Tuesday, May 25, 2004

May 25, 2004 - The DNC Convention, All You Can Eat!

Note: this text appeared in the Sunday, May 30th, Lawrence Eagle-Tribune letters to the editor.

Today's Commentary: May 25th, 2004

I am so looking forward to summer in New England. Warm weather, outdoor activities, and now - being completely shut out of Boston at the end of July by the 2004 DNC convention.

Boston's Mayor Tom 'Mumbles' Menino worked diligently to host the convention, touting an economic windfall for the area of $150M (you can smell the ending already, can't you?). If you think George W. is a bad orator, you need to hear Mayor Menino. He hearkens a memory of Peter Boyle singing "Puttin' on the Ritz" in the Mel Brooks movie 'Young Frankenstein'.

Those of us (all of us) who helped fund the Boston area economy with by forking over $16B for the Big Dig can savor some small revenge as the traffic plans for this event have recently been presented to the public.

Sections of route 93 inside 128 will be shut down from 4PM to midnight daily. This part of 93 is known as the artery which runs through the heart of Boston. But a stoppage in this artery will not necessarily be fatal. Not when we get that $150M windfall, right? The Tobin Bridge, Storrow Drive, Sumner Tunnel and other major roadways will all be shutdown in late July. Don't expect rail passengers to be unaffected either.

It should be pretty clear to all, the benefits that Mumbles is looking for by hosting this boondoggle. As I drove in to Logan Airport the other day, I saw a huge banner on the side of the Fleet Center, where the convention is being held. In addition to a logo, it reads: "2004 Democratic National Convention" and "Thomas M. Menino". I didn't read any other smaller text, if there was any. It was pretty early in the morning. But so what if Mumbles gets a bit of a political boost? We're getting the $150M windfall, right?


Here's what Boston is losing:

Sail Boston - $85 million net loss.
U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials - $15 million gone.
Reebok Pro Summer League - say Adios! to $2 million.

Governor Romney suggested months ago that the convention should be held at the new convention center in South Boston. The barely comprehensible reply from Menino? If Romney wants to help plan the event, he should fork over some state money to fund it.

A classic Democratic partisan response. But then when was the last time a Massachusetts politician of either stripe did something that saved you money? Oh yea, former Governor Weld reduced the tolls on the Pike.

By the time all the bills are tallied up for free convention bus service, over-paying to resolve union disputes prior to the event, security and any other costs associated with protests or potential rioting, this will have been a huge bill simply to raise Menino to national awareness. Mumbles must be suffering badly from 'Rudy-envy'. The potential costs (not windfall) is now estimated at $13M to $50M depending on where you sit on the political spectrum.

As expected, the Boston Globe, in a May 22nd editorial has already started the chant for more taxpayer funding: "The Romney administration and the Legislature should compensate the T for extra spending on what has become a transportation emergency".

Yikes! I never saw that coming...

If Ted Kennedy were a republican, he'd call it a quagmire - or Viet Nam. Menino's advice for the Boston area workers who will be effected by this mess? "Take the week off".

But since when did costs or practicality matter to Mumbles?


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