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Milwaukee council members raise issues, delay vote on hosting the Republican National Convention

Chuck Quirmbach
Milwaukee is one of two finalists for the 2024 Republican National Convention.

Economic impact and security were big issues Wednesday for members of a Milwaukee Common Council committee as they considered whether to green light potentially hosting the 2024 Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

After an animated discussion open session and then ducking into closed session, the committee delayed the vote.

It all comes as Milwaukee is one of two finalists for the 2024 Republican National Convention. The possibility is generating some controversy in the Democratic stronghold.

>> A proposed framework agreement between the city of Milwaukee and the RNC if the city is chosen to host the Republican National Convention

This week, leaders of several community organizations and unions wrote a letter opposing the hosting gig, writing: “The Republican Party, both nationally and in Wisconsin, has become an organization that supports White Supremacists, the violent attempted coup at the US Capitol to overthrow a democratic election, and continues to engineer new ways to undermine fair and democratic elections.”

City Development Commissioner Lafayette Crump told the common council Steering and Rules committee Wednesday that whether you agree with the criticism or not, one can have a different take.

“There will be those who want to protest,” he said. “There's no better place and time to protest what's happening than when the biggest event in politics is happening in your city.”

Crump continued, “If this convention is in Nashville, how do you walk in to get heard by MSNBC? How do you get heard by CNN? How do you get heard by potentially The London Times, no one's going to be paying attention to what Milwaukeeans have to say, if the convention is not here in Milwaukee.”

Alderpeople pelted Crump and other officials who support hosting the convention in Milwaukee with questions.

Ald. Bob Bauman wanted someone to back up the $200 million economic impact figure that has been bandied about. “I'll stipulate that there's some economic benefits. OK,” he said. “But it frankly bothers me that we're throwing out a number that I find highly suspicious, and everybody just believes it. The media reports it as if it's a given, as if it's an established fact. It's absolutely not an established fact.”

Bauman said it’s a prediction.

Many alderpeople also noted that the city is on the verge of insolvency. It’s facing an impending pension crisis. In an extreme scenario, the crisis could force the city to shrink its workforce by a quarter, directly impacting city services.

Ald. JoCasta Zamarripa blamed the GOP-controlled Legislature.

“The Republican-controlled Legislature has starved the city of Milwaukee for over a decade,” she said. “Not giving us our fair share of shared revenue. The inability to have a sales tax in place for the county. These things hurt!”

Zamarripa noted that Milwaukee is competing with Nashville to host the GOP convention. She pointed out that the mayor of Nashville and other prominent Republicans have spoken out against having the convention there.

She said that’s a chance for Milwaukee to level up and ask for more. “Here we have a very powerful, influential, rich, wealthy party that wants to come and have their party here. And so why would we not leverage this opportunity to get as much as we can for our people, and for our city?," she asked.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Zamarripa introduced an amendment that would require the host committee to provide the city $6 million to address housing, higher education and workforce development.

The Journal Sentinel adds that Ald. Michael Murphy said he had been told the addition of that requirement would kill the negotiation with the host committee.

Other alderpeople echoed concerns they had when the city was preparing to host the DNC. They want to ensure that Milwaukee small business owners get their share of the action — not just downtown businesses and the Fiserv Forum.

Security was also top of mind. Especially as the city grapples with a spike in homicides, and after shootings after a Bucks game left 21 people injured.

Nick DeSiato, chief of staff for the Milwaukee Police Department, said if Milwaukee lands the convention whether you could have a gun or even a drone would depend on how far away you were.

He said there would be soft, medium and hard zones. “Each of those different thresholds are going to have their own levels for weapons, firearms and other things that you can and cannot use," he explained.

DeSiato also addressed police staffing. He said to secure the entire city, they’d have to add officers. “We'd be looking throughout the entire country [for additional officers], but there is a priority of officers that have specific training as it relates to crowd management. That is a priority of the officer that we'll be trying to bring in,” he said.

Several alderpeople, like Milele Coggs, noted that could cause problems given tensions that have existed nationwide between communities of color and law enforcement that isn’t based in the community.

State GOP official Gerard Randall, who’s on the convention host committee, originally told the alders at the common council committee hearing that the RNC would like to announce the chosen city by the end of June.

Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic said she asked the RNC in writing about this RNC announcement deadline and was told there was no deadline. She said the comment from Randall confused the committee.

After Wednesday’s delayed vote, with no further committee discussions on the calendar yet, it’s unclear whether the RNC is still aiming to announce the chosen city by the end of June.

Maayan is a WUWM news reporter.
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