It was high spirits at the Fiserv Forum Monday as Wisconsin politicians and Democratic Party officials announced that Milwaukee was chosen to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention (DNC). And the history of this decision was not lost on Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
"This city was founded in 1846. The state in 1848," he says. "And for the first time in the history of the city and the state, Milwaukee and Wisconsin will be hosting a major political national convention."
Milwaukee bested two other finalist cities — Miami and Houston, that have hosted national political conventions and Super Bowls in the past.
The convention is expected to bring some $200 million in economic impact to the region and more than 50,000 visitors. Barrett says accommodating all those people is going to require people-power.
"We are looking for 12,000 of our closest personal friends to volunteer at the convention," he says half-joking. "That is something that is imperative we have."
Regarding the influx of people, Milwaukee Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton says, "We have to be able to accommodate that, just with traffic and closing streets down and issuing permits for all of the events that will be happening around the area."
He notes a few other ways to address logistical concerns — potholes being one concern.
"A lot of hotels are talking about increasing their ability to be able to move people around, but as far as our interior arteries are concerned, you know, we've had a lot of conversation about potholes," Hamilton said. "I think we're going to be paying a whole lotta attention to smoothing those over the course of the next year."
State Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) is vice chair of Wisconsin's Democratic Party. He says there are a few things to anticipate, like not being able to access some downtown locations.
"You literally will have blocks of downtown that won't be accessible, unless you have credentials. And every hotel … and I can say every hotel … in the vicinity, will be booked," he explains.
By “the vicinity,” Bowen means every hotel within 20 minutes of Fiserv Forum. And will hotels outside of that range will be booked as well?
"Absolutely," he says. "I mean, you're talking about the members of the DNC, the delegations of every state. So many people who are guests of those delegations and the dignitaries, the folks who have been connected to the party for quite some time, former presidents …"
When it comes to transportation, he says, Milwaukeeans and visitors can expect special bus routes like with Summerfest. Mayor Barrett spoke about expansions of the streetcar to the lakefront and Bronzeville in his State of the City address Monday.
When it comes to event security, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales says local law enforcement has proven to the DNC it's capable of stepping up — including by coordinating with Homeland Security.
"There's already been collaboration," he says. "Why this is important is it really shows how tight-knit the law enforcement community is in the city, county and state of Wisconsin, along with our federal partners. It's going to incorporate all of us working together to keep this area/region safe."
He says the Milwaukee Police Department has already received training for how to respond to a range of events — but they will have much more. That way the department "will be prepared from the smallest of events to the biggest threats," says Morales. "When you have a large number of people in one location, law enforcement side has to do everything we can to keep the public safe, and we will do that."
With fewer than 500 days until the 2020 Democratic National Convention, the city of Milwaukee will be addressing everything from hotel space to security, making sure that everything runs smoothly.
While the conference will put Milwaukee in the political spotlight, Congresswoman Gwen Moore says it's also an opportunity for the entire country to sample brats. "... We're going to have plenty of brats, lots of beer, lots of cheese, but, more importantly, we're going to have the friendliest folks." That Midwestern hospitality, she says.