Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Panel hosting 'most open and accessible' convention holds another closed meeting

The Charlotte committee hosting what's been advertised as the most open and accessible national political convention in U.S. history held another closed meeting Wednesday.

The Observer and other media were sent a news release hours after the meeting, which was mostly a guided tour of the various upcoming Democratic National Convention venues -- including Time Warner Cable Arena and Bank of America Stadium.

Members of Charlotte in 2012's host and steering committees first heard from Mayor Anthony Foxx -- a public official and co-chair of the host panel -- and were then bused around to the venues, the release said.

Former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot, a Republican who was among those attending, said the group got to see where President Barack Obama will stand in the stadium -- around the 50-yard line -- when he gives his acceptance speech on Sept. 6.

Both Vinroot and Georgia Jacquez Lewis, a Democrat who also went on the tour, said there were no questions or discussion about fundraising. The host committee must raise $36.6 million to fund the convention, now just over five weeks away. Some reports have said the group is way behind their goal. Host committee officials will say only that they're "on track."

Host committee spokeswoman Suzi Emmerling said all host/steering committees are closed and that Charlotte in 2012 has been more forthcoming than its counterpart in Tampa, where the Republicans will hold their convention at the end of August.

But a report Wednesday from Tampa said that city's mayor, Democrat Bob Buckhorn, will host three town hall meetings in August to discuss the impact the GOP convention will have on residents and businesses. Nobody's calling that convention the most open and accessible ever, but the mayor's town hall meetings are expected to be open, not closed.

-- Tim Funk 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Any hints for Charlotte in Tampa's security plan?

The Secret Service has released its security plan for the Republican National Convention in Tampa at the end of August.

Measures include major road closures, motorcades and other traffic restrictions in downtown, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

WFAE reports what Tampa’s plan might mean for Charlotte when the city hosts the Democratic National Convention in September. Read the story here.

Liaison for delegates with disabilities

The Democratic National Convention Committee announced Tuesday it is working with Becky Ogle, a leader in the disability rights community, as a liaison for delegates with disabilities.

As senior advisor on disability and access, Ogle is reaching out to all delegates identifying themselves as disabled to ensure their needs are met from the moment they arrive in Charlotte until they leave, according to the convention committee.

She’s also working to ensure people with disabilities in the general public can attend President Barack Obama’s speech at Bank of America Stadium.

Ogle, a Tennessee native, has advised four prior Democratic National Conventions, including the 2008 convention in Denver. She has served as a senior advisor on disability issues for the Democratic National Committee, and as executive director of the Presidential Task Force on the Employment of Adults with Disabilities during the Clinton administration.

Also this week, convention organizers said they’ll use CATS buses to help transport delegates and guests with disabilities. Organizers said CATS buses are more wheelchair-accessible than the motorcoach buses also being used to transport attendees.

Monday, July 23, 2012

No party business yet

Reps at some special-event locations around town thought they would have heard by now from people interested in renting their spaces for DNC events.

Instead, “zero,” said Jay Parton, facility coordinator for Foundation of Shalom Park, the campus off Providence Road.

At a recent meeting of Charlotte event coordinators, Parton said, “Everyone asked the same question: ‘Do you hear anything about the DNC?’ Pretty much the answer that everyone gives is no.”

Meeting spaces and reception halls on the campus would be suitable venues for events, Parton said, especially for state delegations staying in nearby SouthPark-area hotels.

And while it’s still possible locales may get tapped closer to the convention, chances are dimming. Places that agreed to give convention organizers first dibs were released from that obligation at the end of June.

A total of 130 venues offered convention organizers first right of refusal on their spaces, according to host committee spokeswoman Suzi Emmerling. Those agreements were nonbinding.

Host committee members even escorted outside groups looking for breakfast or party spaces to different venues, said Emmerling, who won’t give specifics about successful matchups. But she said “hundreds” of events will take place.

Over at Enventys, a Third Ward (near Bank of America Stadium) innovation hub that works with inventors, convention folks have toured the former grist mill with hardwood floors and a full television studio. No offers yet, said spokeswoman Mary Dickson. (Photo of the upstairs entrance at Enventys is below.)

So the creative minds at the 23,000-square-foot space, home to the award-winning “Everyday Edisons” television series, may make their own party, Dickson said – to show off what they do to visiting media, and “to be a part of the whole week.”

Could a hurricane force GOP to seek refuge in CLT?

Could a hurricane blow the Republican convention from Tampa, Fla., to … Charlotte?

That was the buzz around some parts of the Queen City. The premise: If a last-minute hurricane blows into Tampa during the last week of August, Republicans would flee to a city already set up for a national convention and the needs of a worldwide media.

“We have contingency plans for any kind of interruptions that may happen,” says James Davis, head of the GOP convention’s Committee on Arrangements.”

