Thursday, December 22, 2011

Convention to provide teaching moment

With the convention coming in September, local schools hope to bring civics lessons to life.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Humanities Department, along with Junior Achievement of the Central Carolinas, plan to launch a "DNC Project" next fall.

A recent administration report to school board members said the nonpartisan effort "will provide students with the academic competencies required for the state’s essential standards for civics, economics and social studies."

"Students will demonstrate knowledge of the political system in the United States, including the history of election processes and party conventions; the structure and process of local, state and federal government; and the role political parties, lobbyists and interest groups play in elections, legislation and governance."

The convention-as-classroom idea will extend to college and university students, too. Next year, they’ll have access to special for-credit classes inspired by the convention.

UNC Charlotte is touting the "49er Democracy Experience" – an effort still in the works that will bring together students and faculty from local higher education institutions. Schools include Catawba College, Davidson College, Johnson C. Smith University, Queens University of Charlotte, Winthrop University and others, according to UNC Charlotte spokesman John Bland.

The effort has a special website:

Look for classes hitting a range of subjects, from leadership to economics, communications to anthropology, social issues and service, Bland said. The initiative is nonpartisan. Students interested in the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in August will learn of opportunities to be involved in that, Bland said.

"There’s not much more exciting in civic life than the buzz created by a presidential election," Joan Lorden, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, said on the website.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Big party at ImaginOn?

Are the open spaces and brightly colored walls at uptown’s ImaginOn the perfect spot for a 600-person cocktail reception during the Democratic National Convention?

Possibly. A nonprofit group has asked the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system about renting the space, home for Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and other programs.

The library’s board voted last week to charge a $7,500 rental fee for the open areas, and $9,500 for the open areas and theater. That’s the standard fee for rentals to nonprofits, plus $1,500 for cleaning and administration.

Former county commissioner Darrel Williams heads a board subcommittee screening groups who want to use library facilities during the DNC.

“We have wonderful facilities like ImaginOn and the (Main) Library,” the closest ones to Time Warner Cable Arena, Williams said. “It might help them, and help us get a few dollars as well.”

But don’t expect convention rentals to solve the library system’s cash woes.

The library is still recovering from last year’s $10 million budget cut from the county. “We don’t expect to have a big budget infusion with this,” Williams said.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

DNCC sending care packages to NC troops

The folks planning next year's Democratic National Convention in Charlotte will be assembling 500 care packages Wednesday for N.C. troops serving overseas.

Each package will contain 25 items, said DNCC spokeswoman Joanne Peters.

Among the goodies: candy, gum, sunblock, memorabilia from Carolina sports teams, coffee, socks, soap, phone cards, toiletries, assorted food snacks -- and letters written by students at Allenbrook Elementary School.

Local news media have been invited to take pictures and film footage Wednesday afternoon of the DNCC staff's Care Assembly Line at Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena. That's also where Democratic delegates from around the country will gather next September to re-nominate President Barack Obama.

Besides planning for that big show, DNCC CEO Steve Kerrigan has also pledged to reach out to the Charlotte and greater Carolinas communities.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A bullseye on Queen City?

An Occupy organizer from Asheville is telling the Huffington Post that next year's Democratic National Convention in Charlotte will be a "powder keg" and that the city already has "a big target on it."

The quotes come from Martin Ramsey of Occupy Asheville, who was commenting on Charlotte City Council's upcoming consideration of a proposed ordinance that would make camping on public property a "public nuisance," and would prohibit "noxious substances," padlocks and other camping equipment.

The HuffPost story, a version of which also showed up New York magazine's Daily Intel, calls Charlotte "the Wall Street of the South" and suggests that city officials are fearful that inaction on their part could lead to a rerun of "Chicago '68." That's a reference to the chaotic scene outside the Democratic National Convention in 1968, when police battled anti-Vietnam War protesters on national TV.

The article says Occupy organizers don't yet know what, if anything, they'll do in Charlotte during convention week. But they're mulling it over: "Everybody I talked to (from other Occupy groups in the Carolinas) said the DNC is ground zero for everything," Occupy Charlotte organizer Luis Rodriguez told the Huffington Post. Tim Funk

Want to read more?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

DNC looking for interns

Are you a college student interested in politics?

The Democratic National Convention Committee looking for about 40 spring interns.
Officials are looking for interns to work in a variety of convention offices, including communication, intergovernmental affairs and even that of the CEO.

This semester, the DNCC has interns from Central Piedmont Community College, UNC Charlotte, Davidson College, Charlotte School of Law and Winthrop University.

The spring program will run from January to April 16.

College or university students in the Charlotte area should get an application from their school career center. Applications are due Dec. 16.
Jim Morrill

Convention organizers going to all 100 N.C. counties in search of 'ambassadors'

The Democratic National Convention Committee said today it plans to launch "a community outreach campaign" to all 100 N.C. counties.

In January and February, the committee representatives will spread across the state talking about the convention and identifying 100 Convention Community Organizers to serve as "ambassadors" for the convention in their counties. The convention will be held in Charlotte Sept. 3-6.

“With the 100 County Plan, we hope to .... gather ideas to help ensure that this Convention is truly representative of the state of North Carolina, and reflective of the ideas of its citizens,” convention CEO Steve Kerrigan said in a statement.

Convention officials say the plan is designed to promote next year's convention as a state-wide event, help recruit volunteers and encourage businesses to use the convention's vendor directory. Officials plan to announce the 100 County Community Organizers in March. Jim Morrill

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Group member lands contract

A local group of minority entrepreneurs, devoted to helping members get work during the Democratic National Convention, claimed its first victory this week.

Karen Lawrence of It’s My Affair is among a trio of firms that will manage hotel room blocks for convention week. It’s a contract worth at least $1 million for the three firms, which bid together on the project. They’ll coordinate with hotels and convention officials to house approximately 6,000 convention delegates and others, including elected officials, some media and campaign staff.

The other two firms, based in Georgia, wanted to work with a local business on the project. They found Lawrence through the online vendor directory at

Lawrence also is a member of the Carolina Regional Minority Partnership Coalition, according to Colette Forrest of the coalition. Forrest said the group has emphasized to members the importance of signing up in the vendor directory, which convention organizers created to help local businesses land work.

Forrest also points out that Lawrence runs a “spectacular” and “competitive” event management services company -- Lawrence says her business has organized large conferences in Charlotte and other cities.

But “getting into the directory helped her,” Forrest says. “We feel really good about pushing that, knowing that someone was found with it.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Charlotte has armored vehicles, too

Turns out Tampa isn't the only 2012 convention host city whose police have big armored vehicles.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police has two of them.

