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News on the Aug. 27-30 convention

RNC arrest goals? Ask the mayor, not the chief

TAMPA — Ask police Chief Jane Castor how she will measure success at the Republican National Convention, and she offers a little humor — "I have a job at the end of it" — but not a lot in the way of statistical benchmarks.

Castor said she hopes the conversation coming out of Tampa "is about the political process and not about law enforcement."

"That would be wonderful," she said recently.

Not so wonderful? A convention like the 2008 convention in St. Paul, Minn., where more than 800 people were arrested, and authorities later acknowledged that the voices of protesters went mostly unheard.

So how many arrests would be good?

"Yeah," Castor said. "Good luck with that. It's like our crime reduction goal for every year. It's like, you know, you want to set the bar high, but you don't want to put it too high."

But ask Mayor Bob Buckhorn about arrests, and he'll inch a little farther out on that limb.

During May's NATO summit in Chicago, he said in a separate interview, "They did 125 (arrests), I think, somewhere in that vicinity. If we kept it underneath that, I'd be very happy."

News reports put the actual number of arrests in Chicago at 93 for the week of NATO.

New playground is RNC leave-behind

More than 200 volunteers came together at Ragan Park on Saturday to build a new custom-designed playground with a connection to the RNC.

Humana health care and the KaBOOM! nonprofit organization are building playgrounds in Tampa and Charlotte, N.C., in conjunction with each of the national political conventions.

In Tampa, adults and children who live near the park helped design the $100,000 playground two months ago, and a workforce from the V.M. Ybor Neighborhood Association, Humana, the city of Tampa and KaBOOM! spent about six hours building it Saturday.

"This addresses a lot of issues that we are faced with in East Tampa," said Essie Sims Jr., chairman of the East Tampa Partnership. It beautifies the neighborhood, he said, but it also improves public safety by giving children a place to play that doesn't force them to cross major streets.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn told the volunteers that they were going home "tired, calloused and bug-bitten," but "thank you on behalf of these little kids who you'll never see, you'll never know, but whose lives you've touched today."

For Humana, the 3,780-square-foot playground is its third in Florida. Along with equipment for children, the Ragan Park playground includes walking paths and aerobic stations for their parents and grandparents,

"The whole idea was that this could be a place where families can come out and exercise," said Dr. Scott Latimer, Humana's market president of senior products in Central Florida.

British report: Missiles on the rooftops

There's a lot of intense security planned around the convention, but this claim was a first for us at the RNC Notebook.

The London-based Independent newspaper reported last week that "one senior source" — no better identification than that — "confirmed anonymously" that security plans for the convention include "the placement of missile launchers on buildings, as has been the case for London" during the Summer Olympics.

Said Tampa police Assistant Chief John Bennett, who knows as much about RNC security plans as anyone, "That would be a surprise to me, too."

Tea party-supported rally gets new venue

Unity Rally 2012, a preconvention rally organized by a coalition of tea party groups, has a new home.

Instead of meeting in the parking lot outside Raymond James Stadium, the Aug. 26 event now is headed to the River at Tampa Bay Church, just southeast of Interstate 75 and E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Admission to the 6:30 p.m. event is free. Scheduled speakers include former presidential candidates Herman Cain and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., plus Dustin Stockton of the Tea and Judson Phillips of the Tea Party Nation. For information, visit

Saying 'Thank you,' Tampa-style

Tampa is bringing in more than 3,500 law enforcement officers from all over Florida to help secure the RNC, and police Chief Jane Castor wants to welcome them with a gift bag that has some local flavor.

Castor is seeking donations of "Tampa-centric" items, as well as lip balm, energy bars, energy drinks, snacks, sunscreen, gum, mugs, cigars, T-shirts, portfolios, pens, and coupons that officers could present with their RNC credential at local businesses, theme parks, museums and other attractions.

Interested in contributing? Call Shannon Edge at (813) 274-7835 or email her at

Times staff writer Jessica Vander Velde contributed to this report. Richard Danielson can be reached at, (813) 226-3403 or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.

.Fast facts

Lutz teen wins convention art contest

Incoming Steinbrenner High School freshman Erin Fesler has won the Republican National Convention's "Elephants on Parade" art competition and will have her oil-on-canvas painting displayed at the Tampa Bay Times Forum during the convention.

The competition was open to middle and high school students throughout the Tampa Bay area. Participants were asked to submit a project that answered the question: "What does being an American mean to me?"

Fesler, 14, is the daughter of Tom and Kim Fesler of Lutz. She told contest organizers that she's interested in politics and that each element of her painting — titled Perseverance, Innovation, Sacrifice, Liberty, Unity and Strength — incorporates a unique facet of the country's identity. The work includes images of a bald eagle, a Native American in feathered headdress, the Statue of Liberty, the space shuttle, the U.S. Capitol building, an American flag and Arlington National Cemetery.

Fesler has been painting since the fifth grade but has more seriously developed her talents in the last couple of years, Kim Fesler said.

"I am taking an American government class, and it's teaching me a lot about the political system and how it all works," Erin Fesler said in a statement released through the convention. The RNC, she added, "is just amazing. It's such an honor to be here. It just furthers my understanding of everything I am learning."

Along with four other finalists, Fesler will have the opportunity to tour the Times Forum and the Tampa Convention Center.

RNC arrest goals? Ask the mayor, not the chief 08/11/12 [Last modified: Saturday, August 11, 2012 9:38pm]
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