Town Wants Obama Campaign to Foot The Bill for Monday's Visit
The Durham Town Council will discuss the issue on Monday morning.
DURHAM, NH -- The Obama campaign is locked in a stalemate with a small New Hampshire town over who should foot the cost for police protection for the president's visit on Monday.
Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig says the Obama campaign should pay the $20,000 to $30,000 in police overtime costs it will take to provide adequate protection for the president's visit to Oyster River High School on Monday afternoon.
But the Obama campaign says it won't pay, which has prompted the Durham Town Council to call a special Monday morning meeting to address the issue.
"Certainly we welcome candidates," Durham Town Councilor Diana Caroll said. "It's important for our democracy. But when it comes to presidential candidates, it does cost a lot of money for all the services... Who pays for that? That's the question."
An Obama campaign official confirmed Saturday night that it will not cover the cost of any police details associated with Monday's visit. Typically, the campaign does not pay for security planning, the source said, only for expenses related to the event itself. For example, the campaign is paying to use Oyster River High School on Monday.
Durham is a small town with only about 14,000 residents, near the New Hampshire seacoast. It also serves as home to the University of New Hampshire.
"We are hopeful that the campaign will ultimately reimburse us," Selig said. "As of (Saturday) afternoon, the campaign indicates their Chicago central office had declined to reimburse those costs.
"The argument is that they're not asking for public safety service, the Secret Service is, and they don't reimburse," he added. "Our response is the campaign is coming to Durham, and the town needs to ensure the safety of the town. If not for the campaign coming, we wouldn't have to incur that cost."
The town has typically covered the cost of presidential visits, but says it shouldn't have to cover expenses for a political campaign.
Many of the town councilors are away this weekend, so Selig said the decision was made to meet at 8:30 Monday morning, less than six hours before Obama is scheduled to speak across town.
According to the agenda, the stated reason for the meeting is for "Discussion and possible action regarding the upcoming Obama for America Campaign stop scheduled to be held in Durham at the Oyster River High School at noon on Monday, June 25, 2012, the financial impact of this campaign stop upon the municipality for the anticipated unbudgeted $20,000 to $30,000 cost associated with local public safety services required by the campaign visit."
Carroll, the Durham town councilor, said the council's intent is not to try to "disinvite" Obama from coming to Durham, as some have implied. Especially since the council never invited the president.
"It's wonderful to have a presidential candidate here," she said. "But we need to think about the future. This fall, we could have another presidential candidate (in town)."
Instead, Selig said, the council will mostly likely bring forward a resolution on Monday that will "address the challenges we're facing" and express concern about the Obama campaign's decision.
"It would be very respectful and appropriate," Selig said. "There's no question the town is going to provide the public safety resources necessary to keep the president and the town safe. It's not about that. It's really an issue of billing."
Selig also stressed that this is not a partisan issue.
"We have had and will have this conversation with any candidate who comes to Durham and requires services," he said. "We would bill them and have in the past."
Two New Hampshire mayors issued statements on Saturday emphasizing that their communities would be happy to pay any costs associated with a presidential visit.
"The City of Rochester would have been delighted to host President Obama during his upcoming visit to Strafford County," Rochester Mayor T.J. Jean said. "While I remain cognizant of the additional security and public safety costs inherent with such an event, I truly believe the opportunity for our citizens to experience a Presidential visit outweigh the cost."
“It is an honor to have President Obama back in the Granite State," added Portsmouth Mayor Eric Spear. "For decades, New Hampshire has played a unique role in Presidential politics. Just as we have with Governor Romney, Portsmouth residents would be proud to welcome President Obama to our city. The attention and exposure of a Presidential visit always provides great value for our community, offering the chance to showcase our vibrant economy and diverse cultural offerings."