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DNC chooses Milwaukee for 2020 Democratic convention


MILWAUKEE — The City of Milwaukee, and most of southeastern Wisconsin, has about 16 months to get ready for what will be one of the biggest weeks in state history — the week of the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

On Monday, the Democratic National Committee announced that Milwaukee will be the host city for the party’s presidential convention on July 13-16, 2020. It is the first time in Wisconsin history that a major party has chosen it to host such an event.

Milwaukee beat out Miami and Houston to host the event.

After signing the agreement that will bring the convention to Milwaukee, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee Bucks Vice President Alex Lasry and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez toasted the announcemnt with some beer.

“We are ready to showcase Milwaukee on one of the largest stages in the world,” said Barrett, a former Democratic congressman.

Barrett said there’s a need for about 12,000 volunteers to help pull off the convention.

Milwaukee raised about $11 million; no city or state funds are going to the convention.

Perez said he visited each city that pitched itself to the DNC to host the convention and that choosing Milwaukee was “a very strong statement in choosing your values.”

“Milwaukee is a proud majority minority city, diversity is our greatest strength and Democrats believe that diversity is and always will be one of the things that will always make America great,” Perez said. “Milwaukee is a union town, a proud union town ... Democrats believe the union movement brought us the weekend; the union movement brings us shared prosperity.”

Meg Andrietsch, chair of the Racine County Democratic Party and secretary of the state party, said she was “ecstatic” when she heard the news.

“We have been involved since the beginning in helping put together the plan for how you make the bid,” Andrietsch said. “Milwaukee is our next-door neighbor and we’ve been working with the Milwaukee people to make this happen for Wisconsin, for the Midwest.”

State Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, was also thrilled when she heard the news.

“Wisconsin Democrats so deserve this,” Neubauer said. “People all around the state worked so hard this last election to sweep every statewide election for the Democratic ticket. People deserve to celebrate that and plan for the future.”

Focus on Midwestern states

Since the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, Democrats and then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton were criticized for not campaigning enough in Wisconsin during the general election.

Trump was the first Republican to win the states’ electoral votes since President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Now the Democrats seem intent on winning Midwestern states such as Wisconsin in the 2020 election.

“Everyone understands that Wisconsin will be a critical player in 2020 and I absolutely believe that is part of the reason we got the convention,” Neubauer said. “I think it signals really good things about the Democratic Party nationally that they understand they need to pay attention to places like Wisconsin and we are going to take nothing for granted in 2020.”

State Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Somers, agrees that Clinton should have campaigned more in Wisconsin before the 2016 election.

“It was a big mistake for Hillary Clinton not to campaign in Wisconsin,” Wirch said. “I think (choosing Milwaukee) shows the importance of the Midwest. That it is key. Democrats are strong in the two coasts. They’re strong in New York, they’re strong in California and now they understand how important it is to win Midwestern states.”

Racine Mayor Cory Mason said the DNC choosing Milwaukee shows how important the state will be in the 2020 election.

“We are a swing county in a swing state that may determine the future of the next president of the United States of America,” Mason said. “So, I’d say we’re pretty integral.”

“We will be the epicenter of political dialogue in 2020,” Gov. Tony Evers said.

Next year Racine County and other counties will be solidifying their delegates to send to the convention.

Andriestsch said she is going to try to become one of the delegates Racine at the convention, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

Impact on Racine

The convention venue, the $500 million home of the NBA Milwaukee Bucks, opened in September and is the latest addition to a rejuvenated Downtown. An arena district with restaurants and a 90-unit apartment building is in the works. About $5 billion is being spent on projects in and around Downtown, including luxury apartment buildings, hotels, and the 25-story BMO Tower office building. A new streetcar began running a 2.5-mile route in November, going from the city’s lakeshore to Downtown.

Beyond politics, Milwaukee hosting the convention is likely also going to have an effect on surrounding communities like Racine County.

Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave said “regardless of the political party, an event of this magnitude is a huge win for the entire southeastern Wisconsin region. We hope convention attendees find their way to the many fantastic businesses and amenities that Racine County has to offer.”

“All the restaurants are going to be bustling and the parking is going to be crazy, and it’s going to be wonderful,” Andrietsch said.

Dave Blank, CEO of Real Racine, said this event has the potential to be bigger than the 100th anniversary of Harley-Davidson, and that it’s expected that 50,000 people are going to come to the area.

“We have some of our hotel rooms as part of the hotel block,” Blank said. “We’ve been working with Visit Milwaukee for the last couple of weeks trying to get some Racine rooms within the room block because they were looking for so many thousands of them.”

Blank said Real Racine has been instructed by Visit Milwaukee to try to keep the hotel rooms under $250 per night. So far, Delta Hotels by Marriot Racine and DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Racine Harbourwalk have agreed to have a block of rooms for the convention.

Mason, a former Democratic state representative, said the city will “lend a hand to Milwaukee anyway we can to make the 2020 DNC event a success.

“I think it’s another opportunity for people coming across the country to see just how beautiful Racine is. It’s not that far from Milwaukee, and I know from going to other DNC conventions it’s certainly a lot closer than a lot of the outlining communities they had people staying at, particularly when I was in Philadelphia (in 2016),” Mason said.

“I think we’ve got a lot to offer for people who are coming here from across the country, for people who want to see our Frank Lloyd Wright sites or go to the best-rated beach on the Great Lakes (Racine’s North Beach), I think there’s a lot of exciting things for people far and wide to see. We just need to embrace those visitors with open arms the way we usually do.”

