The mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis are taking questions on the nuts-and-bolts of how the Republican National Convention affects you.
Q: How bad is it (traffic) going to be?
A: (St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman) There’s no question there’ll be more traffic. Shepherd Rd. will be open. St. Peter St. will be open. I’d be crazy to say you’re not going to see an increase in traffic, but that’s part of hosting a convention. People will be able to get to their jobs. People will be able to get to their place of employment.
(Mayor RT Rybak) – On a typical night, we’ve got 50,000 people in downtown Minneapolis, and many aren’t on buses. In this case, we’ve got people boarding shuttle buses, leaving at 3 and not coming home until 10. It won’t affect most people’s commute.
Q: What is the situation with Dorothy Day Center?
A: (Coleman) The protest march is going close to the homeless shelter. The free-speech stage is close to their. We’re working with Catholic Charities to keep the Center open.
Q: Is it true that persons who use Dorothy Day Center are being moved to the psych ward of a nearby hospital?
Q: Who’s monitoring the installed downtown cameras? Will they be monitored outside of St. Paul?
A: (Coleman ) I’m mindful of the Big Brother aspects but when you see how they’re used and how effective they are (working on getting drug dealing out of downtown) … they’ll be very helpful. They’re being used property. They’re monitored in the St. Paul Police Department.
Rybak says no additional cameras were installed in Minneapolis for the convention.
Q: Are there preparations for impromptu protests?
A: Yes. We have the ability to respond. If someone’s protesting peacefully on Summit Ave., they have a right to do that. The question is when the protests become something other than that. (Coleman)
Q: Should people expect violence?
A: (Rybak) Nobody can predict, but law enforcement has trained well for it. Expect the unexpected, but this is a community that’s used to expressing itself. Rybak says the best way to protest is to register people to vote.
(Coleman) There will be headaches.
Q: Are you bending over backwards to accommodate the protests and handcuffing the police?
A: Nobody who knows what they’re talking about would say that. (Coleman)
Q: Will you have enough police officers?
A: (Coleman) Absolutely. We have 620 officers. Minneapolis has 880 officers. In New York, there are 30,000 officers. We formed partnerships with agencies across Minnesota. There are only 10,000 officers in the entire state.
Tangent time: A news release from the Minnesota court system just showed up:
Court officials have cleared many other regular calendars beginning August 27 to enable quick processing of convention related cases. They also plan to hold court over the weekend, and on Labor Day, Monday, September 1, normally a court holiday.
Court officials have been meeting with Minneapolis and Bloomington police, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office and the Hennepin County Attorney’s office to plan for the events of convention week.
Tangent time, two – A release from the GOP just showed up. Sen. Norm Coleman to address convention on Wednesday. Gov. Tim Pawlenty will address it on Thursday, not long before McCain.
Q: Why do you rent out public institutions?
A: (Rybak) I’m thrilled to have them rented out during non-business hours. If you look around the entire areas, museums and public facilities will benefit from the money Republicans will spend.
(Coleman) We regularly rent out facilities during the year. It has to be looked at in the context of promoting the area.
Q: is there any need for armed security at my condo?
A: (Rybak) That’s up to each association.
Q: I work in downtown St. Paul and I’m concerned I’ll be attacked by police or protesters.
A: I object to the idea that the police will be attacking anyone. People are going to be protected and they’re going to be safe. (Coleman)
Q: I hear I-94 will be shut down by protesters at Macalester. Is that true?
A: You will hear all sorts of predictions. There are no guarantees. We are prepared for many scenarios, including that one. (Rybak)
We’re planning for a convention, not a crisis. (Coleman)
Q: Word on the street is the RNC is not using local sources for many parties, how does this help Minnesota?
A: Rybak: We’ve pushed that very, very hard. The media party on Saturday night is local. That’s one example. A big difference between here and Denver is entertainment and performers. Denver is bringing in big-names. Our entertainment is from local arts.
Q: What are the chances of a law enforcement communications breach, in which things get scrambled?
A: (Coleman) We’re prepared to deal with it. We have an 800 mHz system we saw in action during the bridge collapse. People at the highest levels of the Secret Service, FBI, and Homeland Security are looking at every possible scenario. They do this for a living.
Q: I commute to downtown St. Paul on my bike and I work a late shift. I’m concerned with all the drinking, getting mucked by some drunk driver. Why are bikes banned?
A: (Coleman) Vehicular traffic ban includes bikes. The zone is as narrowly defined as could be. You’ll be able to walk to the front door of the Ordway. CNBC is broadcasting from Rice Park and we wanted people to be able to see that, too.
The drunk driver issue is interesting, most of these people are going to be transported by buses. We have 350 coaches transporting people.
Q: How many “joints” are going to be open until 4 in the morning?
A: (Rybak) A number of hotels, First Avenue and several others will be open.
(Coleman) My goal was to have a level playing field. We wanted to do what Bloomington and Minneapolis was going to do. There haven’t been a lot of “takers” to pay the $2,500 to stay open. I’d like to make it easier for restaurants and bars to stay open.
Q: Can I volunteer? Do they still need help?
A: msp2008.com is where the specific volunteer opportunities are listed.
Q: How can we accommodate protesters if there’s no hotels or camping?
A: (Coleman) We had 17,000 rooms booked, there are still rooms available throughout the region.
Q: Where’s the best place to see famous people?
A: They’re going to be all over the place. Go out and spend a normal night in Minneapolis St. Paul. Go to the fun spots and you’ll likely run into somebody.
(Coleman) The large tent across from the Xcel is for broadcasts. CNBC will be at Rice Park.
Q: Is the health care system up to it?
A: There’s been a huge emphasis on preparedness for health care. After 9-11 and Katrina, there’s been a lot of work on this. When the bridge collapsed, the health care system were deeply woven into the preparedness plan. (Rybak)