Jacksonville RNC cancellation raises questions about Charlotte’s role

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The grass isn’t greener in Jacksonville. President Donald Trump announced Thursday evening the Republican National Convention events in Florida won’t happen.

“I told my team it’s time to cancel the Jacksonville, Florida, component of the GOP Convention,” he said. “I will still do a convention speech in a different form, but we want to do a big, crowded convention per se. It’s not the right time for that.”

So what does that mean for Charlotte? Multiple city leaders told Eyewitness News reporter Joe Bruno they found out about Jacksonville the same time the public did.

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“As probably the person who is most in touch and in tune with the RNC and the administration and all the players on this on a daily basis, I was floored,” Republican Councilman Tariq Bokhari said. “Now I think we have to ask ourselves a question, ‘Are we in a unique position to turn this into an opportunity?' And that opportunity I can only describe in one way: A blank slate.”

When the RNC ditched Charlotte for Jacksonville, the consolation prize for the Queen City was a business meeting on a smaller scale with only about 336 delegates. Bokhari hopes leaders can negotiate with the Grand Old Party to bring back some programming.

Trump mentioned there will be virtual speeches by speakers. Bokhari would like to see them broadcast from Charlotte if possible.

"It's very rare in topics of this magnitude that somebody gets a second chance," he said. "We've just been given a second chance."

It's not clear how likely that is.

A letter sent by City Attorney Patrick Baker to the RNC on July 20 and obtained by Channel 9′s Bruno points that out June 12, the RNC told the city to “refrain from incurring any additional costs.” In the letter, the city also asked to be reimbursed $16.7 million for security from the $50 million grant that was promised.

Baker concluded the letter by saying, “It is absolutely critical that the Charlotte portion of the convention remain a substantially scaled-down event.”

The letter also notes that the Arena License Agreement between the RNC and the city for the use of the Spectrum Center was terminated last week.

Even if the RNC wanted to hold some additional events in Charlotte, former Assistant Police Chief Vicki Foster doesn't think that could happen.

"When we start talking about something you know less than 30 days, even 60 days out, it is really almost impossible," Foster said. "If you are going to do anything at all in person, I definitely think it should be kept to the delegates."

Foster said planning for this smaller-scale convention is enough of a challenge. Since everything paused when the RNC left Charlotte for Jacksonville, it’s too late to go back.

“There’s no time at this point to continue to make changes and think you will be able to pull off a safe event,” she said.