By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Business, political, and union leaders from around the region gathered in center city Philadelphia this morning to examine the idea of Philadelphia hosting the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
About twenty officials gathered for the 90-minute, closed-door meeting that included Montgomery County commissioner Josh Shapiro.
“What you saw are people from labor, business, all across the region, folks with different political ideologies, people who ultimately want to see the same thing: which is an exciting event that is critical for the economy, critical for economic growth, great for our hotels, and great for the region, to be able to bring the 2016 Democratic Convention here,” Shapiro said afterward.
The Democratic Party is expected to issue a request for bids next month. Among those at the meeting who would like the city to pursue the convention was Pennsylvania state senator Anthony Williams (D-Phila).
“It’s not only something that the city can do,” he said, “it’s something that the city should do,” Williams says.
But one key issue at the meeting was the cost to the city of hosting a political convention — a concern voiced earlier this week by Mayor Nutter (see previous story), who did not attend today’s session.
US Rep. Bob Brady (D-Pa., right), who organized the meeting, says that with federal funds available for security, and private donations, the cost to the city would be zero.
“We’re going to raise the money as we’re supposed to — through private funds. There will be no city money. There won’t be any city output,” he told reporters after the meeting.
Meryl Levitz, of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation, who also attended the session, says the cost aspect needs further study.
“I think that’s a responsible question,” she says. “And one of the next steps (is) to see what, in today’s environment, would be the costs. So many things have changed since we last did this (in 2000), and even since it was last done (in 2012). So I think those are good questions for everybody to ask, and are one of the immediate ones to ask.”
Sen. Williams believes Mayor Nutter can ultimately be convinced that the city can afford to host the Democratic convention:
“Once he sees what we are seeing, and has some general understanding supported by the specifics, I would imagine that he would be as enthusiastic as the rest of us to have this convention in Philadelphia.”
Another attendee, Pa. state senator Vince Hughes, said that despite the cost question, there are larger reasons for the city to host that convention:
“We’re undergoing now a national and to some respects an international conversation about democracy, and what that really means. And what better place to have that conversation than in the City of Philadelphia.”
And Shapiro, of Montgomery County, says the entire region would benefit, economically and otherwise:
“In addition to the raw dollar figures that show a benefit to the city, certainly, and to the region, there’s a sense of civic pride, there’s a sense of involvement, there’s a sense of engagement.”
Brady says he’ll deliver a report to Mayor Nutter outlining the results of his meeting.