Thursday, November 20, 2008

D.C. officials said Wednesday the only guaranteed money they have for the expected, record-breaking Inauguration Day crowd is the annual federal appropriation of $15 million - about $2.3 million less than they spent on security for the relatively small 2005 re-election events for President Bush.

“We really just don’t know how much we’re going to have to spend,” said Mafara Hobson, spokeswoman for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. “All we have right now is the $15 million the federal government allows us.”

The National Park Service, which oversees the Mall and will control the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route, said it cannot predict how many people will be in the District on Jan. 20 to see the swearing-in ceremonies for President-elect Barack Obama, though unofficial estimates put the number at more than 1 million.

“We have no way to read it,” agency spokesman Bill Line said. “Of course people are excited, but how does that translate into numbers, I have no idea.”

Inauguration Day 2005 attracted about 300,000 people, which would likely put this year’s cost well beyond the $17.3 million spent in 2005. The city had just $5.4 million remain in its annual $15 million federal appropriation, which resulted in Mayor Anthony A. Williams dipping into the city’s Homeland Security fund.

The total cost of Mr. Bush’s second inauguration was roughly $40 million, including concerts, dinners and balls that were paid for by private donations.

The record for Inauguration Day attendance was sent in 1965 when 1.2 million people came for events for Lyndon B. Johnson.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy L. Lanier told WTOP-FM Radio she plans to nearly double her force with 4,000 officers, with help from 93 jurisdictions across the country.

Her officers will take assignments from the Secret Service.

“We understand that this is a historic moment for the country,” agency spokesman Bill Corbett said. “We have been assigned to Obama since May 2007, and we understand the kinds of crowds he has brought in, which are unprecedented.”

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has asked Congress’s Joint Commission on Inaugural Ceremonies to consider opening up more space for visitors than just the Mall, including Verizon Center and Nationals Park.

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