Neither the Dragoon nor the BEAR (see photo) looks as tank-like as Tampa's Rescue 2. And neither of the wheeled CMPD vehicles is amphibious -- Rescue 2 is that, too.

But make no mistake: The CMPD has a pair of mean-looking machines.

BEAR (short for Balistic Engineered Armored Response & Rescue) is an armored personnel carrier. It was was purchased back in 2006 for $305,000 through the Urban Area Security Initiative, said CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano.

CMPD has had the Dragoon since 2000 -- the force got it free through the Law Enforcement Services program. It was capable of being amphibious when it was new, but not now. It's mostly used these days for high threat situations, as a back-up to the more modern BEAR.

Tampa's Rescue 2 recently rumbled over to an Occupy Tampa protest, according to Yahoo News. That was seen by some as a possible dry run to next year's Republican National Convention, which is expected to draw a lot of protesters to Tampa.

Those planning the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte are expecting quite a few protesters to show up here, too.

Is it possible CMPD's two armored vehicles will be used during convention week next September?

Tufano sent the CMPD's standard statement, which doesn't answer our question.

The statement: "The goal of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is to develop a seamless security plan that will create a secure environment for the community and event participants. There is a tremendous amount of advance planning and coordination in the areas of venue security, air space security, training, communications and credentialing. The means, methods and specific resources to carry out protective responsibilities will not be discussed publicly in advance, but the CMPD and our partners will work to ensure a safe environment."

Tim Funk

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tampa's tank won't roll in Charlotte

Tampa's "Rescue 2" could be utilized during the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Last month, Tampa police dropped eavesdropping drones from its shopping list for next year's Republican National Convention.

But the city's finest will have a tank - or what looks like one.

"Rescue 2" is its name, and it's officially an amphibious rescue vehicle. But, according to a report on Yahoo News, the city's Tactical Response Team rolled it over to the Occupy Tampa protest earlier this month.

According to the city's Web site, this armored personnel carrier is bullet-proof, weighs 12 tons, can hit 60 mph on dry pavement, can go through five feet of water and withstand winds of up to 130 miles per hour.

"It is virtually unstoppable," the Web site says, adding that it was purchased from the military with a federal security grant.

In case you were wondering, there is also a "Rescue 1," which looks more truck-like. Both vehicles were actually designed to transport people, and search and rescue during a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

Still, they look menacing enough that any protester might think twice before going up against either.

And what about Charlotte, host of the 2012 Democratic National Convention? Is it similarly equipped? That's the question we put to CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano.

His answer: "We have no such vehicle."

For more on Tampa’s “Rescue 1” and “Rescue 2.

Tim Funk

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Five ways to juice up the Democratic Convention

For decades, national political conventions have been mostly scripted pep rallies, with little in the way of real news. That’s why the TV networks have stopped covering them live.

So what would it take next year to make Charlotte’s show – the 2012 Democratic National Convention – that rare exception: a TV-worthy convention?

Here are 5 possibilities. We’re not saying they will happen. But they could.

1. Obama-Clinton in 2012.

Clearly, President Barack Obama needs to do something to energize his re-election campaign. If his poll numbers keep sliding, the convention in Charlotte could be more wake than party.

One solution that some Democrats have fantasized about: Obama makes a switcheroo, announcing that Vice President Joe Biden will be his new Secretary of State and Hillary Clinton, now the country’s chief diplomat, is his choice to be his 2012 running mate.

It’s a win-win-win.

Biden, who used to chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is on a first-name basis with many foreign heads of state, would get to end his career on a distinguished, globe-trotting note.

Clinton would get a head-start on her 2016 run for president.

And Obama would recapture some of the excitement that fueled his historic 2008 campaign.

“Barrack & Hillary” – it definitely has a TV show sound to it.

2. Preemptive GOP move: Burr for veep.

Meeting in Tampa the week before the Democrats gather in Charlotte, the Republicans up the ante in the battle to win North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes.

They do it by nominating Richard Burr, the Tar Heel State’s senior senator, for vice president.

Suddenly, all over Charlotte, there are banners proclaiming “Romney-Burr” or – take your pick – “Perry-Burr” or “Cain-Burr” or “Gingrich-Burr.”

Not since the hanging chads of 2000 put Florida in the international spotlight has a purple state gotten so much attention, as even the TV networks turn their attention to North Carolina. Pre-empting their cheesy reality shows, the networks go live to this ultimate swing state, doing man- and woman-in-the-street interviews with every voter from Murphy to Manteo.

3. A bipartisan TV moment.

During most national political conventions, a parade of senators and House members go to the podium and give speeches that are forgotten before they leave the stage.

But in September 2012, the one member of Congress still considered a courageous public servant is given a prime-time spot.

U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., who has made a remarkable recovery since the shooting that nearly ended her life, does not speak about politics.

Her message is bipartisan, as are the tears shed all over the country at her call for Americans to stop fighting among themselves and come together for the greater good.

4. A third party. And a fourth.

Just as they did during the Republican convention in Tampa, two other presidential candidates – and their dedicated followers – converge on Charlotte during the Democrats’ meeting.

And once again, they steal away some of the major parties’ monopoly on news coverage by staging their own debate, this time under the stars at Freedom Park – a venue named for a worthy idea, as opposed to Bank of America Stadium, where rumor has it President Obama will give his acceptance speech.

The two debaters: From the right, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, 2012 nominee of the Libertarian Party. And from the left: A real Socialist, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

5. Occupy Time Warner Cable Arena.

In hopes of keeping the TV cameras inside the convention instead of outside on Charlotte’s streets, the Democrats invite a young, scruffy-looking Occupy Wall Street rep to address the delegates in prime time.

Some pundits suggest the Democrats are merely taking a page from the Republicans, who let an angry Tea Partier dressed in Revolutionary War garb address their delegates.

But both speeches make front page news – and get ratings worthy of “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol.” Tim Funk

Monday, November 21, 2011

Is that Bono? Parties in the planning

Details are still sketchy, but a major celebrity bash looks to be in the works for Charlotte the night of Sept. 5.

That’s when ONE, the global anti-poverty organization founded by rocker-activist Bono, will join with Politico, the favorite Web site for political junkies, to co-host a star-studded event.

ONE and Politico will also co-host in Tampa during the Republican National Convention.

According to a news release, the events will “feature performances by well-known musicians, bringing together some of the conventions’ most high-profile attendees.”

