Residents, business owners and heads of downtown neighborhood associations came to the Sunshine Center Thursday evening with concerns about road closures and limited access to homes and businesses when the Republican National Committee hosts its official RNC Welcome Event at Tropicana Field on Aug. 26.
Concerns were heightened this week when flyers began to appear on windows along Central Avenue in the Edge Business District that said residents/business owners could be kept from their homes during the event.
Matthew Miller with the U.S. Secret Service tried to quell concerns Thursday. He did note that there may be some inconveniences for neighborhoods, businesses and commuters.
“Because of the way Tropicana Field is designed, (security) won’t impact much of the residential or business communities,” Miller said.
Some residents may be asked by police to show driver licenses if they live in specific areas arouond the Trop, he said.
“We will make every effort to work with folks,” Miller added. “I don’t think you will be that unhappy.”
Sgt. Gary Dukeman with St. Petersburg Police said there are currently no plans to shut down Central Avenue near Tropicana Field or limit pedestrian access to businesses in the Edge District corridor.
“There’s misinformation out there,” he said. “The unknowns (are) what we got to look out for.”
A resident and business owner at 16th Street and 1st Avenue S., Connie Young, said she came to the meeting worried about what might happen on Aug. 26 but said Thursday’s meeting helped ease her fear.
“I’m relieved because what the word out there was that it was going to be a lot worse,” Young said. “We heard yesterday that this meeting was happening, we knew nothing and it scared us.”
City Beefs Up Security
Earlier this summer the City Council approved funding for . The Welcome Event at Tropicana Field requires the city to use $270,000 for security cameras, which Mayor Bill Foster said could be refunded by the Department of Justice.
City Council has even had .
While final security/traffic plans won’t be released to the public for a few weeks, Miller shed some light on details. He said some residents might have to show ID to gain access to certain residential areas and that there is the possibility that snipers may be posted on apartment/condo rooftops.
“I don’t think there will be any resident or business that will be displaced,” Miller said. He joked that if you are looking to get into a storage unit at that it might be difficult.
A major function of his job, Miller said, is to help with transportation. Miller was unable to offer specifics but said Secret Service and St. Petersburg Police would be releasing information regarding road closures, detours and accessibility requirements within a few weeks.
Despite fears that bridges could be shut down, Miller said there are no plans to do so unless deemed necessary.
“The plan right now is to not shut down any bridges,” he said. “Using the system of the cameras that FDOT has in place, FHP, Coast Guard, Florida Marine Patrol will be ready if a bridge becomes a problem.”
Miller said that these efforts are not about protecting one political party or another, it is about protecting democracy.
“We are an a-political organization. That’s our role,” Miller said. “We are here to make sure that in November there are two candidates to be placed on the ballot.”
The RNC Welcome Event will host members of the media, all delegates and delegate guests. Miller estimates that it would be around 20,000 people. No time has been set for the Aug. 26 date.
Dukeman said outside of the significance of the event, the city is already prepared to deal with the large crowds because of its experience with Rays games and events like the 4th of July, which draws nearly 100,000 people.
Other inconveniences residents could face are delayed mailing services and trash/recycling pickup. Residents, Miller said, should have no fear about emergency vehicles have access.
The reason Secret Service is involved in the security planning for the event is because the Welcome Event has been designated a National Special Security Event (NSSE) by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
The past four RNC and DNC conventions have been classified as NSSE and have been run by Secret Service.