The first such meeting took place Tuesday night in front of a few hundred people in the Taylor Great Room at the Florida Aquarium, and included a whole lot of PowerPoint presentations from representatives from transportation, solid waste, emergency management, and other city departments.
Much of the information regarding specific information about street closures has already been extensively reported (and is accessible on the city's website), but the Aquarium meeting was the first time the mayor and other city department heads had spoken directly on how the convention will affect workers and residents.
Chief Castor, Assistant Police Chief John Bennett and City Attorney Jim Shimberg have previously addressed concerns about civil liberties in ACLU supported workshops, but in the Q&A portion of the meeting, Castor was asked about protesters invading Channelside, which is inside the city's "event zone," but isn't expected to be a hub of demonstrations.
"We expect that all of the energy will be in that particular area (downtown), but that's not to say there aren't going to be spontaneous events," the chief responded.
Saying the TPD has been "communicating with everybody who's coming down to demonstrate," Castor said that if activists want to have a spontaneous march "then we will work with them to develop a plan that is advantageous to everyone: to the community, to the protesters and to law enforcement as well."
As she has before, the chief explained how her department intends on distributing pamphlets (produced with the assistance of the ACLU) to protesters that will provide a map including watering stations, everything you need to know downtown, and those items prohibited in the event zone and public viewing area.
"We want to make sure that everyone understands what the rules are before they get here," Castor explained. "What the expectations and what the ramifications are if they choose to make different decisions. But everyone will know, and we have been very, very aggressive about making sure those folks who are coming here have this information in advance."
Almost most city residents think of Thomas Forward as the city's Fire Chief, he's also in charge of the city's Emergency Operations Center, which will be working intensely during the convention on what he called the "health and fitness" of the city.
There will be a host of other agencies working inside the EOC, including the Red Cross, MacDill Air Force Base, FEMA, the Coast Guard, the National Weather Service, TECO, Tampa General Hospital, as well as other city and county officials.
If a hurricane is imminent, these folks will be getting quite the workout.
Mayor Buckhorn's press secretary, Ali Glisson, publicized the city's recently introduced initiative called the RNC Call Center, which will have operators providing up to date information on any additional street closures that may occur, parking options, basic directional assistance, and hospitality information for visitors. That toll free number is 866-762-8687. It will be staffed 24/7 starting on Monday, August 20 at 8 a.m. and run through Friday, August 31 at noon.
The next two town halls take place this Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Wednesday's meeting is at Stetson University College of Law in the Smith Court Room at 1700 North Tampa Street. Thursday's event will at the Kate Jackson Community Center in Hyde Park, 821 S. Rome Avenue. Both begin at 6 p.m.