Saturday, August 30, 2008

DNC in Denver -- Day Four

August 27, 2008

We get to the AFSCME caucus this Wednesday morning just as my name is called to be a contestant in a takeoff on the "Price is Right." My guess on the average annual cost of family health care coverage was too low -- it's now well over $12,000 a year! Morning speakers included Harry Reid, Steny Hoyer, and Congressman Abercrombie from Hawaii. The need to make affordable health care available to all Americans is the top theme for all speakers. It has been the top theme for our union for at least the last 16 years. I sure hope to see be around when it happens. We had lunch, I said goodbye to some good AFSCME friends I don't expect to see again, and we went to get ready for the convention shuttle.

Street traffic is really heavy. Vendors are everywhere, as are the shoppers. According to vendors, the favorite tshirt of cops is the one that says "Black Man Running -- And Not From the Police." It is also popular with photographers.

Wednesday is vote day at the convention. The importance of the day seemed to energize the cadre of demonstrators who took the street in the largest parade we've seen. Delegate dress up also seems to reach new heights.

Also in town is a small caravan traveling the U.S. to focus attention on the fact that the current administration's promise to rebuild New Orleans remains substantially unfulfilled. A sunrise service is scheduled for the third anniversary of the hurricane -- August 29th.

This night there is a potential for suspense filled drama in the convention hall, but Hillary's motion to elect Obama by acclimation brings down the curtain on her campaign and results in a unanimous vote to nominate Barack Obama as the Democratic Party's candidate for the presidency of the United States of America.

Related photos are on Picasa.

DNC in Denver -- Day Three

Wednesday, 2008_0826

So much sunshine and such friendly people!

There are locations throughout the city where you can pick up a free bike, ride it all day, and return it to any of the bike locations. It is a project sponsored by the Humana Corporation.

Sarah and I got outfitted and set out to see the South Platte River. The first leg of the trip was a white knuckle one for me. I was riding an "automatic shift" bike with pedal brakes and had trouble getting the hang of it. If you remember the guy on the "Laugh In" television show who would come to a sudden stop and fall over you get the picture. Since I'm riding along side cars and buses, this was a problem. I traded for one that was more compatible at the next bike corral. We checked out the river and headed back to attend the afternoon convention session.

This was Hillary's day at the podium and everyone wanted to be on the floor. When things get this crowded, the delegation "manager" tends to get hostile when people won't listen to his direction. It's no help when the "big shots" wait until the last minute to arrive and expect to be accommodated. Sarah got a seat thanks to the kindness of a couple of delegates who had befriended her the previous day. She managed to snap some celebrities and stage scenes that give you an idea of the experience of being in the hall that night.

The sentiment on the bus home was that Hillary had clearly communicated to her supporters the importance of uniting behind Obama.

Photos will be posted on Picasa.

POSTS SUSPENDED

I'm posting from a borrowed laptop as mine is a deader. Will try to post from this machine but things will be considerably delayed.

DNC in Denver -- Finale

August 28, 2008

This is the big day. Lots of excitement in the air as folks anticipate being a part of a unique moment in history.

Breakfast was a memorial tribute to the deceased Stephanie Tubbs Jones. Her positive presence and energy was noticeably absent from this this weeks gatherings. Lots of speculation about who will be selected to fill the seat she held. Names include Peter Lawson Jones, CJ Prentiss and Reverend Dr. Marvin McMickle. Whoever it is, that person is assured of successive terms barring the always possible scandal.

We went early to Invesco Field, aka Mile High Stadium, having been warned of long lines and a large public attendance. Things went smoothly although the wait was considerably longer than at the Pepsi Center.

Once inside, it was huge. The delegate section was just a small area in front of the stage on the floor of the stadium. Sarah went to the non-delegate section and I checked out the Ohio delegations seats. Wow -- primo! Right there with Illinois, front and center. I was tempted to stay on the floor rather than switch with Sarah. Then, I figured I'm 61 and she's 21 and the story of this night's events need to be passed along for as many years possible. It may be history but even more so it is the future and it belongs especially to the young.

So, off I went to trade my credential for her guest pass, taking a bunch of pictures along the way. My favorite celebrity sighting was Gwen Ifill from PBS (The News Hour and Washington Week) -- I told her she did great work.

Once up in the stands, the long wait I had anticipated went by quickly. A highlight for me was the appearance of the individual voters who shared their story of how they came to support Obama. The finale was Obama's speech and he gave an excellent one both in terms of content and delivery.

The trip home took many hours as there were no transportation captains to manage the exit of some 80,000 people but good spirits, actually near euphoria, prevailed.

With the recess of the convention, my term as a member of the DNC ended and with it my life in official party politics. It was a great run, beginning with my first convention in New York City in 1976.

If you are reading this, thank you for coming along for my last ride.

Tomorrow, Sarah and I are off to Boulder where we can set our own schedule and check out those mountains up close.

See your email for link to related photos on Picasa.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

VISIT PICASA FOR BLOG RELATED PHOTOS

I've uploaded a web album to Picasa that illustrates the blog post for Day One. I will do the same for Day Two.

Check your email for an invitation to view the albums.

DNC in Denver -- Day Two


Monday, August 25, 2008.

We start our day at the Ohio delegation breakfast. With more than 160 members, we're one of the largest delegations at the convention and one of the most high profile based on Ohio's importance to any presidential campaign.

