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Editorial: GOP convention should go west

What happens in Vegas should be the 2020 Republican National Convention.

Pardon the awkward sentence, but here’s the point: Though Charlotte and the surrounding area might benefit financially from hosting the Republican National Convention two years from now, the weak  vote by Charlotte City Council on Monday to pursue the convention portends nothing but trouble. Republicans siting the convention should skip over Charlotte and choose Las Vegas, the only other city in the running.

This is not about Donald Trump. It’s about the safety of the people of Charlotte and the surrounding areas, even as far away as Rowan County.

On paper, GOP convention contracts appear to cover all potential problems. A traffic control plan and extra manpower for police, fire and emergency medical services are expected to be reimbursed by a federal grant of about $50 million, according to The Charlotte Observer. The host committee is to pay the city for costs not covered by the grant and to provide insurance covering the city, county, visitors’ authority and RNC from convention-related losses.

That’s the contractual side of the deal. On the public safety side, the convention looks like much less of a sure bet for Charlotte’s well-being. Council’s vote to proceed with convention contracts passed by only one vote, 6-5. Nearly half the city’s elected leaders — and untold numbers of residents — don’t want to be anywhere near Trump’s nomination to a second term. Though she championed the convention bid, Mayor Vi Lyles has said she will not give a convention welcome speech. These are not ringing endorsements.

The country is so divided that few communities have shown interest in the 2020 GOP convention, normally seen as a jackpot. You could chalk the lack of enthusiasm up to partisanship; most cities are predominantly Democratic. And all party conventions attract protesters. The difference is the strong reaction people have to the president, pro and con. The forces that clashed in Charlottesville last year come to mind. So do scenes of the National Guard rolling into Charlotte in September 2016 to restore order after anger erupted over the police shooting of a black man. These tensions still simmer below the city’s surface and could easily erupt again. How much are tourism dollars really worth?

It may be economic-development blasphemy to discourage a meeting that would fill area hotels, but the 2020 GOP convention looks like a high-risk gamble. Charlotte may want it — sort of — but the GOP should not want Charlotte.

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