As an American citizen (born in Brooklyn in 1975; I’ll show you my birth certificate when Willard releases his tax returns), I have always taken pride in the fact that the good ol’ U.S.A. is a free country. I’ve been in Tampa since 1989, and have come to love the laid-back attitude that reigns in the Bay area. So it’s with great disgust that I gird myself for the weeklong orgy of civil rights abuse and privacy violations that comes with the Republican National Convention.
Prepare yourselves, my friends and neighbors, for the wet blanket of security that will smother our home base starting with the Sunday kick-off party at Tropicana Field. That delegate-and-reporter shindig has necessitated numerous street closures in downtown St. Pete, with residents forced to either hunker down Saturday night and all day Sunday without leaving (many residential streets are closed even to local traffic, with parking restrictions all weekend to boot) or flee their homes refugee-style in search of freedom. Are we welcoming Republicans or barbarians? (Psssst, home invaders and ne’er-do-wells looking for a juicy opportunity, have I got an empty neighborhood for you!)
But St. Pete looks like the dawning of the Age of Aquarius compared to Tampa’s mesh of cameras and cops. From the absurd “Event Zone” with its Godzilla-sized footprint to the jackass rules (no air rifles, slingshots or nunchakus, but feel free to bring a Beretta 9 mm, as Florida’s crap laws prevent the cops from banning licensed guns and our shit-brained governor saw no need to make an exception) to the militarized zone around the Forum, the Gestapo would be truly envious of the combined insanity of local, state and national law enforcement.
And for what? I keep hearing two arguments for why hosting the RNC is a great idea: It’ll be an economic boon for local businesses and a chance to show off the beautiful Bay area to the rest of the country. Both arguments seem awfully suspect to me.
Yes, Republicans will be coming here in droves, spending huge dollars on hotel rooms, meals and entertainment, but it’ll be giant corporations headquartered elsewhere collecting a lot if not most of that moolah. (I’m looking at you, chain hotels.) Yes, restaurants will do well, as will transportation companies, strippers and prostitutes, but for many businesses the RNC is just a hassle. A recent Forbes story put the economic impact of the RNC at $153-$175 million, a number which includes $50 million for security (i.e., outfitting the city with dozens of cameras that will stay behind long after the convention is over — no matter what local officials say about maybe taking them down). Another $55 million is the money slated to be spent by the Tampa Bay Host Committee, who say 80 percent of that is being spent in Florida, with contracts going to local businesses "every chance we had." But then again, they haven’t even raised all the money yet. Next time, can we skip the hassle and just have all that grant money instead?
As for showing off Tampa Bay to the rest of the country, this is just another sad example of our low self-esteem as a community. Hey everyone, look at us! Aren’t we great? No, we’re not — as the delegates and national media are already pointing out, Tampa is an inferno with no public transportation. The out-of-towners already view the locals as rubes or the elderly waiting to die, and whaddy wanna bet they continue to hammer us with stereotypes the second they get back home (sooner if they Tweet), no matter what we show them to the contrary? And since when do we care this much about the attitudes of a bunch of self-important tourists? When I was a fresh transplant to the area, all I heard was “We don’t care about how you do it up north.”
Apparently y’all were lying.