Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Trump's Jacksonville speech - economic opportunity or disaster?

Do you own a hotel? A bar? No? Then let's cut to the chase: it's going to be a disaster.

Mayor Curry and the Republican party are hailing Trump's late August visit as a great economic opportunity, but it's more like a worst case scenario for most Jacksonville residents.

Not only does Donald Trump have a long and verified record of not paying his bills for rallies like this one, Mayor Curry didn't even bother to get any sort of agreement in writing. To avoid mandatory reporting of public records under the state's Sunshine Laws, all discussions and deals were made in person or over the phone. This will only make it easier for Trump to avoid paying for any costs associated with his Jacksonville event.

Beyond that, coronavirus rates are already rising rapidly - not just in Jacksonville, but nationwide. One of Trump's biggest demands for this rally was that he be able to fill up an indoor arena without any of the "pesky" markers of pandemic, like masks.

So what happens when you take people from around the country and put them in one arena with no social distancing or personal protective equipment? The virus spreads. Not only will it spread throughout the event, it will also spread to the hotels and restaurants that visitors are coming to eat at. Two weeks after the rally, Jacksonville is likely to look like ground zero for new infections.

The final piece of this disaster that Curry seems to be ignoring is the inevitable protest. The city is already on edge from the deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, and yet Trump is going ahead with a major event on the anniversary of an infamous white riot. That's right: Trump's visit coincides with Ax Handle Saturday - a dark day in Jacksonville history marked by Klansmen violently rioting downtown.

What's the upside? Well, a handful of hotels might have one good night of business. There may even be a bar or restaurant that's still open to enjoy two nights of good sales.

Their staffs will be directly exposed to the risk of illness, and the resulting fear of the virus will probably do more damage to their earnings in the long run than the short term boost provides.

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