When New York's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, threw Brooklyn's hat into the ring to host the political circus known as the Democratic National Convention, some locals were taken by surprise. Brooklyn? But it turns out that New York, Philadelphia and Columbus are the three final contenders for the mega-million dollar, weeklong event.
With its whirlwind of parties, politicking and press, a political convention is not as big as, say, the Olympics, but financially and symbolically it's important to the city nonetheless.
So, when will we find out where the 2016 Democratic National Convention will be held, and where the post-Obama Democratic presidential contender will be chosen?
Cliffhanger: Announcement Delayed
I caught up with the press office at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) on January 9, 2015 to inquire about the overdue announcement, previously scheduled for early this month.
"The final decision" about the location of the Democratic National Convention "will be announced late in January or early in February," a DNC spokesperson reported.
All three finalist cities are in contract negotiations with the DNC, she said.
Brooklyn Slice of the Big Apple for Dems?
Replacing Madison Square Garden, the main scene of the 2016 Democratic National Convention would be Downtown Brooklyn's Barclays Center, which the myor called "one of the newest and best arenas in the nation." (Barclays is not rust belt, but as anyone who's seen it would agree, it's very definitely rust-colored.)
Barclays is within banner-waving distance of such famously progressive neighborhoods as Park Slope, Fort Greene, and Prospect Heights. Many locals kvetch about the traffic and disruption that the convention would bring, while privately wishing that Democratic conventioneers might find local leftist views contagious.
The idea of promoting Brooklyn as the Democratic National Convention venue has a touch of marketing genius about it. It used to be said that one in four Americans could trace their immigrant ancestry to Brooklyn. The place is upbeat, flush with an unexpected success. The new mayor, a Brooklyn resident, has touted his progressive Brooklyn credentials nationally. With 2.8 million residents, the borough is self-consciously diverse, and people aren't afraid of that combustible four-letter word, race. Brooklyn, with its proud history as an underdog (think the Dodgers) and its remarkable renaissance in recent years (visit Williamsburg) has a refreshing can-do spirit and homey tin-ceilinged appeal in a seriously beleaguered world.
On the other hand, New York's competitors are strong. It's hard to beat the symbolism of Philadelphia's Liberty Bell. Ohio is where presidential fortunes are often made or lost. The Republicans have already cast their vote for the Midwest; the Republican National Convention is already scheduled to be held in Ohio. And Ohio hasn't hosted a Democratic National Convention in over three decades.
With just weeks until the decision is announced, one hopes the DNC is not paying attention to local squabbles. The family laundry is fluttering for all to see. The protracted catfight between the NY Police Department and the mayor tarnishes New York's image as a place where everyone, fellow sardines on the subway, understands how essential it is to get along.
2016 Democratic National Convention At-A-Glance
*The DNC invited over a dozen cities, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Nashville and Salt Lake City, to apply to be host of the 2016 convention. Phoenix, Arizona and Birmingham, Alabama lost their bids in the first round. In November, 2014, NY, Philly and Columbus were announced as the semifinalists
*Some 35,000 people, including delegates, attendees, security, hangers-on, vendors, entertainers and merchants, could flow into the city for the event. The Barclays Center accommodates 18,000 people.
*Representative and DNC Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a letter to supporters said possible dates for the Democratic National Convention include the weeks of July 18th, July 25th or August 22nd, 2016.
* If convened in New York City, convention events (and dollars) would be spread through all five boroughs, with the hub at Barclays.
* In 2004, the Republican National Convention in New York City infused some $250 million into the local economy, Mayor de Blasio recalled in a November 2014 speech celebrating New York's selection as a 2016 finalist. He expects the economic windfall in 2016 to be larger.
*The host committee for the 2016 bid is aiming to raise $100 million. The de Blasio administration announced in December 2014 that it had raised $15 million already, through a host committee comprised of 112 members including many New York movers and shakers -- financial institutions, real estate developers, and major unions, to name a few-- that were collaborating on the bid, despite frequently being on the opposite side of various issues.
We're hoping New York gets the nod for the DNC 2016, despite the inevitable traffic and chaos. You can hold your breath now; it won't be much longer until the announcement is finally made.
Previous Locations for Democratic National Conventions Since 1980
A birds-eye view of where the past Democratic National Conventions have been convened, and the Democratic Presidential candidates elected at them:
2012 - Charlotte - Obama
2008 - Denver - Obama
2004 - Boston- Kerry
2000 - Los Angeles - Gore
1996 - Chicago - Clinton
1992 - New York City - Clinton
1988 - Atlanta - Dukakis
1984 - San Francisco - Mondale
1980 - New York City - Carter