PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Poor DC stuck with $11.9m inaugural tab

When most Americans think of Washington, DC, they think of gleaming marble structures, pristine landscapes, somber memorials, and red brick sidewalks etched with history.

When most Americans think of Washington, DC, they think of gleaming marble structures, pristine landscapes, somber memorials, and red brick sidewalks etched with history.

What most don't realize is that such things are pretty well centralized in a part of the city to which its residents rarely venture. The majority of Washington is indeed a monument to history - a history of bad legislation and partisan indifference. Thanks to an obscure passage in the Constitution, the wildly Democratic town has long been ruled directly by the federal government - whose members rarely venture to those less-pristine areas. Hence, funds earmarked for DC rarely go to the neighborhoods that need them most. Which only makes worse the insensitivity displayed last week by the White House in demanding the debt-riddled city pay for President Bush's $11.9 million inaugural. It's the first time in memory the city has been told to pay, and it's likely to be the most expensive inauguration ever. The PR downside is staggering. Journalists and bloggers mused last week: Is this payback for DC's 90% Kerry vote or simply a pain-free way to unload a huge bill on a poor city that does not like you anyway? And let's not forget the criticism Bush has already received for holding a lavish party for himself in the midst of global natural disasters. When asked why DC should pay, the White House pointed out the $240 million in homeland-security grants the city has gotten since 9/11. Never mind that those funds are much less than what New York and Boston, a town yet to be touched by terrorists, have gotten. But DC residents can take heart: Those terrorists are not likely any more interested in the less-pristine parts of their city than is the Bush administration.
  • Douglas Quenqua writes PR Play of the Week. He is PRWeek's Washington, DC, bureau chief. Ratings: 1. Clueless 2. Ill-advised 3. On the right track 4. Savvy 5. Ingenious

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