Democratic National Convention 2012 Notebook: The city under a microscope

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Will the first question about everything that happens in Charlotte now be, “How will this affect the convention?” Let’s hope not.

After fights that escalated in Uptown over Memorial Day weekend left one man dead, another wounded and 70 under arrest, the city is understandably concerned. (A suspect has turned himself in to police.) Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Rodney Monroe has said the police were in control — though Uptown merchants and visitors are more cautious as they look to the next large gathering — and the city is considering stricter curfews since many in the crowd appeared underage and unaccompanied by adults.

The incident would probably have made national news reports even if the 2012 Democratic Convention weren’t settling in Charlotte for a week. But the fact that Charlotte won that prize means each hometown event — the good, the bad and the violent — will be news. When videotaped crowds fill streets near the Transportation Center, across from Time Warner Cable arena, home base for the convention, expect to see it all splashed on the Drudge Report. There will be reassurances and attacks and political posturing.

Yes, something needs to be done, but unless the city figures out a way to confront and solve its problems without first worrying “what will the neighbors think,” the result could be civic paralysis.

In a conversation last week, Mayor Anthony Foxx said, “I understand why one has to ask the question.” But he went on to say, “Over the next year and a half, there are going to be lots of things that happen — many of them good and occasionally some that we would rather not have. And if every time we have a situation we look over our shoulder and say what does this mean for the Democratic National Convention, it takes our eye off the ball.

“We didn’t sign up to stop improving our public safety or our transportation system or any of the other services we provide to our citizens,” Foxx said. “What we signed up for was focusing the country on a city that figures out ways to solve problems,” he said, “and we will do that. But it doesn’t mean we will stop working on the problems we have.”

Of course, to do that, Charlotte citizens will have to care less about what others think and concentrate on the kind of city they want to have — both before the Democrats arrive and long after they leave.

Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to The Root, NPR, Creative Loafing and the Nieman Watchdog blog. Her “Keeping It Positive” segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 on TV’s Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter. http://twitter.com/mcurtisnc3.

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