Sunday, September 23, 2012

Why A Walkable City Is Important

Fresh off the highs of the DNC, it is important to find out what people thought of our city.  Chris Matthews of MSNBC has become a great fan, and many of the great newspapers of our country all carried favorable reports of Charlotte.

We, who live here, recognize that a large part of the success of the calm convention was delivered by an influx of police that left some people feeling claustrophobic.  But is also exemplified the case for a walkable friendly city, one that Charlotte has become.

I have often told people the biggest difference between living in the suburbs and living in the city is that in the suburbs, when you are driving down a street, you would beep your horn at a friend in their yard or a passing car you recognized.  In the city, when you are walking down the street, it is much more likely that you will walk over to that friend and talk.

Here is a link to an article by a budding urban planner as to her experience and contrast of city and suburban life.  Go here.  It is a good read.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

View From Home Plate

"It's a beautiful day for baseball", as Joe Tait, the former announcer for the Cleveland Indians used to say for every game.  But for today, he would have been correct, it WAS a beautiful day for baseball.

Around 10:15 people started gathering at the corner of MLK Jr Blvd and South Graham Streets though not for a baseball game, but to witness the ground breaking ceremony for the BBT Field.  I was surprised, and excited at the turnout of well over 500 people.  I had an opportunity to talk with Parks Helm for a few minutes.  I couldn't tell if he were wiping the sweat from his brow having walked from his office in One Wells Fargo, or a tear in his eye from finally realizing a dream that was years in the making.

For over 10 years I have been running into Parks at various meetings concerning the relocation of baseball back into the center city.  I have an admiration for someone who has stayed focused for so long on this one project.  Parks is now out of the political limelight, I did not see his name in any publication reporting on the groundbreaking.  That said, if not for Parks and his efforts over the years, yesterday would not have happened.

Ballparks today, beginning with Camden Yards in Baltimore, are being built to be part of the urban fabric of a vibrant downtown.  The list is extensive, Progressive Field in Cleveland, CoMerica Park in Detroit, Minute Maid Park in Houston, etc.  Cellular Field in Chicago, home of the White Sox, ironically the parent team for the Charlotte Knights, was the last ballpark build in the "Donut" tradition, and it is like a fortress, not inviting.

The attached picture is from behind Home Plate and gives your an idea of the view that will greet the people in the stands.  The view is also representative of the Club Seats I have secured behind home plate, perhaps you can join me for a game some day, but the purpose of this story is to illustrate that BBT Field will become an integral part of the downtown scene, you will even be able to see into the park from Mint Street as you walk by.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Then, Suddenly It Was Over

I showed up to welcome my 6:45 am volunteer staff this morning at the Residence Inn and found out that all the shifts today had been cancelled.  I was not surprised, I knew the later shifts were cut, but thought we would be there for the mass exodus.

As I was scooting over to the hotel, it was just getting light, sort of.   There was a fog that hid most of the buildings from view.  Gone were the orange cones funneling traffic, gone were the fences surrounding non-convention buildings, gone were the cops from every corner, the motorcycle cops, the bike cops, etc.  The city was remarkably clean!

The hotel staff greeted me with a sense of relief that I haven't seen since I was draft age and a friend had received a deferment from serving.  Kind of like the battle was over and they had survived. 

The delegation at the Residence Inn was from Colorado.  I have a sister there, and we exchanged stories about Pearl Street Mall, McGuckins Hardware, Phanthom Canyon, etc.  That was fun.

And, now it is all over.

Charlotte will go back to building itself as an important city in the south, the convention certainly helped with that.  Restaurants and residents will return to there daily activities, buses will return to their schedules, life will return to normal.

But it will not be the same normal.  The world has seen that we have a bright, clean, prosperous city.  They will have met some of the 15,000 volunteers who's primary function was to smile and answer or get answers for our guests, a friendly city.  All these little acts will leave an impression. 

Charlotte is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, partly because of the businesses located here, partly because of our geographic location, and partly because we do not have the same degree of infrastructure decay that many northern cities have.  The convention will increase the rate of growth going forward.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thursday, A Celebration

The buzz in the city all morning touched the speeches last night.  There was a sense of empowerment that is unmistakable.  Delegates left the hotel early for meetings with excitement.

Many were dismayed at the change from the stadium to the arena.  That meant that 65,000 people, myself included, would not hear the President speech live.  A heavy rain hit the city mid afternoon, around 4, but the evening was clear.

The speeches this evening were predictable, but Obama was great.

Tomorrow, everyone leaves.

Wednesday, A Day Of Changes

Everything is routine now.  People know what to expect in terms of delays, and my volunteers can anticipate the questions they get and are ready with helpful answers.

Communications with the Host Committee, the group sponsoring the volunteers is getting better.  Though a few days late, I am getting the information on my volunteers that is helpful. 

The weather remains an iffy distraction with intermitten rain, mostly a light thin type of rain falling for 15 minutes.  It reminds me a lot of the type of rain that falls in Florida. 

