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Counting ways to blow the convention's budget

If $95 million plopped into the laps of local politicians, they could throw a convention for 35,000 Democrats and reporters -- or fly every Bostonian to Orlando. Or easily pay the salary of the New York Yankees' infield.

The cost of the Democratic convention is now pegged at $95 million, nearly twice the amount city officials originally forecast in 2002. At least half of that total is expected to be public money, mostly the federal government's share of security costs, and the rest is private donations. Another $14.9 million is coming from the federal government for the convention committee.

Sure, the convention's backers boast that the event will yield "positive impacts that will continue for months or even years." But it also will shut down highways, scare away tourists, and prevent the city from hosting other high-profile events later this month.

So what else could we get for $95 million?

Bostonians weary from the convention will probably want a vacation: Round-trip flights to Orlando in late July and August are running about $160, so there's enough money to purchase tickets for all 589,141 city residents. Or the money could bring Boston the Yankees' star-studded infield, which is paid $53 million this year. Think Kobe Bryant would look great in green? At Bryant's current salary, the Celtics could sign the superstar free agent for seven years.

The money could build nine 500-student elementary schools or cover the cost of refurbishing 50 structurally deficient bridges. The money could pay for 19,000 street lights. Or it could buy Chevrolet Malibus, which cost about $26,000 each, for every one of the 3,632 people who live in Nahant.

Of course, residents of that North Shore town would be wise to steer their new Chevys far away from Interstate 93 between July 26 and 29.

SCOTT S. GREENBERGER

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