RNC will come to Minneapolis, tooby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Preparations for the Republican National Convention are in full swing. Though the majority of Republican business will take place in St. Paul, Minneapolis is expecting perhaps tens of thousands of visitors and guests. Delegates and media members will be staying in downtown hotels. People who live and work downtown are preparing for some of the inconveniences caused by a few extra visitors.
Minneapolis, Minn. — It's a weekday morning in downtown Minneapolis and Adam Nathe sits in a courtyard just off of Nicollet Mall.
"I work dowtown in the IDS center and walk to work everyday," Nathe says. "On a beautiful day, like today, I pass the farmer's market on my way to work," he adds, pleased by his surroundings.
Nathe lives in a condo near the intersection of 12th St. and the Nicollet Mall, so he's within walking distance of some of the amenities downtown has to offer. There's music in Peavey Plaza and Loring Park and of course all of the restaurants and bars in the business district.
Nathe says when conventions or other big events come to town, the lines in the coffee shops get a little longer and the sidewalk cafes get a little more crowded.
But some downtown residents are concerned that the RNC may mean more than just a few inconveniences. Nathe says the company that manages his building is advising that they take extra security precautions.
"They were saying we should hire two armed security personnel to patrol the essentially two-block radius, to add additional security for the residents," Nathe says.
Nathe's building is managed by Gittelman Management, a Bloomington-based company whose clients include most of the condominium buildings in Minneapolis. A representative from Gittelman confirmed that they've advised some condo associations to seek extra security, but wouldn't say which buildings.
Nathe says his condo association would have to pay between $1,000 and $5,000 for the guards and he's not sure they need them.
"Our board is somewhat skeptical of information like that," he explains. "I went out independently and went to the Mayor's website, the convention website, went to the Secret Service website to see what type of security briefings were being published and wasn't able to find anything."
Nathe didn't find anything probably because security briefings are kept pretty hush-hush.
If you ask a local law enforcement official, like Luther Krueger, who's a community crime prevention officer for the Minneapolis Police Department, he'll tell you a little extra security won't hurt.
"It is something where, a few extra eyes and ears is going to be helpful; to make sure people can get in and out, if there are larger crowds and people are worried about actually walking to their front door," Krueger says. "Here's their opportunity to provide that extra service."
Krueger is the officer most downtown residents and business owners turn to with questions about crime prevention and trends. He says most major downtown businesses are already part of a security network, which includes a radio system that makes it easy for them to communicate with police.
Some of the people Krueger talks to were living downtown eight years ago when the International Society of Animal Geneticists held a convention. The event attracted 600 scientists and about 200 boisterous protesters. Krueger says downtown residents still remember disruptions caused by the protests.
"They were very few and far between, but they remember them," he says. "And they're thinking, which is not an irrational way to look at it, this is a much bigger event and so that kind of stuff will be a lot more frequent and a lot more intense."
Minneapolis deputy police chief Rob Allen says city residents should not fear for their safety during the Convention.
Allen is coordinating his department's RNC security response. He points out that Minneapolis has been the site of large conventions and events that have filled city hotels and drawn lots of media, like the Superbowl and the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament.
"Well, I think it's really important to remember that the convention is in St. Paul, not in Minneapolis," Allen says. "I remind them of that and that while there will be a number of people in town, this is actually a relatively small convention."
Police officials say downtown residents with questions about security plans should contact their associations, the police department or council member Lisa Goodman's office. Goodman, who represents most of the downtown district, will be holding a series of informational meetings in July and August.
In the meantime, some downtowners warn that if you're planning on dining downtown in the first week of September, you should make a reservation now. And some hot spots, including some outside of downtown, will be closed for private events.
- Morning Edition, 07/01/2008, 7:20 a.m.