President Joe Biden Is Coming to Milwaukee

He will participate in a CNN town hall at the Pabst Theater.

Things didn’t work out for Milwaukee with the Democratic National Convention, but President Joe Biden will travel to Milwaukee next Tuesday in his first official trip outside of Washington, D.C., and his home state of Delaware since being sworn in as the 46th U.S. president last month.

President Biden will participate in a CNN town hall at the Pabst Theater that will be broadcast to a nationwide audience. The town hall will air live from the historic Downtown venue at 7 p.m. CT, the network announced Tuesday.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper will moderate the event. An invitation-only, socially distanced audience will be present, according to CNN.

“From my standpoint, I think he’s chosen Milwaukee because of its significance to the nation,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said in a press briefing on Tuesday. “I don’t know whether it has anything to do with the convention. Quite honestly, I’m just happy he’s coming. We’re looking forward to hosting him.”

 

 

Biden decided not to travel to Milwaukee in August to accept the Democratic presidential nomination because of ongoing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. That decision, along with the lingering pandemic, led to a highly watered-down DNC and palpable communitywide disappointment over the loss of what had been expected to be a watershed moment for Milwaukee.

Biden visited Kenosha in September to meet with the family of Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha police officer during an attempted arrest.

The now-President also visited a home in Wauwatosa during a campaign event in September. He last appeared in the area in October, at a campaign stop at a hangar at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, just days before the election in which he defeated incumbent Donald Trump.

“It’s very significant and very much an honor that he has chosen Milwaukee for one of his first official visits,” Barrett said. “He wants to come to America’s Heartland. We’re tickled pink that he has chosen Milwaukee and we’re excited to have him here.”

Barrett also jokingly pledged that the city would “make sure that weather is just beautiful” for Biden’s visit. The projected high for next Tuesday is 20 degrees, a veritable heat wave compared with a stretch of single-digit temperatures in recent days.

Barrett said he believes there is significance in the choice of the Pabst Theater as the site for the town hall.

“The Pabst has been very outspoken and a leader, not just locally but nationally, in trying to fight for more resources for small arts venues. The Pabst has a long history in the city of Milwaukee and more recently it has been a thriving location for live entertainment, and it has suffered along with other arts organizations throughout the pandemic.”

Biden’s visit will give the operators of the Pabst Theater “another opportunity to make its case as to why it is important for the federal government to be supporting venues like it,” Barrett said.

“We are proud that our strong, long-term relationships with groups like CNN give us opportunities like this,” Pabst Theater Group President and CEO Gary Witt said in a statement. “We’re honored to host the President and shine a national spotlight on our city.”

Barrett said his staff has been in communication with the White House staff about the visit. At this point, however, no information has been shared as to who will be in attendance at the town hall meeting.

“This is something that the White House is controlling,” Barrett said. “They will put together the list. My assumption is that it will be a cross section of not only our community, but of the state and probably of the nation. They want to make sure that there are a lot of voices that are heard. This is going to be televised for a national audience. He’s going to want to make sure that it is relevant for the entire nation, not just for the city of Milwaukee.”

Biden’s visit will coincide with Gov. Tony Evers’ budget address.

“It is telling that President Biden has decided to counter-program a governor from his own party,” Republican Party of Wisconsin Executive Director Mark Jefferson said in a statement.

“Either the White House isn’t communicating with Democrat governors, or the Democrats realized it is in Gov. Evers’ best interest for no one to watch him unveil this budget.”

The appearance by Biden also will take place on an election day in Wisconsin.

“It’s a primary for the spring election. It’s not traditionally a heavy turnout for voting,” Barrett said. “I actually think it’s going to enhance voter turnout because between now and then there will be a lot more people talking about the fact that it is falling on election day. I think for the many people who have forgotten will now be reminded that it is an election day.”

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Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.