Alas, the release also says “the events are by invitation only.” (Doesn’t sound very democratic.) No word yet on who all those celebs will be and where they will mingle. Tim Funk

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Presidential rocker and other local HQ tidbits

Besides the Susan Burgess Conference Room, here are some other things reporters saw on a recent tour of the DNCC's headquarters:

A replica of the famous rocking chair favored by President John F. Kennedy. It's a gift from Troutman Chairs, maker of the original.

Among the items adorning the museum-like office of DNCC CEO Steve Kerrigan are jerseys from the Charlotte Knights and Charlotte Bobcats (each with "Kerrigan" on the back); memorabilia from Obama's 2009 inauguration (which Kerrigan planned), including a "Horse Manure Only" sign that had been planted on the inaugural grounds; and the reading copy of President-elect Kennedy's January 1961 speech, complete with handwritten notes, to the Massachusetts legislature - a gift from Kerrigan's former boss, U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.

To get to the DNCC offices, reporters showed up at the old Wachovia building on South Tryon Street, went through security, then took the elevator to the 13th floor.

When asked about the unlucky number, Kerrigan said he was not superstitious.

"I take what's first offered," he said, then added: "Do they still make buildings with 13th floors?"

Tim Funk

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Susan Burgess honored at convention HQ

Years ago, when then-Mayor Pro Tem Susan Burgess first suggested hosting the Democratic convention in Charlotte, few thought it would happen. But she persisted, lobbying national party officials at every opportunity and making believers back at home.

Burgess died of cancer last year. Six months later, the party announced Charlotte as the site of its 2012 convention.

Today, in a corner of the Democratic National Convention Committee headquarters uptown, there is a conference room dedicated to Burgess' memory.

At one end is a framed portrait. Across the room are family photos, a few of her awards and her city council name plate.

Son Jason Burgess, who is finishing out her council term, saw the room on a tour of the convention offices.

"We're just very honored that she's being recognized for her efforts," he said.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Colleges will offer course on DNC

National political conventions can be many things: Historical events, weeklong parties, even learning experiences.

In fact, Winthrop University in Rock Hill is planning a political-science course for fall 2012 called "The Democratic National Convention."

The course begins Aug. 6- not quite a month before Charlotte hosts the 2012 Democratic National Convention. According to the school, "the course will include traditional classroom, online and experiential instructional techniques."

Offered under the aegis of the John C. West Forum on Politics and Policy (named for a former S.C. governor), the course will be open not only to Winthrop University students, but also to undergraduates at all S.C. colleges and at all Charlotte-area colleges and universities that will be part of a consortium. From January to July 2012, this "Charlotte Consortium" of colleges and universities will organize host programs involving students related to the Democratic convention in Charlotte.

Details: 803-323-4584 or forum Tim Funk

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Getting DNC cost $300,000-plus

Convention officials are tight-lipped about how much money they’ve raised, or spent, since landing the event. But they raised a lot to get it.

Tax forms show the host committee raised $311,753 in pursuit of the convention. The 990 forms don’t say where the money came from. So it’s unclear how much came from Duke Energy, whose chairman, Jim Rogers, co-chaired the effort.

“We certainly participated in the effort,” said spokesman Tom Williams, who declined to say how much the company provided.

Rogers has said, “The fact that we demonstrated we can raise money was one of the edges we had” in getting the convention.

The report also shows the host committee spent $293,000.

The biggest beneficiary? The Charlotte public relations firm Luquire, George Andrews, which got $132,500.

Consultant Tom McMahon’s Washington firm was paid nearly $66,000. He was the former executive director of the Democratic National Committee.

Jim Morrill

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Third Ward residents full of questions about convention

No, uptown residents won't have to move. Yes, there will be city garbage pickup during Democratic National Convention time in September.

How about CATS bus or free Gold Rush service uptown? That's still a big unknown.

Last week's Third Ward Neighborhood Association Meeting hosted representatives with city and law enforcement to answer what questions they can about the Democratic convention in Charlotte.

Carol Jennings, the city of Charlotte's liaison to the convention, said city services will operate "business as usual" - including Wednesday garbage pickups. Those may be scheduled later in the day.

Uptown residents won't have to move, although they might have to get credentials if they live in an area determined to be a "vehicle-free zone" during the convention.

And what about Charlotte putting its best foot forward?

The city isn't going to spend any extra money on paving, Jennings said, but will plan its typical annual street work before the event. "There are going to be some major pavings next spring," she said.

To the disappointment of residents, Romare Bearden Park, at the corner of Church and Third streets, won't be finished to show off by convention time. Celeste Smith

More state party reps get a look at Charlotte, hotels

Democratic convention officials hosted Democratic Party representatives from nine more states Monday, giving them a tour of Charlotte hotels and amenities.

It was the second group of party officials to take the tour.

Convention officials will make hotel assignments early next year.
–Jim Morrill

Third Ward residents full of questions about convention

No, uptown residents won’t have to move. Yes, there will be city garbage pickup during Democratic National Convention time in September.

How about CATS bus or free Gold Rush service uptown? That’s still a big unknown.

Last week’s Third Ward Neighborhood Association Meeting hosted representatives with city and law enforcement to answer what questions they can about the Democratic convention in Charlotte.

Carol Jennings, the City of Charlotte’s liaison to the convention, said city services will operate “business as usual” – including Wednesday garbage pickups. Those may be scheduled later in the day.

Uptown residents won’t have to move, although they might have to get credentials if they live in an area determined to be a “vehicle-free zone” during the convention.

And what about Charlotte putting its best foot forward?

The city isn’t going to spend any extra money on paving, Jennings said, but will plan its typical annual street work before the event. “There are going to be some major pavings next spring,” she said.

To the disappointment of residents, Romare Bearden Park, at the corner of Church and Third streets, won’t be finished to show off by convention time. Celeste Smith

Surveillance sticker shock: Tampa starts over

Tampa officials are starting over after bids came in too high for security cameras for next year's Republican National Convention.

According to the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, the city is trying to boost surveillance at an estimated 200 downtown sites. The cameras have to be up and running by June 1 for the August convention.

Charlotte city officials declined to comment about security arrangements.

Sticker shock, part 2: GOP wants Tampa hotel rates cut

Hotel managers in Tampa are reeling after being told to cut their rates during the GOP convention.

The St. Petersburg Times reported Saturday that hoteliers were told to throw out year-old room contracts with convention organizers and sign new agreements with lower room rates. The new rates were set by a company GOP convention organizers recently hired to manage hotel room blocks for conventions. One property owner said the rate cut would mean $150,000 in lost revenue.

In Charlotte, convention officials say there won't be any changes here - hotel contracts are firm, and no renegotiations are planned.

