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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Republicans in the Big Guava

This Salon article is both deeply depressing and extremely accurate. As you all probably know, the Republican National Convention is taking place in my fair former city, Tampa, starting this weekend. When this was first announced, I shuddered in horror and thanked my lucky stars that I would already be gone when it came time. It would even worse than when we hosted the Super Bowl! And by all accounts it's going to be--the city is playing host to a slew of birther nutbars, and the prison on Orient Road is just waiting for people to be arrested. 

A new billboard greets GOPers as they roll in from the airport, seen below:

Believe me, to live there you would have no idea that this is actually true. The only reason Tampa is occasionally a spot of blue in a sea of red is because there are large amounts of students and people of color living there. Nothing in the city's infrastructure or plans for the future indicates the presence of liberal devils; I've posted here before about the utter lack of parks, the dangers of being a pedestrian or bike-rider, and the terrible public transit, including our idiot governor's rejection of the high-speed rail and Hillsborough County voters' rejection of a one-cent tax raise to fund light rail. On the other hand, the city doesn't display many of the virtues of conservatism, either--the tourism business is a shambles. There is nothing that Tampa has for tourists that every other Florida city doesn't have--Tallahassee doesn't have a beach, but then neither does Tampa proper--and a good bit of what it does have isn't being promoted properly. A rich and interesting history, sure...but where do you go to learn about that history? A lovely waterway...almost entirely ringed with unwalkable roads (the Riverwalk project, mentioned in the Salon article, has been in progress since before I moved to Hillsborough). Beautiful and historic houses...in the poorest parts of the city. Seminole Heights is to date the only successful attempt at gentrification, and frankly, gentrification isn't what the goal should be. The neighborhoods on all sides of Seminole Heights, including V.M. Ybor where I used to live, could see the same level of success that Seminole Heights has, but there's no initiative to make that happen, and even if it did, it would most likely manifest in the same old "push locals out, put Starbuck's in". Hillsborough County is a patchwork of extreme cases, where expensive high-rises sit next to urban-ugly tenements, and there are few hard dividing lines between "neighborhoods" as many other major urban centers have. The "solution" to distasteful urban spaces has been to push ever farther away from the city center, creating white-flight suburbs like New Tampa.

Tampa is a city that displays some of the worst excesses of typical Florida urban hubs: development run rampant with comparably few gains, extreme dependency on automobiles with all that entails (including some of the worst traffic in the nation, high rates of pedestrian injuries, and pollution), and a fatal disconnect between residents of the city proper and residents of the larger county. It has no essential spaces and it's far too spread out to be livable. There is very little that stitches Tampa together--other than 275. There is no overarching meaning to living in the place, little cultural identity unless you've been rooted there for generations, and most folks would rather say they're from somewhere else.

It's kind of a wreck. But I love it: it's home to my favorite restaurants, breweries, and bookstores, it's hot and bright and exquisitely scented, and it's lousy with memories. I'm sad the Republicans saw fit to descend upon it in their locust-like waves. Give them hell, Tampons! Since stand-your-ground is still in place, you might as well make good use of it.

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