It is the Sunday before the Democratic National Convention consumes Charlotte and vies for the nations attention, and so it is time for waxing poetic about the Queen Citys chance to tell its story on the world stage. The New South, can-do city, energy capital, all that.
We say: Lets just avoid catastrophe.
Can you name a city you hold in high esteem today because of the way it handled a political convention? We cant. But Chicago 1968 still carries instant meaning. Atlanta took years to bounce back from the Olympic bombing in 1996. People still talk about the year the river burned near Cleveland in 1969.
So not to set too low a bar, but staying off that list would be an excellent start.
The easiest way to give ourselves a black eye: Overzealous authorities. CMPD Chief Rodney Monroes police officers have trained for months on how to handle rowdy protesters and surely are ready. The city doesnt know how big the demonstrations will be, but as Wall Street South and as home to one of the nations largest burners of coal, Charlotte makes an inviting target for activists of all stripes.
Were glad not to be the officers who have to navigate that narrow line between keeping potentially hostile protesters under control and unnecessarily escalating violence by overreacting. Were hopeful, though, that that line is constantly on the minds of police, and that none of them crosses it.
Thats because while Charlottes reputation could rise or fall as a result of the DNC, falling would be easier. Kind of like a baseball umpire: Call a flawless game and no one notices; botch a big call and the stain could be on you for life.
Its natural for Charlotteans to salivate at the bounce the convention could give our city, but we might all temper our expectations. In August 2008, as the DNC was about to descend on Denver, the Denver Posts editorial page editor at the time, Dan Haley, wrote: Denver could be showcased as a world-class, 21st century city a place that embraces its humble past as fervently as it welcomes its exciting future. The Democratic National Convention is Denvers chance to rebrand itself as a model American city.
Weve heard weve felt similar sentiments here. But honestly, while Denver has long been a great place, do you know anyone who now thinks of it as a model American city because of how it handled the 2008 convention?
All that said, an entire industry has sprung up around managing peoples, and companies and cities reputations. Charlottes top business recruiters will tell you that the citys reputation is crucial to attracting companies and the jobs they bring. Perception matters. The status we earn with a successful week this week might be ephemeral, but if even a handful of the right people are impressed, it could pay off for our economy down the road.
Charlotte has already gained a lot through the DNC: booked hotel rooms and national attention, for starters. But the delegates will leave, the national media will turn their spotlight elsewhere. And then our citys character will hinge on what it always has: The ambition and dedication of its people to collaborate on making this a better place each and every day.