Thursday, January 11, 2007

DENVER — There’s a reason Denver hasn’t hosted the Democratic National Convention in almost 100 years: It’s just not a union-friendly town.

That much became evident after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) again postponed its decision on whether Denver or New York will be the venue for its 2008 convention, thanks to a recent labor uprising in the Mile High City.

With all the labor trouble in Denver, Democrats might be tempted to scrap the whole idea and head for New York, but there’s trouble in the Big Apple, too. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hinted that he doesn’t want to host the event, saying that the city was tapped out after hosting the Republican National Convention in 2004.

“The city can’t go on the hook for a convention unless they’re reasonably sure they can raise the money,” he told the Associated Press.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean now says the announcement will be made by the end of January, but nobody’s holding his breath. The committee already has missed deadlines calling for a decision in early December, then mid-December, then early January.

It could be worse. A DNC spokesman yesterday rebutted a report on MSNBC that said a decision would be announced in February.

The delay puts Democrats months behind Republicans, who announced in September that their convention would be held in Minneapolis-St. Paul and have even sent out press kits.

It looked as if Denver had clinched the convention bid last fall, when the host committee finally persuaded a local hotel to sign a union agreement. Until then, Denver had no union hotels, a deal-breaker for the Democrats, who count organized labor as a key component of their political coalition.

Enter Jim Taylor, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local No. 7, who threatened to strike during the convention unless organizers pulled out of the Pepsi Center, the proposed site for most of the convention meetings.

Mr. Taylor says the Pepsi Center is “anti-union,” noting that it doesn’t contract with organized labor. The Pepsi Center, home to both the Colorado Avalanche hockey team and Denver Nuggets basketball team, is owned by Stan Kroenke, who’s married to Wal-Mart heiress Anne Walton.

Although Democrats may be willing to overlook the irony of holding their convention at a facility owned by the Wal-Mart family, widely regarded as the chief scourge of the modern labor movement, it appears that Mr. Taylor isn’t.

John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, reportedly has entered the negotiations in hopes of persuading Mr. Taylor to sign a no-strike agreement.

Mr. Taylor has proposed holding the convention a few blocks away at the unionized Colorado Convention Center, but tourism officials say the center is too small for the Democrats’ needs. The DNC specifically requested a basketball arena as its main facility.

Raising the money won’t be a problem in Denver, say organizers, who are eager to host the city’s first national party convention since 1908.

“As much as New York may not want the convention is as much we do want it,” said Irene Kamsler, a member of the Denver host committee. “They’ll all be welcome here with open arms.”

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