown foods were mandated, and each plate had to be 50 percent fruits and vegetables. As a result, caterers are shying away.

For the Democratic Party, the danger is that a poorly run convention, or one that misses the mark financially, will reflect badly on the party and raise questions about Democratic management skills. And more worrisome for the Obama campaign is that it will be left with the bill for overruns or fund-raising shortfalls, and that the candidate will have to compete in raising money against a convention effort desperate for cash.

Heh. The piece details many other complaints, shortcomings and overruns; amazingly, city council member Charlie Brown is quoted.

(via this Shiplord Kirel spinoff link)

Update: In comments, Aaron Myers, director of online communications for the DNCC, notes the committee's statement disputing some of the Times' charges. Here it is, under the names of party chairman Howard Dean and convention chairwoman Leah Daughtry:
We are proud to stand at the helm of the finest Convention team we’ve known. As the arm of the national Party tasked with planning and organizing the Democratic National Convention in Denver, the Democratic National Convention Committee has been at this for more than a year. And we take great pride in our work. That's why we were astonished to read in Sunday’s New York Times such a gross misrepresentation of the groundwork that has been laid to date.

The New York Times asserts that this is a Democratic convention effort “marred by costly setbacks.” That is false. In fact we are ahead of the game. Anyone who has ever worked on a national political Convention would tell you as much. This is a well managed Convention.

The New York Times states that the Convention is facing “upwardly spiraling costs on key contracts still being negotiated.” That is false. All major contracts have been executed and we are on track to move in to the Pepsi Center to begin build out on Monday as planned.

The New York Times implies that the Convention has imposed eating restrictions on delegates to the Convention. That is false. Democrats at the Pepsi Center and other official Convention venues can have all the fried goodies they can stomach. Talk of anything to the contrary is just plain silly.

The New York Times reports that Democrats are $6 million over budget in Convention planning and have failed to estimate costs properly. That is false. From day one, prudent budgeting and financial management have been an important part of our Convention planning – across the board.

The New York Times states that “overly ambitious environmental goals” from Convention organizers have backfired, citing a lack of interest from delegates in the effort. That is false. In fact, hundreds of delegates have already signed on to the “Green Delegate Challenge,” and we anticipate recently selected delegates to join in the weeks ahead.

Despite uninformed criticism in the New York Times and the city’s worries about the color and fried nature of food among other things, our focus remains on putting on an historic event that helps keep Senator Barack Obama on a path to victory in November. When August comes, the eyes of the world will be watching. And we’ll be ready.
Holes. Lots of holes. The Times doesn't appear to have published this yet, but I assume they sort of have to.

Update II (the following day): the Post notices the story.

No comments: