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Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017
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Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Get ready for a Tampa bash-athon during RNC

Despite the new palm trees, banners, free water stations, portable toilets and thousands of volunteers, a lot of people are going to be saying some not-so-nice things about Tampa in the coming days. That's only natural. Tampa, as the host of a national event, becomes the easy target — complete with all of the tired clichés of Southerners in general. When you consider we have spent almost two years sprucing up the place for next week's convention — and especially if you consider that nobody asked you if we wanted this thing in the first place — it might get a little hard to take. Comedy Central's Jon Stewart, who will park his "Daily Show" at the Straz for a week, has warmed up his audience to the zing fest we can expect for five days, pretty much declaring this place Yahooville.
A writer for the Atlantic has already called Tampa "sullen and unromantic." I can only figure this was after a long night at the Hard Rock's slot machines and then a longer night of failing to find his true love in Ybor City. We were the target last week of an article on Salon.com by Will Doig titled, "Tampa: America's hottest mess" and subtitled, "The GOP convention's host city is a disaster, and a perfect reflection of where Tea Party politics will lead cities." Doig is apparently under the assumption the tea party is running the show in the city, which may come as a surprise to its Democratic mayor and city council. But he is apparently talking about the Hillsborough County Commission, which does have its medieval leanings. "Tampa is a hot urban mess," he writes, "equal parts Reagan '80s, Paul Ryan 2010s. Urban renewal projects decimated the city in the '60s, but its current persona was forged in earnest starting three decades ago, when financial and insurance companies started moving their back-office operations there, attracted by the sunshine and low-cost labor." Can't argue with that. Although, as usual, it is only a slice of our story. He goes on to whack us pretty hard for our lack of regional mass transit along with our urban sprawl. He goes off the deep end when he suggests that "Tea Party paranoia includes a bizarre fear of smart growth policies, in which more intelligent land-use management is seen as a shadowy United Nations conspiracy." OK, once again he is talking about county government, a festeringground for conspiracies and machinations. But you get the idea. Thousands of so-called journalists with time to kill before the evening's free buffet somewhere are going to have a field day while trying to find the hotels for the different delegations scattered from Pinellas to Manatee counties. Heaven help us if some journalist gets lost for days in the fens and bogs of Brandon. Just remember that next week is our time in the sun (literally), and that we're soaking in TV time all those wannabe towns and burgs are not. At least when this sideshow moves on, we'll still have those nifty bridge lights to look at and a spiffy Bayshore, until the next storm blows through.
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