Officials invested a lot of time to work through hotel agreements, said Mike Butts, executive director of Visit Charlotte.
–Jim Morrill and Celeste Smith

Inspiring, clever, snide: Welcome, Democrats

The Observer recently invited readers to send in their suggested slogans for Charlotte as the city promotes its hosting of next year's convention.

Their nominees ranged from inspiring to clever to snide (but funny).

Even Republican City Councilman Edwin Peacock III sent in a suggestion: "Charlotte, NC: Southern Efficiency Meets Southern Charm!" Here's a sampling of the others:

"Charlotte: We put the NC in DNC" - from Mary Ann Maxson, Wesley Chapel.

"Grounded in Tradition - Focused on the Future" - Ann Baldwin Greene.

"Charlotte - Gateway to Global" - Mark Sitzer, Indian Trail.

"Charlotte: Gateway to Gastonia" - Dan Harris, Charlotte.

"Olde Grits and New Grit" and "Welcome to the Home of the New South" - Lawrence Raymer, Huntersville.

"Charlotte: Banking on the Future!" - Caroline Groux Sitzer, Indian Trail.

"Charlotte - We Love Socialists" - Kevin Kronk, Pineville.

"Welcome Democrats to Charlotte . . . Your Southern Home." - Steve Weiner, Harrisburg.

"Charlotte, North Carolina is Mint" - Jayne Mannino, Lincolnton.

"New Ideas, New Start, New South" - Jeffrey Klein, Charlotte.

"Charlotte: Beacon of the New South" - Jana Harston, Charlotte.

"Charlotte - Treats You Royally" - Terri Hatcher, Charlotte.
–Tim Funk

Valerie Jarret headlines Women's Conference in Charlotte

Presidential adviser and confidante Valerie Jarrett will give the keynote speech Wednesday at the N.C. Governor’s Conference for Women at the Charlotte Convention Center.

She’s the latest in a string of visits by administration officials that underscores the electoral importance of North Carolina to President Barack Obama in 2012.

Obama made a two-day bus tour of the state last week. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also have visited recently.

Over 1,500 women are expected to attend the conference.

Jarrett is a longtime friend of the president and his wife, Michelle. A lawyer, she once served as deputy chief of staff to former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

“Valerie Jarrett, who has long been a friend of North Carolina, is the perfect speaker to address emerging issues affecting women and girls around our state, and the power that knowledge brings,” Gov. Bev Perdue said in a statement.

Top Obama adviser will speak at women's conference

Presidential adviser and confidante Valerie Jarrett will give the keynote speech Wednesday at the N.C. Governor's Conference for Women at the Charlotte Convention Center.

She's the latest of several administration officials to visit the area, underscoring the electoral importance of North Carolina to President Barack Obama in 2012.

Obama made a two-day bus tour of the state last week. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also have visited recently.

More than 1,500 women are expected to attend the conference.

Jarrett is a longtime friend of the president and his wife, Michelle. A lawyer, she once served as deputy chief of staff to former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

"Valerie Jarrett, who has long been a friend of North Carolina, is the perfect speaker to address emerging issues affecting women and girls around our state, and the power that knowledge brings," Gov. Bev Perdue said in a statement.
-Jim Morrill

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Local leaders will be dancing for a cause Nov. 12

Robyn Hamilton, director of business relations for the convention host committee, is among a dozen community leaders dancing for charity in the "YMCA Ballroom Battle" on Nov. 12.

Modeled after "Dancing with the Stars," the local event raises money for community-support campaigns at four Y's in and near uptown. They'll strut their stuff at the black-tie event being held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Other dancers are Capt. Mark Basnight, public information officer with the Charlotte Fire Department; Pamela Davies, president of Queens University of Charlotte; Steele Dewey, chairman, Aston Properties; Natalie English, senior vice president of public policy, Charlotte Chamber; Chuck Hood, president & owner, Hood Hargett; Dr. James Howell, senior pastor, Myers Park United Methodist Church; Michael Marsicano, president, Foundation of the Carolinas; Jim Noble, restaurateur; Maureen O'Boyle, WBTV News 3; Kevin Pitts, publisher, Charlotte Business Journal, and Pat Rodgers, president, Rodgers Builders.

Tickets are $125 each, $1,250 for a table of ten. For info: contact Y member services at 704-716-6100.

– Celeste Smith

Some Democrats missing when Obama toured N.C.

During his swing through North Carolina last week, President Obama managed to draw enthusiastic crowds in Asheville, Wilkes County and Jamestown.

But at a time when the president's poll numbers are declining in North Carolina, the turnout by the state's top Democratic officeholders was noticeably skimpy.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., showed up for Obama's rally in Asheville. And U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., was at Guilford Technical College.

But the other five Tar Heel Democrats in the U.S. House were no-shows. As was Gov. Bev Perdue.

At least she and U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., who represents Asheville, had good excuses: They were on overseas trips; Perdue in China, Shuler in Sri Lanka.

Prior to leaving for her trade trip, Perdue denied that N.C. politicians are worried about Obama's dip in the polls.

"There's not an elected official in America who isn't having the same kind of challenges with poll numbers," Perdue told the Observer. "It's a horribly difficult time for families in America and North Carolina, so it's obviously a tough time for everybody."
–Tim Funk

Ex-NFL players eye convention 'splash'

A team of former NFL players hopes to score points for the Democratic convention.

The Charlotte NFL Players Chapter is talking to convention officials about ways they can help.

"We are trying to make a big splash with the DNC and put Charlotte on the map," said Mike Dulaney, who played for the Panthers and the Chicago Bears. Exactly how the players would help is still unclear. But Dulaney said they could get involved in events surrounding the Super Bowl or NFL draft. He said there are more than 50 retired players in the this area and hundreds in the Carolinas.

"We are thrilled that local members of the NFL Retired Players Association would like to partner with us," said Dan Murrey, executive director of the host committee.

Convention aside, the NFL tends to be friendlier to Republicans.

Players, owners and executives, along with their spouses, gave at least $1.4 million to federal candidates and political committees in the last two years, the Center for Responsive Politics reported this month. Two-thirds of the money went to Republicans.

–Jim Morrill

Thursday, October 20, 2011

McCrory wants law to kick protesters off city property

Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory has seized on a new issue in his still-unofficial campaign to be future N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory.

The issue: His contention that Charlotte and N.C. officials -- including Gov. Bev Perdue -- are setting a bad precedent by letting Occupy Charlotte and Occupy Raleigh literally occupy city and state-owned property.

If officials give in now, and let small groups of protesters set up tents in front of the old Charlotte city hall on Trade Street, McCrory asks, what will happen when very large groups of protesters show up in Charlotte next year for the Democratic National Convention?

