Opinion

Tampa: Proud not to be like secretive Charlotte

In the Sunshine State, Tampa is trashing Charlotte over the lack of sunshine.

Charlotte's secrecy around security for the Democratic National Convention has prompted public officials in Tampa to crow over how much more transparent they're being. And rightly so.

The Republican National Convention will be held there the week before Charlotte's big event. Both cities are receiving $50 million in federal funding for security. Tampa officials are openly debating how to spend their money. In Charlotte, the City Council gave City Manager Curt Walton power to spend security money how he sees fit. And not to tell the public about it.

Charlie Miranda, Tampa's City Council chairman, said Tampa often holds Charlotte up as a "model city," but said he finds nothing worth imitating in this case. Another Tampa council member, Mike Suarez, thanked Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor "for being so open," the Tampa Bay Times reported.

"We're so different than Charlotte," Suarez said. "We do appreciate that."

Those comments came during a two-hour City Council discussion last week over whether to spend $2 million for about 60 security cameras around Tampa's arena. The council there discusses and votes on how to spend the security money. No such conversation will be held in Charlotte, because City Council members washed their hands of the issue in a vote shortly after the city was awarded the convention. Council members said they trust Walton to do the right thing.

"This discussion that we're having is never happening in that city, because they put it (with) the city manager," Miranda, the council chairman, said. "They hide it away. ... There's no vote taken. There's no discussion. There's nothing."

Since the Observer wrote about Charlotte's secrecy, the city has been more forthcoming. But it still redacts a lot of information from contracts it makes available. And the City Council is still comfortable with all the power in Walton's hands.

Tampa hasn't been fully open, either, and some balance between transparency and security is obviously needed. But in Tampa, they rightly strive to be transparent while in Charlotte, officials strive to keep secret all that they can.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in the Tampa Bay Times: "Much to the chagrin of the Secret Service, we have been very transparent. I understand they have their job, but I also have my job and (the police chief) has her job, and our job is to make sure our citizens know what we're doing and why we're doing it to the extent possible."

Why is that too much for Charlotte citizens to ask?

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