By Erin Drushel
I live in the largest Democratic stronghold in Ohio; the county which arguably secured President Obama’s second term win. Now the Republicans are mulling the idea of holding their 2016 national convention here in Cleveland.
This area is one of the hardest sells in the state for the Republican Party, so strategically it’s easy to see why the GOP should seriously consider Cleveland if they hope to exert some sway in the next presidential election. And both city and county officials are pushing for the convention to be held here.
But it’s not about politics… it’s about showing off the region’s best qualities blah, blah, blah. What it’s really about is a short-term gain.
Unlike in Canada, the political conventions in the U.S. are majorly “big time.” More people and more money mean the delivering of a short-term “cash cow” to the lucky chosen city. And to get this short-term satisfaction all you need to do is put your political blinders on and put forward about $50 million.
It’s an epidemic. It’s not just America or any one city, but since I happen to live here, Cleveland and area are my focus.
Building more stores means more jobs right now. Ten-year tax abatements mean more business and tenants right now. A national convention means a spike in tourism and a boost to the local economy right now. And by the time the bills come due, the storefronts sit empty and there’s no one left to pay the taxes because everyone left just before it was no longer lucrative to stay. And what is the community left with? An unpaid tax bill and more empty buildings that need to be taken down (at a cost) before the drug dealers settle in.
This obsession that cities and states have with a short-term gain is their downfall. Cities and states can’t be fly-by-night operations that make their money and run… even if the politicians and heads of local organizations can.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is another example. When it was built many people in the region assumed that the induction ceremonies would take place here like most other halls of fame… but no. Instead, they got a monument. That’s not to say the tourism the Rock Hall currently generates is meaningless. But it’s nowhere near what it seemingly promised to be… and someone had to know this was going to be the case; once again, short-term glory for a less-than-hoped-for return.
Places like Cleveland cannot afford to be the poster child for the “land of short-term opportunity” and expect to survive (hello, Detroit). And despite the potential for a Republican National Convention and the promises of briefly boosting the local economy and bringing Cleveland to the forefront of the national stage… politically speaking what happens afterward? After every election, you hear complaints about the region getting nothing for their staunch support of the Democrats. What are the Republicans going to offer – and actually give – that would be any different?
Yes, cities like Cleveland need to be competitive for people to want to come here – and while it’s nice to have a lot of visitors – the real challenge is getting them to stay here.
That should be the priority.
– Erin Drushel
(As an aside, if Cleveland does get the Republican National Convention, we should probably establish early on the rules of the drinking game associated with politicians using the phrase “Cleveland Rocks”… just thinking ahead.)