Democratic Convention In Milwaukee Needs Money, Venues And Volunteers

Oct 14, 2019

The local host committee for next summer's Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Milwaukee says it's still looking for money, hundreds of sites, and thousands of volunteers.

The convention runs July 13-16, 2020.

Officials have been trying to raise $70 million to pay for buses, parties and other things for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination event, including more than $20 million locally. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says the fundraising is coming along.

"There are always going to be challenges there. But I think we're in a good place right now on that. A lot of the work will be done next year, but I know they're working very hard on that," Barrett told news reporters.

Barrett and Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee President Liz Gilbert are not revealing the amount of money raised so far.

Leaders of the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee speak to Monday's meeting of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

But during a meeting Monday of the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC), Gilbert and key members of her team spelled out the other things they seek from the community. Committee vice president for engagement and opportunity, Neisha Blandin, says she's looking for 15,000 volunteers to help what may be as many as 50,000 visitors. Blandin says Milwaukee and Wisconsin have a strong record of volunteering.

"We have fertile ground here, to recruit 15,000 volunteers. And, as much as I would like to think I could go up to everyone and ask them one-on-one to sign up, that's probably not going to happen. Right? So, that's why I want to partner with all of you," Blandin said.

Kelly Gleeson is the host committee's vice president for events and production. She says about 2,000 convention-related events will take place, about 75% of those during the convention period. Gleeson says based on other political conventions, she's looking for venues large and small, and not just downtown.

"And it doesn't specifically have to be an events space. It can be a yoga studio. It can be a hair salon. In Charlotte and Denver, any sort of place you can imagine for an event, somebody had an event there," Gleeson said.

Liz Gilbert, Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee president, hopes people and businesses within the as-yet unannounced security perimeter won't leave the city during the DNC.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

Host Committee President Gilbert says caterers and owners of potential venues, by the hundreds, are showing interest in the convention. Some formal requests for vendor proposals may be going out this week.  

Gilbert is also addressing one controversy that's come up — whether businesses and residents who are within the as-yet unannounced security perimeter will be financially harmed or inconvenienced by the convention. She says she doesn't want those people to close their doors and leave town for the week.

"It is our goal to make sure those who have said, '50,000 people are coming to town, I gotta go,'  we want to explain to them no, stay here, be part of this. We are about to have company. We don't want to show up to an empty house," Gilbert told WUWM.

Gilbert says some details of the convention security zone will be released in January.

You can find information about volunteering and hosting an event with the DNC here.