The RNC chatter picked up considerable steam last week as Cleveland suddenly found itself within 100 days of the July convention. RNC honchos and local police brass assured city leaders in a security briefing at City Hall that the convention would last no longer than four days (July 18-21), allaying fears about the commitments of visiting police departments and the extended peril of civic unrest in the event of a brokered convention.
At that briefing, and at a press event Friday, specifics weren't in what you'd call abundant supply: The downtown security perimeter remains a question mark (as it has in conventions past), and the conversion of Quicken Loans Arena from Wine and Gold Cavs' Playoffs Mecca to Red, White and Blue Delegate City is still in the "planning stages." That planning is of course complicated by the uncertainty of the length of the Cavs' playoff run.
Steve King, chair of the committee on arrangements; Jeff Larson, the RNC CEO; and David Gilbert, the RNC host committee chair (also the Destination Cleveland/Cleveland Sports Commission boss) were nonetheless generous in their praise of Cleveland. They couldn't say enough about how pleased they've been with the proceedings thus far.
"We're about 100 days out in what feels like a 26-mile sprint," said Gilbert Friday, deploying one of his favorite metaphors, "and I feel extremely confident in where our community stands in planning for this convention."
Gilbert said that the host committee had raised $55.5 million of its $64 million goal and considers itself "on track." He also said that nearly 7,500 volunteers had been recruited for the convention thus far — they're shooting for 8,000 — and that volunteers can expect to get their first email correspondence near the end of April for expected trainings in May.
Finally, Gilbert expressed what sure sounded like genuine sadness when he reported to Cleveland City Council that he'd been sent an op-ed from the Kansas City Star last Wednesday morning. Kansas City was a finalist destination for the RNC, and the op-ed suggested that the Missouri town had "dodged a bullet" when Cleveland was selected.
"What I didn't like about it was that it made several knocks on our city," Gilbert told council before departing for a media event at the Q. "It really, really got me. You all should read it; you'll get angry as well."
Gilbert offered a corrective: "It's sour grapes. We are already reaping huge benefits from hosting this convention, and the eyes of the world are on us."
The op-ed caused a minor dust-up in Cleveland, generating the same reaction from local media (outrage at real or imagined slights) as it did in its comments section. In our reading, other than the hackneyed "mistake by the lake" jab, the op-ed was much less about insulting Cleveland than it was about promoting Kansas City's alternatives (Free Will Baptists Conference) while noting the volatility of any large-scale event at which Donald Trump is, or could be, the center of attention. But no matter. Local newscasters were "appalled":
"I don't like another city bad-mouthing my town," said Channel 5's Leon Bibb in a solemn video editorial, "calling Cleveland something it is not while giving voice to events which have not, and may not, take place."
But there is reason for concern, if not outright alarm. In one corner, Donald Trump wields ever-more ominous convention influence. His adviser Roger Stone said in a radio interview last week that the campaign would disclose the hotels and room numbers of delegates who switched votes (from Trump to another candidate) and merrily encouraged supporters to "visit their hotel and find them."
Evan Osnos, who writes about politics for the New Yorker, wrote in response that Trump may seek to shape the convention's outcome by using "his most unwieldy weapon of all: the latent power of usually peaceful people."