Postcard from Charlotte

By Stephanie Vardavas of Portland, Oregon. Stephanie is a political activist, attorney, mediator, and arbitrator. Editor's note: This week, we'll have on-the-floor and behind-the-scenes coverage from a number of our regulars and guest contributors. Enjoy!

Greetings from Charlotte, which feels a little bit like the center of the universe right now. My husband and I just had dinner with two old friends I hadn't seen in years. I first knew them when he lived in Connecticut and she in New York, 30 years ago. They lived in LA for more than 15 years and have now moved back to Washington, DC, where we all lived 20 years ago. But here we all were in Charlotte, eating Indian food and catching up on the news. I expect to see two more old friends tomorrow, also volunteers. This week Charlotte is the center of the universe, I'm telling you.

I'm here not as a delegate, but as a convention volunteer. I first volunteered at a Democratic National Convention in 2000 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Of course that was 12 years ago, which would seem like a long time in any case, but the differences between pre-9/11 America and post-9/11 America come into sharp focus when I reflect on the differences I've observed.

In 2000 my assignment was to stand at the special secret entrance to the Staples Center that was established for the benefit of Members of Congress, so they could enter without having to pass through magnetometers. I scanned debarking passengers from the arriving delegate buses and politely culled only the Congresspeople toward my station, like a border collie with questionable values. Just over a year later Americans' concept of security changed dramatically, and so far the change seems permanent. Everybody gets magged today. Four years ago, I was honored to serve as an Obama delegate and saw Members of Congress passing through the same security checkpoints I did. On the final night of the 2008 Convention I stood in a security line for over an hour to get magged and have my bag searched for the final session at Invesco Field. Security seems every bit as tight this time.

This time I've got a closer-up view of the security. I'm on a detail that collaborates with the Secret Service to protect the podium and backstage areas. I've never done this before so I'm really looking forward to it. It promises to be very interesting. Don't get too excited - you won't be getting any inside information from me about the Convention security processes, except to say: don't try anything. We won't let you through, and the Secret Service have our backs. Because we work with the Secret Service, we have to dress like them, and that means conservative dark suits. Like most Oregonians, I don't wear suits very often, so this too is a novelty for me.

My husband (a delegate) and I flew from Portland to Charlotte on Saturday so that I could be here in time for Sunday's training session and walk-through of the two arenas where the sessions will take place. Most of the Convention will take place in the indoor Time Warner Cable Center, but like 2008 we're scheduled to be outdoors in the local NFL stadium for the final session on Thursday. I'm a little edgy about Thursday, not really because of the security challenges, but because I'll have to spend at least two four hour shifts standing at security posts in an outdoor stadium wearing a suit. In the summer. In North Carolina. Yeah.

I'm pleased to report that the Oregon delegation will have much better seats at Time Warner Cable Center than we did four years ago at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Four years ago Oregon had literally the WORST seats of any delegation, a combination of distance and oblique view that were not only worse than every other state, but worse than all the non-states as well. Washington DC, Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, even the Democrats Abroad had better seats than we did. This time we did much better: about two-thirds of the way back, stage left, the first few rows of elevated seats (the 100 level) above the actual convention floor. Having the elevation is good because it really improves the sightlines. It's a huge improvement.

I haven't seen many of the Oregon delegates yet. I hope to see them Monday night at a delegation event. I'll report on Monday's events afterwards. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments, and perhaps some of the delegates will weigh in here too.

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    Please keep us informed with detailed descriptions. Many of us Obama supporters wish we could be there but are unable to, and would love to hear from you. Thanks for volunteering.

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    These reports are of value. I would also highly recommend the reporting done by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. This program is carried on over 900 stations and is on at seven AM on Portland's first and only progressive station KBOO, 90.7. Contrary to what Carl Wolfson says (incidentally he wants flouride in your water? YUC) and supports GMO advocate from the fifth district.

    An informed electorate is the key to a democracy and ours is hanging by a thread.

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