The Colorado Delegation has been kind enough to provide us with tickets to get into BankofAmerica Stadium for the Presidents acceptance speech.  Originally I did not think that I would get in, but now I am looking forward to being part of it.  In a strange way it reminds me of my brother Ron.  Back in 1963, he and some of his friends went to Washington DC for the funeral of John F. Kennedy.  I have always remembered that he was there.

Well, that now is changed.  The changing weather has made the outdoor speech too chancy, and a decision had to be made for logistical reasongs to move the speech into Time Warner Cable Arena, effectively reducing the number of people involved from 80,000 to 20,000.

The final note is the speeches given by the Bus Nun, and Bill Clinton has the whole city abuzz.

Tuesday, More Than A Chance of Showers

As Tuesday started, things began to turn into a routine.  People were getting used to all the police in the city and the delays and road closings.  Some thinges changed almost hour by hour.  The Secret Service has been in overall charge of all activities, and one might think that the confusion was planned not to give anyone a heads up as to how to "attack"!

All of my volunteers showed up for the Tuesday shifts.  Most of the day there was little for them to do other than talk to eachother.  The Colorado Delegates were in meetings mosts of the day, and then were getting ready for the opening ceremonies of the convention.

The protestors were active, but not totally disruptive, really a reflection to the incredible amount of security present. 

The tremendous increase in activity in and around downtown is a portent of things to come as Charlotte continues to grow as a city.  Traffic in the central core of the city will get more constrictive, forcing many to choose public transportation as opposed to fighting the crowds and high prices for parking.  There is little doubt that the city will end up this way.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Monday, A Day Of Celebration

Monday morning started early for me as I welcomed my volunteers at the Residence Inn by the BankofAmerica Stadium at 6:45 am.  I am not sure what surprise me more, that I was awake, or that anyone showed up! 

The volunteer presence consists of 4 people each shift, and there are 3 shifts per day.  The volunteers are generally over 50, and delighted to be part of the convention in any way they can.  Truly a feeling of patriotism.  As I explain their jobs to them, to a person they are concerned that they do a good job.  Upon leaving, I give them my card, and encourage them to think for themselves, but not to hesitate to call me for any issue.  I live close and can be there quickly.

Our marching orders are to smile and to respond to questions or issues from a delegate with "I will take care of that for you.".  There are a host of resources for us to use.

The day was built around "Carolina Fest" which was open to the public.  It consumed most of Tryon Street and was well attended.  There is also a large tented area with an exhibit called "The Presidential Experience" which contains a replica of Air Force One, the Oval Office, presidential cars, personal items from 12 presidents, etc.  Downtown was abuzz with people yesterday. 

James Taylor was holding a concert at the intersection of Trade and Tryon that was cut short by a cloudburst, a lingering effect of Hurricane Isaac.   Drenched, I retired to a friends and whipped up a bolognese sauce and had a great pasta dinner.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Sunday A Day Of Police Presence

Getting up on Sunday morning was a bit of a challenge after working until midnight at the NCMF for the opening media party.  It started early as well, 6:45 am.  As Captain of the Residence Inn, I felt the need to show up to welcome the volunteers who agreed to sit at the Host Committee table and answer questions for the guests.

I found out late Saturday Night that I was also scheduled to be a volunteer myself at The Dunhill Hotel, and was scheduled to be there at 6:45 as well!

Yikes!  Fortunately, it was light at both locations, and I was able to accomplish that.

I had a brunch with a friend, and she commented to me how eerie it felt to have the police presence that is everywhere in the city.  I don't know the numbers but there are cops here from DC, Richmond, Chicago, and other nearby locales as well. I have seen stranger Police vehicles than ever.  I have seen cops swarming on bikes in packs of 12, Motorized dirt bikes in packs of 12, and the big escort motorcycles with their red-white-blue strobes.  There are swat teams present, there are other cops on foot in Keflar.  Quite a site.

My night job was to unload and load delegates as they came into the city for parties at the museums.  The process was not as organized as I would have liked, but we accomplished our duties.

It is a fun time to be in Charlotte.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Opening Night. DNC All Hale!

Getting ready for my first volunteer shift at the NC Music Factory and the sky opened up.  Not only a ton of rain, but 10 minutes of hale as well.  Must be Romney!

Picking up where I left off, I arrived at 4 pm to be part of Event Transportation, unloading and loading busses for the event.  A light rain persisted until about 8:30, so we were all issued rain ponchos.

The logistics for the event were clearly planned for a non-rain scenario, and many of the Media who were attending the party were a bit miffed to have to walk through the light rain.

As with any event, the departure of the guests was not as well spaced as the arrival.  At one point we had over 400 people standing around and waiting for a ride, and no busses.  Once a group of busses arrived, it was near pandamonium controlling everyone trying to rush to get on.  After about 45 minutes, we were able to get everyone away, and surprisingly without serious trouble.