A Milwaukee tourism official told WISN’s “UpFront” private donors have pledged between $10 million and $20 million should the city be named host for the 2024 Republican National Convention.
“We’ve already garnered some support,” said Peggy Williams-Smith, president and CEO of Visit Milwaukee. “Obviously I can’t say who that is at this point. But we have already raised money, a significant amount of money through our bid committee, the community members who have been making phone calls, and we do have people who have agreed to give based on the fact we get it.”
A delegation from Milwaukee hosted a reception this past week during the RNC’s winter meeting in Salt Lake City.
Milwaukee is one of four finalists alongside Nashville, Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City.
“We brought a taste of Milwaukee to them,” Williams-Smith said on the program, produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com. “We highlighted what they would see in Milwaukee through the food that we served as well as the different areas. So we had a local Harley dealership who provided us with three Harley-Davidsons with a photo op so they could take a picture with a Harley. We also had a supper club set up where we had carved prime rib as well as all the accompaniments that go with that. We had a beer garden that featured a traditional Milwaukee fish fry.”
Williams-Smith said at this point it’s hard to know where the city stands, but added she feels confident.
“I continue to receive questions from the site selection committee and am in regular communication about things they need to see when they come in for their big site tour,” Williams-Smith said.
The RNC has said its next step will be to narrow the list of four cities to three.
Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley, on her decision to not seek reelection, told WISN’s Adrienne Pedersen it’s time.
“A lot of us are just at that age,” said Bewley, 70. “We’re those baby boomers, and we’ve got to get the heck out of the way.”
Bewley said she doesn’t support any of the Republican-authored election bills that will go before committees this week. But she noted she is open to some change, specifically surrounding suggestions from the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau.
“There are some things that we have that would go along with how we can monitor ballot boxes,” Bewley said. “I think as we go towards new ways for people to vote, I think that’s a reasonable thing to look at. I think internally some of the measurement techniques that the Audit Bureau saw could be improved are a very natural thing, but we don’t need legislation to enact these suggestions that the Audit Bureau made. Those can all be accomplished by internal procedural changes.”
Also, early voting is underway ahead of the Feb. 15 primary in Milwaukee’s mayoral race. Seven candidates are vying for the top two spots to advance to the April 5 general election.
The city will have a new mayor for the first time in nearly two decades after former Mayor Tom Barrett was appointed to serve as ambassador to Luxembourg for the Biden administration.
All seven candidates talked with WISN’s Matt Smith about the city’s relationship with the state.
“I’m committed to having a cot in the Capitol working day in and day out with legislators to show them the value added for Milwaukee and also explain the fiscal challenges the city of Milwaukee has,” Acting Mayor and Common Council President Cavalier Johnson said.
Former Ald. Bob Donovan said his relationship with several key Republicans could be a game-changer.
“They want to help,” Donovan said. “I’m convinced … if we are able to put together an initiative to address these things that make sense for all of us.”
One of the long-standing issues is the Legislature’s refusal to allow Milwaukee County to ask residents to raise the county’s sales tax.
“Let me just say first thing, I think a sales tax is putting a Band-Aid on cancer,” state Sen. Lena Taylor said. “So when I looked at it when the former administration brought it, and I was on (the Joint Finance Committee) and potentially the person to advocate for it, what we found is in five years the pension crisis was going to eat it all up.”
Other candidates, though, argue it’s a critical piece to Milwaukee’s economic future alongside an increase in shared revenue to address budget issues and the city’s looming pension crisis.
“It is a crisis, and it’s ballooning,” Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic said. “In one, two, three years, we will have to cut many city services – fire, police, trash collection, you name it.”
Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas said these conversations with the state would be a top priority.
“The mayor has to be able to go to Madison and speak with the Legislature,” Lucas said. “Bring other voices, whether the business community, philanthropic community, certainly the community at large and others to the table.”
Small business owner Michael Sampson said he’d bring a “common sense approach” to negotiate with Republicans and Democrats. And community activist Ieshuh Griffin said would “look at expanding what resources we can get.”
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