Kenney: Stay in Philly for the DNC

The mayor asks Philadelphians not to flee the city like they did when the pope visited.

Mayor Kenney Asks Philadelphians to Stay for DNC. Photo by Jared Brey.

Mayor Kenney asks Philadelphians to stay for DNC. | Photo by Jared Brey

Philadelphians fled the city in large numbers to avoid Pope Francis last fall, but Mayor Jim Kenney is hoping we’ll make a warmer welcome for Their Holinesses, the Democratic Party.

On Wednesday, Kenney stood on the 51st floor of a Center City office building and asked residents to stick around for the Democratic National Convention, which is taking place from July 25th to July 28th. Just stay! Don’t go to the beach, don’t go to the mountains. Remain in your homes. Greet the delegates. Show tourists around. Exhibit your world-famous hospitality.

The campaign is called “You Don’t Want to Miss This.” What, exactly, do you not want to miss?

Hashtags, for one. Restaurants and bars are encouraged to promote specials on social media using #DNCDeals.

Food trucks, for another. On the first day of the convention, the city will host “Philly Feast: United We Eat,” a food-and-music festival at 3rd and Arch streets in Old City from 11 a.m. till 3 p.m. (That’s around the corner from the mayor’s apartment.)

The DNC Host Committee is also hoping to throw the biggest Center City Sips event ever on July 27th, starting at 5 p.m. at Dilworth Park outside City Hall.

And there will be watch parties. The DNC is working with local restaurants and bars to organize showings of the big speeches on the final night of the convention, July 28th.

Kenney seems to be trying to learn from former Mayor Michael Nutter’s missteps in the run-up to the pope’s visit. In the months before that event, wild projections about the number of visitors began leaking out, consultants suggested they were going to practically lock down the entire eastern seaboard, and the whole thing started to seem like it was intended to show off the nation’s 21st-century security apparatus. After initially declaring the event area a “traffic box,” Nutter later tried to rebrand it as “festival grounds.” It was sort of feeble.

From a security standpoint, the pope’s visit went over just fine. Nutter thought it was a success, and he blamed the media for scaring people away.

Kenney is trying to keep his message clear from the outset: Just stick around.

Won’t there be protests, one reporter asked? There very well may be, Kenney said, noting that the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech, is “pretty awesome.”

Kenney wouldn’t say whether he’d close any portion of Broad Street leading up to the Wells Fargo Center, where the convention is taking place. The Police Department and the Secret Service are still making those arrangements, he said. At any rate, he said it won’t be anything like the Pope’s visit, since the city’s only expecting around 50,000 visitors to attend.

“This is history in the making,” Kenney said.

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