Thursday, September 6, 2012

Charlotte on Stage, Thu evening edition

Demand creates commerce and sometimes enough demand creates price-gouging.

Reuters news agency looked into whether the tens of thousands of visitors to Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention caused merchants to charge unreasonable prices for their wares and services. While everything from turkey bagels to campaign buttons to the most basic hotel room seems pricey this week, officials told Reuters they don’t have evidence merchants are breaking North Carolina law.

"Nothing that we've seen so far comes close to meeting our state’s law on price gouging," Tom Bartholomy, president of the Better Business Bureau of Charlotte told Reuters.

Bartholomy said his organization hasn’t received any formal complaints during convention. That, despite various low-income families being pushed out of economy hotels this week, with some prices being jacked up five-fold or more.

Bartholomy told Reuters hotel prices rise higher during NASCAR race weeks than they have during the DNC.

SIX-FIGURE COSTS: Speaking of costs, the Los Angeles Times said some of the country’s top media outlets – cable networks Fox News, CNN and MSNBC or the Washington Post or Wall Street Journal – spent over $100,000 each on work space this week.

The Times reports Hargrove, Inc., is contracted to the convention to provide tables, carpeting, security and food (outside food is forbidden to carry into the area surrounding Time Warner Cable Arena). Since this is the pro-labor DNC, union labor adds to the media outlets’ costs at a time when newspapers’ profit margins are shrinking.

The cost hasn’t shrunk attendance: There are roughly 15,000 media members in Charlotte, or roughly 2 1/2 media members for every DNC delegate.

ABE … HONEST: In Las Vegas, you get Elvis impersonators. In Charlotte, Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer columnist Myron Pitts was charmed by Charlottean Sam Miller, a street performer dressed as Abraham Lincoln and holding a sign reading, “Republicans for Obama.’’ Delegates came by to have their pictures taken with Abe. “He worked for tips,’’ Pitts wrote, “and his tip cup looked to be full.’’

MAKE YOUR OWN SPACE: Fayetteville’s Pitts ended up using the park-and-ride system down South Boulevard, getting uptown on the Lynx light-rail. Except the park side of the arrangement was used up. Spaces were long gone in the lot, so Pitts reluctantly drove over to a grassy area where he feared he’d be towed. Two Charlotteans walked over to tell him he’d be fine parking there, to great relief.

SOME TABASCO WITH THAT? At 3:18 Thursday afternoon Wisconsin delegate Kevin Kopplin tweeted from Birdsong Brewing Company in NoDa, “Jalapeno beer. It exists … and it’s in my belly.’’

Charlotte on Stage during the DNC, Thursday p.m.

DNC causing price-gouging in Charlotte?

A Kansas delegate wonders why Charlotte calls its downtown "uptown''

View from Vermont: Sun Belt a more optimistic place;

Someone missed a great chance to sell a lot of balloons:

Nothing like a good Lincoln impersonator

Mother Jones on the contrast in the two conventions:

LA Times: 2 1/2 media members for every delegate:,0,7857371.story

Variety on actors' presence in Charlotte for the DNC:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What they're writing about Charlotte at the DNC

Difficult as it might seem to get around Charlotte during the Democratic National Convention, it would be a lot worse in the absence of the 5-year-old Lynx lght-rail line.

That’s the conclusion drawn by the Tampa Bay Times, comparing Charlotte’s DNC experience to that of Tampa and the Republican convention last week. Tampa voted down a sales tax that would have built alight rail system similar to Lynx, a 10-mile system that runs from uptown, near Seventh Street, south to I-485. Half of the cost of Lynx (more than $400 million) was covered by federal funds. Plans are in the works to double Charlotte’s light-rail system.

On Monday, Lynx rried a reported 33,000 passengers. Moving RNC visitors in Tampa, mostly with charter buses, was problematic, causing some delegates to miss portions of convention sessions or getting them back to their hotels after 3 a.m. According to the Times, Tampa used more than 400 buses compared with about 250 for Charlotte.

“Compared to this, getting around in Tampa was impossible,’’ said Andrea Braboy, a Tampa resident who's here for the DNC. Added Sarah Meachen, also of Tampa, “Charlotte is light years ahead of Tampa. We’re not even close. I think I want to move here.’’

Party mood: Several media reports have characterized the mood among Democrats as more party-oriented than Republicans in Tampa. That’s likely good for the Charlotte restaurant and bar business, but not necessarily for Obama’s re-election hopes.

The Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal described Charlotte this week as about “songs and cute outfits and ornate hats,’’ while Republicans exuded “a sense of four years of scorn, bitterness and a loss not forgotten.’’

The Rev. Al Sharpton, an MSNBC host, said: “If (Democrats) party in Charlotte in September, the Republicans could be partying in November.’’

Outside the hall: Some national media outlets have ventured outside Time Warner Cable Arena to report on how Charlotte’s challenges reflect on the country’s politics.

