August 24, 2012 at 9:27 am
News Service of Florida, Michael Peltier and David Royse:
Appearing at ease and exuding confidence, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn went on national TV late Thursday and essentially told Republicans to relax and come on down.
Buckhorn said on CNN’s Situation Room that he was “not particularly worried,” about Tropical Storm Isaac, which officials said was looking less and less likely to take direct aim at his city as it prepares to host some 50,000 visitors for the Republican National Convention starting Monday.
His optimism was similar to that expressed – though more cautiously — by other top officials, including Gov. Rick Scott, who appeared more relaxed at an afternoon media briefing Thursday than he had earlier in the day. Scott started by noting that new forecast tracks have pushed the likely storm path out farther into the Gulf of Mexico.
He also said the state and the Tampa Bay area were ready for what is expected and said three times that Florida knows how to deal with hurricanes and large influxes of people. “The state is a hospitality state,” Scott said, aware no doubt of the economic consequences that canceling the convention would entail.
“Clearly, Tampa’s ready for this convention,” Scott said. “It’s beautiful right now. It’s open for business.”
Forecasters shifted the projected track of Isaac on Wednesday, moving the center of the likely path farther out into the Gulf. While that was good news for the Tampa Bay area, the storm track was being watched closely in the Florida Panhandle, which could eventually be in Isaac’s path.
The message was that Florida deals with storms all the time – and also is used to having lots of tourists.
“It looks like we’ll have some rain and some wind,” Scott said. “Right now, it’s full speed ahead (for the convention.)…. We’re looking forward to the delegates coming. We’re going to keep them safe.
“We do this, this is what we do for a living in Florida,” Scott continued. “We’re a hospitality state that knows how to deal with hurricanes.”
Buckhorn was also downplaying the potential for the storm. Flying in the face of years of emergency management warnings not to underestimate hurricanes, Buckhorn said even once the storm gets to its expected strength, it won’t be a very big deal.
“Isaac is just a distraction,” said Buckhorn, a Democrat. Once it strengthens and comes up the coast, “it is only a Category One storm,” he noted.
Scott said he also relayed his optimism to Romney, with whom Scott spoke on Thursday afternoon.
“I gave him assurance that Florida has dealt with hurricanes in the past and we know how to deal with hurricanes,” Scott said.
Scott’s own plans for the convention remained up in the air. He said he had planned to leave Sunday for Tampa, where he is on the schedule for a Monday evening welcome address at the convention.
“I’ll wait and see what happens,” Scott said.