December 20th, 2008
05:20 PM ET
6 years ago

Big inauguration comes with a big price tag

DC is getting ready for the big day – but some are worried about the morning after.
DC is getting ready for the big day – but some are worried about the morning after.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – When President-elect Barack Obama takes the oath of office next month, the nation's capital will be the site of a massive celebration. But local officials are worried they might get stuck with the check.

Even for a city used to big crowds, Obama's inaugural promises to shatter records for attendance. City officials predict up to 2.5 million people will converge on Washington January 20, and they are taking unprecedented steps to accommodate the masses. Plans are in the works to open up the National Mall, extend hours for public transportation and - perhaps most daunting - provide parking for the influx of revelers.

"Even though we're very practiced at inaugurations and large events, this is one that will rewrite the book on inaugurations," said the Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC, who has requested an additional $15 million from Congress to help the city cover costs. That would double the $15 million Congress has already allocated to pay for all national events and demonstrations in Washington during 2009.

DC Mayor Adrian Fenty agreed costs for increased security and crowd control would dwarf the original allocation. And for a city facing a budget shortfall and the same economic downturn affecting the rest of the country, now is not the time to rack up debt, Fenty told CNN.

"We are in talks with the federal government as we sit here today to let them know - I think they already know that that's not enough," he said, referring to the $15 million already allocated. "Now the question is if you want to make sure that you cross every 't' and dot every 'i', it does look like it's going to be significantly more than that."

Fenty predicted costs for the city would run close to $50 million, the same amount Congress provided to both Denver and St. Paul, Minnesota to host the Republican and Democratic conventions earlier this year.

Unprecedented numbers of people, he said, means more services: "More buses, more federal cooperation, more emergency medical service workers, more police officers needed, more hotel rooms needed, more streets that are going to have to be closed, more water in case it's hot and more places to stay if it gets particularly cold and people need some type of hypothermia relief."

The city will double its 4,100-member police force by calling in officers from out of the district and is working with local transportation officials on how to move people downtown to watch the festivities.

It's not all bad news. With the crowds comes an uptick in tourism, city officials said. Bars will be open until 4 a.m. to accommodate revelers, and hotels in the area are selling at two or three times the normal rates. Washington residents are embracing the news by flooding Craig's List with offers to rent their homes and apartments to out-of-towners.

"There'll be plenty of people coming, using our grocery stores, restaurants, movie theatres, hotels; spending money, enjoying themselves," Fenty said. "And when they see how great a city this is, if they didn't already know, they certainly will return."

Inaugural planners say interest in the inaugural celebrations has been enthusiastic and nonstop. Presidential Inaugural Committee spokeswoman Linda Douglass said 35,000 people have already registered to volunteer.

"We know there's a lot of energy here and we want to do everything we can to accommodate that," Douglass said. " We've been told there is going to be a very big crowd coming, and we are working with the city and the federal officials to do everything we can to make sure they can get here, that they'll be safe, that they'll be comfortable and that they'll be able to participate in some way."

For all the tourists who do turn out, Fenty said no matter what the cost, the city will work to charm its visitors.

"We want everyone to have a great time," Fenty said. "We want everybody to enjoy the nation's capital, and come bring your friends, bring your family and then hopefully just be a part of history."


Filed under: Inauguration
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Mobius

    By the time they're done, there won't be any Change left.

    December 20, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  2. Gerry in Va. for Obama.

    This historic election will come but once. It has taken too long for it to get here, so, there should be joyous celebration. Yes this country is in a budget squeeze but if the da*m republicans can give BILLIONS to their banking buddies then certainly this country can afford to throw one hell of a party because we have gotten our country back by electing OBAMA AND BIDEN... It was a hard won victory that calls for vast celebration. So, don't let those da*m republicans cheat us out of it by saying "shame on you democrats for wanting to spend a little money to welcome our first black president". We deserve it so lets just do it.... I am a white voter and I approve this message... WELCOME PRESIDENT ELECT OBAMA AND THANK YOU...

    December 20, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  3. Mike

    And the liberals were just on here a couple weeks ago complaining about how much Bush spent on Thanksgiving dinner. Gee, how many poor liberals could Obama help with all that money he is spending on his inauguration.

    December 20, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  4. Jennifer, TX

    I think Eleanor Holmes Norton is right. The city should not pay the bill for a national event that will exceed reasonable accomadations.

    December 20, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  5. Lori

    Obama should spend as much money as he wants on this special day.

    If any Republican complains tell them to take the trillions of dollars that Bush is spending in Iraq to pay for this inauguration. We'd be able to pay for this inauguration about 20 times over!!

    Obama/Biden 08/12!!!!

    December 20, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  6. nate

    1-20-09. The day the people took back their country.

    December 20, 2008 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  7. Ann

    Give the bill to Obama. He seems to have lots of cash sitting around or can get it when he wants by just emailing all the millions on his list.

