Should violence and chaos bookmark the Tampa-based Republican Convention, it's equally certain Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s political career will fall victim to friendly fire in the media, particularly from the Tampa Bay Times. Despite the paper's editorial devotion to the Democratic Party, Tampa's mayor would become a necessary sacrifice.
Buckhorn, elected last year, follows a consecutive string of four Democrats to hold that post since 1986. The last Republican mayor was former governor Bob Martinez, who resigned after serving nearly six years to run for governor.
As Tampa’s mayor, Buckhorn, long-time Tampa City Council member, is charged with providing for the safety and security of residents, guests, protesters and law enforcement officials during the week of the Republican National Convention. His primary strategy for keeping the peace is to enforce a zone clean of makeshift weapons including an area for protestors near the Convention Center. As it stands today, the Clean Zone would cover downtown, Ybor City, the Channel District, Davis Islands, Harbour Island and parts of Hyde Park, Tampa Heights and West Tampa.
Ironically, just about anything that one could use as a weapon is banned from the Clean Zone except concealed weapons which are allowed by permit in the state of Florida. Buckhorn claims he doesn't have jurisdiction to ban concealed weapons in his weapons ban.
Organized protesters and many left-leaning organizations are arguing they should be allowed closer to the convention and that the weapons band is too broad.
City Council members have postponed a scheduled meeting to work out details on the Clean Zone.
"We're just trying to make sure we have everyone accommodated," said Mayor Bob Buckhorn in the Tampa Bay Times
. "We don't want them to be able to say we didn't listen."
Buckhorn said he didn't know what changes the city would propose. City attorneys and police met earlier this week with a lawyer for the ACLU, and attorneys are pushing to meet with every council member.
Buckhorn said officials will go look at changes made to the initial Clean Zone and determine "what we can live with, what we can't and what makes sense."
Buckhorn’s political reputation, past accomplishments not withstanding, is inseparable from the outcome of this event - a first for Tampa. For a week, images from Tampa will be seared into the collective consciences of millions of people across the country and world.
But Buckhorn isn’t likely to get any help keeping the peace from Florida’s largest newspaper. The Tampa Bay Times, until January, was called the St. Petersburg Times; the newspaper is actually located a short hop across the bay in St. Petersburg. Politically, the newspaper’s Editorial Board lists precariously to port and drones incessantly against nearly all things conservative or Republican. The newspaper endorses Democrats only in presidential and gubernatorial elections.
In the last gubernatorial contest, the editorial board rallied for Democrat Alex Sink against Florida Governor Rick Scott to no avail. Once again, the Times’ pick lost, and the editorial board has been hopping mad ever since. The newspaper has peppered its pages with harsh, divisive editorials against Scott seemingly designed to undermine his administration.
Curiously, despite the Times publishing hundreds of editorials tainted by strident liberal slant, Republican candidates have flourished at state levels to the extent that Democratic legislators have been regulated to the role of seat warmers for more than a decade.
Like many large newspapers, the Tampa Bay Times has experienced significant layoffs over the last several years and all full-time employees were recently given pay cuts. But that won’t stop the paper from carpet bombing its readership with partisan editorials designed to roil conservatives and whip protesters into a riotous frenzy as the Republican Convention draws near.
However, if things get out of hand in Tampa, Buckhorn takes a permanent political hit akin to Chicago's mayor, Richard J. Daley, during the 1968 Democratic Party Convention. Daley hoped to spotlight his and the city's accomplishments to national Democrats and the news media. Instead, large numbers of protesters rioted and Chicago police had to use force to restore peace.
Of course, Buckhorn’s career path might not be the only result of riotous behavior in Tampa during the Republican Convention. Political dynamics are very different this year than in 1968.
The Tampa Bay Times will predictably endorse President Obama but the paper may be writing about a Republican landslide if things get ugly outside the Republican Convention.