With the first in the South primary next door in South Carolina, it was inevitable that Michele Bachmann would head this way after her first-place finish in the Iowa straw poll of Republican hopefuls. She scheduled a fund-raiser this week in Charlotte and (along with Rick Perry, who announced his presidential bid in Charleston) planned appearances in South Carolina.
But preparations for the DNC 2012 in Charlotte didn’t stop. They just took a lower profile as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security came into town this week for training exercises with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. It’s all part of the effort to get ready for President Barack Obama, more than 30,000 delegates, plus the media and visitors expected next September.
Congress is still considering a $55 million request to help Charlotte ramp up its security needs for the convention, after Mayor Anthony Foxx made his case (with the mayor of Tampa, site of the GOP convention) in Washington.
When he visited Charlotte after it was chosen as the site of the convention, then-DNC chair Tim Kaine pointed to Chief Rodney Monroe’s more than two decades of police work in Washington, D.C., as a plus in dealing with federal officials and security for high-profile officials. The CMPD, under Monroe, has called on surrounding departments for assistance.
Department spokesman Robert Tufano said, “We cannot discuss specific security training and strategy for obvious reasons but I can tell you that the goal of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is to develop and implement, with numerous participating agencies, a seamless security plan that will create a secure environment for the community, dignitaries, event participants and the general public.” He cited planning for venue security, air space security, training, communications and credentialing, but said “the means, methods, specific resources or numbers utilized to carry out protective responsibilities will not be discussed to ensure public safety.”
While the terrorist attacks of 9/11 precipitated the policy of using federal funds to supplement state and local convention security efforts, recent incidents of street crime across the country also must be causing concern. After Memorial Day weekend violence in Charlotte, many noted that crowds filled the streets near the Transportation Center — just across from the Time Warner Cable arena home of convention events. A quick response by community members brought street volunteers and mentors over the July 4th weekend for a peaceful holiday celebration. It was a move that other cities are trying.
Recently, during a visit to Philadelphia, I ran across that city’s mayor, Michael Nutter, and a parade of community groups and others who joined along in a nighttime stroll to counter the images of recent “flash mob” attacks there. It was all about “staying safe” while “having a good time,” he told me. Though he didn’t cite Charlotte’s action as inspiration, Nutter said that he and Mayor Anthony Foxx “stay in touch.”
Expect Charlotte to keep an eye on small efforts to keep the peace even as the feds coordinate more dramatic counter-offensives.
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.