Milwaukee's RNC contract at risk after Common Council committee asks for more funds to benefit city

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Common Council is Steering & Rules Committee put a vote over a contract between the city and the Republican National Convention on hold after concerns were brought up over how the city government could benefit financially from hosting the event.

The contract puts in place the framework for the city to host the 2024 RNC. Milwaukee is a finalist, along with Nashville, to host the event.

"This convention elevates Milwaukee and it elevates Milwaukeeans," City Development Commissioner Lafayette Crump told city alders at the committee meeting.

RNC Host Committee members and other officials touted the benefits of hosting the Republican National Convention in 2024 before members of the Steering & Rule Committee. That included addressing pushback by some local groups that called on the city to reject the convention because of the GOP platform.

"There will be those who want to protest," said Crump. "There's no better place and time to protest what's happening than when the biggest event in politics is happening in your city."

Officials also promoted an estimated $200 million economic windfall for the city if it hosts the event.

But some alders, including Ald. Bob Bauman, expressed skepticism.

"I've seen a considerable amount of academic research that severely challenges the legitimacy of that number," Bauman said.

Bauman noted with how the city's tax structure is in place, the city would not see direct benefit for the local government's budget.

"We need cash," Bauman said. "We need cash and not one dime of this $200 million comes into the pocket of the city to pay for all these services that we're obligated to perform and that's my problem."

Officials clarified the $200 million figure comes from studies done on previous RNC and DNC hosts and the impacts there and how it would relate to Milwaukee.

The committee then entered a closed session discussion which included talks with other city officials and just themselves.

Because of the pushback, Ald. JoCasta Zamarripa introduced an amendment requiring the host committee raise more funds to directly benefit the city government.

"This amendment will ask the host committee to raise another $6 million to give to the city of Milwaukee for good things for our people," Zamarripa said. "Things around housing, higher education and workforce development."

With the amendment in place, there is concern it could put the opportunity to host the convention at risk.

"As much as I would like to see that additional benefit come back to the city of Milwaukee, I've been informed that, in fact, that would kill the deal in terms of negotiations with the host committee," Ald. Michael Murphy said.

Any vote on the contract is now on hold and it will be up to Common Council president and committee chair Jose Perez to decide how to move ahead with the discussion.

"I want to see if the RNC does come to Milwaukee, I want to make sure Milwaukee benefits as best as possible," Perez said.

Perez said he will be discussing with committee colleagues as well as city officials over how and when to move ahead with negotiations over the contract.

Perez also mentioned Wednesday was the first time the committee had learned of a supposed deadline for approving the contract. Gerard Randall, a member of the host committee, told alders there was a deadline of Friday, June 3 for Milwaukee and Nashville to approve the RNC contracts in order for the organization to announce a host by mid or end of June. But after questioning that, alders learned the deadline is not in writing. An article by the Tennessean newspaper said the RNC's decision is expected at an August meeting.

Other concerns brought up during the meeting included security, public safety, impacts on residents who live in the proposed convention area and workforce shortages.

However, Mayor Cavalier Johnson told reporters earlier Wednesday he is confident the full Common Council will eventually approve the contract.

"It's not a one-off thing, it's not a political thing," Johnson said. "It's about putting Milwaukee in the best possible light, we attract more growth, more development, more conventions, more tourism, more dollars to Milwaukee."

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