Minneapolis to put best face forward for GOP convention

  • Article by: TERRY COLLINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 7, 2008 - 5:17 AM

Leaders say the whole city will benefit from convention's presence. "We are prepared," a coordinator says.

Downtown Minneapolis will be a safe, secure and fun area during next month's Republican National Convention, city and civic leaders said Wednesday.

"We may be in the middle of the country, but we're not middle of the road," Cyndi Lesher, president of convention's local host committee, said during a public meeting at the University of St. Thomas' downtown Minneapolis campus. "In [25] days, the whole world will know that."

Nearly 200 people attended two meetings Wednesday night on how the GOP convention will affect Minneapolis. They were sponsored by Council Member Lisa Goodman, whose 7th Ward includes downtown.

Speakers, including Police Chief Tim Dolan and Lesher, sought to reassure downtown residents and businesses that the convention will boost the economy and cause only minor disruptions.

Although the convention will be held Sept. 1-4 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minneapolis is sure to see its share of the action from politicos and partyers among the expected 35,000 to 45,000 people arriving in the Twin Cities later this month.

Then there's the wild card -- protesters.

"We are prepared for the worst; we are not naive," said Jayne Khalifa, deputy city coordinator. "We are prepared to deal with whatever comes forward."

Dolan said that while there might be "a few bumps in the road," like heavier rush-hour traffic, visitors will see that the city is "a first-class destination." He said there will be a visible police presence downtown, and even the National Guard could lend a hand if necessary, he said.

Regarding protesters, Dolan said the police's goal is not to make arrests, but "to keep things moving."

Several speakers said the city will get its share of the estimated $150 million to $200 million boost from the convention.

Andy Hauer, a longtime downtown resident, said he believes the city and convention organizers have a good plan in place.

"I think they're right," Hauer said. "They will really have it under control."

Terry Collins • 612-673-1790

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