Thursday, April 19, 2018
Politics

Locals expect good things of Tampa's Republican National Convention, poll says

TAMPA — Good for Tampa Bay. Maybe not a big deal for you personally — unless you live or work downtown.

Those are the two most common expectations that Tampa residents have for this year's Republican National Convention, according to a new Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll.

Half of the 304 residents polled said the convention, scheduled for Aug. 27-30 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, will help the region.

"It will bring people into the bay area, and they will spend money," said Brenda Burbank, 64, a preschool teacher who lives in Carrollwood. "I think it will be a good thing."

Another 34 percent don't expect the convention to make a difference. Eleven percent feel it will actually hurt the bay area.

At the same time, 42 percent don't expect the convention to directly affect their lives.

Twenty percent said it will affect them only a little. Thirty-five percent expect it to affect their lives some or a lot.

Residents who live or work near downtown Tampa foresee the biggest impact.

"I live two blocks from the convention center. I work two blocks from the convention center," Channelside resident Randy Burns said. "I think it will make it a bit harder" to get around, "but I'm not complaining."

That's because convention organizers expect direct spending to reach or exceed $175 million.

To help local companies compete for contracts to provide everything from generators to garbage pickup, the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee is creating a small business networking program.

Burns, 57, who manages Four Green Fields, said several groups have come through to look at the Irish pub as a possible event venue, but no one's made a commitment yet.

"I'm sure with all the people in town, we're going to pick up quite a bit of business," Burns said. "We always do when events come to town."

Not everyone expects the reality to live up to the hype.

"Whatever they say we're going to get, I'd cut that in about half," said Danny Guy Ball, 54, a retired magazine editor who lives in Seminole Heights.

Even optimists offer a caveat.

"As long as there's no problems, I think it will be very good for the bay area as a whole," said Susan Funk, 58, of Temple Terrace.

That's a big if.

With up to 15,000 protesters and 15,000 journalists in town, there's real potential for bad publicity on an unprecedented scale.

"I think there's going to be huge demonstrations," said Ken Marion, 57, who lives in Tampa's Beach Park neighborhood. "People are going to come from all over the country."

Looking at past conventions, particularly the 2008 GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn., city officials expect most demonstrators to be peaceful. But some, possibly hundreds, could be hard-core troublemakers determined to disrupt the event.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn says the city will accommodate demonstrators who want to exercise their right to free speech, but will not tolerate lawbreakers.

Marion, who has a company that sells nontoxic, ecofriendly products online, is one of several residents polled who said they don't want to see police go overboard in response.

"I just hope they don't bring up the riot police and make a big scene," he said. "Let the people protest."

Burbank agreed.

"I hope there are protesters," she said. "People are hurting financially and need help. And they need to be heard."

Even if the protests create no problems, the heavy security that comes with the convention is expected to have effects that ripple out through downtown.

"Anybody that's doing a lot of business downtown is going to have to be planning way in advance for how things are going to work during that period," City Council member Harry Cohen said. "Business is going to be tremendously different that week."

Much, however, depends on where the Secret Service establishes the security perimeter for the event.

While the agency has not said when that will happen, some things can reasonably be foreseen:

• The Platt Street bridge, which carries 34,000 vehicles a day into downtown Tampa, will almost certainly be closed so that no one can drive a bomb under the convention center, which is built over part of the road.

• Some downtown employees could be asked to alter their schedules to avoid peak convention traffic or work from home.

• Depending on what the judiciary decides, civil trials might not be scheduled at the downtown courthouse that week.

Not surprisingly, some downtown residents worry that traffic, crowds and road closures could overwhelm Tampa's best efforts.

"We have traffic jams all over downtown Tampa if somebody drops a nickel," said Diana Winoker, 58, who lives on Harbour Island, where the only two bridges to the mainland run near the Tampa Bay Times Forum and by the Tampa Convention Center, both of which will be in the security zone.

"I think we could look like a country bumpkin who comes to town with his clodhoppers on, and we could make fools of ourselves," she said.

It's not just traffic, she said. Tampa will have tens of thousands of out-of-towners looking for a place to eat, and they all can't go to the same top-tier restaurants.

"Let's face it," Winoker said. "We've got a lot of squat-and-gobbles and a lot of fern bars, but we don't have a lot of elegance."

Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected], (813) 226-3403 and @Danielson_Times on Twitter.

Comments
Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

BROOKSVILLE — Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Don Barbee this week submitted his resignation — effective Jan. 7 — to run for an open circuit judge seat.Barbee, who is in the middle of his second term, said he made the move "with a tremendo...
Published: 04/17/18
Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Democrats hold an advantage ahead of the midterm elections, but a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that edge has narrowed since January, a signal to party leaders and strategists that they could be premature in anticipating a huge wave of victorie...
Published: 04/16/18
Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush is in "failing health" and won’t seek additional medical treatment, a Bush family spokesman said Sunday. "Following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump attacked James Comey in a fusillade of tweets Sunday morning, calling for the former FBI director to be imprisoned as Trump served up a number of his favorite theories and alleged misdeeds without evidence.Trump’s ...
Published: 04/15/18
President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at 40 percent in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, slightly more than his 36 percent approval rating when last measured in January. It’s also the highest he’s enjoyed in Post-ABC polling since his fi...
Published: 04/15/18
Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

DOVER, Del. — Gun rights supporters — many carrying rifles and ammunition — gathered at state capitols across the U.S. on Saturday to push back against efforts to pass stricter gun-control laws that they fear threaten their constitutional right to be...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

President Donald Trump will welcome Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Mar-a-Lago this week in an effort to shore up their relationship amid strains in the U.S.-Japan alliance ahead of Trump’s potential summit with the leader of North Korea.Abe is...
Published: 04/14/18
Haley warns that US forces ‘locked and loaded’ if Syria stages another chemical attack

Haley warns that US forces ‘locked and loaded’ if Syria stages another chemical attack

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council on Saturday that the United States is "locked and loaded," ready to launch another military strike if the Syrian government ever uses chemical weapons again."I spoke to the president...
Published: 04/14/18
Trump uses phrase that haunted Bush: ‘Mission Accomplished!’

Trump uses phrase that haunted Bush: ‘Mission Accomplished!’

WASHINGTON — As he declares the U.S.-led airstrikes against Syria a success, President Donald Trump is adopting a phrase that a previous president came to regret — "mission accomplished." On Saturday, Trump tweeted: "A perfectly executed strike last ...
Published: 04/14/18
Rays stadium backers sponsor free screening of ‘Field of Dreams’ at Tampa Theatre

Rays stadium backers sponsor free screening of ‘Field of Dreams’ at Tampa Theatre

TAMPA — It would take hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, and more than a few dreams, too.So a business group advocating for a stadium in Ybor City is joining with the Tampa Theatre for a free screening of t...
Published: 04/13/18