Cleveland City Council will vote this evening on an ordinance which willl desginate $2.5 million for the Republican National Convention in 2016 and will provide assurances that the city will be spic and span and (one suspects) safe once the Republicans and their various media coteries arrive.
During a lengthy council session Wednesday morning, the city's Chief Corporate Counsel Richard Horvath outlined the provisions of the ordinance, which include: making available for use any city-owned property as a possible venue, expediting the city's elaborate permitting processes, creating comprehensive traffic and security plans and technology and telecommunications plans, and guaranteeing that all construction in Cleveland's central business district will be completed before the convention begins.
Council passed the ordinance (880-14) at a meeting Wednesday evening.
"Streamlining our permitting process and having no orange barrels is worth $2.5 million alone," said Council President Kevin Kelley later in the meeting.
(That means, by the way, that the completion of Public Square
by early summer 2016 is now no longer a fingers-crossed-type deal. It's a legal obligation. Later comments by Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland, when Councilman Jeff Johnson brought up that sticking point, said she didn't envision the entire Public Square project happening all at once. She said it was possible it could be constructed one quadrant at a time).
Though Councilman Mike Polensek argued that he'd never seen legislation quite this broad — an ordinance which essentially hands over the city to the GOP — City Directors and former Plain Dealer
publisher Terry Egger, now chair of the RNC host committeee, were nothing if not starry-eyed and bushy-tailed. They gushed to council members about the media attention and economic impact of an event this significant.
"Probably only the Olympics exceed the conventions in terms of scope," said Egger, who estimated that 12,000-15,000 journalists would be coming to town, reporters who would "reshape the narrative" of Cleveland. Horvath mentioned, on the media topic, that one current idea is to convert the Gateway East Garage into a dedicated media work space facility.
Cleveland's director of economic development Tracey Nichols projected close to 10 billion
"That's more than we could do...we don't have the budget to get that type of exposure," said Nichols. "That's one of the most significant things to me."
Kevin Kelley and Councilman Kevin Conwell both wanted assurances that Clevelanders would see benefits from an employment perspective. Though the RNC intends to work with local businesses, according to Horvath, Kelley suggested that there be a specific interface for local residents to be made aware of job opportunities associated with the convention. Other council members voiced concerns that city services might be affected, that traffic and parking would be a nightmare, and that neighborhoods outside downtown might not reap direct benefits.
To that, Egger responded that sometimes there's "a little bit of potential sacrifice for a whole lot of good."
Egger said he's confident that the host committee will secure the $18-20 million they have left to raise — they've already received a $1 million commitment from the Haslam family, longtime GOP donors in Tennessee — and stressed again that this is an opportunity to be ambassadors for Cleveland, and to have the city's story told to the country the way we (or at least the host committee members) want it told.
But it will be one hell of an expensive party to put on:
One final complication is of course the 2016 NBA Finals, which weren't on anyone's radar until Saturday
. Egger said that in 2016, the last possible NBA Finals game would take place on June 16. The RNC had been considering two dates for the Convention: June 28 and July 18. The RNC folks had hoped to have their convention earlier, but may be forced to step aside for the King. The Washington Post has reported
that the convention may take six weeks or more to fully set up.