What to Expect when You're Expecting a Political Convention
On Friday, January 23rd, we went to the City Club to hear Ms. Jo Ann Davidson speak about "What to Expect when You're Expecting a Political Convention." Ms. Davidson is the former Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives and was recently named as Co-Chair of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Ms. Davidson started by talking about how Cleveland was chosen as the site for the convention. She said that half of the site committee who made that decision had never
been to Cleveland before and were "blown away" by it when they came here. As hard as we tried, we didn't get the 2008 convention but since then there had been a lot of civic improvements particularly around Playhouse Square and the site members who had been here before were very impressed by this. What's more people like Governor John Kasich; former U.S. Senator George Voinovich; Mr. Rob Frost, Chair of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party; and the late Mr. Bob Bennett, former Chair of the Ohio Republican Party all played an instrumental role. But none worked harder than Mayor Frank Jackson who literally met site committee people at the airport, attended all of their meetings, and escorted them back to the airport when their tour of Cleveland was completed. Ms. Davidson said that what really pinched the republican convention for us was the passion that all of the aforementioned players displayed and the upbeat aura of optimism that Cleveland now has about itself; after tough times we really feel like we are on the way back.
After Cleveland was announced as the winner, about seven thousand favorable articles were written about it that appeared on websites and publications all over the world. If everything goes as smoothly as expected our national and international standing will be greatly enhanced. It is very hard to estimate the economic impact of the convention but Ms. Davidson said that it should generate $200 million directly and perhaps $400 million after indirect factors weigh in. Ms. Davidson stressed that of course politics play a role, but the main reason for choosing a particular site for a convention is its ability to handle/accommodate it. Thus it is a "business decision" more than anything else. Ms. Davidson said that one should put themselves in the shoes of a convention delegate and ask himself/herself if he/she could have a pleasant time while they were in Cleveland.
Recently, the dates for the republican convention were finalized and we know that it will definitely be July 18 through July 21, 2016. During that time, we can expect 50,000 people to be here out of which 15,000 will be associated with the media in some capacity. Ms. Davidson doesn't believe that our morning commute will be affected because the buses will not start taking delegates to the convention until later in the day but our evening commute might very well be. The evening sessions of the convention will not be over until quite late when most of us will at least be home, if not asleep, so traffic at that time should be at a minimum. Ms. Davidson said that 3,000 to 5,000 volunteers will be needed and urged all those who are interested to start signing up now.
Don't look for everyone to arrive on the 18th and leave on the 21st, however. Quite a few of the people associated with the convention will combine it with vacation and thus come a few days early and/or leave a few days late. Ms. Davidson believes that areas as far away as Cedar Point will be feel the impact. She urged surrounding counties like Lake and Lorain to do an inventory on what they have to offer and start publicizing it.
Other things that we should make note of include about ten to 15 republican committee people (to start with) will set up shop in Cleveland this March and start working with local leaders on such matters as transportation, local business participation, etc. Another thing that will happen in March is that the secret service, who is in charge of the security for the convention, will start working with local law enforcement agencies in planning their operations. To be sure, security will be tight but there will most definitely be free speech zones for demonstrators which Ms. Davidson says are a vital part of democracy. Lastly, by tradition, the summer meeting of the RNC takes place in the city of the convention the year before the convention so we can expect 200 people here in August, 2015.
During lunch, we sat with Ms. Jocelyn Rosnick and Ms. Susan Becker of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation and talked we talked about the need for free speech zones which Ms. Davidson addressed in her speech. Joining us at our table were Mr. Patrick G. Manning of Capital Planners, who we have talked to at several other events and his friend, Mr. Mike Miller, Vice President of the Music Box Supper Club in the flats. We told Mr. Miller how much we enjoyed the going to the Supper Club for the Plexus holiday party and we had a good discussion about the opportunities that the convention will offer for local businesses. We visited with former Ohio State Senators Patrick Sweeney and Grace Drake and really liked it when Ms. Davidson acknowledged former Senator Sweeney by saying that "you can always count on Pat to support his community" and he thanked her.
Former U.S. Senator George Voinovich once said of Ms. Davidson that "history will report that no woman in Ohio history has accomplished what she has" and from what we saw on this day at the City Club, she seems up to the enormous job ahead of her. Along these lines, she smiled and said that she isn't losing any sleep at this point but that doesn't mean that she will not later on as the dates of the 2016 convention grow closer. Moreover, Ms. Davidson really believes in what she is doing and she urged Clevelanders to look forward to the upcoming convention "with excitement because it is a chance to see American Democracy at work."