So, could those plans include Charlotte? Don’t count on it.

“We’re confident that our contingency plans are in place and we’ll have a successful convention,” Davis says. --Jim Morrill

Convention will be learning experience for 100 students

More than 100 college students from across the country will get a convention close-up through UNC Charlotte. Students will take part in the Washington Center’s Democratic National Convention Academic Seminar, which is partnering with UNCC. The program runs from Aug. 25 to Sept. 7. Students will hear lectures from political leaders and volunteer at the convention, which starts Sept. 4. “The national convention, an integral part of the U.S. political process, is a piece of preserved history,” said Mike Smith, president of The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. “Students learn … in the thick of it.” The first week will focus on the history of presidential campaigns and conventions. The second will take place at the convention. Students will get volunteer assignments, even writing articles for papers like the Dallas Morning News. “These students are going to seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn in an environment which epitomizes the American democratic process,” said UNC Charlotte Chancellor Phil Dubois. --Jim Morrill

Kim Brattain is back on the job

Longtime WSOC (Channel 9) anchor Kim Brattain is planning to do a short documentary on the Democratic National Convention this September. Brattain, who left Channel 9 in 2008 after 16 years, now runs her own production company, Phase2Productions. She’s planning an upbeat documentary that goes behind the scenes of the convention. “Charlotte is going to get criticized,” she says. “All that’s going to linger are the things we did wrong. This is hopefully going to be a piece about how our gracious Southern city rolled out the red carpet.” Collaborating with Brattain will be well-known portrait photographer Mitchell Kearney, who has been interested in branching out into film. Brattain says she’s aiming for a 10-minute documentary, which is an optimum length these days to get considered for film festivals. Her first documentary, “A Glimpse of Grace,” about hardships in the Congo, was a finalist in three film festivals. She plans to follow people contributing behind the scenes like Stacie Jacobs, a Cabarrus event planner busy coordinating events for the delegations staying in the Concord area. --Mark Washburn

Who's in, who's out at conventions?

The list of Democratic candidates skipping the convention here continues to grow.

But there’s another list, and it’s getting longer, too: Republicans who will be no-shows at their party’s party in Tampa.

Last week, former President George W. Bush declined an invitation to attend.

Among other GOP politicians staying home: former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who said he was not going in order to protest his party’s failure to address the “trust deficit”; former Sen. George Allen of Virginia, who will stay home to campaign; former World Wrestling Federation executive Linda McMahon, who’s running for the Senate in Connecticut; former President George H.W. Bush; and U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., a tea party favorite whose Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth, is planning to come to Charlotte. --Tim Funk

Behind the rush to rename the stadium

The big issues in the presidential campaign last week: President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy, former Gov. Mitt Romney’s refusal to release more tax returns, and . . . what to call Charlotte’s football stadium. noted that former Al Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile had referred to it as “Panthers Stadium,” not Bank of America Stadium, in a recent email for the Charlotte in 2012 host committee. Another email in June used the same language when referring to the place where Obama will give his acceptance speech Sept. 6.

So were Democrats trying to disassociate themselves with corporate America, and particularly Charlotte’s hometown bank? That was the implication of the POLITICO item, which insisted – inaccurately – that “it’s not like the stadium was ever called Panthers Stadium.”

True, that was never its official name. But that’s sometimes been its nickname.

Republicans seized on the Politico item, tweeting away. And some newspapers went even further than Politico. “Democrats Drop Bank of America name from North Carolina convention venue, calling it ‘Panthers Stadium,’” read the headline in The New York Daily News.

Trouble is, “Bank of America Stadium” – the official name – is all over the websites for the host committee and the Democratic National Campaign Committee. And that’s what Mayor Anthony Foxx called it during a Wednesday news conference about how campaign volunteers will get a guaranteed seat at Obama’s speech.

Even conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh weighed in, calling it “Black Panthers Stadium.” The Charlotte host committee, which initially didn’t return Politico’s phone calls, finally contacted the website to say that both names are used locally and both are used by the host committee. Politico published an “update.” Tim Funk

Friday, July 20, 2012

GOP event signs Tritt, Daniels, Brice to perform

Organizers of "Rock the Red, " the alternative festival for conservatives during Democratic convention week in Charlotte, have signed up country rockers Travis Tritt and Charlie Daniels to perform.
They've also lined up Sumter. S.C.'s Lee Brice, whose hits include "A Woman Like You" and "Love Like Crazy."

Also look for "The Values Bus" to pull up. This rolling partnership between the conservative Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council will register voters.

Coming soon: Rock the Red's Jason Lambert promises he'll leak the names of some of the nationally known conservatives who will speak at the event - set for Sept. 5 at Bojangles Coliseum.

