Host committee president: Tampa convention should be not only secure, but accessible
TAMPA – The president of the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee accompanied the mayor of Tampa to Capitol Hill this week to lobby for federal funds to pay for security at next year's Republican National Convention, but he said Thursday that organizers are aiming for an event that's not only safe, but welcoming.
“To the extent that you can make them publicly accessible – whether that’s school kids, whether that’s just interested citizens that want to learn more about democracy and see the process in action -- you have to balance the security concern against the openness concern,” host committee president Ken Jones told Bay News 9.
Like Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Jones expressed no real worry that Washington’s high-stakes debate over the debt ceiling would seriously jeopardize an expected $50 million federal appropriation for security at the Tampa convention. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Department of Homeland Security has designated the national political conventions as “national special security events” – something on a par with a meeting of the World Bank or the G-8 leading industrial nations.
Jones, Buckhorn and Anthony Foxx, the mayor of Charlotte, N.C., the host city for next year’s Democratic National Convention, made the rounds in Congress Monday and Tuesday to emphasize the need for the security funds. U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, has said he expects the money will come through.
Jones said he also expects organizers and federal officials to strike a good balance.
“Every year the Secret Service gets better and better at it, so I wouldn’t say it’s going to be Fort Knox in terms of shutting down the entire downtown,” he said. “We want to have an open convention. We want it to have it be accessible to not only our delegates and the media, but also to our local citizens in Tampa Bay.”
With 409 days until the convention's opening on Aug. 27, 2012, much remains to be done, including setting the boundaries for the event's security perimeter.
“Anybody that tells you today that they know what the Secret Service footprint is, they’re not telling you the truth,” Jones said.