Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Politics

Bye, RNC! Can we have Tampa back now?

Bye everybody! Safe travels! Can I have my town back now?

A week ago — was it really only a week? — we were sweating out a hurricane, the real one that came up the gulf plus the thousands of Republicans, police and protesters about to descend.

And today feels like the sun broke through again, like we are digging out and looking around and saying, hey, we did okay.

The protesters who most worried police — the worst of the worst, we were told, the kind who stockpile bricks atop buildings, pour disgusting liquids into Super Soakers and plot mayhem — never did show. Maybe they were charmed by endless national TV interviews with a mayor who could not stop grinning, possibly even in his sleep, or a police chief who seemed to genuinely respect the role of peaceful protest in politics.

One day I watched a pack of sweaty protesters marching along and taunting police with ugly chants — until one of them saw a Salvation Army water truck, and they all headed for it with the undisguised glee of kids who just spotted the ice cream man.

Yes, it was hot, as everyone from Jon Stewart down complained. Did no one tell them they were coming to Florida, in August? Because it's not like we ordered this up special.

Speaking of Mr. Daily Show, I got to see a taping at the Straz, which was great fun, particularly witnessing locals sticking up for our Little Big Town. (Subjects of previous Tampa jokes included lap dances, flying roaches and, of course, humidity. Well, yes, truth is an absolute defense.)

When Stewart took questions from the audience beforehand, Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione informed him the entire council plus the mayor hosting the RNC are Democrats. (He was unimpressed.) Elizabeth Shimberg, wife of the city attorney, implored Stewart to come back in winter to get our full flavor sans humidity.

And my friend Andrea Zelman, a lawyer, stood to ask if Stewart might find something nice to say about our town. He joked that sure, since there was a political convention going on, why couldn't he lie too?

But when he opened the show, he welcomed viewers to "beautiful Tampa," (eye roll here) and then mouthed behind his hand, "You would not believe how insecure these people are."

Yeah, what about it?

On our streets this week I met interesting people: Silver-haired protesters worried that kids don't understand the battles fought for women's rights and civil rights, out-of-towners who ventured outside the "safe" zone for a look around, an ambitious kid from Silicon Valley selling Oreo-type cookies he packaged as Romneos. Sadly, no one was buying.

The intimidating packs of khaki-clad police (except the ones in short pants, who looked like Cub Scouts) are gone, the prison-yard fences surrounding government buildings down. At the courthouse, workers unboxed the statue of Lady Justice that was plywooded up for the week so no anarchist could deface her. So what if Tampa's version of Justice looks a little like a hula dancer — she's back.

Now we get to compare our party to the Democrats' do coming up in Charlotte, where, notably, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will be a delegate.

Maybe Silicon Valley kid's Obameos will do better there. And hopefully, they'll have a handle on this whole humidity thing.

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