To order tickets, go to:

-- Tim Funk

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Southern Living compares Charlotte vs. Tampa

They have shores, we have banks? For the August issue, Southern Living did a matchup comparing Charlotte, home of the Democratic National Convention, and Tampa, home of the Republican National Convention.

The Observer's former columnist Tommy Tomlinson did the essay duties on behalf of the QC, while the magazine also did a lineup up each city's credentials as a place to party. (The early version I saw still listed the kickoff party at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, which has since been moved to Tryon Street uptown.)

Among the recipes: Two versions of wings (left wings and right wings) and some cocktails with truly cringe-inducing names (Bourbon on the Baracks for Charlotte, the Grand Old Fashioned for Tampas, and the Muddle of the Road for those who are staying out of the whole thing.)

Get an early look at the SL coverage here.

-Kathleen Purvis

DNC safety advice for hotels

Rob Kinniburgh, Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal at Charlotte Fire Department, offers safety considerations for hotel and motel operators and event organizers during the DNC.

See his videos here.

College students to get first-hand look at DNC

More than 100 college students from across the country will get a close-up look at a national political convention through a program at UNC Charlotte.

Students will take part in the Washington Center’s Democratic National Convention Academic Seminar, which is partnering with UNCC.  The program runs from Aug. 25 to Sept. 7. 

Students will hear lectures from political leaders and volunteer at the convention, which starts Sept. 4.

“The national convention, an integral part of the U.S. political process, is a piece of preserved history,” Mike Smith, president of The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, said in a statement. “Students learn from within, in the thick of it."

The first week of the seminar will focus on the history of presidential campaigns and conventions. The second week will take place at the convention itself. Students will get volunteer assignments, for example, even writing articles for papers like the Dallas Morning News.

“These students are going to seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn in an environment which epitomizes the American democratic process,” said UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip L. Dubois. “They will emerge with new skills and insights that will shape their development as citizens for the rest of their lives.” Jim Morrill

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Nancy Pelosi latest Democrat to urge candidates to skip DNC

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is the latest party official to encourage Democratic candidates to skip September's Democratic convention in Charlotte.

Pelosi made the comments in an interview with Politico.

“I’m not encouraging anyone to go to the convention, having nothing to do with anything except I think they should stay home, campaign in their districts, use their financial and political resources to help them win their election,” Pelosi told Politico.

Last month U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said he would advise any candidate to stay home.

The convention, which starts Sept. 4, is the latest in memory. Republicans convene a week earlier. Not long ago, conventions typically took place in mid-July. Jim Morrill

Bus routes to change during DNC

CATS is moving the transportation center Sept. 3-5 to a temporary location at South Mint and Third streets -- and bus routes will change because of that.

From late July through August, CATS will conduct a series of transportation fairs in uptown buildings, at the current transportation center and at certain LYNX stations. Attendees will learn how buses will be rerouted during the DNC and information on shuttles between the LYNX Blue Line Carson Station to the temporary transit center.

Here's a list of the transportation fairs. Fairs are open to the public unless otherwise noted.

July 31: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Tryon Plaza, 112 South Tryon Street

Aug 1: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Wells Fargo Atrium, South Tryon Street

Aug 6: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Charlotte Plaza, 201 South College Street

Aug 7: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Bank of America Corp. Center,100 North Tryon Street

Aug 8: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. 1 Bank of America Center, 150 North Tryon Street

Aug 10: noon-1 p.m., Duke Energy, Duke employees only

Aug 13: 7:30-9:30 a.m., Charlotte Transit Center, 310 East Trade Street

Aug 14: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Allied Center, 440 South Church Street

Aug 15: 7:30-9:30 a.m., Charlotte Transit Center, 310 East Trade Street

Aug 17: 7:30-9:30 a.m., Charlotte Transit Center, 310 East Trade Street

Aug 20: 7:30-9 a.m., LYNX I-485 Station, 9508 South Boulevard

Aug 21: 7:30-9 a.m., LYNX Scaleybark Station, 3750 South Boulevard

Aug 22: 4-6 p.m., LYNX Third Street Station,305 East 3rd Street

Aug 23: 4-6 p.m., LYNX CTC/Arena Station,303 East Trade Street


Last week, the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee released the names of those who will serve on its various convention-related standing committees – Platform, Rules and Credentials. In one surprise, Newark, N.J., Mayor Corey Booker (pictured below) was chosen to chair the full Platform Committee. He was thought to be on the outs with the White House after criticizing the president’s campaign for its ads attacking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital. Three North Carolinians were tapped: N.C. State Treasurer Janet Cowell of Raleigh (Credentials vice chair); state Sen. Dan Blue of Raleigh (Rules); and Carboro consultant Diane Robertson. Here are some other notable names announced as members of the various panels: -U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (all on the Platform drafting committee). -American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Cherokee Nation member Keith Harper of Oklahoma (all on the full Platform Committee). -Retired Lt. Col. Tammy Duckworth, a Democratic House candidate in Illinois; Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Michael Coleman, Richmond, Va., Mayor Dwight Jones (all on the Rules Committee). -Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Colorado Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, former Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (all on Credentials). Tim Funk

