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Bostonians Divided on Benefits of Hosting Democratic Political Party Convention - 2004-07-23


The city of Boston is hosting a party, specifically, the Democratic Party. Over the next four days as of Monday, July 26, more than 20,000 people will converge on this city that's considered the cradle of the American Revolution. Some 15,000 of them will be members of the media, but most of the rest will be delegates, coming to choose a presidential candidate.

This is the first time Boston has hosted a national party convention. Most Bostonians probably won't be pushing to have their city play host again four years from now.

The Convention has been a long time coming. Democrats first chose Boston as their venue for the 2004 campaign back in November of 2002. And Democratic National Convention press secretary Lina Garcia says it's been nothing but nonstop planning ever since.

"A whole lot of planning. A lot of the staff has been here for a year, some even over a year, so we're very excited to see the final product," he said.

Democrats aren't the only people who've been busy. There are more than 130 hotels within a 16 kilometer radius of Boston, and nearly all of them are booked to capacity this week. The Omni Parker House, in the heart of the city's historic district, is the oldest, continuously operating hotel in the country. It's hosting the delegations from New Jersey and Pennsylvania for the next four days and will be giving them allcommemorative bottles of champagne.

As he stands in the lobby, evaluating the red, white, and blue bunting hung from the ceiling above the front desk, David Ritchie, director of sales and marketing, says the hotel staff has been looking forward to this for months.

"The staff is hugely excited," he said. No employees are on vacation. They're all looking forward to the event. Many of the employees have not had the opportunity to go through such a historical event like this, so the staff is very pumped up and excited to have all these people with us."

The staff at the Omni Parker House may be in the minority among Bostonians. Most people who live here seem to view all the security restrictions put in place for the week as a major hassle. The Massachusetts State Police are shutting down Interstate 93 for several hours each day during the convention. That's a major transportation corridor that runs right by the Fleet Center, where the delegates will be assembling. Boston's main train station has also been closed. Life-long resident Alexandra Fisher says that's why she chose to spend this week in Philadelphia.

"I'm not really sure I want to deal with all of the police and official cars and blocking off of streets and all of that stuff. It's going to be a hassle, so I decided to get out of town," he said.

There are also a number of less obvious security restrictions that could end up having a very obvious impact on the city.

Meg Richardson, a professional dogwalker in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood, where presumed Democratic candidate John Kerry lives said "The most recent problem has been that they're taking away the trashcans. It's a huge problem in general for people in Beacon Hill, because trash is a huge issue. As anyone knows living in the city, when trash isn't taken care of, it stinks, and now obviously, being a dogwalker, I'm worried about picking up after my doggies and what we're going to do with the bags. I'm a little worried about how bad it's going to smell in the middle of July."

Even among Boston's various food vendors, there isn't universal agreement about whether the convention is a good or a bad thing. Wilson Huong sells water and soda from a cart in Downtown Crossing, a major shopping district that's been newly decorated with rows of American flags.

"It could be an opportunity for my cart to gain more business than it usually should," he said.

But then there's Gabriele Ruiz, who sells hotdogs across the street. Mr. Ruiz doesn't seem to think that most delegates are going to want to eat the kind of food available at his cart.

"I think that is not the kind of crowd we try to serve," he said. "Maybe for another kind of business, it's going to be better. For us, no."

Mr. Ruiz says he'll operate his cart until the end of the first day of the convention? and if he hasn't sold many hotdogs, he's going to close up shop and leave town, just like many of his neighbors.

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