Finding a cab at any time in Charlotte is a lot harder than finding a cab at State and Madison at 4:45 pm. Especially when it rains. And rain it did in Charlotte on Monday, the day before the official opening of the Democratic National Convention.
Most Illinois delegates arrived in Charlotte on Sunday and spent Monday running between the rain drops, trying to find cabs to take them to various parties and receptions. Many Illinois delegates dropped in on the Charlotte host committee's CarolinaFest, a street festival for delegates and the public -- featuring music, food and festivity.
Gov. Pat Quinn threw a party for Illinois delegates at the Charlotte Capitol Grille on Monday evening. AFSCME sent out an email and letter to delegates saying there would be protesters outside the Quinn reception because of Quinn's push to lay off 4,000 state employees. I attended the packed Quinn party and saw no sign of protesters.
Among those at the party, Sen. Dick Durbin, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Commissioner John Daley, as well as first-time delegates looking forward to opening day.
There was a certain amount of grumbling among delegates between those with rooms at the Omni Hotel, only blocks from the Time Warner Cable Arena, and those at the Holiday Inn, further away with fewer frills. Ald. Leslie Hairston told me her room at the Holiday Inn lacked a sink!
Delegates weren't the only ones complaining about accommodations. Unlike the Republican convention, Democrats reserved no rooms for the Illinois press corps at either downtown hotel. I have a room in Gastonia (yes, it's a town) a good 45 minutes from the Time Warner Cable Arena. My first job upon arriving was to nail down all my important credentials that would let me in to the convention.
After being stuck in traffic for over an hour on the ride from my hotel to the convention center, I decided to go the last few blocks on foot. Bad decision, big downpour and no umbrella. I finally got my credentials and found my way to the PBS NewsHour work site. Media outlets are housed at the convention center which is three blocks from the Time Warner Cable Arena where the convention will be held. Fairly easy to go between the two venues on Monday, but security procedures will change that story on Tuesday.