Charlotte, North Carolina, and Democratic Mayor Anthony Foxx are about as excited and keyed up, as it is possible to be the host of the Democratic National Convention -- on September 3-6, 2012.
They have been working since the site of the Convention was announced last year, to prepare for the influx of Democratic delegates, candidates, family members, celebrities, protesters and press who are about to swell Charlotte’s population and bankroll.
Robyn Hamilton, the Director of Business Relations for the Charlotte Host Committee, expects the economic impact of the Convention to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 to $200 million. Her job has been to assist local businesses in positioning themselves to acquire contracts to do business directly with the Convention. Former Charlotte Mayor, Harvey Gantt has been active in the area of pushing minority --and women-owned -- businesses forward to bid for those contracts.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame, local shops, restaurants and hotels have undergone a spate of building, refurbishing and polishing-up over the past couple of years and are shining brightly, ready for visitors.
Occupy Charlotte is ready, too -- believe it or not. Our protest movement expects incoming protesters (lots of them) and has planned to set up food kitchens and living space in No-Da, the NOrth Davidson Arts district. They have been working with the City Council to create what are called Free Speech Zones for protesters to occupy in a relatively hassle-free way. The lawyers on both sides have cooperated – reasonably, if not exactly free of controversy – to make sure security requirements for everyone’s safety are maintained while not treading too harshly upon the First Amendment.
Charlotte’s Finest are also ready; having sent officers to Chicago during the G-8 Summit for training during the protests there. They have also been very good about public outreach regarding road closures and re-routing public transportation, so that everybody knows what to do and where to go when the time comes.
And, get this: we’re going to have a Mobile Hospital sited somewhere inside the city limits, capable of caring for up to 13 casualties at a time.
The Queen City is ready for all y’all. The question is this…are you ready for Charlotte? Some advice:
1. That fall wardrobe you bought to show off at the Convention? Leave it at home. This is the SOUTH, and it’s still HOT here. BOA Stadium is outdoors and the best that can be said about Charlotte evenings in early September is “sultry.”
2. Stay hydrated. Stay in the shade and wear loose clothing. Don’t hurry anywhere. We “mosey.”
3. Down is Up…we call the center of our city uptown. It’s a lovely place to walk around. Enjoy the public art and the fountains; the bars and the restaurants.
4. Carolinians are friendly and hospitable. We don’t want to scare you Yankee types but we look you in the eye, smile and say hello…and we mean it. The drawl and the smiles don’t mean we’re stupid, though.