The New Public Square Takes Shape

IMG_1091When I was in Cleveland yesterday, I got a bird’s-eye view of the ongoing work on Public Square.  By all accounts, it’s on track to be completed in time for the Republican Convention in Cleveland in July.

The new Public Square is an obvious improvement over old Public Square, which was divided into quadrants by heavily trafficked streets and served as a kind of way station for aggressive panhandlers.  It wasn’t exactly a welcoming venue.  The new Public Square has more green space — although not quite as much as I would have expected — and will have a restaurant in the building at the left corner of the photo above, a fountain area, and a concert venue on the boomerang-shaped grassy area to the right.  There’s still a road smack dab through the middle, but it’s now going to be limited to buses.

It looks like it will be a fine place for the pro-Trump forces and the anti-Trump forces to clash come July.   Hey, they don’t call it Public Square for nothing!  The big test, though, will come when the conventioneers leave.  Will Clevelanders adopt Public Square like Columbusites have adopted the Columbus Commons, or will it once again become a kind of no man’s land where people fear to tread?  Only time will tell.

Cleveland’s Lucky Get

When the Republican National Committee picked Cleveland to host the 2016 Republican Convention back in July 2014, it was good news for the City by the Lake.

Back then, of course, no one knew how the Republican race would shape up, or precisely who would be competing for the nomination.  So happy Cleveland city elders probably anticipated your normal Republican convention, where one candidate would long since have the nomination sewn up, polite delegates wearing silly hats would flood into local restaurants to buy fine meals and drinks, and the only drama would be identification of the vice presidential candidate and whether Clint Eastwood would give another speech to a chair.  Delegates would come to town, toast the new nominee, spend some money and generate some tax revenues, and compliment Cleveland on its new look.

elite-defenderjpg-72ac43921b785fbaIt hasn’t exactly turned out that way.  With four Republicans still in contention and splitting up delegates, new twists and turns every day, “establishment” Republicans vowing to fight against a nomination of Donald Trump at all costs, and party leaders openly talking about a brokered convention, Cleveland could host the most eventful party convention in decades — perhaps since the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968.  And the kind of police-protester clashes that made the Chicago convention so memorable might be replicated, too, if the Trumpeters feel that their candidate has been screwed out of the nomination and decide to take their angry, “anti-establishment” mindset a few steps further.

So I wasn’t surprised when I read that Cleveland is looking to spend $50 million on riot gear and other crowd control materials in preparation for the convention.  According to news reports, the money will be spent on things like black, robotic-looking riot control suits complete with a robust and no doubt comfortable codpiece, 26-inch collapsible batons that police can use to crack protester heads if necessary in the name of public order, special riot-control suits for officers riding bicycles (riding bicycles?  in a riot?), and miles of interlocking steel barriers, ranging from 3 1/2 feet high to 6 1/2 feet high, for crowd control purposes.  Cleveland also plans to have a special force of 5,000 police officers — many recruited from neighboring communities — on hand, just in case things get feisty.

Whoo-hoo!  It could be hot times in Cleveland come July.  Let’s just hope the hat-wearing, button-sporting Republican delegates can still see and enjoy some of the city sights over the steel barriers and past those warmly welcoming black-suited riot police.

The Rs Head To Cleveland

The Republican National Committee has announced that Cleveland will host the 2016 Republican Convention.  Cleveland edged out Dallas for the convention-hosting nod.

IMG_5406I’m happy for Cleveland.  It is one of the great American cities, and it deserves a break.  The money that will flow to town will help fill the city’s coffers, but it’s more than that.  Clevelanders are proud people, and I know that they will do their best to put on a good show for the Republicans who will be coming to town to nominate a presidential candidate — and the media, and the other hangers-on, who will be present for the show.  There’s lots to see and do in Cleveland, and having the national media camped out for a week or so will help to educate people about that fact.

I also think picking Cleveland is a smart choice for Republicans.  It’s not because Ohio will likely be a “battleground state,” again, and the choice of Cleveland will help to tip the balance.  No one I know will make their decision on who to support based on where the political parties hold their conventions.  However, Cleveland will help to focus the media on the economy, and jobs — which is where the focus should be.  It’s a gritty city, and perhaps it will help the presidential candidates, whoever they are, focus on gritty reality.  It’s just up the road, too, from the Utica Shale part of Ohio, and perhaps we’ll see a story or two about how fossil fuels can help revitalize a region’s economy.

I’m happy for Cleveland and for my friends who live there.