"Where do they draw the line?" says McCrory. "If they let one, do they let 10 -- or 1,000? . . . That's not good for the economy, for public safety, and it's surely not sanitary for our city."

McCrory even has a catchy line, which he has repeated to TV stations and the Observer. If the city lets protesters camp out on city-owned property during the Democratic National Convention, he says, "it's going to look like Woodstock -- without the good music."

Republican McCrory, who's likely to challenge Democrat Perdue in 2012, says the Occupy Charlotte and Occupy Raleigh forces have every right to protest. "But they do not have as right to occupy" city and state-owned property, he says.

And if Charlotte officials don't feel they have an ordinance on the books to kick the Occupy protesters off city property. McCrory says, "The city council should create an ordinance to deal with it -- today."

And, unofficial gubernatorial candidate McCrory adds, "If the governor allows this in Raleigh, where does it stop?"

What does the City of Charlotte say about this issue?

Here's what Capt/ Jeffrey Estes of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department told the Observer in an email:

"The City Code does not include a time limit in a person’s right to picket on a public forum space," he wrote. "As with any gathering on public property, sanitation must be maintained by the people demonstrating at the Old City Hall lawn. One concern was raised involving sanitation at the site, and notice was given to the group that failure to maintain a sanitary environment could result in a Health Inspection and potential removal from the site."

-- Tim Funk

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

War room will help GOP jab Democrats

Democrats won't be the only ones gathering in Charlotte for next year's convention. So will Republicans.

The Republican National Committee plans to operate a "war room" near the convention, with a parade of GOP VIPs grabbing their share of the spotlight.

"Any story that's written on anything happening at the convention will always have a rebuttal, there will be a counterbalance to each argument," says RNC political director Rick Wiley. "Senators, governors and congressmen (will be) coming in and out."

Such operations are nothing new for either party. In 2004, then-Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory was part of the GOP team at the Democratic convention in Boston.

Wiley says next year his party will have more surrogate spokesmen than ever. For one thing, more are available. The 2010 elections simply put more Republicans in office.

And, he says, "More people understand the damage ( President Barack Obama) is doing to the economy.

"So they're more than willing to come out and speak about why he shouldn't be re-elected."
Democrats are expected to do the same thing at the Republican convention in Tampa.  

- Jim Morrill

Obama, Republicans making plans for field offices

RNC political director Rick Wiley says the GOP plan to have campaign boots on the ground by March in North Carolina.

The Obama campaign is already here.

Campaign officials, who have maintained an Organizing for America office in Raleigh, have begun hiring a network of field directors. In 2008, Obama had nearly 50 field offices and 400 staffers in the state.
"Our campaign is currently laying the foundation in North Carolina," says Lindsay Siler, Obama's N.C. director. "We will only expand our presence across the state leading up to the election."

All that underscores North Carolina's importance in 2012.

Republicans are targeting it as one of nine that George W. Bush carried in 2004 and that John McCain lost in 2008.

"We look at places like Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina as the first three we can pick off," says Wiley. "It's important to the president, too. It shows."  

- Jim Morrill

Academics debate convention and politics

It was one of the first of many to come: A panel discussion of academics, zeroing in on Charlotte, politics and the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Organized by the Charlotte Teachers Institute, the event Friday night at UNC Charlotte's Center City building featured discussions about everything from the subtle political messages in "Spiderman 3" to whether children under 18 should be able to vote.

Faculty members from UNC Charlotte, Davidson College and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools weighed in.

Davidson College's Josh Putnam said that the Charlotte convention, like most of the others in recent decades, will basically be "a nice pep rally."

UNC Charlotte's Heather Smith, meanwhile, cast Charlotte as an unconventional convention city - a hybrid of Southern charm and global dynamism. Or as she put it, taking off on the slogan at Bill Spoon's local BBQ restaurant:

"Charlotte cooks the whole pig - the South and global, the past and the present, the conventional and the unconventional."  

- Tim Funk

York's Spratt pushing S.C. participation in convention

Former U.S. Rep. John Spratt isn't representing York County, S.C., up in Washington any more. But he's still looking out for his one-time district when it comes to involving its people and facilities in next year's Democratic National Convention.

And he'll have plenty of chances to do so as a member of Charlotte's host committee for the 2012 convention.

"It's a great opportunity to showcase Charlotte," Spratt said of the convention. "And not only that, it's also an opportunity to showcase this region."

He said he's been hearing from officials at Winthrop University and others south of the N.C.-S.C. border about plugging them and their resources into the big show.

"That's going to be my objective," Spratt said. "To try to find these people and make sure good use is made of their time and talent."

And in case you wondered: Yes, Spratt misses Washington. Not all the partisan "antics," he said, but definitely the money matters.

The former House Budget Committee chairman, who lost his re-election bid in 2010, said he wishes he was "in the middle of the fray" over the ongoing budget battles in Congress.

Added Spratt: "I feel a little bit like somebody who has to sit on the bench and watch his team play the game."

- Tim Funk

Chicago's Hinton tabbed for Democrats' diversity post

Democrats Monday tapped a Chicago businessman as the "chief diversity officer" for the convention and the national party.

Greg Hinton, chief diversity officer of Chicago-based US Cellular, will advise the convention and the party on diversity in staffing and procurement.

"The Democratic Party has long been dedicated to including talented people who reflect the diversity of our great country, and Greg will bring his talents to bear as we make sure we are living up to that," party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

Hinton has worked on diversity issues for other companies including Abbott Labs and Pepsi General Bottlers.

"Our party is stronger because of our diversity," Hinton said. "And in this new role I will be working to make sure we are harnessing our diverse experiences and points of view in the most effective way possible."

Hinton starts Monday.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Drones for security at Democratic convention?

There won't be any drone aircraft flying over Tampa, Fla., during next year's Republican National Convention. But how about a week later in Charlotte?

Tampa police were seeking bids for a package of hundreds of security cameras that included specs for two "unmanned aerial vehicles," according to the St. Pete Times.

The city asked for proposals for two drones that could hover for 20 minutes, fly in 20-knot winds and carry cameras with zoom lenses or thermal-imaging capabilities.

Looking at the drones was intriguing, the Times reported, because they might offer the police some of the benefits of helicopters at a cheaper price.

Eventually, police eliminated drones from their convention shopping list because of the potential cost and possible problems with federal aviation regulations.

In the proposal, Tampa officials also asked for 164 cameras capable of reading a 3-inch-high number at 300 meters; 20 helmet cameras, and six trailer-mounted cameras on booms that can rise more than 20 feet.
Rob Tufano, spokesman for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, declined comment on either drones or cameras.

