Framework agreement between city, RNC in limbo

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A framework agreement between the city of Milwaukee and the Republican National Committee is now in limbo after an amendment to the plan — related to hosting the 2024 Republican National Convention — was brought forward today, but no action on it was immediately taken by the Common Council’s Steering & Rules Committee.

What happens next is in the hands of the committee chair, Common Council president Ald. Jose Perez. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

“The Mayor’s Office has been in communication with a number of Council members, and as those private discussions take place, we will, for the time being, keep those discussions private,” said Jeff Fleming, communications director for Mayor Cavalier Johnson, on Thursday.

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The framework agreement encompasses logistical issues for the RNC ranging from lodging and parking for RNC members and security guidelines.

Milwaukee and Nashville are the two remaining candidates being considered to host the 2024 RNC.

After over an hour of closed session discussion today by the committee, Ald. JoCasta Zamarripa brought forward an amendment requesting the Republican National Committee to commit to raising another $6 million to go directly to the city of Milwaukee to address needs such as housing and workforce development. Zamarripa cited her personal disagreement with past state legislation passed by the Republican-majority Legislature as the reason for seeking the amendment.

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Further discussion on the amendment was held.

“As much as I would like to see that additional benefit come back to the city of Milwaukee, I’ve been informed that (request) would in fact kill the deal in terms of discussion with the (RNC) host committee. I’m not ready to kill that deal,” said Ald. Michael Murphy.

The initial framework agreement was met with skepticism even before the closed session discussion. Ald. Robert Bauman questioned whether the estimated $200 million economic impact of Milwaukee hosting the RNC is accurate.

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“I’ll stipulate that there’s some economic benefit. But frankly it bothers me that we’re just throwing around this number,” said Bauman.

The $200 million estimate comes from an economic impact study conducted by the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Public Affairs in Cleveland following the 2016 RNC. However, the city Cleveland is able to benefit from sales tax collections, while the city of Milwaukee does not. Most sales tax revenue goes to the state of Wisconsin.

Bauman also took issue with nothing being in the RNC framework agreement that guarantees the city’s general purpose fund would see additional revenue from hosting the event.

Lafayette Crump, Department of City Development commissioner, said if Milwaukee were to turn the RNC away, it would be a “political stunt” that would only harm the city.

“There have been criticisms, as you would expect, of the city considering having this event here. What I want to talk about is what are the opportunities for those who disagree with the event,” Crump said.

He said hosting the RNC would be a prime opportunity for Milwaukeeans wanting to have their voices heard, as political leaders and news organizations from all over the world would be in the city.

One other concern addressed during Wednesday’s meeting was that of security, an issue that also came up when Milwaukee was set to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention, which ended up being a mostly virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, causing the city to lose out on the estimated 50,000 visitors and $200 million in anticipated economic impact.

Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic questioned what the cost to the city would be in terms of having police staffed for the RNC, what the particular rule related to guns would be and what areas would be open for protests.

“I am personally concerned about security. I was not here for the DNC debate, but I know there were debates about that as well,” she said.

Nick DeSiato, chief of staff for the Milwaukee Police Department, said the cost of securing the RNC and surrounding event venues is estimated to start at $50 million. That estimate comes from a federal grant the city requested for the 2020 DNC for security. DeSiato also explained that there would be different level “zones” surrounding the event that would have varying rules as to traffic, protesting and carrying guns.

The Republican National Committee is expected to make a final decision between Milwaukee and Nashville by the end of next month. The 2024 RNC would bring between 45,000 and 50,000 visitors to Milwaukee.

“We are hopeful that the benefits of a Republican convention in Milwaukee will be realized for all the hardworking people at our hotels and restaurants,” said Fleming.

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