Joe Blundo: War of words in quest for conventions

First Posted: 3/10/2014

My civic pride has been wounded by Brent Larkin, a retired Plain Dealer journalist who contends that Cleveland is a far better choice than Columbus for a national political convention in 2016.

(Cincinnati is also bidding for the Democratic or Republican convention, but no one there has hurt my feelings.)

In a column published on, Larkin says: “As a convention city, Columbus can’t compete with what Cleveland offers.”

He cites his town’s superior mass transit (true), more direct flights (but Cleveland’s advantage will shrink in April with the loss of a United Airlines hub) and vast lead in attractions (now wait a minute).

“Columbus has a couple places worth visiting,” Larkin writes. “Cleveland has a couple dozen.”

If he hadn’t roused my ire with that crack, I might have said: “Oh, go ahead; take the convention, Cleveland. You need the economic help way more than Columbus does.”

Larkin doesn’t specify our couple of attractions, but the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium must be one of them because he calls it world-class.

He makes no mention, however, of German Village, the Short North, the Statehouse, the Wexner Center for the Arts, COSI Columbus, the Scioto Mile, the Arena District, the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, the Columbus Museum of Art or Easton Town Center, to name a few.

He grants that Columbus has good restaurants but says Cleveland has more of them.

I don’t know about that. I do know that, if we can feed the 18,000 calorie-loading athletes who come here for the Arnold Sports Festival, we can surely feed a few thousand Republicans or Democrats.

Besides, Columbus doesn’t really have to beat Cleveland or any other would-be convention host in attractions.

It just has to prove that it has enough of them to keep visitors busy — which it obviously does.

Now let’s consider some intangibles.

Columbus has no image; Cleveland has a troubled one — not entirely deserved, but images can be that way.

In any case, the situation amounts to an advantage for Columbus. The town is a blank slate upon which the spin doctors of either party can write a narrative to sell us to their flocks.

Here’s the narrative I’d write: Columbus is a more prosperous, better-managed, more innovative city than the typical Rust Belt metropolis — such as Cleveland. It’s diverse, welcoming and affordable. It’s a great backdrop for a political party trying to inspire optimism about the future.

For further evidence, it can cite the latest United States Best Cities list by Bloomberg and Businessweek. It had Columbus at 20th and Cleveland at 46th. (I noticed that the list criteria included a highly relevant one for a political convention: number of bars. We have Cleveland beat 249 to 204. Just saying.)

Heck, I think Columbus deserves both political conventions.

For modesty’s sake, though, we’ll settle for one.

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