Said Tufano: "This would fall under our protective means and methods category." Jim Morrill
Journalists win settlement over '08 convention arrests

Three journalists arrested covering a protest at the 2008 Republican convention have won a $100,000 settlement from the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and the federal government.

The money goes to Amy Goodman, host of the syndicated program "Democracy Now!" and two of her producers.

They sued after their 2008 arrests, arguing that police and other law enforcement officials violated their First Amendment rights.

Goodman's attorney said the Twin Cities also agreed to develop a policy and training for police officers on how to avoid infringing on journalists' rights during protests.

With thousands of protesters expected at next year's Democratic convention, Charlotte police are now preparing.

"We expect to experience demonstrations from participants of many different political stripe and ideologies," says police spokesman Rob Tufano. "We'll be prepared to protect their constitutional right to assemble while maintaining public safety."

He said there will be additional training opportunities for police in the run-up to the convention. Jim Morrill
NRA official: Charlotte convention went smoothly

The Democratic convention won't be the biggest one Charlotte has ever hosted. That distinction goes to the 2010 National Rifle Association, which drew an estimated 72,000 people.

The convention-goers pumped approximately $68 million into the local economy, with 75 percent of attendees from out of town, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. (The NRA also came to Charlotte in 2000.)

So how did Charlotte fare on the hospitality front hosting its largest convention ever, and what can it do to prepare for the Democrats?

We asked Andrew Arulanandam, NRA director of public affairs:

How did Charlotte do? We have zero complaints. Charlotte was a great city to have our event. The people were great to work with. The locals were great in terms of their hospitality. We had, in fact, our largest meeting ever.

What worked well? Only a certain number of cities in the country can accommodate an annual meeting of our size. We require a large exhibit floor. We also require a facility that can seat anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 people. I think we used every room in the Charlotte Convention Center. We had a couple of our larger events at Time Warner Cable Arena. I think we sold out a bunch of hotels.

Even for staff - we get very little time to experience a city - we enjoyed ourselves over there. When you got out of work late, there were still places open where you could get a quick bite to eat, get off your feet in a decent hotel room, and get back to work the next morning.

How can Charlotte prepare for the Democrats? I don't see how this will be a challenge for Charlotte. Having been to a number of political conventions, including several Democratic conventions, I think Charlotte can do this easily. Celeste Smith

Kerrigan to Q-Notes: Obama best president for gay rights

Democratic convention CEO Steve Kerrigan told a Charlotte paper that President Barack Obama is friendlier to gay rights than any other president.

"He has done more than any other president for the LGBT community, whether it be repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' or declaring the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional and telling the Department of Justice not to defend it anymore," Kerrigan told Q-Notes.

He also credited Obama with pushing for the James Byrd Jr. and Matthew Shepard hate crimes act.
"I worked in the Senate for 14 years for Ted Kennedy, one of the biggest advocates for the community, and we weren't ever able to get the hate-crimes bill passed," Kerrigan recounts. "The president got it done and signed it. He's the man along with the vice president who we'll be nominating that week, so we're hoping the issues will be really front and center."  

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Panel: Charlotte has problems but reflects a changing America

Democrats were astute in picking Charlotte as the site for their 2012 national convention. And the international spotlight will hopefully help the city solve some of its problems.

That appeared to be the consensus Tuesday when a panel of professors gathered at UNC Charlotte for a discussion of "Charlotte, the New South and the Democratic National Convention."

Here's some of what they said:

  • Charlotte, a New South city that's gone global, "is in the vanguard of contemporary urban transformation," said Heather Smith, an associate professor of geography at UNCC. "Its unconventional melding of South and global, past and present, makes it an ideal convention city."

  • In the last 30 years, Charlotte has gone from "a middle-sized Southern city" -- the country's 47th largest -- to a diverse, rapidly growing city that is now the 17th biggest and "representative of the United States in the 21st century," said Owen Furuseth, associate professor of metropolitan studies at UNCC. "This is where America is headed. Charlotte is America in the 21st century. And the (Democrats) wanted to be in this place, to be represented by this city."

  • Citing U.S. Census figures, Furuseth charted Charlotte's transformation from a city that was two-thirds white and one-third black in 1980 to a city in 2011 that's less than 50 percent white, 34 percent black and -- the biggest change -- almost 20 percent immigrants from Latin America and Asia. Those changing demographics, Furuseth said, mean "a whole new calculus of what we are as a community and impacts politics, schools and growth and development."

  • But beyond the city's glitzy skyline and rapid growth, the city has some problems. Among them: Its "traditional growth machine" -- banks -- is sputtering, said Bill Graves, an associate professor of geography at UNCC. With the big decline in all jobs -- from 857,000 in October 2007 to 760,000 in July 2011 -- the city needs "post-corporate" growth, he said, that is more creative, more entrepreneurial and more collaborative. The goal, Graves said, is to "leverage the visibility" of the upcoming Democratic National Convention to give Charlotte "global destination-city status" and bring skilled job-creators to town.

  • Other problems could get some more attention as Charlotte tries to present a positive picture for the world. The city's schools -- once a national model of integration -- are almost as segregated as they were before busing came to CMS in the 1970s, said Stephen Smith, a professor of political science at Winthrop University. And Charlotte's suburbs "are not very wonderful," said David Walters, director of UNCC's Urban Design program. "They don't make it on postcards." His hope is that Charlotte will look to cities that have been smarter in developing transit, and push ahead with light rail and streetcars.

The panelists contributed to the book, "Charlotte, NC: The Global Evolution of a New South City."

Tim Funk

Democratic governors look at arena

Some members of the Democratic Governor's Association are in Charlotte this week for a fundraiser and policy talks. Two of the state chief executives got a tour Monday of Time Warner Cable Arena - site of their party's 2012 national convention.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who heads the DGA, and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick answered questions:

About the benefits a city gets from hosting a convention: "I can tell you, from Boston (host of the party's 2004 convention), that the Democratic convention was very good for us," said Patrick. "It created lots and lots of jobs.... Many, many more hotel and convention space opportunities were created in Boston; we still enjoy the benefits. So this is a convention that is going to be good for Charlotte."

About the decision by some labor unions to boycott the convention because North Carolina is a right-to-work state: "We are a large, diverse party...with a very, very big tent and a lot of interest," said O'Malley. "And part of that party happens to be the great numbers of people in the South ... This is one of the smaller venues, site-wise, that we have had ... (But) we always want to have as large a coalition as possible. And if any labor union or any of the groups that make up the Democratic Party choose not to come, sure, that's a disappointment. But we are still going to have a much broader and more diverse consensus and coalition than ... the other party."

