Next story: UB Faculty and Staff Call For Transparency
by Katie McGowan, photos by Jon Winet
Our convention coverage team send dispatches from Tampa, then packs their bags for the Democratic gathering in Charlotte.
While waiting on the Iowa delegation during the day off, we head to Hilton Clearwater Beach to visit the New York delegates.
A group of volunteers welcome us to the hotel lobby. At a folding table they present flyers for local attractions, including the original Hooters restaurant.
Rowdy delegates and their entourages work to find a suitable alternative to their ill-fated beach party planned for Monday afternoon. Hurricane preparedness seemingly puts a damper on the party although tourists outside brave the waves.
Outside the hotel two local youths declare their disinterest in politics and the convention, seconds before the more vocal of the two explains she is “all about Paul Ron” (sic).
A small group of their scruffy acquaintances gather to socialize. If we hadn’t been informed otherwise, this group would feel like a group of punks—kids who historically identify with left-wing politics rather than libertarianism. Even during the last election cycle, I couldn’t have imagined kids in concert t-shirts and garish eye makeup discussing their concern over the national debt.
People in the know inform us that “Ron Paul owned the weekend.”
As the rain relents, a police SUV rolls up and tells the small group of youth to leave the area. As the cop pulls away, they taunt him by name.
The convention, held at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, was largely constructed by union riggers, steel workers, and carpenters, and produced by union stagehands, lighting techs, and sound engineers. Despite the venue’s habit of hiring non-union labor, and the GOP’s predilection against organized labor, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States (IATSE) Local 321 was able to win the contract.
The Tampa Bay Times Forum was ranked the fourth busiest arena in the United States in 2010. For the 2012 Convention, renovation estimates range from $30 million to $40+ million dollars. The perimeter is guarded by armed Secret Service, some ironically sporting vests proclaiming that they are indeed Secret Service.
On the press shuttle, we overhear a New York Times reporter reflecting on how a hurricane at the GOP convention had been a hypothetical emergency conjured up last spring as a training event for staff and police designated to work this week’s event.
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