Philly taxes could figure in paying some Democratic Convention costs

 Mayor Michael Nutter works to convince DNC representatives that Philadelphia is the best place for the 2016 national convention. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Mayor Michael Nutter works to convince DNC representatives that Philadelphia is the best place for the 2016 national convention. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia taxpayers will kick in money if the city wins its bid to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention, City Council President Darrell Clarke said Thursday.

But Clarke said the city government would only provide “logistical” aid, such as support from the police or streets department. No general fund dollars would be used, he said. 

“It’s actually no different than some of the large events that we’ve done. You always have to provide logistical support where you do spend city money, but the return on that investment is significant,” he said. “When we had Live Aid here, it was significant. When you look at the money that was generated from hotels, revenues, taxes, all the things associated with a large group of people, we got that money back three, four [times].”

When Philadelphia hosted the Republican National Convention in 2000, the event brought $345 million to the regional economy, according to a city report. Taxpayers from the area provided $39 million, including cash and in-kind contributions. Most of that support was in-kind, said former Gov. Ed Rendell, who helped woo the convention as mayor of Philadelphia in the 1990s.

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Brooklyn, Phoenix, Columbus, Ohio, and Birmingham, Alabama, are competing against Philadelphia to put on the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nomination convention. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he expects the city will cover about $10 million in expenses if Brooklyn is successful.

“We will do whatever we need to do to get this convention, within reason, obviously,” said Clarke. “I think that we can match New York or any other city that’s still in the running as it relates to our package.”

Despite statements by Clarke, a rumored 2015 mayoral candidate, Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration said there has been no promise to provide in-kind contributions. Nutter’s final term will end in early 2016.

“While it’s true that there is agreement that no city general fund dollars will be allocated for this convention (and the mayor greatly appreciates the council president’s support), there has been no commitment at this time about ‘in-kind’ support,” mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald wrote in an email. “Indeed, the budget is still an issue of discussion and analysis.”

Members of the Democratic National Committee have been touring Philadelphia for two days, meeting with business and political leaders about the city’s proposal.

Nutter and Rendell, chairman of the nonprofit guiding the city’s 2016 bid, have said repeatedly that no tax dollars would be used to support a convention this time around.

“[Nutter] made clear that, unlike 2000, the city could not put any cash into the fundraising pot,” said Rendell at a Wednesday news conference. “And we understand that.”

Rendell later added a caveat, however: “There may be some overtime for streets department, for cleanup, but minimal city taxpayer dollars.”

Unlike in 2000, the federal government is expected to put up $50 million for security at the 2016 convention, which Clarke said would be “very helpful.”


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