"Welcome to the land of your unfettered ability to carry guns at the Republican National Convention!"
Those were the first of many words uttered Wednesday night by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, whose request to have firearms banned in the Event Zone of the city as the RNC comes to town had been rejected hours earlier by Governor Rick Scott.
Buckhorn was joined by two other Tampa politicos — County Commissioner Mark Sharpe and City Councilman Mike Suarez — as well as more than 100 young professionals, gathered at the Firestick Grill inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum to discuss their hopes for the city.
The event was moderated by Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam C. Smith, who tried to keep the conversation flowing, though there was only so much he could do with voluble types like Buckhorn and Sharpe in the house.
Transportation, the downtown area, jobs and crime were some of the topics discussed in detail, with the second hour featuring questions from the audience.
One of the most provocative statements came from a downtown resident, who said the biggest problem "are the bums." He said he thought the mayor and the city had done a "phenomenal job at Curtis Hixon [Park]," but said just two blocks away "it is a sea of bums."