The Atlantic’s website is doing a three-part series on Charlotte’s economy. Wednesday’s segment concentrated on the loss of thousands of high-paying banking jobs here and how that undermined the tax base. City councilman David Howard was quoted that, “If you look at Charlotte as a pie, about a fifth of it in south Charlotte pays almost 50 percent of the city’s tax base.''

More uplifting was a story in the Washington Post about how government investment in job creation made for a Siemens AG plant, building gigantic gas turbines for industrial use. Siemens, a German firm, was recruited here partially by the international flights out of Charlotte/Douglas International Airport and a rail spur with state funding. But it was also about the engineers and technicians available in North Carolina that Siemens might not have had available off-shore.

How Charlotte is showing to national media, Wednesday edition

Washington Post: Siemens plant demonstrates what is right with Charlotte-area economy:

Light rail making for a smoother delegate commute in Charlotte than there was in Tampa

Contribution numbers suggest Mecklenburg County isn't so Democrat-friendly:

New York Daily News on how jacked-up hotel rates put a squeeze on the poor during convention week:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Charlotte on Stage, Tuesday p.m. edition

Charlotte and Tampa compete in the NFL Sunday when the Panthers play at the Buccaneers. But as convention hosts, the two cities are serving as partners in back-to-back weeks.

Charlotte organizers were in Tampa last week during the Republican convention to pick up tips on running the Democratic event. Tampa organizers flew to Charlotte this week to observe how we’re running things.

Dan Murrey, executive director of the DNC host committee, told the Tampa Tribune the best advice he got was to expect surprises: Like the last-minute security fence the Secret Service erected at the University of South Florida’s medical learning center. Or the German shepherd security dogs that jumped spontaneously into the car of Murrey’s Tampa counterpart, Ken Jones.

Matt Becker, chief operating officer for the Republican convention, offered this advice to Murrey: "Wear thick socks; he will be doing plenty of walking.’’

-- Washington Post opinion writer E.J. Dionne Jr. writes: "The contrast with the Tampa convention was conspicuous. The Republican affair felt so terribly businesslike. Tampa was not nearly as invested in the GOP as Charlotte is in the Democrats. I tested my perceptions with those of colleagues who had also been in Tampa, and to a person, they sensed the same thing: The Charlotte Democrats seemed to be having the better time, and the mood here was seemed more ebullient."

Green theme:
The Boston Herald noted how dramatically more environment-friendly the DNC in Charlotte is, compared to the Republican convention. The areas in and around Time Warner Cable Arena are filled with reusable water containers and refill stations, recycle bins and a display measuring power usage in uptown. By comparison, the Herald noted, Tampa’s convention venue was filled with garbage bags of waste that could have been recycled.

Johnson returns: Former Charlotte Bobcats owner Bob Johnson was back at TWC Arena Tuesday for the convention. In an interview with Fox News, Johnson said that, despite high unemployment numbers among minorities, he expects Obama to draw huge support from African-American voters. "He represents, to us, aspirations,’’ Johnson said, "and we’re going to give him a second chance.’’

Traffic apocalypse?

The Irish Times wrote that the Democrats’ reluctance to accept contributions from corporations this time around has put added strain on the police presence to direct traffic for Obama’s speech Thursday. The Times wrote: "Some have predicted a traffic apocalypse that will be especially trying for those who have been forced to seek lodging across the border in South Carolina."


Mac’s Speed Shop got a glowing review from the Washington delegation on the website "We are dining on some of the most sumptuous macaroni and cheese, pulled pork, veggie burgers and hickory smoked beef brisket I’ve ever tasted, with banana pudding and warm chocolate brownies for dessert. Great service makes great food taste even better" ... Robin Abcarian of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the Levine Museum of the New South "offered convention-goers a fascinating take on life here since the end of slavery."

Some fresh takes on how Charlotte is showing to world during the DNC

The Atlantic on whether Charlotte still fits "boomtown'' description:

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter on his struggles to navigate around the Queen City this week:

Tampa and Charlotte can learn from each other in how to throw a big event. It's not a competition, as such:

Marketwatch on the challenge Obama faces in winning North Carolina and Virginia again this election:

Charlotte's mood more festive than Tampa's

Tampa had bad weather, heavy police presence and temporary fences last week for the Republican National Convention. Charlotte has bad weather, heavy police presence and temporary fences, hosting the Democrats.

One key difference, according to the Tampa Bay Times: Charlotte still found a way to host an inclusive, festive event Monday, something Tampa never achieved. The street fair uptown included thousands at a street market with funnel cakes, souvenirs, children’s amusements and songs by North Carolina’s James Taylor,

 “There was nothing like this in Tampa,” political activist Mona Mangat of St. Petersburg told the Times in Charlotte. “The whole city was under lockdown. There was no live music, no street festival, no life to the street.”

The story went on to say: “Credit the holiday. Credit the festival. Or the Democrats. It didn’t matter. What was witnessed by reporters and delegates was a town where its residents were celebrating. What they found in Tampa was a city that felt desolate.”

In fairness to Tampa, that city was contending with Tropical Storm Isaac, while Charlotte’s just having typical summer thunderstorms this week.