Sunday, November 25, 2007

Puzzling Decision

Puzzling decision: Commission's view that New Orleans is not ready to host a presidential debate doesn't make sense | - Houston Chronicle
The 11-member Commission on Presidential Debates must know something about New Orleans' ability to host major media events that the NCAA and National Basketball Association don't.

In rejecting a bid for one of three presidential debates next year, sponsored by four Crescent City universities and the advocacy group Women of the Storm, commission officials claimed the Louisiana city was not ready to host the event. That will come as a shock to the organizers of the upcoming BCS college football championship and the NBA All-Star Game, events that draw many times more attendees and media members than a presidential debate.

Commission Co-chair Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., the top Republican organizer of the 1988 GOP presidential convention in New Orleans, rejected claims that politics influenced the decision. He said, "It just came down to that there were better bids." However, the Deep South site that was chosen, the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., has only 650 hotel rooms in the area, when the commission's stated requirement was 3,000. By contrast, New Orleans has 24,000.

To accommodate the Oxford debate, media and others will have to be bussed in from Tupelo, Miss., and Memphis, Tenn. The other presidential debate sites are Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., and Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. Washington University in St. Louis will be the site of the only vice presidential debate. ...

According to commission member Mike McCurry, the former press secretary for President Bill Clinton, there were concerns about whether New Orleans could afford to pay security costs for the event.

Commission staffers reportedly questioned whether New Orleans media facilities were up to the task. Bid supporters countered that the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is one of the five top facilities in the country, and that the city had met or exceeded every requirement specified by the commission. In the past year the city has hosted several megaconventions without any problems. ...

What is clear is that the commission's stated reasons for bypassing New Orleans don't wash. Civic leaders sought the event, the city is demonstrably capable of hosting it and would have been a logical choice to highlight environmental as well as domestic security issues.

What better location could have been chosen for the presidential nominees to explain how to protect our nation from disaster than the site of the federal government's egregious failure?

By voting to come to New Orleans, the commission would have boosted the city's courageous comeback from devastation. Instead, they have delivered a stinging snub.

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