As the novel coronavirus outbreak continues to spread, Wisconsin Democrats are making changes to their upcoming summer conventions.
Last night, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s Administrative Committee passed an emergency measures resolution that moved all party meetings and activities online.
According to State Party Chair Ben Wikler, the resolution was meant to preserve two things: public health, and democracy.
“The coronavirus pandemic throws all of us into a really challenging new world. From the perspective of the Democratic Party, the urgent thing is to keep everyone safe while keeping our democracy functioning,” Wikler says.
The resolution canceled all congressional district conventions, cut the state convention from one day to two, and limited convention business to include only limited speeches and reports and the election of Democratic National Convention members.
“As part of that, the Party granted me the authority to determine by May 1st whether our state party convention in June should be virtual or in-person. So, we’ll be making that determination based on the public health guidance from the Department of Health Services over the next few weeks,” Wikler says.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s state convention is scheduled to be held in the Wisconsin Dells at the Wilderness Resort, which is closed until April 2nd. Wikler acknowledges that, if he does choose to hold the convention virtually, there will be some economic consequences.
“Conventions and events are great job-creating activities. Right now, anyone whose job depends on people gathering in public places and groups is facing a really grim economic outlook. That said, we have to make sure we all stay alive, and we’ll figure out the money after that,” Wikler adds.
According to Wikler, DNC planners are discussing contingency plans should the COVID-19 outbreak last deep into the summer.
Hotels across the state are seeing events and conventions scheduled over the next few weeks being cancelled, but Tricia Pugal, interim CEO of the Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association, says those cancellations taper off deeper into the calendar.
“There are cancellations a couple of months out, but there aren’t as many,” Pugal says. “So, I think people are perhaps looking at a shorter duration [of the outbreak], but that is optimistic and perhaps things will change depending on what the next couple of days and weeks demonstrate.
While the Democratic National Convention is scheduled to take place as planned, the Madison city council may back-track on an item related to the convention approved earlier this week.
On Tuesday, alders approved an intergovernmental agreement that would send police officers to Milwaukee during the DNC. If signed by the Mayor, Police Chief, and City Clerk, that agreement would allow up to a hundred MPD officers to serve in Milwaukee from July 10th to July 20th.
Yesterday, citing a “staffing crisis” in the MPD, Alder Paul Skidmore called upon the council to reconsider the approval.
“We are short-staffed and yet we’re recommending to send in excess of twenty percent of our authorized strength away for ten days to Milwaukee to assist them. I don’t oppose mutual aid, it’s the amount [I oppose],” Skidmore says. “Twenty percent percent, or a hundred officers, means that there will be a hundred officers that can’t help maintain the peace and order in Madison in the summer, which is the highest quarter of calls for service. What could possibly go wrong?”
Alder Skidmore also says those officers would be needed if any large protests took place in Madison during the DNC, but that the agreement could be “a moot point” if the convention is cancelled due to concerns about COVID-19.
If Council President Shiva Bidar adds the item back to the council’s agenda, the full city council will reconsider the measure during its next meeting, which is set for March 31st.