Rallying citizens abroad

The delegates to the September convention in Charlotte won’t be just from all over the country – they’ll be from all over the world. As in Afghanistan, Peru, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Sweden, Germany and the United Kingdom. “We had a global primary,” said Kenneth Sherman, international chair of Democrats Abroad. He was in Charlotte over the weekend to attend the state chairs meeting. Sherman is a U.S. citizen who lives in Canada – the home of an estimated 800,000 Americans, he said. Overall, 4.3 million Americans live abroad. “Our challenge is to get them to vote in U.S. elections,” Sherman said. “Most think that once they live in another country that they’re unqualified to vote.” In fact, they aren’t, he said. And 25 of the 50 states even allow grown children who were born abroad to U.S. parents to vote in their state primaries, Sherman said. Details on voting absentee from another country:; and Tim Funk

Westin repairs continue

Nearly ten months after a 30- to 50-pound sheet of aluminum fell from the outer wall of the Westin hotel’s 24th floor, officials are still making fixes to the fa├žade – but say the work will be done by convention time.

No one was hurt by the debris, which a Lynx light-rail operator discovered on the tracks. But the September incident did trigger a six-month evaluation of the building’s exterior, according to David Montgomery, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.

 “That was done in conjunction with the city, and also with an engineering firm that we brought in to do that,” Montgomery said. “Obviously, they wanted to make sure there were no additional panels that would fall.” Through the study, workers found other loose panels, Montgomery said, and are now removing and resealing those pieces. Work should be done by August.

Photo: workers hanging a net around the Westin last September. Repairs are ongoing.

Monday, July 9, 2012

American-made souvenirs arrive at Maddi's Gallery

Owners Madis and Diane Sulg of Maddi's Gallery, at 1530 East Blvd., are stocking the shelves with made-in-America convention gifts.

The novelties includes prints ($18) and notecards ($3.25) of a donkey dressed as the regal Queen Charlotte, the creation of Charlotte-based artist Celia Flock. Also look for “Barack around the Clock” alarm clocks for $19.95.

Pewter tokens include a cutout “O” hole – but that’s not to spell “GOP.” The hole spells “Vote Yes On Obama” on one side, and “Vote NO Romney” on the other. 

-Celeste Smith

Sunday, July 8, 2012

'Carolina Stories' debut in South End

Three local production crews have created a collection of 30 videos highlighting the region's unique attributes -- from the Charlotte Roller Girls to the Carolina Thread Trail.

This week's Food Truck Friday in Historic South End will include a screening of these "Carolina Stories," designed to promote the area to convention visitors.

Scott Lazes and Kevin Beaty with Charlotte Video Project, Justin Ruckman and Matt Tyndall of CLTBlog, and Tonya Jameson and Lashawnda Becoats of Darling Media Group worked on the project. The two-minute videos show "showcase the culture of Charlotte" says Tracy Russ of the host committee.

Videos by Lazes and Beaty outline Charlotte's growing energy sector and the partnership between Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and Winterfield Elementary.

Jameson, a former Observer reporter, said she learned a lot from the project, especially about volunteers who work quietly with children. One memorable project, she said, was about the Latin American Women's Association teaching dancing in schools.

"It's an opportunity to highlight local people and individuals who are coming together outside the typical media spotlight," Jameson said.

Ruckman enjoyed doing stories on Charlotte's startup community, including an interview with Igor Jablokov of automated speech recognition developer Yap.

The Historic South End show begins at dark on a projection screen in the food truck lot. The videos also will show on a continuous loop from 7-10 p.m. on televisions inside and on the patio of The Common Market at South End.

-Celeste Smith

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Gallery owner Elder likes his lineup for convention

Art gallery owner Larry Elder really likes the booking he has during convention week. It’s the one he might get that has him excited.

The owner of Elder Gallery, 1520 South Tryon Street, has booked StartUp RockOn, a partnership of ventures that plan to highlight the importance of start-ups at the national conventions. They’ll use the gallery for receptions and events.

“It’s amazing new space,” said Lee Brenner, founder of HyperVocal and one of the Rock On organizers. “It …lends itself to the events we’re trying to do.’

Elder also got a visit from a resident from Chicago, site of Obama’s campaign headquarters. They may end up sharing the gallery for a party following the president’s Sept. 6 acceptance speech.

-Jim Morrill