So, how’d we do in the convention battle between Denver and the Twin Cities?

Republican delegates celebrated in grand style Thursday night, and Twin Cities officials seem just as happy with the results they got for hosting the gathering.
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Republican delegates celebrated in grand style Thursday night, and Twin Cities officials seem just as happy with the results they got for hosting the gathering.

Now that the Republican National Convention is over, the questions in the souls of most insecure Minnesotans: Did they like us?  And, did we do better than Denver, the host city of the Democratic National Convention?

Let’s get the bad news out of the way.  

1. Denver has the Rocky Mountains for a backdrop. Denver 1, Twin Cities 0.

2. Denver has a complete light rail system. This would have been a spectacular time to have the University Avenue light rail line in place, but decades of political shortsightedness  means the line won’t be completed until at least 2014. Denver 2, Twin Cities 0.

3. Denver has the 16th Street Mall through the heart of a single downtown, as opposed to the Twin Cities having no single thoroughfare. That meant that on any given day during the DNC, you could stand on the mall and feel the excitement of the political convention. The mall was packed with delegates, political and media celebrities, businesspeople, prophets, hawkers, protesters, anarchists. There was no single point where that happened in the Twin Cities. Denver 3, Twin Cities 0.

4. Denver was host to one of the most remarkable political moments of our time. The sight of 80,000 people peacefully streaming from all directions to Mile High Stadium to see Barack Obama accept his party’s nomination for president will end up in history books.  Denver 4, Twin Cities 0.

So, is it a blowout?

Not so fast. It’s our turn to bat.

1. St. Paul has the Xcel Energy Center, right at the edge of its downtown. The tax-despising Republicans loved this publicly financed place, which was far more accessible than Denver’s Pepsi Center, which is in the midst of acres of parking lots and more than a mile from the heart of downtown.

Some delegates attending the convention in Denver would hike a couple of miles to the Pepsi Center from downtown in hot August weather. There’d be an hour-long wait in the security line. (There was only one main security entrance to the Pepsi Center, compared with three entrances to Xcel.)  When people, sweating profusely, finally got into the secure zone in Denver, they were greeted by a group of cheering volunteers.

“Way to go! You did it!” they’d yell. “You’re looking good.”

It was similar to finishing a marathon.

No need for that in St. Paul. Access was relatively painless.  Denver 4, Twins Cities 1.

2. The Xcel Center is tied to the RiverCentre complex and the old Roy Wilkins auditorium. Those facilities were turned into massive, air-conditioned media centers, complete with restrooms.

You don’t care about the comfort of the media? Remember, it’s the media that tell the stories of the convention and its hosts. Happy reporters tend to tell happier stories.

Despite the Gustav-shortened GOP convention, the media attention given the Twin Cities was huge, according to Host Committee officials. They said today that the convention has resulted in “8 billion media impressions.” That’s 8 billion.

What’s that mean?

For the last six months, the Host Committee had a clippings service that showed all of the stories being written about the Twins Cities as the RNC host.

“You know, those top 10 places to go in the Twin Cities list in the New York Times or USA Today,” said Teresa McFarland, communications director for the Host Committee.

Then, you multiply that story by the number of people who likely read it.

It was only in the last two weeks that Host Committee started compiling similar data from television programming.

At a news conference today, the Host Committee had 17, three-ring binders, each about 3 inches thick, with clippings from various sources about the Twin Cities and the convention.

“Priceless,” said Jeff Larson, CEO of the Host Committee. “The coverage we’ve received so far is the equivalent of purchasing 122 Super Bowl ads.”

The coverage still will be heavy through the weekend.

Let’s assume, because reporters had indoor facilities here, they were in a pretty complimentary mood — except for those reporters who got arrested covering riots.

At the Pepsi Center, the media was housed in massive tents erected on the parking lots. The tents were air-conditioned, but there was no running water and only satellite toilets. Denver 4, Twins Cities 2.

3. The attitude of the cops: A surprise plus to the Twin Cities here. Despite the fact that Twin Cities area cops were involved in some nasty altercations — and despite the fact there are scores of allegations of  abuse of power — cops here were, on the whole, friendlier than cops in Denver, who had only a handful of  lawbreakers to deal with.

Local media were jam-packed with photos and stories of the confrontations between police and those intent on grabbing the attention away from peaceful protesters. It appears, though, that those images did not get big play in the national media.

“I was walking with (his mayoral aide) Jeremy Hanson in Denver,” said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. “He said the Denver media was paying more attention to the lawbreakers than the national media was, and he predicted the same thing would happen here. I didn’t believe him, but he was right.”

More on police presence.

Rybak noted that in Denver, the police rode around on running boards of SUVs. It was an intimidating sight.

In the Twin Cities, police rented mini-vans instead of purchasing the SUVs.

“At a critical moment Wednesday night,” Rybak said, “we had to move 100 officers from one point to another. They took off in a caravan of mini-vans. It looked like they were headed off to a soccer tournament. The tone was different.” Denver 4, Twin Cities 3.

