That went well.
Dozens of citizens from all points around the socio-economic compass stood before Charlotte City Council this week to vent on the prospect of hosting the Republican National Convention.
On one extreme were people who felt like inviting the RNC was akin to opening a portal to sulfurous Hell; on the other were folks who saw a way to make some money. And there were a hundred opinions in between - some calm, some passionate - but nearly all reasoned and respectable. And the outcome, a 6-5 vote in favor of hosting the RNC, was a cliff-hanger to the end.
It was as good and lively a forum as could be. A terrific local drama on a controversial topic conducted in civil tones. You don’t get a lot of that these days.
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A few things to keep in mind as we move forward:
▪ Charlotte is a business town. We don’t bid on conventions because they make us all warm and happy. We bid on them because hospitality is a local industry. Leave politics out of it. We hosted the Democrats and we’ll host the Republicans. It’s not an endorsement.
▪ Some people idolized Barack Obama, some despised him. Ditto Donald Trump. You don’t have to respect the candidate, but you should respect the democracy. We have a two-party system in this country and the party conventions are a milestone in the electoral process. We should play that role without rancor.
▪ Some opponents assume Trump will be the nominee. No one can see that far into the future. Assume nothing.
▪ Yes, there will be protests at the convention. There always are. That’s another piece of the democratic process. There were protests at the 2012 Charlotte convention, too. It doesn’t mean that the city will sink into anarchy. Expressing political passion is a constitutional right. Violence isn’t, and it won’t be tolerated.
▪ Hosting a political convention is generally good for a city’s brand, though it is a short-term benefit. Quick, which city hosted the RNC in 2016? Yeah, I can’t either. But our skyline looks great on TV, and consider this observation from The New York Times this week: “Charlotte’s generally favorable weather, well-connected airport and glimmering city center have helped it build a reputation as a reliably sturdy site for major gatherings.”
▪ Are we really going to make much money off this thing? Sure, some, mostly in the hospitality industry. Otherwise, it won’t change any lives, at least it didn’t when the Democrats met here in 2012. Adjust expectations.
Finally, this week’s forum had one other notable effect. It was the first major controversy faced by Mayor Vi Lyles, who showed command strength. She was respectful to all sides, held control of a potentially volatile situation and inspired confidence.
Its clear those three qualities will need to be widely demonstrated in the community as we move toward 2020.