“It’s really, really important that people stay home, show off Philadelphia, be friendly to the delegates … engage them, go up to them and really sell Philadelphia,” Mayor Jim Kenney said at a press conference earlier this week.
Yes, I took that as a jab at former Mayor Michael Nutter’s fear mongering tactics last year that caused a great local exodus during the papal visit. It was roughly a year ago when Nutter scared the city by predicting at a news conference that we could expect to be “walking miles” because of the expected 1.5 million pilgrims.
While many took to the Jersey Shore and had a “pope-cation,” I reported on the historic event and saw roughly 1 million pilgrims from around the world not spend anywhere near the projected $500 million in economic impact that the mayor also spoke of. And when it came time to fess up, Nutter tried to blame the media as the culprits who “scared the sh-t” out of the locals.
I didn’t let him off the hook for those remarks in a previous op-ed, and we haven’t spoken since. But looking back at the papal madness and the upcoming Democratic National Convention in comparison – Kenney, this is really a cakewalk for you.
Philadelphians will stay because conventions come and go in this city and we embrace them. Philly had the Republican National Convention back in 2000 and that fared well for a predominantly Democratic political machine town. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have a great pull in this city to keep us here while also attracting more American visitors who are already familiar with Philly’s cultural significance.
When I reported on the papal visit I noticed that there were a lot of foreign pilgrims who came to Philly to pray and hear Pope Francis, not to explore the city. I think many in recreational planning failed to realize that Pope Francis was the main attraction – not Philadelphia. A lot of the pilgrims weren’t interested in spending money at fancy restaurants that would have interrupted the flow of their religious fellowship – they stocked up at Wawa and dined frugally at McDonalds.
The DNC is bringing in big political power brokers, hundreds of national delegates, and protesters who are going to use the city as their canvas to practice their First Amendment rights. In other words, Philadelphia was made for epic political events like this – we’re the birthplace of democracy.
Those who will leave this time around are probably the same folks who always avoid a huge convention. Many will stay as long as expectations and estimates are clear ¬– and honest – from the jump. Seriously, please do not switch up the flow of plans at the last minute, Kenney. I would hate to go to another press conference with you being the swearing mayor under media siege.