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COLUMN

Happytown

Tampa restricts protesters for Republican National Convention to clean zones, but everyone's allowed to bring their guns (whew!). Meanwhile Florida figures out that though it can't privatize prisons, it can privatize prison health care, and former Sentinel scribe Mike Thomas lands a sweet gig with everybody's favorite schoolmarm.

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We're sick of firestorms. Yes, this month'smunicipal elections were a muted exercise in well-dressed hand-sitting that resulted in the sort of status quo “mandate”that only a 16 percent turnout can produce (not exactly a firestorm, then, unless you count the baby-daddy nonsense coming from Commissioner Sam Ings' camp), but before that we had all of the economic development shenanigans associated with the NBA All-Star Game and its fences and its injustices and its disappointments and its actual absence of economic development to contend with. Remember that? Of course you do.

And so it is with only a modicum of schadenfreude that we turn our gazes westward to our left-handed sister with the lazy eye, Tampa. In the nuts-and-bolts buildup to the Republican National Convention in late August, the city has recently found itself tripping over state gun laws and general constitutionality while the world watches and laughs. On April 5, the Tampa City Councildeliberated over what it's calling its convention “clean zones,” which, if we're to pluck our recent memories with an “Occupy” comb, basically refers to an area in which protesters are permitted to be clustered in order to give off the appearance of fairness. (Actually, the “clean zone” is more of an omnibus big area encompassing much of Tampa; protest areas will be designated within said “zone”). Concentric circles of doom!

As expected, the 18-page ordinance crafted by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has experienced some blowback from those who pay attention to these things. According to the Tampa Bay Times, up to 15,000 protesters are expected to scratch their way into the Tampa area to make their anti-corporate voices heard, meaning there will be about as many of them as there will be suits crammed into the Tampa Bay Times Forum.Tampa has said that it wants to have protesters visible to the drunken delegates, but it really doesn't want any of the pesky violence that could come along with that. Also, protesters have quickly glommed onto the opposite-day notion that a “clean zone” would imply that they are actually dirty. There's a free-speech mess all up in here somewhere.

“It is unconstitutional, as an impermissibly broad prohibition on protected constitutional activity, and will especially impact conduct protected by the First Amendment,” the New York-based National Lawyers Guild opined in a letter to Tampa government, according to the Times.

But it gets worse. Because the state legislature has forbidden Florida municipalities from toying with gun legislation for fear of the bang of the National Rifle Association's Marion Hammer, the city is able to regulate some sharp implements and pieces of metal that might be used as weapons, but it is not allowed to ban firearms from the “clean zone.” (Although you won't be able get your Winchester into the convention hall, apparently).

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