FIRST PERSON | TAMPA, Fla. — You might say that the sausage-making of the political process is going on outside the Republican National Convention on Tampa’s downtown streets inside and outside what is known as the “event zone,” an area clearly marked out by the Secret Service as an impenetrable zone without the proper credentials, which are issued by that agency only after a thorough frisk of the applicant’s background.
And let’s look at the actual, and not metaphoric sausage making process for a moment.
Apparently, nobody told the restaurant owners who happen to be inside and outside the zone that residents, downtown office workers and delegates to the convention would be unlikely to enter the zone just to eat or party down after a long day’s work inside the convention hall, or in the protesters case, pounding the street, carrying signs and yelling themselves hoarse calling for social justice.
As for the residents of the area, many of them have fled the city for the duration, and others are simply hunkered down in their high-rise apartments, and peering from their balconies and windows with a front row seat to all of the action down on the street.
Thus, you have some unhappy owners of the varied and many establishments in downtown Tampa who have prepared far ahead of this event by stocking up on supplies, hiring extra exployees, and going to the trouble of persuading the Tampa City Council to allow them to stay open far into the night and pour many libations for the delegates, journalists, dignitaries, et al.
As this reporter walked through downtown at lunch time on Tuesday, the second day of the convention -actually the first day of real action, as Hurricane Issac made a dent on Monday as it sideswiped the city – there was barely, even nary a soul of any stripe on the street inside the restaurants, or the bars in the area, nor at the outside cafes up and down Franklin or Twiggs Street, the center of restaurant row.
Except for one lone man, seated at an outside table at Eddie and Sam’s New York Pizza on Twiggs Street, nibbling at one of their giant slices of pizza as he waved a forlorn, small, tattered, American flag.
And the protesters were off at either the “Romneyville,” or the Occupy Tampa stronghold in Voice of Freedom Park – the two protester camps – scarfing down on Vegan food prepared by Food Not Bombs, and other volunteer organizations who have labored to feed the hundreds of protesters who have traveled here to have their say for their various causes.
So you have a lot of miffed restaurant owners, a lot of well-fed protesters, and whole lot of journalists and delegates who have obviously found other places -such as the many private parties and receptions – to have all of those splendid meals and many libations.
The miffed restaurant owners should have thought to listen to the miffed restaurant owners up there in Minneapolis-St. Paul who were stiffed so badly during the 2008 Republican National Convention, same thing different year.
And the miffed restaurant owners should be glad that a political convention only comes around about once every twenty years.
If they’re lucky.