Not only do Milwaukee and the surrounding counties need to house politicians, campaign workers and delegates, there is likely a chance that there will be protesters and news media that need to find lodging and entertainment at night.

“I believe it will absolutely be a boom to local businesses,” Neubauer said. “It will be a really exciting moment for Wisconsin, and particularly for our part of the state.”

Wirch said he’s not sure if he’ll go to the convention, but is happy that local businesses can benefit from this event.

“This is going to be an exciting presidential year, and we will be right in the middle of it,” Wirch said. “It’s good for the economy, it’s good for business, and I like to see all of that money coming into our area.”

“Everyone understands that Wisconsin will be a critical player in 2020 and I absolutely believe that is part of the reason we got the convention.” State Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine

Waterford to further explore roundabout idea

WATERFORD — Village officials will be further exploring — and taking a survey regarding — the possibility of building a roundabout at a troublesome Downtown intersection.

The Waterford Village Board voted unanimously on Monday evening to spend what it takes to get a cost for a roundabout at the intersection of East Main and Milwaukee streets, and to compare that action with other possible options such as signalizing the intersection. Village Administrator Zeke Jackson estimated that might cost about $3,000 to $5,000.

The plan for the intersection is to install separate left-turn and straight lanes there during the upcoming construction season.

He estimated a roundabout might cost about $750,000 to $1 million. Over time though, he said, traffic signals are more expensive.

Village officials will also be putting a survey question in with the next utility bills that go out on March 20; it will ask residents what they think about the roundabout possibility.

The board’s decision to seek more information and opinions took only 10 minutes, but it followed 47 minutes of public comments and questions for Jackson. He said he will be seeking board members’ advice on the survey question.

“Wording will be important,” Jackson said.

Village President Don Houston explained the problem with the Milwaukee and East Main intersection, especially for those who don’t live in the village. Westbound drivers on East Main Street are supposed to stop, but eastbound drivers do not. People get confused, and some wind up running the stop sign.

“Everybody hates that intersection,” he said Monday evening.

About five years ago, the village considered putting a roundabout there, Houston said, but engineers said there was not enough room. But since then, the village has acquired the property at the northeast and northwest corners.

That gives enough room for a roundabout, but raises another issue: installing one would slice about 20 percent off each of those two properties, likely limiting the size of anything to be built on them when they are redeveloped.

The other main concerns and questions voiced by residents and village trustees Monday were about the cost of a roundabout compared with other options and about whether children would be able to safely walk through it on their way to and from school.

“My concern is the kids,” said resident Dennis Gahagan.

The Facebook survey

The coming survey follows an informal one conducted on Facebook about the idea. There, about 300 people expressed their opinions, with about 57 percent in favor and 43 percent opposed, Jackson said. He acknowledged that not 100 percent of them were current village residents.

The Facebook respondents who were in favor of a roundabout tended to be in the demographic likely to have children living at home, Jackson said.

In answer to a question, Jackson said a roundabout there would be likely to reduce tractor-trailer (semitrailer) traffic through there, because most truck drivers do not like threading their way through roundabouts. But the roundabout would accommodate semitrailers, he said.

Jackson said roundabouts are safer than other types of intersections, resulting in fewer serious crashes, although low-speed collisions can increase.

Trustee Bob Nash said he is currently not in favor of building a roundabout. But he suggested checking with other communities that have had them for years to see if officials in those places have had good experiences with them.

Trial begins for Dominique Knight, accused of killing Harry Canady

RACINE — Dominique Knight, 26, is accused of killing 20-year-old Harry Canady Jr. The homicide case is going to trial this week.

Canady was shot and killed in May 2017 while standing on his girlfriend’s porch on the 600 block of North Memorial Drive.

One of the prosecution’s prime witnesses — Donte Shannon, who was shot and killed by police while reportedly fleeing after a traffic stop in January 2018 — had admitted to having been the one who drove Knight to Canady’s girlfriend’s home, according to a criminal complaint.

However, since Shannon is no longer able to testify, his testimony has been stricken from the record.

According to court records, a warrant was issued for Knight’s arrest two days after Canady’s death, but he wasn’t formally charged until August.

A trial was scheduled for July, but it got pushed back eight months until now.

Knight is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and possession of a firearm by a felon, both of which are felonies.

Jury selection took place Monday. The trial is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Racine County Law Enforcement Center, 717 Wisconsin Ave. It is expected to end on Thursday, but could be extended into Friday if necessary.

After considering representing himself in court and rejecting plea deals, and three prior attorneys withdrawing from the case, Knight is being represented by Russell J.A. Jones.

The prosecution is led by Assistant District Attorneys Rebecca Sommers and Lucas Bennewitz.

Stays seated

When a jury or the judge enters or exits a courtroom, the attorneys and the accused customarily stand up. However, on Monday, Judge Mark F. Nielsen told them to remain sitting.

Knight is in custody, and his legs were bound with cloth restraints Monday, even though he was wearing civilian clothes — a pale-blue button-down and navy blue tie.

To avoid affecting the jurors’ perception of the accused, Nielsen wanted to make sure Knight’s binds weren’t seen. So he ordered both Knight and the attorneys to remain sitting as the potential jurors filed in.

“I don’t want a situation where the defendant is the only guy sitting,” Nielsen explained.