Saturday, April 21, 2018
Politics

Mayor, police chief tentatively cheer peace and quiet on RNC's day three

TAMPA — It's almost been too quiet, said Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor.

Midway through the Republican National Convention this week, just three people have been arrested in isolated incidents, Castor said at a media briefing Wednesday morning with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

The update, including time for reporters' questions, lasted only about 25 minutes. Brief, as Buckhorn promised in his opening remarks, "because we really have nothing to say. Everything has been running smoothly."

Both planned and unplanned protests have been largely peaceful. Traffic has been largely manageable. Even post-RNC parties and events have seen no trouble.

"Everybody has behaved themselves," Castor said.

Still, she added, "Nobody's high-fiving anybody in the end zone yet. We're not done."

The convention wraps up Thursday night.

The city's tentative sigh of relief comes after two years of planning for the worst. Law enforcement from across the state was pulled in to help with crowd control. Millions of dollars were spent on security, including big iron barricades installed throughout downtown.

With things as peaceful as they've been, those precautions may have actually hurt as much as they've helped, particularly for local businesses. Downtown restaurants and retail shops have complained about a dip in business this week, which Buckhorn attributed to the many residents who are avoiding the area due to perceived security and traffic headaches.

But better safe than sorry, Buckhorn said.

"In a post-9/11 world, that's the reality we deal with," he said.

It hasn't all been bad. Buckhorn mentioned Bern's Steak House, in South Tampa, and businesses in the West Shore district, for which he said the RNC has been an economic "bonanza."

"We knew going into this that there would be businesses that had expectations that were not going to be met," Buckhorn said, "and businesses that underestimated how wildly successful it would be."

Both Buckhorn and Castor said they are consulting with Charlotte, N.C., officials, who are preparing to host the Democratic National Convention next week.

A quick taste of the advice they'll give?

From Castor: Have a balanced approach to policing — a strong presence without an overwhelming show of force.

From Buckhorn: Expect the unexpected. Be fluid, be nimble.

And, it seems, have a sense of humor.

Somebody asked Buckhorn if he'd seen the comedy news program The Daily Show, which tapes in Tampa this week. Tuesday night the program featured a giant palmetto bug, a reporter dispatching from a strip club and gratuitous jabs at Florida's mugginess.

Buckhorn laughed.

"If people remember Tampa, even if it is for giant, man-eating palmetto bugs, I'll take it," he said.

Somebody else asked if Tampa's now ready to host an even bigger event —maybe a G-20 summit, or something of that caliber.

"Now there's going to be four arrests," Buckhorn joked. "You're going to be the next one."

Kim Wilmath can be reached at [email protected] or (813)226-3337.

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