Denver Hits Some Snags In Runup To Convention

A Denver 2008 banner advertises the upcoming Democratic Convention. i

Banners around Denver advertise the impending Democratic National Convention, Aug. 25-28. The city has faced a few glitches in the planning. Jeff Brady/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jeff Brady/NPR
A Denver 2008 banner advertises the upcoming Democratic Convention.

Banners around Denver advertise the impending Democratic National Convention, Aug. 25-28. The city has faced a few glitches in the planning.

Jeff Brady/NPR

After 19 months of work, Denver is ready to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

The convention starts Aug. 25. There are signs everywhere that it's about to begin, like the "Denver 2008" banners and last-minute cleanup projects around the sports arena downtown. The city has also stepped up security measures.

"There's a lot more people posted around the Pepsi Center looking and checking to see what you're doing around here," said Kevin Kanouff, whose private investment company's office overlooks the arena. "We've had to fill out some forms identifying our cars and who we are."

But as the Denver Host Committee prepared for the event, there were a few glitches, including the committee falling short of fundraising goals and the city upsetting protesters before the convention has even started.

Falling Short On Fundraising

The most notable convention snag was fundraising. The party required the host committee to raise more than $40 million. But the price tag went up at least another $6 million when Sen. Barack Obama chose to hold his nominating speech at Mile High Stadium, which can seat more people than the convention hall.

And the committee consistently fell short of its fundraising goals. So, after a couple of bad public relations experiences, the committee stopped reporting how much it was raising. Spokesman Chris Lopez told NPR the committee has enough money. Final figures won't be released until October.

Security And The Protesters

Security has been a major focus for convention planners.

Protesters have sought inspiration from the violent clashes between demonstrators and police at the Democratic Convention in Chicago 40 years ago. One group even calls itself Recreate '68.

Both Denver and Minneapolis received $50 million in federal money to pay for security. In Denver, some of the $50 million was used to construct a temporary jail to fingerprint protesters.

Capt. Frank Gale of the Denver Sheriff Department says the city's existing jail can process only about 30 arrestees an hour. The new facility will allow deputies to process three times as many.

Protest groups were upset that the city didn't tell them that the temporary jail was under construction. The facility already has become a focus of demonstrations. Organizers have dubbed the sparse cement and chain-link facility near the Platte River "Gitmo on the Platte."

"I think we have to be prepared," Gale said. "I mean, when people tell us they're going to come and be disruptive, we have to believe them."

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