DNC Notebook: Clearing the way for minority businesses



What started as the “disappointment” of a regional minority-business group over how organizers of the Democratic National Convention handled the recent announcement of diversity goals ended in a cautious embrace and promises of smoother future communication.

Democratic National Convention CEO Steve Kerrigan
  • Democratic National Convention CEO Steve Kerrigan
Convention CEO Steve Kerrigan met the press on Wednesday to review the last year and give updates on what’s to come. He also answered questions about a minor dust-up that earlier in the week had the Carolina Regional Minority Partnership Coalition (CRMPC) — through its chair, civil rights attorney James Ferguson II — pleased with diversity plans but disappointed that the group was not given notice of or present for the announcement.

Now that the DNCC has adopted a plan to allocate at least a third of contracts and spending to businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans, people with disabilities and members of the LGBT community, all sides agree that it's important to work together to achieve that goal. Kerrigan said the plan was “a floor, not a ceiling,” a phrase that Ferguson repeated at his press conference two hours after Kerrigan spoke. Kerrigan had called Ferguson “a great friend” and said he was glad to have him as a partner.

Ferguson, standing with a dozen representatives of his group behind him, reiterated the importance of the goals but said his group wanted more. “We do not hesitate to say that we had sought and hoped for higher goals than those adopted by the DNC. But for now, we will work enthusiastically with the DNC to achieve and exceed the goals that they have adopted.

“A lot of minority contractors are new to the process,” he continued. The CRMPC can help them, as well as guide the DNCC to minority firms that are “available and qualified to do the work.” Ferguson — who said the earlier “little flap” was “nothing significant” — said he recognizes the struggles all minorities have and has “no qualms” that the Democratic Party is reaching out to its entire constituency. The group appointed Stephane Berwald, president of the Metrolina Minority Contractors Association, to act as the contact person with the DNCC.

Pat Cotham, a member of the Democratic National Committee and the host committee who is running for an at-large seat on the county commission, was there to support the CRMPC, which has 103 members and 405 in its database, according to vice chair Colette Forrest. The goals, said Cotham,” are good for our whole community.”

At his press conference, Kerrigan was asked about secrecy surrounding the convention, particularly security arrangements. He said the focus of the convention planning process, from the first lady’s announcement of the Charlotte choice to now, has been on “inclusion and engagement.” A DNCC spokeswoman said it has hired Tom Rosfelder as director of security. The Ohio native is a 26-year veteran of the Secret Service and will be responsible for working with the Secret Service and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, the lead agencies responsible for developing the convention security plan.

The next big convention contract announcement, Kerrigan said, would be next week’s decision on the transportation-services vendor, responsible for the shuttle system that would “free up traffic on the streets.”

On Wednesday, the DNCC also announced its “2,012 Hours for DNCC 2012” program, a commitment by the staff to perform at least 2,012 hours of service before the 2012 convention in September. Kerrigan said it's “a promise to Charlotte and its people that the DNCC is invested in its long-term growth and success.” This Friday, DNCC staffers plan to work beautification projects, which include landscaping, at Ramblewood Park. Staffers have been tutoring weekly at Allenbrook Elementary and working with other local nonprofits.

Other convention-related groups are taking advantage of Charlotte events to stir up interest. On Tuesday night, presentations for the Charlotte Woman of the Year and “A Woman’s Place” were given at Levine Museum of the New South. After Rabbi Judy Schindler received this year’s honor and standing ovations, and Davidson College president Carol Quillen delivered her well-received suggestions on “Leadership for the 21st Century,” DVA Charlotte made their pitch at a table by the door. The mission: “To build and support a positive, effective network for engaging women as donors, volunteers and ambassadors in support of the Charlotte in 2012 convention host committee.”

“It’s all about Charlotte,” said Sandra Conway, leader of the non-partisan network of women. The group intends to spotlight youth civic engagement, economic inclusiveness, healthy children and families, and creating a more sustainable community. “Women matter,” Conway told me. She promised the group would formally launch next month.

Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to The Washington Post's “She the People” blog, The Root, NPR and the Nieman Watchdog blog. Her “Keeping It Positive” segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 a.m. on Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.

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