(Most of the Republican delegates, by the way, seemed highly appreciative of the work of the police. They didn’t mind any extra thumping being done by police, which is understandable given they were the potential targets of buckets of urine. )

4. The variety of places to go in the Twin Cities. Most delegates I spoke with seemed to enjoy the fact that they could attend the convention in one city and dine in another. Denver 4, Twin Cities 4.

So, a tie?

Nah. We can be homers for a day. We win on intangibles.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said his most memorable moments during the convention came while on a paddleboat ride with 320 delegates and other visitors on the Mississippi. The unsolicited comments he was getting were dazzling.

“Most welcoming place we’ve ever been. . . .Most beautiful cities we’ve been to. . . . .We can’t wait to come back.”

Sweet dreams, insecure Minnesotans. They liked us.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/08/2008 - 01:50 pm.

    Please ask someone (who is not so sure that the police acted with “restraint”) to develop an article on this topic that tells the side of those on the receiving end of the mass arrests and jailings, intimidating presence, pepper spray in eyes, denial of medications and/or medical care while in the Ramsey County Detention Center — oh, there’s so much more. Thank you.

  2. Submitted by Randi Reitan on 09/08/2008 - 11:40 am.

    I think we should get one point for providng a hockey arena to crown the “hockey mom” as Vice President.

  3. Submitted by Bob Spaulding on 09/06/2008 - 06:07 pm.

    A small group of anarchists and violent protests did distract from the thousands of non-violent progressive voices challenging the Bush administration. That’s really frustrating.

    And that would have been true to a substantial extent no matter what law enforcement did, nor how the media covered it.

    Regardless of what these folks thought they were doing, the reality kinda makes a person wonder in whose interest it is to legitimize violent anarchism as a form of protest.

  4. Submitted by Brian Larson on 09/06/2008 - 10:05 am.

    “… confrontations between police and those intent on grabbing the attention away from peaceful protesters. ”
    I get it, Grow is claiming that the Anarchists and other violent protesters were really intent on getting the spotlight away from the protesters that didn’t like to use violence when the police were watching them, and not actually wanting to disrupt the Convention.

  5. Submitted by chris dykstra on 09/08/2008 - 01:21 pm.

    “…Despite the fact that Twin Cities area cops were involved in some nasty altercations — and despite the fact there are scores of allegations of abuse of power — cops here were, on the whole, friendlier than cops in Denver, who had only a handful of lawbreakers to deal with.”

    This is completely absurd on the face of it. Denver had far fewer allegations of abuse of power, while St. Paul had “scores.” Denver had fewer arrests, while hosting equally large protests. What’s the difference? Denver had fewer “lawbreakers” because they had a less aggressive, more citizen-friendly security strategy. In short, the arrested fewer people, and thus had fewer lawbreakers. St. Paul only had a “handful of lawbreakers” to deal with, too, but chose a strategy of rounding up all and sundry and arresting them as a means of prevention. They used a bazooka to go mouse hunting, as it were. Hardly friendly or true to any kind of mission that has “Protect and Serve” in it.

    And this is equally idiotic:

    “They (the delegates) didn’t mind any extra thumping being done by police, which is understandable given they were the potential targets of buckets of urine.”

    That’s because delegates weren’t being thumped for exercising a basic civil right. Do you think that the people receiving the “extra thumping” minded it, assuming you mean “extra” to mean something like “for added emphasis” or “for good measure” and not the minimum use of force necessary to prevent an actual crime? Do you have any proof whatsoever that anybody was ever a target of a bucket of urine are you simply repeating things you hear on TV?

    And finally this, “Local media were jam-packed with photos and stories of the confrontations between police and those intent on grabbing the attention away from peaceful protesters. It appears, though, that those images did not get big play in the national media.”

    You can’t possible think that the gravity or extent of abuse of power is equal to the amount of exposure it gets from the national media? As in, if it’s just our little secret then it’s somehow ok?

    Due a little diligence for crying out loud. Try to think critically. Try to step up your game.

  6. Submitted by Tom Poe on 09/06/2008 - 08:09 pm.

    Your attempt to paint a picture of the Twin Cities without using the term, police state, is applaudable. Nice try. You can link to this post in the near future when you try to paint a picture of the lawsuit verdicts against the city officials and the RNC when the time comes. Laughable, is one way to describe your post.

  7. Submitted by bill reith on 09/06/2008 - 11:30 pm.

    Oh,lord – the cops comment – really? My image was one of the nasty convention years ago in Mayor Daley’s Chicago – tough, massively suited-up, brutal cops mowing down the sinner and the observer alike. My takeaway was ‘don’t visit St. Paul during any kind of major event if you can help it’. Totally blew my image of Minnesota as a decent, friendly place.

  8. Submitted by Steven Ayres on 09/21/2008 - 06:53 pm.

    I think that the biggest crime, was the fact that St. Paul shelled out a ton of money for a convention that produced no real revenue.

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