Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Politics

Millions evaporate as shutdown forces delay of Tampa defense conference

TAMPA — A four-day national defense and intelligence conference at the Tampa Convention Center was abruptly postponed this week because of the federal government shutdown, erasing more than 7,000 hotel room nights and an estimated $5 million from the local economy.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the impact will be big, rippling to hotels, restaurants and merchants.

"This is affecting real people who have nothing to do with this," Buckhorn, a Democrat, said of the shutdown. "This is not their fight. This is a bunch of tea partiers who are trying to make a point, holding the U.S. government hostage."

The GEOINT 2013 Symposium, a conference for more than 4,000 intelligence, defense and homeland security professionals and 265 exhibitors, had been scheduled to start moving into the convention center Wednesday, with a weekend golf tournament and several days of meetings to follow.

Instead, the conference organizer, the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, notified local officials at it had to delay the conference until spring because of the shutdown.

Although Congress passed and the president signed the "Pay Our Military Act" shortly before the shutdown began, the act prevented government personnel from traveling to events, including the GEOINT symposium, foundation chief executive officer Keith J. Masback wrote in an email Wednesday to Buckhorn.

"It made it impossible for us to move forward with the event as planned," Masback said.

"Their speakers for the conference itself started canceling due to the fact that they were either military or government employees," Tampa Convention Center director Rick Hamilton said. "Without speakers or conference leaders, there could be no conference."

Local tourism officials can't remember anything like this happening before.

"We need our folks in (Washington) D.C. to get on the same page and end this, because there are lots of ramifications," said Santiago Corrada, chief executive officer of Visit Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County's nonprofit convention and visitors agency. The symposium had an estimated economic impact of $5 million, he said.

The convention center alone expected to see $750,000 in business. City Hall will lose an estimated $363,000 to $413,000 in convention center rent and other event-related revenue due to the postponement. The rest of the lost convention center revenue will hit private companies that provide catering, technology, electrical and other services there.

At the 520-room Hilton Tampa Downtown, attendees had booked more than 400 rooms per night during the event.

"It was our major group this week," said Lori Duke-Vaccaro, the hotel's director of sales and marketing. "It's unfortunate not only for our hotel but for the city."

This was the first time the symposium, which has been held in Orlando and San Antonio, Texas, was to come to Tampa. The city was seen as a good fit because of the convention center's proximity to MacDill Air Force Base, home to U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command.

"This was a big deal, a chance to showcase Tampa," said Gregory Celestan, chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and CEO of the Tampa-based defense company Celestar Corp.

For the intelligence community, it's "one of the few times in a year where we all get together," Celestan said. In addition to the convention center, a lot of meeting space around downtown was booked for "tens of side meetings" between government officials and vendors as well as businesses in the field, he said.

Despite the postponement, the symposium is looking to bring the event to Tampa April 14-20.

But Buckhorn said that doesn't help businesses being hurt now.

"The ripple effect is only now starting to occur," he said. "It is absolutely embarrassing to think that we sent some of these folks up there, and they're just like kids in the sandbox."

Comments
Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority plays beat the clock on GOP tax bill

Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority plays beat the clock on GOP tax bill

TAMPA — With the Republican tax bill poised to eliminate the opportunity, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority on Monday said it had refinanced a big chunk of its debt to save money in the future.The authority borrowed $152 million from the bo...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Alabama Senate race, unlikely nail biter, races to finish line

Alabama Senate race, unlikely nail biter, races to finish line

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In a blur of television ads, conflicting polls and presidential tweets, Doug Jones and Roy Moore raced Monday to make their final pleas in Alabama’s special election for the Senate, with both candidates focused on turning out their...
Updated: 11 hours ago
As tax plan gained steam, GOP lost focus on the middle class

As tax plan gained steam, GOP lost focus on the middle class

The GOP tax plan on the cusp of becoming law diverges wildly from the promises President Trump and top advisers said they would deliver for the middle class — an evolution that shows how traditional Republican orthodoxy swamped Trump’s distinctive br...
Published: 12/10/17

Same income, but not taxes, in GOP plan

In most places, a dollar is a dollar. But in the tax code envisioned by Republicans, the amount you make may be less important than how you make it.Consider two chefs working side by side for the same catering company, doing the same job, for the sam...
Published: 12/09/17
Updated: 12/10/17
Democrats fighting math and history in Alabama

Democrats fighting math and history in Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Renegade Republican Roy Moore may be plagued by scandal, but it will take more than that to convince the voters of 44th Place North to show up for Democrat Doug Jones on Tuesday. In a state where Democrats are used to losing, the m...
Published: 12/09/17
 ‘He believes passionately that the liberal left and the media are out to destroy him’: A look inside Trump’s day-to-day

‘He believes passionately that the liberal left and the media are out to destroy him’: A look inside Trump’s day-to-day

WASHINGTON — Around 5:30 each morning, President Donald Trump wakes and tunes into the television in the White House’s master bedroom. He flips to CNN for news, moves to "Fox & Friends" for comfort and messaging ideas, and sometimes watches MSNBC’s "...
Published: 12/09/17
Why Democrats decided Sen. Al Franken had to go

Why Democrats decided Sen. Al Franken had to go

  It seems like a distant memory now, but Al Franken’s arrival in the U.S. Senate eight years ago marked the very moment when Democrats’ control of Washington reached its highest point in a generation. After an eight-month recount, the ...
Published: 12/07/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Rep. Trent Franks to resign after broaching surrogacy with subordinates

Rep. Trent Franks to resign after broaching surrogacy with subordinates

WASHINGTON — Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican who is among the most conservative members of the House, said Thursday he would resign his seat in a statement where he acknowledged discussing surrogacy with two former female subordinates.Franks...
Published: 12/07/17
Sen. Al Franken says he’s resigning amid fresh accusations

Sen. Al Franken says he’s resigning amid fresh accusations

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Sen. Al Franken announced Thursday he will resign from Congress in the coming weeks following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations and the collapse of support from his Democratic colleagues, a swift political fall for a once...
Published: 12/07/17
Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Disturbed by stories about the rape of teens by supervisory staff, a pandemic of sometimes savage force, brutal beatdowns ordered by youth care workers and policies that permit the hiring of violent offenders, Miami-Dade’s state attorney wants to kno...
Published: 12/07/17