Hillary Clinton gave her presidential nominee speech, the balloons dropped from the ceiling and then a couple minutes later the music died. The lights went on. And now Philadelphia is back to normal. We survived our second national security event of the last year.
How did everything go? Well, the Democratic National Convention itself could’ve gone a little smoother. But the city was largely fine, with restaurants seeing somewhat of an uptick in business and complications for residents kept to a minimum. Also, a lot of celebrites visited.
Here’s a rundown of several aspects of the event, with letter grades and no curve and no grade inflation.
Logistics and transportation: D
A prominent New York Times columnist jokingly compared the zig-zagging walk from AT&T Station to the Wells Fargo Center to the Bataan Death March. Traffic jams on I-95 caused by trucks failing to follow security measures snarled traffic all weekend and on Monday. It took delegates and media hours to escape the Wells Fargo Center. In other words, logistics were a mess Monday. A massive thunderstorm, 95-plus temperatures and 10-car pileup on I-95 didn’t help. Still, much of the chaos could have been avoided with better preparation.
Things got much better after the first day. It didn’t take as long to get an Uber after the convention. Security and event personnel were doing a better job of directing attendees where to go. Traffic wasn’t as much of a problem.
But first impressions count for a lot. Monday’s ordeal set the tone for the experience the rest of the week. Rather than compliments, like Cleveland got, the internet was inundated with negative tweets about Philadelphia.
Hopefully the bad impressions were reserved for the Wells Fargo Center and the transportation down there and not Philadelphia as a whole. The city was largely not to blame for the logistical problems. The DNC higher-ups were.
It’s hard to find too much fault with Philadelphia Police from this week. Local officers made zero arrests, following through with legislation from Kenney to give citations for common protester offenses. The only arrests came from the Feds, who arrested 11 people. Most of them were trying to get into the secured zone around the Wells Fargo Center.
Protesters said police were doing a good job for the most part. If anything, officers seemed a little too nice. This policing strategy was a far cry from the Republican National Convention of 2000, when police arrested about 400 protesters, and bails were set in the high six figures and even at $1 million. The police and the city deserve credit for keeping order without going overboard.
Pennsylvania Speakers: D
Governor Tom Wolf was compared to dry toast. To wake up the audience after he left the stage, the former Michigan governor practically had to go crowd surfing.
And his speech wasn’t even the most bland from a Pennsylvania politician. Senate candidate Katie McGinty’s speaking style and content of her speech did nothing to captivate a crowd that practically seemed to get up and leave in unison for the concession stands or bathrooms midway through. What did she have to say? The same platitudes about working class families and how she’s one of them she’s said at every campaign stop the last six months.
That’s not to say there weren’t some bright moments. Former Philly Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey helped set the tone for gun control discussions Wednesday night, and Lee Daniels’ speech was one of the few moments of the convention that focused on the problems of urban life, discussing family members who’d been killed or incarcerated. “That’s the America I know,” he said, “and still I rise.” Mayor Jim Kenney localized his speech by talking about the soda tax and got a positive reception for his comparison of Trump’s Republican Party to the Know-Nothing Party of the 1800s.
Democratic National Convention leaders: C-
The DNC leaders, specifically Ed Rendell and now-former chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, promised a “seamless” experience for attendees and picked Philadelphia in large part because it was supposed to be much more logistically feasible than Brooklyn. Not only was it difficult getting to and from the arena, lines at concession stands lasted for two hours. On Monday, several speakers couldn’t be heard during portions of their speeches, including Sarah Silverman. It was like they hadn’t even considered trains might be overcrowded, security could cause problems for taxis and Ubers and attendees would actually need information about where to go when they entered and exited the secured perimeter.
The Committee gets a C because even though it was chaos at times to attend the convention their job is to put on a show. It’s all about the TV experience. The Committee was plenty successful in this regard, judging by the TV ratings.
But as far as preparing the event and living up to the promises made when Philadelphia was selected, they failed.
Success for local businesses: B-
Apparently convention-goers don’t enjoy fine dining anymore. That’s what Stephen Starr said in a lament to the New York Times. He said this even though Parc, his brasserie on Rittenhouse Square, was packed and attracted celebrities like Elizabeth Banks, and Vice President Joe Biden practically lives at the restaurant when he visits Philly.
So Starr actually had little reason to complain. Nor did many others, though restaurateurs weren’t exactly clinking champagne flutes because of extra business this week. For the most part, the DNC impacted local eateries minimally. Some saw a rush of late-night customers after the convention, and fast-casual restaurants like Federal Donuts and Revolution Taco did better than normal. Outside of Center City, there was no DNC effect. If anything, business was a little slower.
But this event wasn’t a failure, like Pope weekend, when restaurants had to give away or throw out extra food they’d stocked up. Most restaurateurs came into the week lacking the expectations they had for the pope weekend, assuming the DNC would count as a slightly busier week in what is normally a dead time.
We had some A-listers in town this week and not just on the stage at Wells Fargo. Katy Perry, for instance, performed Thursday but slunk into town Wednesday night, spending some extra time in Philly. Lady Gaga was here. Snoop Dogg came down Thursday. Fergie. Elizabeth Banks. For the best recaps of who came, just spin through HughE Dillon’s Twitter timeline of the last few days.
Supposedly even John Kasich stopped by. Kasich! Not a celebrity, but a prominent Republican. That counts for something at a Dem convention.
Why the perfect score? You know why. Hannity. Wawagate. That’s why.
City leadership: B+
Kenney and City Hall seemed to have one goal for the DNC: Don’t scare people away. After the mass Pope exodus of last year, it was a real concern. And it didn’t happen. Center City was packed but not chaotic, and complaints from Philadelphia residents were few and far between. Outside of some South Philly residents who were not pleased with protesters, Philadelphians’ biggest aggravations this week had to do with the judging of national media and not so much the convention.