About 700 local residents and business owners packed the Cooley Theater at Milwaukee Area Technical College Tuesday night, with lots of questions about how to get involved in the upcoming 2020 Democratic National Convention.
The downtown event was the first of three 'community conversations' being held by Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee and the Democratic National Convention Committee this week to update the public on the convention planning process as well as business and volunteer opportunities.
Informative remarks by a panel of host committee and DNCC leaders were followed by a 20-minute Q&A with the audience. Leaders were available after the public portion of the event for additional questions. A number of attendees took advantage of that offer.
Many of the attendees at Tuesday's event had received invitations after signing up to be part of the convention's
15,000-person volunteer corps. More than 10,000 people had already expressed their interest in volunteering when the host committee launched its online volunteer portal
in late January.
But recruitment efforts continue to fire on all cylinders, said Neisha Blandin, vice president of engagement and opportunity at Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee.
"For those you-- many of your friends, relatives-- who may not have expressed interest yet, there is still time," she told the audience. "We are still recruiting volunteers, our work is not done-- we're only just ramping up."
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who made brief opening remarks, admitted was initially shocked at the sheer number of volunteers needed to put on the convention, but said he is confident the committee will hit its recruitment target.
Organizers plan to develop a park-and-ride-style system for volunteers coming into town for the convention, said Cameron Moody, director of operations for the DNCC, responding to a question from an audience member who asked where 15,000 volunteers would park in downtown Milwaukee.
Moody said a location for the park-and-ride has yet to be determined.
A small business owner in the audience asked how she and others should be proactive about securing convention opportunities.
The host committee earlier this week launched
its vendor search portal
, where individuals and groups coming to town for the DNC will be directed to find a variety of products and services.
Lafayette Crump, deputy chief of staff and vice president of diversity and inclusion at the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee, said businesses can sign up for the portal up until the July convention.
In addition, he encouraged businesses to reach out directly to the host committee with
questions "about whether or not we will actually need your services or if it's the type of thing that others will be looking for."
"There may be opportunities that we can connect you with even sooner than someone just looking for you come July," Crump said. "It's also a great time to update your website, update your social media and think about marketing yourself more than you usually do."
Questions about traffic safety and security plans were answered in less detail, with more information promised in the future. Mooney said Milwaukee Police Department has been meeting with businesses within the footprint, and security-related questions should be directed to MPD at DNCMPD@milwaukee.gov.
Community conversations will also take place at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 26 at Journey House on Milwaukee's south side and on Feb. 27 at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church on the north side.
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