Even before its meeting this week, the Carolina Regional Minority Partnership Coalition released a statement asking for additional details and transparency on the contracts awarded for convention-related work. "Show me the money," it said.
"What does a goal of one-third aggregate spending with diverse businesses look like? What is that figure? CRMPC wants to know so we can tell minority business owners and Charlotte business owners what revenues can possibly help keep their business afloat, mortgages paid and lights on in this tough economy."
This is part of the push and pull since the convention location was announced and regional businesses realized the opportunities that could come with it. The convention and host committees have publicized its vendor directory, and the North Carolina businesses that have so far been a part of the awarded contracts - in areas from transportation to event planning. Every major contract is announced through the convention vendor directory; local businesses are encouraged to register and to take advantage of networking and outreach meetings.
Yet tensions have remained, with the CRMPC forming early and monitoring DNC diversity goals and results and expressing disappointment when communication with convention organizers seemed to break down. It is now asking for specifics on the money spent not only on major contracts but also on other related convention work that is not mentioned in media releases or during press conferences. That work, classified as "informal," includes courier services, technology and office supplies.
Colette Forrest of the coalition filled me in on the frustration expressed by members at this week's meeting. "We feel like the DNC is just another good-old-boy network, using the same ambiguous and unclear language that corporate America uses," she said. "We polled our members - not only were they not getting contracts, they're not even getting notices."
In May, Stephane Berwald, chair of the regional coalition's tracking and monitoring committee, sent an email to Robyn Hamilton, host committee director of business relations, asking for details on the money spent and contracts awarded.
According to Hamilton, "The Charlotte in 2012 Convention Host Committee and the Democratic National Convention Committee are committed to our unprecedented goal of at least one-third aggregate spend with diverse businesses." She said, "We are well on track to accomplish our diversity contracting mission and look forward to ensuring that the convention's economic benefits reach a diverse and inclusive business population."
During our conversation Forrest asked, "What does that mean? What does that look like?" She said that the CRMPC - with a little over a hundred members and more than 400 companies in its database - is in the initial stages of planning a community forum in July to continue the conversation and questions.
Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte-based journalist, is a contributor to The Washington Post "She the People" blog, The Root, Fox News Charlotte, and has worked at The New York Times, Charlotte Observer and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.
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