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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

St. Louis Raising $60M For 2012 DNC: Unions Reject Charlotte

St. Louis Corporate Community Prepared To Step Up For DNC Bid

The local corporate community is prepared to step up in a big way to help land the 2012 Democratic National Convention, says the leader of one of the area's largest business groups.

Many of the city's most prominent companies have not yet been vocal about their support for the bid, but they are prepared to help raise the dollar amounts -- likely between $50 and $60 million -- needed to bring the Democrat's next presidential nominating convention to St. Louis, said Mike DeCola, head of Mississippi Lime Company and chairman of the Regional Business Council.

"The corporate community has to step up in a number of ways, certainly the fundraising is a big part of that," DeCola said. "We are keenly aware of the dollars we need to put up just to get the convention here."

Individual companies have not been assigned target amounts to raise, DeCola said, though "our members are aware that's coming."

St. Louis is one of four finalists to host the party, which is expected to announce its decision in the next month or so.

DeCola's comments come as St. Louis officials believe the competition is coming down to them and Charlotte, where the effort is being led by an outspoken utility chief, Duke Energy head Jim Rogers, who has led fundraising efforts and even sought to enlist basketball great Michael Jordan, currently owner of the city's NBA franchise, to lobby the White House.

DeCola said just because "we don't have guys that like to beat their chest in the press like that" doesn't mean St. Louis' business community is not serious about helping attract the convention, which will bring thousands of visitors, and perhaps more importantly, lasting civic prestige to the winner.

"The business leaders in this community all know what's involved, and they have all expressed very, very strong support to make this happen," DeCola said. "We have companies that are much bigger, much more globally well-known than Duke Energy."

DeCola was one of several executives who met with a scout team for the Democratic National Committee at a lunch at the Jewel Box while the group made its site visit here over the summer.

The Regional Business Council is made up of medium-sized companies, so-called "mid-caps."

However, any corporate effort to land the convention would likely need participation from the local business heavyweights: companies such as Express Scripts, Monsanto, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and, of course, Anheuser-Busch.

The Brewery has already signaled a support for the bid. In a statement issued Monday, A-B president David Peacock said the city already has a "track record" of hosting major events, such as last year's baseball All-Star game.

"The people here in St. Louis are very accommodating and they put a great face on the city for events of this size," Peacock said "We are excited the DNC is considering St. Louis, and we would be proud to have them here."

Meanwhile, Charlotte's corporate community may actually be a liability for its chances -- the city is home to financial institutions such as Bank of America, which accepted $40 billion in federal bailout money.

Unions To DNC 2012: Shun These Cities: Charlotte & Cleveland

A Union representing hotel workers has asked the Democratic National Committee to rule out two of its four convention-site finalists, Cleveland and Charlotte, N.C., because they lack sufficient unionized hotel facilities.

"Among the DNC's four finalist cities, only St. Louis and Minneapolis" have the capacity to "house a large portion of the delegates and other guests ... in unionized hotels," John Wilhelm, president of the international UNITE HERE union of hotel and textile workers, wrote in a letter to DNC Chairman Tim Kaine.

"Therefore, one of those two cities should be the DNC's choice for 2012. Unfortunately, Charlotte and Cleveland do not fit the bill, and they should be removed from the list."

Though the letter was dated Oct. 6, it wasn't publicized until this week, when the union's Minneapolis local, eager to enhance its city's chances, issued a press release on the subject.

"We're just very interested in having the convention here on a number of levels, and for the international it's a priority that it be in a union city," said Wade Luneberg, secretary-treasurer and political director of UNITE HERE Local 17 in Minneapolis. "We think it's important to differentiate between the four [finalist] cities and see that Minneapolis and St. Louis rise to the top."

Charlotte, N.C., has no unionized hotels, and its convention center's employees are not union members, according to Wilhelm's letter. Cleveland has some union hotels, but only a handful in the downtown area and about 10 in the larger region; they belong to a competing union, Workers United.

UNITE HERE under Wilhelm split with former President Bruce Raynor in a bitter and protracted battle that ended last year with Raynor leaving and founding Workers United.

Workers United, which has affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, says it has 150,000 members, while UNITE HERE, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, claims 265,000.

A subcommittee of the DNC visited potential convention sites over the summer to evaluate their logistical suitability and advise the committee on their findings. A decision is expected in late 2010 or early 2011.

Democratic sources familiar with the decision-making process say Charlotte and St. Louis are the current front-runners, with Charlotte at a slight disadvantage because of its small overall hotel room stock.

Political considerations — including last week's election results — are expected to play a major role in the decision-making process. The defeat of a Democratic governor in Ohio may have hurt Cleveland's chances, while Minneapolis could be helped if Minnesota's Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Mark Dayton, hangs on to win. He currently leads in the count in a race that is likely to go to a recount.

