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

Big inauguration comes with a big price tag

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Steven

    wheeeee!!! blow cash to celebrate this farce of an election. what a joke america has become. but the left is joyous that finally socialist europe approves of who we elected.
    america is a laughing stock.

    December 20, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  2. Griff

    President Elect??? What does that mean? Barack Obama!....
    He is Young. He is Black. But a leader? No! You have lost your status in the world.... Black!!!!! The World is sick..... But you? You are sicker than most...... Get an Arab! Get a Black! In the Western World....
    No! America you lost.,..... Black, Pink.Green... Larry the KInko.....Is the Scream.

    December 20, 2008 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  3. susie

    The working people are suppose to take wage hits. Doctors and drug companies keep raising their prices. Congress gives themselves a pay raise. This auguration is going to cost billions. Something is really wrong here. Again, it is the little people who are expected to take the hit.

    December 20, 2008 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  4. Suzi

    The reason more money is needed is because people want to be there - they want to be a part of this historic occasion. It's for us - for this country.

    There are also so many benefits: This is going for something real as opposed to nebulous purposes in mismanaged businesses. There will be accountability. We will know what was spent and who received it. The money will go for salaries and work will be created especially for this occasion. Real people will benefit - especially the services like police, fire, and rescue. January is the slowest time for tourists in DC so this will benefit all levels of the local economy as well as northern Virginia and Maryland.

    Most of all, I appreciate the celebration for PE Obama, who offers us hope and a willingness to seek real solutions when we need it.

    December 20, 2008 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |

    When was the last time we felt so good!!! I say spend it up, this is HISTORIC... it's been a long eight years. so everybody let's thank PRESIDENT BUSH FOR THIS WONDERFUL ECONOMY,TWO WARS,10;000 HOMES LOST,TWO MILLION JOB'S LOST, TEN TRILLION IN DEPT , AND SEP 11,WOW !!!!! BANG UP JOB BUDDY...

    December 20, 2008 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  6. dustin

    the money will be more than made up by the 2.5 million people who buy lunchs and t-shirts and flags and all the gimmicky stuff that will be down there

    December 20, 2008 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  7. Sean

    They are going to need the money..... you will not be able to stop all the people from coming into the city..... I am one of them from Atlanta

    December 20, 2008 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  8. Tim E

    If Washington can't handle it, maybe we should put the capitol somewhere that can. Bejing has shown some proficiency at hosting large crowds.

    December 20, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  9. Betty the maid

    This will be a historic day and I want it to be special...I say spend all you need for it. Better to spend on this than send it on down the toilet in iraq.
    BTW let's not forget that Bush is the reason our countyry is in the crapper roo

    December 20, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  10. San Jose

    We can afford it, just pull a few billion out of Iraq. Jan. 20th dosen't happend everday in America. Send the bill to Palin in-laws, there might be quite a bit of money from their drug sales.

    December 20, 2008 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  11. H.C AND O.B supporter for life...

    I don’t think there is anyway to down play this event. The state is just going to have to come up with the money. Either way I think it’s going to cost a lot they can either provide for the large crowd and pay willing or don’t provide and then pay in the damages that the large crowd will cause if not accommodated properly. It’s their choice I hope they choose wisely!

    December 20, 2008 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  12. Irving, TX - Loves President Obama

    have you ever worried about cost for the other 43 president, so is it just the black man....

    December 20, 2008 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  13. G.R.I.T.S - Girl Raised in the South

    Cue the negativity from "former" Obama supporters and neo-cons in 3.....2.....1

    Please, people, read the entire article before you start complaining. Much of the additional cost is attributable to the hundreds of thousands of people who will flood D.C. and its environs to witness this historic event.

    December 20, 2008 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  14. barackobama4prez

    dude, the president won't stick you with the check.

    December 20, 2008 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  15. reggie

    With the state of the economy in such dire straits, it' s unbelieveable that so much money will be wasted on the inauguration.

    December 20, 2008 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  16. bob

    People act as if this money is being thrown away. It is being spent and therefore distributed to thousands of workers! Sounds like a great way to stimulate the economy.

    December 22, 2008 03:36 am at 3:36 am |
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