About whether the Democrats can re-energize the young people, African-Americans and others who helped President Obama win in 2008: "Nobody is taking this (re-election) for granted. And we shouldn't," Patrick said. "I say to Democrats who are nervous: 'Good, good.' Because that edge is important for us. It means we need to get out there and work, it means we need to make the case to people at a grassroots level ... And we need to show people that they've got a stake in each other and in the outcome."

About what Democrats can do to boost Obama's sagging poll numbers in North Carolina and nationally: "None of us should be happy with the state of our economy," said O'Malley. "But at the end of the day, you're going to have a (GOP) economic plan that was a miserable failure, contrasted with a (Democratic) plan that has, in many cases, been effective and could be more effective. And there's a long period of time that's going to go by between now and the election. And when people make their choice, the president is not going to be running against the Almighty. He will be running against an alternative." Tim Funk

N.C. poll shows Obama lags in job performance

If President Barack Obama hopes to carry North Carolina again, he has some work to do, according to an Elon University Poll released Monday.

Fifty-one percent of N.C. residents disapprove of the president’s job performance, while 42 percent approve. The poll of 594 voters has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Obama’s jobs proposal hasn’t won that many fans either.

Just 35 percent of North Carolinians said they would encourage their member of Congress to vote for the president’s jobs proposal. Thirty-six percent don’t like it and 28 percent aren’t sure. Jim Morrill

Friday, September 30, 2011

Chamber sees DNC as a way to sell the city

Need office space? A meeting room? A clinic with "leading local golfers"?

Those are among the services the Charlotte Chamber will be offering to some of America's biggest corporations during Democratic Convention week next September.

In a letter sent last week to the Fortune 1000 - America's 1,000 largest companies - Charlotte Chamber President Bob Morgan offered an array of such services to those corporations "planning to have a presence" at the Dems' big show.

Some services mentioned:

-- Event space.

-- Access to a special e-newsletter targeted at CEOs interested in the DNC.

-- Media list.

--CEO welcome reception hosted by some of Charlotte's Fortune 1000 CEOs.

-- Chamber-provided concierge service/staff liaison to answer questions.

The Chamber also enclosed a fact sheet in the hope that some big companies "may find there is more of interest to your business in the Charlotte region than just the convention."

Has the Chamber heard back from any companies?

"I am not aware of any takers yet," Morgan said Monday. "The important thing was to get the word out."

- Tim Funk

Monday, February 7, 2011

Labor unions fuming over Charlotte's win is reporting that organized labor is angry over the selection of Charlotte to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Union organizers contend that North Carolina is the least-organized state in the nation.

The selection was “a calculated affront,” said Rick Sloan, communications director for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Union workers are also angry about the convention's starting date: Sept. 3, 2012 - the Labor Day holiday.

Read the full report

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cleveland mayor weighs in

Add Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson to the list of those weighing in on today's DNC announcement. His city was one of four finalists for the 2012 convention along with Charlotte, Minneapolis and St. Louis.

“While we are disappointed in the DNC’s decision, we were very competitive and we are proud of the effort that we put forward. I send my congratulations to Charlotte for being chosen,” Jackson said in a statement.

Meanwhile, there was no mention this afternoon of the DNC decision on the homepage of, which draws in news from The Plain Dealer and other news outlets. Earlier today, the site ran a wire report announcing Charlotte's selection as convention host. -- APRIL BETHEA

NYT: McCaskill worried DNC would hurt re-election

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri was worried her reelection bid could be "complicated" if the DNC were held in her state, the New York Times is reporting.

Meanwhile, McClaskill said today she was "bitterly disappointed" that St. Louis was not selected as the DNC site, but very proud of efforts to land it there, according to Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. Read their report by clicking here.

McCaskill was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 and is a key ally of President Barack Obama. Her seat is considered to be one of the more competitive Senate races in 2012.

McCaskill, according to the Times, "took her concerns directly to the White House, according to party leaders familiar with the selection process. She argued that her re-election could be complicated if the convention was held in St. Louis, because the Democratic gathering will almost certainly attract protesters and compete for fund-raising."

The snippet was included near the at the end of a report on the Times website today about Charlotte's selection as host of the Democratic National Convention. Read the story by clicking here.

A couple weeks ago, McCaskill said she was worried about St. Louis' chances of hosting the DNC because she hadn't received any new insight on the city's bid from the White House. "I wish I knew," McCaskill said at the time. "I'm worried that I don't, to tell you the truth because I would think by now that somebody would have given me some kind of glimmer of what is going to happen." -- APRIL BETHEA

Congressman: Minneapolis a "smarter" choice

A Minnesota congressman says Minneapolis, and not Charlotte, would have been a smarter pick for the DNC.

"Charlotte’s a good place, so congratulations to them," U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota was quoted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune as saying. "But I wish it had been here. It would have been smarter to be here. You’ve got the entire Midwest.”

Meanwhile, Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak "is putting the best face on the city losing out on landing" the DNC, according to a report from Minneapolis-St. Paul television station KSTP.

"Rybak says he's disappointed, but he says Minneapolis proved itself capable of hosting a major event simply by being a finalist, according to the story which you can read here. "He vowed the city would continue competing for such events in the future."

St. Paul hosted the Republican national convention in 2008. -- APRIL BETHEA

Somber St. Louis

Somber and disappointment is in the air in St. Louis -- the other city considered a front runner for the 2012 Democratic National Committee convention.

A story on the St. Louis Post Dispatch web site said today's announcement "ended with a thud an all-out effort by city officials here to land the event, and the thousands of visitors and national attention that comes with it." Read the story in its entirely by clicking here.

"I think this was a huge missed opportunity for the DNC to hold the convention in a swing state that’s in the heartland of swing states," the newspaper quoted U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, as saying.

St. Louis television station KSDK said city Mayor Francis Slay was proud of how far his city came, but believes the final decision came down to "electoral politics." "He said they had the backing and support of Republicans and Democrats in St. Louis," the TV station reported.

Slay's chief of staff told the Post-Dispatch that the decision "came down to the wire." "Democrats went so far as negotiating a contract with the city that was written but never signed," the newspaper reported.

In a statement, St. Louis City Democrats Chairman Brian Wahby said today's DNC announcement was not the news officials wanted to hear, but he offered sincere congratulations to Charlotte and look forward to being there in September of 2012."

NC GOP chair: We welcome DNC but ....