The daily breakfast meetings are a forum for speakers, a point of information distribution, and the place that daily credentials are distributed. Delegate credentials and guest floor and hall passes are the currency for the week. As a DNC member, I’m fortunate to receive a daily guest pass that my niece, Sarah, can use to accompany me to the convention hall.

Chris Redfern, ODP chair, started the meeting with a sharp reprimand to all present, warning against tardiness. He may not accept it, but he's engaged in a futile effort. These folks will do what they want.

Rather than sit in the enclosed and dark auditorium, we took our plates onto the balcony. Governor Strickland and his wife did the same. Sarah introduced herself to Ted and reminded him when, as a Congressman, he gave her, her father, brother and me a tour of the Capitol and took us to lunch. I was glad to see Frances and she was absolutely gracious, as always. Sarah met any number of elected officials and got some photos. That smile of hers really makes an impression!

Then it was off to the Hyatt Regency for the AFSCME caucus. The Hyatt is huge hotel with some unusual sculptures in the lobby. There was McEntee with his daily hat, the cardboard cutouts of our adversaries, and the red meat speeches. My anxiety level was through the roof as this would the most likely place for me to encounter the people with whom I parted ways when I retired.

I saw McEntee's assistant, Lee Saunders, at the side of the room and walked up to him. We had a short conversation about the consequences for AFSCME of Hillary's defeat and the union's plans for the presidential campaign. Some of the Council 8 staff, excluding those with whom I had differences, came up to say hello and say they missed me and other kind words. Very emotional.

That afternoon we visited the Denver Art Museum which offered free admission to conventioneers. Very good museum collection and extraordinary building to house it. The wing designed by architect Daniel Libeskind is striking. There are a number of outdoor sculptures that complement the building and its grounds. (I'll post my photos of some of the artworks from the museum's exhibitions as a separate album from the one that illustrates this blog.)

We walked back to the hotel past the outdoor civic center and more demonstrators. I went to a round table discussion for progressive authors and got to see up close a number of the people I read on a regular basis.

Next it was the shuttle to the convention -- gridlocked streets made for a long trip. Once we got there, entrance security was very efficient. It's always a special feeling to walk up to the convention venue for the first time. The huge building, the crowds, the noise, the costumes, the excitement -- you can't help but get a rush. This time there's an extra frisson coming from the history making aspect of this event.

Inside I made my way to Section 122. Uh oh! Ohio is not a favored state for this meeting. In the past, we've always been in the sections close to and a little right (appropriate for Ohio) of the podium. Now we are in the back sections. Good thing I brought binoculars. It's 5:50 P.M. and I find one seat in the delegation area. Sarah texts me that she is in the nosebleed section facing the back of the hall. Word runs through the crowd that Ted Kennedy will speak. I decide if she's going to get on the floor it better be now so we meet and I give her my credential. She gets in about midway through Kennedy's speech and in time for Michelle Obama's. Meanwhile, I cruise the crowded hall, see a couple of celebs, and then find a wide screen TV to watch the speech. She was great and I ran out of Kleenex. Two tear jerkers in one night plus the AFSCME experience -- I’m emotionally drained.

LONG time to get back to the hotel. There were post-convention parties but we opted for some horizontal sleep time. Sarah loved the experience. And, the people she met loved her.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DNC in Denver -- Day One


Arriving at the Columbus airport at 4:00 A.M. on Sunday, August 24, I embarked for Denver, Colorado, to attend the Democratic National Convention as a "super-delegate" from Ohio -- my last hurrah as an ODP official. My niece, Sarah, a senior at Ohio State, is my traveling companion.

We had a good flight -- a great United Airlines representative changed our all-day, three connection itinerary that included Tulsa, OK, to a quick one-stop in Chicago that got us to Denver mid-morning. Nice airport.

I was surprised that so much of the area surrounding Denver is farm/ranch land. No development until your close to the City. What really captures your attention are those mountains on the western horizon.

The scene at the Curtis Hotel was chaos -- small lobby jammed with Ohioans trying to check in to rooms not yet available. We waited it out people watching and eating the free popcorn.

First on our list after getting into a room was a walk. The 16th street mall is one block over from our hotel. A pedestrian retail corridor with free shuttle that makes a constant loop up and down the corridor. We opted for shank's mare instead of the shuttle and headed for the Capitol building.

Buskers, DNC decorations, and retail, retail, retail. A small parade of demonstrators and lots of police all along the way. And then, at the capitol, what passes these days for a street demonstration. Demonstrators have erected a "tent city" near the open air civic center across from the capitol and the population is multi-issue ranging from the Green Party to the Fulon Dong.

Denver police and those from surrounding communities have pulled out every crowd/riot/terrorist control equipment item they have -- and that's a lot. Some they had, the rest they bought with a multi-million grant from the DNC organizers to defray the cost of convention security.

With shouts of "whose street, our street" fading, we headed further south to enjoy what we were told was the best authentic Mexican food in town. A couple of miles later, passing bunches of purples sage along the way, we arrived -- starving, thirsty, footsore -- and saw the sign that told us the place was closed for a private event. We settled for burritos from QDoba's and took a bus back to 16th street.

Now it was time for the big event of the day -- a concert at the Red Rocks outdoor amphitheatre with the Dave Mathews Band and Sheryl Crow on the bill. We never made it. Once we sat down, we couldn't get back up.

Photos also posted.