The reason was that the mayor, Police Chief Jane Castor, City Attorney Jim Shimberg, and other high-ranking members of the administration weren't present to discuss what to do with the surveillance cameras purchased with a federal grant for last month's Republican convention.
At the end of the lengthy discussion, Councilman Harry Cohen erupted in frustration, saying that even if members from the administration weren't available at 11 a.m., there was no good reason why they didn't show up by 1 p.m. (City Attorney Shimberg contacted Councilwoman Lisa Montelione to say he was in Clearwater on city business, not aware he was needed for the discussion.)
"Our input is not wanted, our input is not welcome," Cohen said.
Earlier, Councilman Mike Suarez called the lack of a top-ranking officials at the meeting, "unconscionable."
Perhaps their frustration was also due to the fact that they have limited say about what happens to the cameras. Buckhorn stated that he wants the cameras to remain, though he suggested he would be amenable to moving some of them to different parts of the city.
Less than 12 hours after the Republican National Convention ended at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, a bleary-eyed Mayor Bob Buckhorn hosted a news conference at City Hall where he praised the city police department, city staff, and volunteers for putting on what he called an "absolutely flawless" convention.
The fact that Chief Jane Castor's police department arrested only two people during the entire week was certainly something to celebrate.
But when 970 WFLA news radio reporter Sharon Parker asked Tampa Host Committee Chairman Ken Jones if he wanted to re-assess his frequently quoted statement that the convention was a "once in a lifetime event for Tampa," Jones refused to play along.
"I do think it's once in a lifetime," he replied, referring to the fact that it's been four decades since any political party has returned back to its host city for a second time. (Actually, he was slightly off as Democrats held their conventions in New York City in both 1976 and 1980.)
"We spent $25 million (on equipment) and made two arrests. I think that says it all," said Mary Mulhern on Wednesday afternoon.
Part of that low number was due to the de-escalation techniques employed by the TPD and the other law enforcement agencies under its control. But a bigger factor was the small number of activists who demonstrated. Though estimates of 15,000 protesters appeared inflated, nobody predicted that only 2,000 activists would attend.
I'm not sure what was my highlight of the last night of the RNC: crashing the Republican pool party and being the only one to jump in — full dress — or giving Newt Gingrich a sopping hug afterward.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
For the preceding week of the Republican National Convention, I'd covered the activity surrounding the Tampa Bay Times Forum, embedding myself in the radical and not-so-radical movement that was protesting, among other things, the lack of food in their makeshift camp off Florida Avenue. I reported on their many protests so much that they eventually kicked me out of a super-secret activist meeting. I apparently didn’t know the secret handshake, and my knowledge of animal-friendly, organic, gluten-free, soy-based, non-fat, no-foam, sugar-free Venti political opinions is, admittedly, very limited.
So, on the last day of this media-saturated, money-drenched circus, I decided to go inside the belly of the beast and meet the Republicans I had heard so many bad things about. Did they really kill and eat babies born out of "legitimate rape?" Did their leader actually strap a dog to the roof of a station wagon on a family vacation? (The latter, as it turns out, is true.)
This past week while the GOP held its convention in Tampa, something truly amazing happened — well, didn’t happen. The massive protests and violence that were predicted, based upon the angry mood of the country, Occupy demonstrations and encampments nationwide, and of course, past history of senseless violence seen at previous conventions, just didn’t happen in here in Tampa. Folks are already scratching their heads and theories are likely to abound regarding underlying causations, statistical data, and every manner of analytical scrutiny.
Yes, Hurricane Isaac skirted the Florida coast and gave the city and RNC planners a big scare, prompting the cancellation of day one. Yes, we had thousands of officers from all over Florida, along with federal law enforcement, and even National Guard Troops, patrolling our city. Yes, we were prepared.
Workers inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum are continuing the process this week of breaking down the infrastructure set-ups created for the Republican National Convention, with the hopes of having the arena restored to its usual condition by the end of this week.
But before the memories of the RNC2012 escape completely from memory, CL wants to bring back to you our experiences on the floor of the convention from last Thursday night just a short time before Clint Eastwood's bizarre appearance — and oh, yeah, MItt Romney's speech to the nation as well.
Thursday night was designed to show off the personal side of the former Massachusetts governor — which even some of his strongest supporters admit they know little about.
The Republicans are united in beating Barack Obama this fall, which is why Romney is now gaining grass-roots support.
But he was hardly the first choice for many delegates.
Coming less than 48 hours after the GOP closed out its convention across the Bay in Tampa, fans expecting to hear plenty of bashing of Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and company were not disappointed as the HBO comic eviscerated Republicans as essentially non-thinking white people afraid of changes happening in a multicultural America.
Referring to the "bullshit" that took place across the Courtney Campbell Causeway, Maher immediately seized in his opening moments on the bizarre Clint Eastwood performance at the RNC.
He said the scene was a metaphor for the entire Republican Party when it comes to judging Obama: "An old white guy arguing with an Obama that does not exist."
So it's not surprising that the 12-minute endorsement/performance art piece by the legendary Clint Eastwood on the climactic night of the Republican National Convention in Tampa is dividing the public as well.
One Tampa Democrat who you can put down as not a fan of what Eastwood did at the RNC is a man who kept his partisan hat out of the ring all week long, Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
When asked by CL Friday morning what he thought of the surreal performance, which consisted of the iconic actor/director talking to a chair that was supposed to represent President Obama, the mayor gave a thumbs-down verdict.
"It was bizarre," he replied, a verdict shared by many who saw the act, even those who said they liked it.
"I didn’t find much humor. It was sad that presidential races are reduced to that kind of childish behavior, but it's politics. It’s theater. He’s an actor, so..."
Buckhorn also said during the press conference that though he will be attending the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte next week, he has no intention of speaking from the podium during the three-day event.
"I think Charlie Crist stole my spot," the mayor cracked, referring to the former Florida governor and former Republican who increasingly appears to be gearing up for a run for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014.
They crowed about the shocking statistic regarding the number of arrests — two.
"The key was the approach that the officers took in working with the demonstrators when possible to achieve whatever it was they were looking to accomplish," Castor told reporters at a packed press conference at City Hall. "The information that we had prior to the convention indicated that there were going to be very large numbers of demonstrators here, both in planned events and in unplanned and spontaneous events."
But the large numbers of protesters, for whatever reason, never showed up — certainly not to the extent that was mentioned in past news articles (last week CL questioned why everyone in the mainstream media was automatically citing the number of 15,000 protesters without attribution).
When there’s a seismic shift thousands of miles from any inhabited land mass, those in the doomed locale can prepare all they want, but they can’t avoid the fact they’re in the direct path of a violent tsunami.
That’s probably how many members of the media felt two years ago when they heard the Republican National Convention was coming to Tampa — at least, those who knew they’d have to cover protests. There was that massive federal grant for security. Those rumors about tear gas. Very true stories about journalists getting hauled in at prior conventions solely for being there. Then there was Occupy. Oh, and Tampa’s planned enforcement of “Event Zones.”
Any journalist assigned to cover a protest during the RNC could have reasonably anticipated the likelihood of getting arrested or teargassed or being proximal to brute force and people who throw poo.
Yet, for whatever reason, by late Thursday night’s rally and march against Mitt Romney in Downtown Tampa, a riot had yet to break out. Arrests were at an eerie minimum. There were a few close calls Thursday, though:
Someone had the idea of torching the puppet, even though it stood in the middle of an estimated crowd of hundreds. The idea never caught on, and the demonstrators set out on a march through Downtown Tampa — flanked by legions of police on foot, horses, and bicycle.