I know the newspapers got it reported, and it’s already been talked about on the morning radio shows, and I suspect it’s been Facebooked and Tweeted many times over by this point — but its been once every 100 years that a sitting President visits our hometown so at the risk of being repetitive I’m pleased to announce that President Barack Obama will be in Kent, Ohio this Wednesday afternoon (September 26th) to shake a few hands, pat some backs and encourage voter turnout in the November election.
The lines for the tickets wrapped around a couple of City blocks earlier today, suggesting that politics aside, people want a chance to hear and see the President in person. Even my Republican friends have admitted that the chance to see the leader of the free world is too good an opportunity to miss just because of some political differences of opinion.
Ever since the announcement of the Presidential visit, I’ve been inundated with questions — why is he coming? how long is he staying? where will he be speaking? does he have time to see the stimulus projects that kick-started our downtown revitalization? how much will this cost the City? And last, but certainly not least: can you get me tickets to his talk?
The reality is, the Secret Service is called secret for a reason — they keep information to a minimum and despite my position as City Manager I know as little as everyone else. I know our Public Safety personnel have been coordinating with the President’s advance team but they honor the cone of silence and I get most of my information from the news media right along with everyone else who lives outside the cone.
I’m actually pretty ok with that — I don’t feel the need to know any more than is necessary because knowing means having some responsibility, and responsibility means worrying that everything will go off as planned. We’ve got plenty of our own local stuff to worry about, the last thing I need is to worry about is something on the scale of the President. Can you imagine? Wow.
So no, I can’t tell you how it is that President Obama decided to land in Kent this week. I know we’ve great examples of everything good that comes from federal stimulus funding which the President championed, so maybe he wants to see the good work in our downtown that came from his policies.
I know that Congressman Tim Ryan has been one of Kent’s greatest advocates and closest allies, and Tim is a rising star in the political circles that the President works in so maybe the Congressman convinced the President that now is a great time to visit Kent.
I know that Kent State University is the second largest university in the swing state of Ohio, so maybe the President sees an opportunity to garner support leading up to the fall election.
Whatever his motivation, I’m thrilled he’s taking a few hours to visit with us.
Everybody keeps asking me, is the President’s visit going to cost the local taxpayers a lot of money? With nearly $40 million of the President’s stimulus funding at work rebuilding Kent Ohio, I feel like he’s got plenty of tab to work off before I have to worry about it — but I also don’t want to come across as making light of our financial troubles so we ran the numbers and thankfully our local costs (mostly extra manpower) will probably end up around $5,500 which when divided up by the various departments involved should be manageable.
Lastly, I regret to report that I do not have acccess to those Wonka-Like tickets to the President’s speaking engagement. There was a bit of a frenzy swirling about how and where to get tickets today and fortunately I was not the ticket-master or the gate keeper with a bag full of tickets — I don’t want any part of deciding who gets tickets and who doesn’t.
The good news is that Kentites are a resourceful bunch and by the end of the day the people that I knew who were looking for tickets had one, so I was off the hook.
Hopefully now I can sit back and enjoy the show as we celebrate our home town with the President.
(How cool is that?)