Friday, December 19, 2008

Looking Out For Number One (& For Number Two)

In what is either a serious downgrading of expected inauguration turnout or a bureaucratic snafu waiting in the wings, Presidental Inaugural Committee executive director Emmett Beliveau announced that 5,000 portable toilets will be made available for the inauguration.

While that may sound like a lot, 2,200 portable toilets were on hand for George W Bush’s 2005 inauguration, which 300,000 people attended. That’s one porta-potty for every 136 people. If two million people attend the noon swearing-in ceremony and the 2:30 inaugural parade, 5,000 toilets will provide one seven-foot plastic sanctuary for every 400 people, exceeding the National Park Service’s recommendation of one per 300.

Does this mean the Obama inaugural committee expects a lower than predicted turnout? Or has Mr Beliveau fudged his toilet algebra?

Obamapalooza thinks the latter.

Of those 5,000 toilets, only 1,000 will be arrayed along the Mall, with 3,500 dotting the parade route. Surely at least as many people will attend Obama’s inaugural ceremony as will attend the parade. Beliveau’s toilet algebra would have three times as many people attending the latter, which, if a smaller than expected crowd of 1.5 million comes for the inauguration, would mean the Obama team anticipates a crowd of about 350,000 to watch his swearing-in.

500,000 turned out to watch Obama’s victory speech in Chicago on Election Day. It is highly unlikely, given numerous estimates putting expected attendance somewhere between two and five million, that fewer people would turn out for Obama’s inaugural ceremony than did his Chicago victory speech, particularly as they are coming to Washington specifically for the inauguration.

Even a Mall crowd of 700,000 – twice the figure required to validate Beliveau’s equations – seems conservative. If a lowball estimate of 1.5 million people come to Washington on Inauguration Day, would more than half of them really opt to miss the swearing-in?

Obamapalooza predicts at least one million people fill the National Mall on Inauguration Day, at a bladder/toilet ratio of a 1,000:1.

Mr Beliveau, get your mop.

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