Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Organizations throughout Lake County are prepping for RNC

If you have ever clicked on the TV at 8 p.m. to watch goings-on at a political convention and that is the sum total of your experience in convention-watching, then there is a lot of the real action you have missed.
What happens on the convention floor, of course, is the real business of what the party is up to, for example, nominating a standard-bearer to run for president, but that is but a small slice of the overall picture.
Outside the convention hall, and for miles around, there are thousands of people partying, glad-handing, whooping it up and engaging in the merriment of the day.
And there are also many thousands of people who don’t go anywhere near the convention hall. But they are drawn like moths to a proverbial flame to the drama and the melodrama taking place at the center of the activity.
If you have never been at a convention, then you have limited knowledge of what is taking place.
You can read about it and watch it on TV, but there is nothing like actually being there to make you appreciate the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd, so to speak.
I have only one convention under my belt, but I have been able to extrapolate my experiences into a total knowledge package of big picture.
If you think I don’t know everything there is to know about conventions, go ahead, ask me. I will give you the inside dope.
The one I attended was the Democratic convention in Miami Beach in 1972. That was the memorable occasion at which George McGovern gave his acceptance speech to run for president in a nationally televised stem-winder at 3:20 a.m.
It was a masterpiece of bad timing. The campaign went downhill from there.
Since I was there, in person, soaking up the proceedings while a national TV audience of dozens, perhaps hundreds of insomniacs watched in awe, I am sure you can understand why I am considered an expert in such matters.
I became good friends there with one of the greatest political writers who ever lived, Hugh McDiarmid of the Dayton Daily News. He later moved on to Lansing, Mich.
We spent the nights in the convention hall, furiously taking notes so that we could dispatch stories back to our readers in Ohio, and afternoons sitting around the pool at our hotel, soaking up sunshine and watching one of our colleges from the former Cleveland Press attempting to set the world record for drinking Bloody Marys in one sitting.
Obviously, I am leading up to something. It is this: The Republican National Convention, at which the party’s candidate for president will be nominated, will be held in Cleveland in July 2016. I believe it starts July 18, and that is a ways off. But it is a big deal. A  VERY BIG deal. And it is also a big deal for us in Lake County. Here is why:
A political convention attracts huge masses of people. Only a small fraction of them are delegates. Most of them are family, friends, political types, office holders, influence peddlers, hangers-on, close observers, observers from afar, and the like.
They will take up every available hotel room in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County and spill over into all the adjoining counties. At least four large motels in Lake County will be solidly booked with people attracted by the convention.
This represents a marvelous, one-time opportunity to do land-office business for all of our attractions that are a lure to visitors. So open the gates and invite them in.
Nobody knows this better than Bob Ulas, head man of the Lake County Visitors Bureau. He and a large group of helpers have been meeting regularly for several weeks to try and figure out how to put the county’s best foot forward.
These are business people, office holders and other politicians. If you think they are all Republicans, you would be wrong, because the sweet aroma of dollars coming into the county from outside knows no political parents.
(The best meal by far served at one of the meetings was at Classic Park in Eastlake.)
So yes, both Republicans and Democrats are plotting ways to get convention followers to stay in our motels, eat in our restaurants, visit our wineries, ride our Laketran buses, play on our golf courses, swim at our beaches, indulge in our night life, visit our tourist attractions and, of course, spend a few bucks in our fair county.
The fathers and mothers of all this planning are not merely Republicans and Democrats. They are people with an eye toward promotion, people who want to see a great week take shape in our county.
In other words, people like you and me. Or, as the illiterate among us would say, people like you and I.
Sorry. If you are a regular reader, you know I couldn’t resist it.


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