Mayor Turner asks GOP to not hold its convention

Good luck with that.

The city of Houston will deploy health inspectors to enforce COVID-19 restrictions at the Texas Republican Convention, and potentially shut down the event if guidelines aren’t followed, Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday.

In a letter to Texas GOP executive director Kyle Whatley, Turner on Monday laid out a series of conditions the party would have to follow if it proceeds with an in-person convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center from July 16 to 18. The guidelines are aimed at limiting the transmission of COVID when an anticipated 6,000 people descend on the convention center.

Those conditions, according to Turner’s office, include denying entry to anyone who has tested positive for COVID or come in contact with a COVID patient between July 2 and July 15, requiring attendees to wear masks, and providing touchless hand sanitizing stations throughout the convention center.

Party officials also must limit attendance and seating capacity “or host smaller events in larger rooms,” and modify room layouts to “promote social distance of at least 6 feet.” The mayor’s letter did not include a specific cap on how many people can attend the convention.

Turner also said he is “strongly encouraging” the Texas GOP to call off the in-person convention, which he said is the only conference or convention in Houston that has not been canceled or rescheduled for next year.

“I believe canceling the in-person convention is the responsible action to take while we are in a critical moment in our battle against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Turner said. “I’ve not yet talked to a medical professional who has said that this is a good idea to hold this convention at this time.”

Echoing Turner’s message, Houston public health authority David Persse said “the wise, prudent thing to do would be for the Texas GOP to reconsider their position” to hold the event in person.

See here for the background, and here for a thread from the official Twitter account of the Mayor’s office that makes things a bit more explicit. I have a hard time believing that the health department will actually step in and order the convention closed because it would be one hell of a political bombshell to do that, but it’s not out of the question. The Trib adds some details.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Turner recently removed language from an executive order and effectively took away his own authority to cancel the convention.

Turner also called on event sponsors to push the party to move the event online, tweeting that all other conferences had already been rescheduled or canceled for the rest of the year. The Texas Medical Association, the state’s largest medical group, has called on the party to follow suit and withdrew as a convention advertiser.

“With or without masks, an indoor gathering of thousands of people from all around the state in a city with tens of thousands of active COVID-19 cases poses a significant health risk to conventiongoers, convention workers, health care workers, and the residents of Houston,” Dr. Diana Fite, TMA’s president, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, various other indoor conventions across the state have recently been canceled or moved online. The Texas High School Coaches Association announced Monday it is canceling its in-person, indoor convention scheduled for July 19 to 21 in San Antonio. The THSCA conference was expected to draw 5,000 attendees who would not have been required to wear face masks, according to the association’s rules.

“It was a tough call to make but in our efforts to support the preventative protocols set forth by our Texas school administrators, the UIL [University Interscholastic League] Executive Staff and governing authorities at both state and local levels, we are choosing to prioritize health and safety first,” the THSCA wrote in a press release.

The Texas Girls Coaches Association also canceled their convention for this week. The state GOP really is alone in their push to gather thousands of people into an interior space like this. I don’t fully understand why Mayor Turner amended his executive order removing his own authority to shut down a gathering like this convention, but my guess would be he was advised it would put the city in a precarious legal position to do so – basically, we’d get our butts sued for it and probably lose. Certainly, in every possible way, the cleanest solution here is for the GOP to decide on its own to cancel and hold their convention online instead. I don’t have any reason to think they’ll do that, but I’ll be happy to be proven wrong.

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11 Responses to Mayor Turner asks GOP to not hold its convention

  1. David Fagan says:

    “my guess would be he was advised it would put the city in a precarious legal position to do so – basically, we’d get our butts sued for it and probably lose.”–Kuffner

    He sure wasn’t afraid to take Houston Fire Fighters to court not once, but twice, both on the city’s dime, and still in the 14th court of appeals. One of those lawsuits, at the least, will be lost by the city. So, I’ve got to disagree with this angelic portrayal of the Mayor.

  2. C.L. says:

    David, that ‘jilted’ look on your face is unbecoming.

    Regardless of how you feel about Sly, ya gotta give him props for knowing what battles to fight, and knowing what battles need to be fought by someone else.

  3. Pingback: GOP declines Turner’s invitation to cancel their convention – Off the Kuff

  4. David Fagan says:

    Jilted as in ” to cast off or reject”

    Is a perfect word for it, thank you. So, do not expect me to return when the city cannot fill it’s staffing. Because, to return to one who has ‘cast off and rejected’ would be foolish. Being jilted brings other feelings of distrust, betrayal, worthlessness and hopelessness also, so don’t forget that. And please do not be thankful at the same time, that only brings confusion. So in the end, I disagree with the use of unbecoming, as in “(of behavior) not fitting or appropriate; unseemly”. It may not be a good attitude, but it is absolutley appropriate and fitting for the times of a Houston Firefighter. To say I feel differently would be a lie.

  5. David Fagan says:

    Yeah, Houston Fire Department just called for overtime, I didn’t answer.

  6. David Fagan says:

    Um, they called again for overtime, still didn’t answer, don’t they know I have a jilted look on my face which is appropriate and becoming?

  7. C.L. says:

    David, so you’ve been bitchin’ about HFD salary for Gawd knows how long, and now they want to pay you O/T and you decline ? You should considering retiring and go work at…some place that’s not currently closed for business – sounds like the only way to end your HFD misery.

  8. David Fagan says:

    Overtime is kinda weird, it wouldn’t exist if people wanted it. Back to the whole supply and demand thing, now there’s an obvious shortage, but Houston cannot just make Fire fighters out of thin air.

    How much would you take to expose yourself to an incurable disease?

    What risk are you willing to take to do that?

    It is too late for discussions about raises and personel numbers, and this is not your decision, but this is what was warned about a year ago when fire fighters were to be laid off.

    Your comment was made at the beginning and I know the irony of the frustration the Fire Department is in cannot be realized by you, and that’s ok. But you are right I have already been making a pathway to leave this department. I also make that recommendation to every new hire I meet.

  9. C.L. says:

    A wise move. They may well be better off without your incessant pissing and moaning.

  10. Wolfgang says:

    Looks like we got a force majeure solution to the convention-cancellation issue. And some predictable howls about how Houston’s Mayor was okay with the George Floyd walking version of a convention (also dubbed “rioting and looting” by some contemporaries), but not this congregation of civilized patriots.

  11. Pingback: City cancels Republican convention – Off the Kuff

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