The Minneapolis area has at least 20 union hotels totaling 5,300 rooms, with more than 2,000 workers, Wilhelm's letter notes. St. Louis, the letter says, has 10 union hotels with more than 3,000 rooms. Both cities' sports arenas and convention centers are unionized as well.

"Employees at union hotels are far more likely than employees in non-union hotels to get the sort of basic fair treatment for which the Democratic Party stands — good wages, affordable health benefits, stable long-term positions, and respect and a voice on the job," Wilhelm wrote. "For these reasons, those employees are more likely to provide delegates and guests with better service as well."

UNITE HERE official Pilar Weiss said the DNC was receptive to the union's concerns. "It's early on," she said. "We're having a dialogue with them."

A spokesman for the DNC, Hari Sevugan, said, "As always, we are looking at a number of factors and will have an announcement in the coming months."

Charlotte, St. Louis Are Convention Finalists

A St. Louis television station is reporting that Charlotte and St. Louis have emerged as finalists in the competition to serve as host of the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

KTVI said Tuesday that the two cities have taken the lead over the other cities under consideration, Cleveland and Minneapolis.

Democratic Party officials have said they expect to make a choice later this year.

Both the St. Louis station and said the issue of unionized hotels could tilt the competition against Charlotte. Most of the major hotels in St. Louis are unionized, while Charlotte's are not.

Labor unions have been a longtime bulwark of the Democratic Party.

Politico also noted that Charlotte has fewer hotel rooms than St. Louis.

Supporters of Charlotte's effort to win the convention have noted that Democrats held their 2008 national convention in Denver, where nearly all the hotels are not unionized.

The issue of unionized hotels has surfaced several times in recent weeks. Last month, a group composed of unionized hotel workers sent a letter to Democratic Party officials, asking that Charlotte and Cleveland be removed from consideration for the convention, because of a lack of unionized hotels.

Politico said Cleveland's AFL-CIO office sent a letter this week to Democratic Party Chairman Tom Kaine, saying the city has six union hotels downtown and a seventh near Hopkins International Airport.

Survey Reveals Charlotte's Crime Problem Is Not Improving

Respondents to a survey organized by a Charlotte community organization disagree with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police statistics showing a dropping crime rate in the city.

About 80 percent of the approximately 500 people who participated in the survey said the crime problem in Charlotte is either unchanged or has gotten worse over the past two years.

The study was conducted in recent weeks by Neighbors For A Safer Charlotte, a grassroots organization founded in April 2008.

Their study results contrast with a steady stream of monthly crime statistics from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, showing -- for the most part -- that the crime rate has been dropping over the past 12 to 18 months. Earlier this week, CMPD statistics through March showed the overall crime rate is down 15 percent since the same time a year ago.

The survey results show that if CMPD statistics are correct, the perception among residents is that crime remains a big problem.

Respondents did not fall into the "lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key" category, as most of them said they support more mental health and substance abuse programs -- and said they believe only violent offenders should be put in jail.

Here are results from some of the organization's questions:

How much of a problem do you feel crime is in the Charlotte area?

75% rated it "serious" or "very serious"

In the past two years, has crime in Charlotte increased, stayed the same, or decreased?

42% said it is worse. Another 38% said it has remained the same.

Do you own a gun for protection?

31% said they owned a gun. Another 18 percent said they are considering buying one.

Which factors tend to increase the crime problem locally?

91% said gang and drug activity.

83% said the absence of a responsible parent or role model tends to increase crime activity among juveniles.

75% said lenient sentencing equals more crime.

50% said racial tensions were not likely to contribute to crime.

Not rated as significant factors were unemployment and poverty, and the lack of a police presence.

Have the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County done enough to deal with the crime problem?

79% said more needs to be done.

Are the courts too lenient or too tough?

78% said they are too lenient.

Do you plan to vote in the District Attorney race in November?

91% said they plan to vote in that contest.

What would help solve the crime problem?

96% said tougher sentencing.

88% said more programs for juveniles outside regular school hours.

85% said more mental health and substance abuse programs.

70% said only violent offenders should be incarcerated. Ranks Charlotte, N.C. 14th Most Dangerous City

(Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, N.C.-S.C. metropolitan statistical area)

Population: 1,635,133

Violent Crimes per 100,000: 721

To determine our list, we used violent crime statistics from the FBI's latest uniform crime report, issued in 2008.

The violent crime category is composed of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

We evaluated U.S. Metropolitan statistical areas--geographic entities defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget for use by Federal agencies in collecting, tabulating and publishing federal statistics--with more than 500,000 residents.

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Sources: CNN, CQ Press, DemComWatch,, McClatchy Newspapers, MSNBC, Neighbors For A Safer Charlotte, Politico, St. Louis Today, WCNC, Youtube, Google Maps

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