Mil­wau­kee shows off to at­tract Demo­cratic con­ven­tion

Wisconsin Gazette - - Front Page - By Lisa Neff Staff writer

Alex Lasry went to Philadel­phia in 2016 to serve as a del­e­gate for Hil­lary Clin­ton at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion.

But in 2020, the Bucks’ se­nior vice pres­i­dent might be able to stay put for the con­ven­tion, be­cause Mil­wau­kee could be its host city.

Lasry and oth­ers lead­ing the ef­fort to bring the con­ven­tion to Mil­wau­kee hosted mem­bers of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sory team for two days.

Nine­teen peo­ple — who ar­rived at Gen­eral Mitchell In­ter­na­tional Air­port begin­ning Aug. 27 — lodged in lo­cal ho­tels, toured are­nas and cen­ters, rode buses, and checked out eater­ies, pubs, and gal­leries. They also min­gled with more than 150 busi­ness and com­mu­nity lead­ers at a meet-and­greet Aug. 28.

“We wanted to show the com­mit­tee that Mil­wau­kee is a unique city that could throw a re­ally great con­ven­tion,” Lasry said.

CAM­PAIGN­ING FOR THE CON­VEN­TION

Lasry is at the fore­front of the ef­fort to bring the nom­i­nat­ing con­ven­tion to Mil­wau­kee, which is com­pet­ing with Mi­amiMi­ami Beach and Hous­ton for the con­tract.

An­other leader in the ef­fort is U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Mil­wau­kee, who shined at the party’s last con­ven­tion in Philadel­phia, re­mind­ing del­e­gates of the stark dif­fer­ences be­tween Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump in a pre­lude to Clin­ton’s ac­cep­tance speech.

Mil­wau­kee Mayor Tom Bar­rett also is lead­ing the cam­paign, and he too is no novice when it comes to at­tend­ing Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tions. Bar­rett’s been to the past six — the 2016 con­ven­tion in Philly; 2012 in Char­lotte, North Carolina; 2008 in Den­ver; 2004 in Bos­ton; 2000 in Los Angeles and 1996 in Chicago.

The mayor, dur­ing the DNC’s visit, de­liv­ered this mes­sage: Ex­cept for the Chicago con­ven­tions, Democrats haven’t held a con­ven­tion in the Mid­west since 1916, when Woodrow Wil­son was nom­i­nated in St. Louis.

“I also made the ob­vi­ous point that Democrats did not do well in the Mid­west in 2016,” said the mayor, whose as­sess­ment of the site visit was that it went very well.

Bar­rett said the Mil­wau­kee 2020 Bid Com­mit­tee demon­strated the city has the in­fra­struc­ture, ac­com­mo­da­tions and ameni­ties to host 50,000 peo­ple for an event that is like a po­lit­i­cal Su­per Bowl.

“It makes so much sense to have it here,” said Bar­rett.

How pos­i­tive would a po­lit­i­cal con­ven­tion be for Mil­wau­kee? “I would be ex­cited to have a Repub­li­can con­ven­tion as well,” said the mayor, who then praised the bi­par­ti­san sup­port for the cam­paign.

Lasry ap­plauded the bi­par­ti­san­ship as well, call­ing the civic push a “pro-Mil­wau­kee ef­fort.”

“Mil­wau­kee,” he said, “is a top-tier city. It’s be­com­ing one of those cities like Austin or Den­ver.”

MIL­WAU­KEE’S OF­FER­INGS

The DNC team ar­rived in Mil­wau­kee less than 48 hours af­ter the grand open­ing of the Fis­erv Fo­rum, the new home of the Mil­wau­kee Bucks and a venue for per­form­ers who draw sta­dium-sized crowds.

“The arena is by far the most im­por­tant piece,” said Thad Na­tion of Na­tion Con­sult­ing, which is sup­port­ing the cam­paign. “We have the most state-of-the-art arena (in the coun­try) at this point.”

For past con­ven­tions, ex­pen­sive retrofitting was re­quired in the are­nas, and halls for some con­ven­tions were many miles from other venues.

Na­tion boasted that in ad­di­tion to the best arena, Mil­wau­kee has 7,000 to 8,000 ho­tel rooms within walk­ing dis­tance of the con­ven­tion site. At past con­ven­tions, some del­e­gates and jour­nal­ists stayed in ho­tels 30 to 60 miles from are­nas.

“This is a city where ev­ery­thing is compact,” Na­tion said. “And it’s easy to nav­i­gate.”

The Mil­wau­kee hosts also stressed the city’s af­ford­abil­ity and weather — the con­ven­tion is set for July 13–16, 2020, the hot, hu­mid and hur­ri­cane sea­son in Mi­ami and Hous­ton.

The Mil­wau­kee lead­er­ship has pledged to raise $50 mil­lion to $70 mil­lion to host a con­ven­tion, which would have an eco­nomic im­pact of $200 mil­lion.

“This is as big as it gets,” said Na­tion.

AWAIT­ING NO­TICE

A de­ci­sion on the con­ven­tion site will not be made be­fore the midterm elec­tions and pos­si­bly not be­fore the new year.

Bid com­mit­tee mem­bers said, for now, Mil­wau­keeans can sup­port the ef­fort by writ­ing to the DNC, send­ing let­ters to news­pa­per ed­i­tors and shar­ing sto­ries about the op­por­tu­nity on so­cial me­dia.

“The big­gest thing is the com­mit­tee wants to see that Mil­wau­kee wants the con­ven­tion,” Lasry said. “So con­tinue to post to so­cial me­dia — that has an in­flu­ence. This is big for Mil­wau­kee. Share it.”

PHOTO: PAT A. ROBIN­SON

The site se­lec­tion com­mit­tee for the 2020 Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion vis­ited Mil­wau­kee in late Au­gust. Alex Lasry, right, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of the Mil­wau­kee Bucks, said com­mit­tee mem­bers were told if they came to Mil­wau­kee they’d have “the best con­ven­tion they’ve ever had.”

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