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City leaders reflect on what would have been first day of DNC

NOW: City leaders reflect on what would have been first day of DNC

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Monday, July 13 was supposed to be the first day of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, but the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed those plans the expectations of what was supposed to be a national spotlight moment for Milwaukee.

For Bucks Senior Vice President and DNC Host Committee Finance Chair Alex Lasry, the date is made all the more bittersweet with Monday’s ideal summer weather.

“Today was exactly what we promised,” Lasry told CBS 58 in an interview. “It was going to be the exact start to the convention and the exact start to showing the 50,000 people who were going to attend and the hundreds of millions who were going to watch, the Milwaukee that we pitched.”

Milwaukee beat out several larger cities, including finalists Houston and Miami. That was proof, Lasry said, that Milwaukee deserved to be in the conversation of other major cities for hosting high-profile conventions and events. He, like other event organizers, hope to push for those types of events going forward.

“I still believe that Milwaukee can put on a good show,” Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters in a news conference Monday. “I think what we’re going to do is we’re going to make lemonade out of this and show people what a great city this is, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.”

The DNC was expected to bring tens of thousands of people to the city, raising Milwaukee’s profile on a national and even international level. The economic impact on the ground alone was going to be unprecedented for an event in Wisconsin.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the DNC to scale back dramatically, as well as push the start date of the four-day event to August 17. Events are shifting from Fiserv Forum to the Wisconsin Center. While it’s not what leaders were expecting, they believe it’s the right choice.

“That helps you put things in perspective,” Barrett said of the devastating and continued effects of the pandemic, including its death toll and total infections.

For Lasry, success is measured in two ways. First, he hopes the city’s profile can still be raised and have benefits for the future. Lasry also hopes the event gives presumptive democratic nominee Joe Biden a platform to lead him to success in November.

In a statement, Biden for President Wisconsin State Director Danielle Melfi said, “[Joe] Biden intends to accept the Democratic nomination in Milwaukee, and this convention is a critical opportunity to unite the country around his vision for a better, safer future. Democrats are planning a convention that is both successful and safe, unlike Donald Trump, whose reckless response to the pandemic has cost lives and destroyed the economy."

Republicans will hold a mix of events for the RNC.

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