The North Carolina Republican Party issued a video response to today's announcement that Charlotte will host the Democratic National Convention in 2012 entitled "Welcome to North Carolina." You can view the video by clicking here:

“We look forward to Charlotte being in the spotlight in 2012, but North Carolinians will not be fooled again by empty promises of 'Hope' and 'Change.'," state Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes said in a statement.

"Just last November, North Carolinians rejected the failed policies of President Obama and Governor Perdue and elected Republicans to lead the North Carolina State House and State Senate for the first time in over 100 years. We welcome the Democrats to Charlotte, but they must answer for their misguided policies that have led to more debt, more spending and more government.” -- APRIL BETHEA

Charlotte leaders react to DNC decision

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and other officials cheered today's announcement that the city will host the 2012 Democratic National Convention in a news release posted on the "Charlotte in 2012" organizing committee website.

In the release -- which you can read in its entirety by clicking here -- Foxx said the city has "an unmatched opportunity to show the world what a beautiful, energetic, innovative and diverse city we are building in Charlotte"

"As we tell the story of Charlotte, and what a great place our city, state and region are to live and do business, we also will tell the story of America to our fellow citizens and our neighbors around the world,” Foxx said.

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, who co-chaired the organizing committee, said in the release: “Charlotte’s selection clearly elevates our city to a new level in national and world stature. Only a few singular events in the U.S. rival the domestic and worldwide media exposure of a major political convention: a presidential inauguration, a royal wedding, the Super Bowl and the Olympics. The economic and reputational significance of being chosen for this honor cannot be overstated.” --April Bethea

Michelle Obama's statement

I am thrilled to make sure you are the first to hear some very exciting news. Charlotte, North Carolina will host the 46th Democratic National Convention in 2012.

Charlotte is a city marked by its southern charm, warm hospitality, and an "up by the bootstraps" mentality that has propelled the city forward as one of the fastest-growing in the South. Vibrant, diverse, and full of opportunity, the Queen City is home to innovative, hardworking folks with big hearts and open minds. And of course, great barbecue.

Barack and I spent a lot of time in North Carolina during the campaign -- from the Atlantic Coast to the Research Triangle to the Smoky Mountains and everywhere in between. Barack enjoyed Asheville so much when he spent several days preparing for the second Presidential debate that our family vacationed there in 2009.

And my very first trip outside of Washington as First Lady was to Fort Bragg, where I started my effort to do all we can to help our heroic military families.

All the contending cities were places that Barack and I have grown to know and love, so it was a hard choice. But we are thrilled to be bringing the convention to Charlotte.

We hope many of you can join us in Charlotte the week of September 3rd, 2012. But if you can't, we intend to bring the spirit of the convention -- as well as actual, related events to your community and even your own backyard.

More than anything else, we want this to be a grassroots convention for the people. We will finance this convention differently than it's been done in the past, and we will make sure everyone feels closely tied in to what is happening in Charlotte. This will be a different convention, for a different time.

To help us make sure this is a grassroots convention -- The People's Convention -- we need to hear from you. We want to know what you'd like to see at next year's convention, how and where you plan on watching it -- and the very best way we can engage your friends and neighbors.

Brad, please share your input with us right now -- how can we make The People's Convention belong to you and your community?

I can't believe it has been more than two years since my brother Craig introduced me at the 2008 Convention in Denver. It truly feels like it was yesterday.

As I looked out at a sea of thousands of supporters that night, I spoke about my husband -- the man whom this country would go on to elect as the 44th President of the United States. I spoke about his fundamental belief -- a conviction at the very core of his life's work -- that each of us has something to contribute to the spirit of our nation.

That's also the belief at the core of The People's Convention. That the table we sit at together ought to be big enough for everyone. That the thread that binds us -- a belief in the promise of this country -- is strong enough to sustain us through good times and bad.

Barack talked at the State of the Union of his vision for how America can win the future. That must be the focus now, and I know so many of you will help talk about our plans with your neighbors -- that through innovation, education, reform, and responsibility we can make sure America realizes this vision.

But, conventions take time to plan, so please help us make sure that your thoughts and your ideas will ring all the way to Charlotte. Get started now:

Looking forward to sharing this together,


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Minneapolis: Did dome deflate bid?

City boosters made the Metrodome part of their original bid for the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Plans changed when the venue's dome collapsed in December.

Now, city officials now are emphasizing other sites that could host the event, including the Target Center.

Mayor R.T. Rybak told television station KSTP that Minneapolis' bid is is still very much alive.

According to the story, "Although some national publications speculate St. Louis and Charlotte are the front runners, Rybak calls them the 'front talkers.'"

Cleveland is the fourth city in the running.

- Doug Miller

Monday, January 24, 2011

'Waiting is the hardest part'

And so ... we wait.

While most of the political class is waiting for President Obama's State of the Union speech tonight, a lot of people in St. Louis, Charlotte and a pair of other cities are waiting for something else: the announcement of the site for the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

On Sunday Politico had the latest story on the wait, which now seems likely to drag into next week.

"And for the cities in convention contention," it said, "there’s a lot of civic pride caught up in this very public drama. They’re aching for the validation that would come, first, from winning the competition, and second from the chance to showcase their city to the national political and media classes."

Friday, January 21, 2011

DNC announcement in early February?

Charlotte officials may have to wait until early February to learn if the Queen City will host the 2012 Democratic National Convention, according to a Thursday report on POLITICO.

Meanwhile, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx says he, too, has not received any new indications from the White House about whether the city will get the convention nod. Earlier this week, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill said she was worried her state could miss out on the convention, in part, because she hadn't received any insight from the White House.

One Democratic party source said a decision could come as soon as the first few days of the month, wrote POLITICO's David Catanese. Read his piece by clicking here .

Charlotte is among four cities in the hunt for the convention, and is widely believed to be a front-runner along with St. Louis.

A decision on the convention site has been looming for weeks and delayed this month, in part, because in the wake of in the aftermath of the Tucson, Ariz. shootings. The early February timing could ensure the announcement doesn't compete with next week's State of the Union address, the Democratic source told POLITICO.

"But one Democratic operative stressed that making a decision soon is "in the interest of everybody involved" for logistical and fundraising purposes," Catanese writes. - APRIL BETHEA

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

St. Louis sells itself as 'Comeback Kid'

It's the final countdown to this month's expected announcement of a site for the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The four finalists -- Charlotte, Cleveland, Minneapolis and St. Louis -- are apparently still looking for an edge.

This week the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran this story that bills its city as the Comeback Kid, a narrative that some Democrats hope mirrors that of President Obama.

Meanwhile, Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, co-chair of Charlotte's bid, told the Observer he expects an announcement within 10 days.