    December 20, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  8. Bill Obama

    Obama raised record breaking campaign funding. He should pay for his partying. People are losing the jobs and house at an all time high.
    It shows that he is just like al the others. Forgot were he came from and already lost touch with the people!

    December 20, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  9. God Help Us

    We're broke and Congress gets a raise and Obama spends a fortune on a party......some change this is going to be.

    December 20, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  10. Ernie in LA

    Mr. Obama told everyone not long ago that the American family should cut back on their spending because of the economy. Look what they are spending just to swear him in as president after spending millions to buy, I mean get elected. Mr.Obama nor any other politican could give a fat rats butt about the Americian public. It is every man for himself. Root hog or die. Greed and Power are the names of the games and if you don't play to win, you lose. The average American is SCREWED.

    December 20, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  11. E.Z. Monie

    Not to be rude, but didn't Obama have some dough left over from the campaign that he was going to put toward the Inaguration or did I not understand that part of the news? How about getting some of that Big Money from the Wall St bailout? Those hypergreedy people don't need all that money. Let those CEO's contribute a percentage to the law enforcement cost. It's the least they can do seeings as they likely won't ever see the inside of a prison cell. Call it 'punitive damage' money or how about this? 'Contributing to the RICO fund.' Happy holidays y'all!

    December 20, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  12. Rick

    No DC will stick it to the tax payer just like Obama will in about 6 months.....

    December 20, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  13. Ms White

    I WANT TO BE THERE!!!!!!!!

    December 20, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  14. Ken in NC

    When my daughter was a baby and went shopping with us, she would see something she wanted and we told her we didn't have the money for it. Her response was, "JUST WRITE THEM A CHECK DADDY". Well if DC is going to run short of funds for the inaugurations it's not a problem. JUST WRITE THEM A CHECK.

    December 20, 2008 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  15. Larry

    Everyone in the government have lost all perspective on the value of money,or in this case, the lack of value of money.Doesn't anybody in the government know how hard we the people WORK to make enough just to get by,"they" take anywhere from 30-50% for fed.,state,& county tax–then out of what is left ,we pay property tax,sales tax,gas tax,import tax,on and on--–Now there SPENDING or GIVING AWAY our grandchildrens tax money--this is all before Obama starts BLOWING our money--

    December 20, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  16. Linda K.

    Biden says the economy is tanking. Two stories down, the inauguration costs are soaring.

    I voted for Obama/Biden but I wish they would consider the economy in their inauguration plans and just keep it simple.

    December 20, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  17. I'm there!

    I'll be there for President Obama! Can't wait!

    December 20, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  18. Unfairness Doctrine

    Yeah, Barrack Hussein, show us all your fiscal responsibility stripes and tone down your big inaugural event that is planned. I guess if you do overspend that shows the American people that you are no different than the CEO's from the auto companies that took private jets to D.C. We already saw that Congress has violated their fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayer by taking the $4700 cost of living adjustment they voted to themselves.
    Its obvious to me that there is no recession based on the money that the government keeps spending. In the next election do not vote for the incumbent vote for the challenger no matter how bad and lets try to get some fiscal responsibility and ethics back in government.

    December 20, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  19. Gordon Shumway

    Spare no expense for this extravaganza! It's just a drop in the bucket compared to what is goiing down the toilet on a daily basis and the worst by far has yet to come.................

    December 20, 2008 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  20. Joe Fattal

    I hope someone concentrate their efforts on the stimilus package, I might a get another check. Last one Mr. IRS took it all. I hope this one is send directly to us without stoping at the IRS building. As far as that inauguration goes its a waste of money for some, and lots of money for someone else. And after all that , we going to end with a Barrack Hussein Obama that doesn't know heads of tail of running a country such as this. Good luck for him and I am staying home . Maybe I'll watch it on TV.

    December 20, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  21. J. McKinney

    I didn't vote for Obama, (I voted for Hillary) but since he is in, I want to support him, and have been pretty pleased with most of his choices for his cabinet. However, I think it is the worst kind of stupidity to be spending the kind of money that is being spent, for the inaugeration. If they think that many people are going to want to see it, they should do it in private, on television, and broadcast it all over the country. Then everyone could see it, and save 30 million dollars. NOT the way to start out, the shape our economy is in, in my opinion.

    December 20, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  22. JO

    How about Obama contributing millions for his extravaganza inauguration that he collected from his fan club and didn't spend on his run for the presidency????

    December 20, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  23. Arne

    What an incredible waste of money.

    December 20, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  24. Nick

    This is a President elect that campaigned on responsible spending and the same person who spent tens of millions on his convention acceptance speech and now places D.C. on the road to bankruptcy due to the cost of his coronation. What is the difference between CEO's who fly in to ask for government bailouts and a president elect who encourages spendthrift spending on his inauguration?

    December 20, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  25. no way

    I would not want to be in DC for this.. if there will be another terror attack the risk of it happening here ..just too much in this day n age. I'm watchin it on tv.

    December 20, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
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