Monday, July 7, 2008

Silliness: The Change You've Been Waiting For

With the Denver convention less than two months away, problems range from the serious — upwardly spiraling costs on key contracts still being negotiated — to the mundane, like the reluctance of local caterers to participate because of stringent rules on what delegates will be eating, down to the color of the food.

The Democratic National Convention Committee decided not to take cheap office space and instead rented top-quality offices in downtown Denver at $100,000 a month, only to need less than half the space, which it then filled with rental furniture at $50,000 a month.

Overly ambitious environmental goals — to turn the event into a “green” convention — have backfired as only three states’ full delegations have so far agreed to participate in the program. Negotiations over where to locate demonstrators remain unsettled with members of the national news media concerned over proposals to locate the demonstrators — with their loud gatherings — next to the media tent.

And then there is the food: A 28-page contract requested by Denver organizers that caterers provide food in “at least three of the following five colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple and white.” Garnishes could not be counted toward the colors. No fried foods would be allowed. Organic and locally grown foods were mandated, and each plate had to be 50 percent fruits and vegetables. As a result, caterers are shying away.

Even more, those involved in the convention preparations portray Denver and party organizers as having squandered precious time, pushing critical decision-making into the final hours when it is more difficult to keep a lid on costs. Already, plans to have two dozen parties for the 56 delegations at locations throughout Denver were canceled, and instead there will be a single party at the city’s convention center.

“Major decisions are being settled only at the last minute,” said one convention organizer, who requested anonymity because of the confidentiality of the contracting process.

“So the Obama camp is not pleased and is raising questions about where all the money had been going. And they look at the posh office space for the Democratic Party staff here, which is really plush, and they say, ‘They spent the money on that?’ ”

And caterers, expected to feed the 40,000 people coming to town, are throwing up their hands over the food requirements.

“Everything that the Democrats did got off to a late start,” said Peggy Beck, a co-owner of Three Tomatoes Catering. “It was such an ordeal. We’ve jumped through hoops and hoops to bid on their stuff, and we had to have certain color food so the plates would be colorful.” In the end, the parties that she had been bidding on were canceled to save money. “This was some of the silliest stuff ever,” she added.


-- Dan Frosch, documenting how the Democratic Party can't even throw, well - a party - in the New York Times.