HOUSTON - Houston is moving forward in its bid to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
On Wednesday, City Council voted to pledge first responders, traffic control, and other resources for the convention.
Houston last hosted the DNC in 1928 and the Republican National Convention in 1992. Now, with the Toyota Center, Convention Center, and extra hotel rooms built ahead of the Super Bowl, Mayor Sylvester Turner says the city is ready again.
“This is not about partisanship at all,” Mayor Turner said before the 15-1 vote during Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “This is about Houston, and after Harvey, it’s letting the world know we are still very much open for business.”
Turner said he wants a bipartisan host committee and would also like to host a future Republican National Convention.
The mayor emphasized the convention will be “cost neutral” for the city due to reimbursement from Department of Justice grants, the state’s Major Events Fund, and committee fundraising.
Council members said the convention could be especially beneficial for hotels and tourist-dependent businesses during the typically slow summer months.
“This doesn’t take a dollar from our general fund,” said Council Member Dave Martin of District E. “It also puts heads in beds in the months that we really need them. It also gives us a great deal of publicity and visibility to make our city shine.”
City documents show the 2016 DNC in Philadelphia had an “average total economic impact” of $230.9 million, driven by 5,783 convention attendees, 19,250 members of the media, and 29,000 additional visitors, which resulted in “87,000 room nights” in local hotels.
“The economic impact is highly overstated,” said Council Member Greg Travis of District G, who cast the only no vote on the measure. “The cost of the event to the city is highly understated.”
Council Member Travis cited a study done on the economic impact from political conventions. He also raised concerns about violent protests.
“Who’s gonna pay for all this destruction to the public property or the private property that will ensue?” asked Travis.
In response, other council members pointed out HPD’s handling of demonstrations at the Super Bowl. Susan Christian, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Special, said similar concerns before the victory celebrations for the 2017 Houston Astros and 1994-95 Houston Rockets never came to fruition.
In June, Houston officials will present their bid for the 2020 convention to the Democratic National Committee. Seven other cities are competing: Atlanta; Birmingham, Alabama; Denver; Miami Beach; Milwaukee; New York; and San Francisco.
The Democratic National Committee will pick the DNC 2020 convention host city in January 2019.