MOUNT PLEASANT, WI SEPTEMBER 26, 2022 - The local community watchdog group A Better Mt. Pleasant is launching a village-wide effort to recruit candidates to run for four seats on the Village Board of Trustees — including Village President — ahead of the April 2023 election.
In the last two elections, in 2021 and 2022, no candidate for Mount Pleasant Village Trustee faced an opponent on election day. In 2019 and 2020, just two village trustees faced an opponent out of seven seats. In fact, it’s been more than five years since every candidate had an opponent, giving voters a choice in who represents them in Mount Pleasant.
“In a village of 26,000, our trustees basically appointed themselves with only the 20 nomination signatures required to be placed on the ballot,” said Kelly Gallaher, organizer for A Better Mt. Pleasant. “We understand that asking our neighbors to begin the process of cleaning up the mess that Foxconn and Village Hall have made is a hard ask. But, 2023 presents our community with a very unique opportunity.”
Four seats, including the Village President, will be on the April ballot — representing a majority of the Village Board of Trustees.
“A possible majority sweep is something current trustees tried to avoid earlier in 2022, when they voted unanimously to extend their terms from two to three years and stagger trustee seat elections in a way that would ensure a new majority could never be elected in a single year,” continued Gallaher. “We stopped their efforts by forcing a public referendum. Rather than face a sure loss at the ballot box, our current trustees repealed their ordinance instead. We know they will try it again.”
A Better Mt. Pleasant is a non-partisan community organization. The candidate recruitment effort is not supported by any partisan political organization or campaign.
“We have talked with people who view themselves as conservative and progressive. What they have in common is a shared vision for the success of our village, not fealty to a political party.” Gallaher said, “We want to create a team that views residents as neighbors, not a nuisance.”
A Better Mt. Pleasant will offer advice and support for candidates.
“Many of us at A Better Mt. Pleasant have years of campaign experience which can be really helpful, especially for first-time candidates,” said Gallaher. “It’s a giant step into public service. We want to be as supportive and encouraging as we can for those willing to take that step forward.”
Candidates for local office can file their Campaign Registration form in early December, with all required forms due on January 3, 2023, in order to be placed on the April ballot.
“The process of running for office isn’t very difficult and we know our current trustees are vulnerable.” Gallaher continued, “Mount Pleasant voters are ready to put the failure of Foxconn behind them — and that begins at Village Hall.”
Mount Pleasant residents can find out more about running for village trustee in 2023 by contacting A Better Mt. Pleasant through email: email@example.com or through our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/abettermtpleasant.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — September 1, 2022
By Corrinne Hess
RACINE -- Unrealistic, grandiose plans with a touch of greed is how panelists at a Foxconn town hall meeting described the last five years since the mega factory was announced.
Mount Pleasant, a bedroom community of Racine, was catapulted to international prominence in 2017 when the Taiwanese-based manufacturing company announced its plan to invest $10 billion and create 13,000 high-paying high-tech jobs there.
Foxconn has massively scaled back those plans and it is unknown what the company is doing in Mount Pleasant in the four buildings it has constructed.
Lawrence Tabak, the author of "Foxconned: Imaginary Jobs, Bulldozed Homes, and the Sacking of Local Government," said every economic developer is looking for the next Silicon Valley. That's what Mount Pleasant and Wisconsin hoped it was getting with Foxconn.
"Why did the Foxconn development encompass 3,000 plus acres, when the factory — even what they were envisioning from the start — could be built on a 10th of that land?" Tabak said. "There was a grandiose expectation for what could happen and the fact that it didn't happen shouldn't surprise anyone who studies economic development."
Tabak was joined by Kathleen Gallagher, executive director of 5 Lakes Institute and a columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; State Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, and David Merriman, a professor of urban planning at the University of Illinois Chicago.
Kelly Gallaher, whose group, A Better Mount Pleasant, sponsored the event, said she did so because residents' questions were not being answered by village officials.
About 130 people attended the Wednesday night event at Gateway Technical College in Racine.
Gallaher invited the entire Mount Pleasant Village Board, Village Administrator Maureen Murphy; Mark Hogan, who helped forge the deal that brought Foxconn Technology Group to Wisconsin when he was the head of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.; Jenny Trick, executive director of the Racine County Economic Development Corp.; Tim Sheehy, president of the MMAC; and Claude Lois, who is Mount Pleasant's contracted consultant for the Foxconn project.
None of them replied or attended, Gallaher said.
Sheehy said the invite was disingenuous.
“ I was invited after the date was set, the panel was set, and it had been publicly announced," Sheehy said. "That’s fine, but it’s not an invitation, it’s an afterthought."
The audience had an opportunity to ask questions, which fell into two categories: Lois and Foxconn's obligation to pay Mount Pleasant.
Lois was hired in 2017 to manage the Foxconn project. He's an employee of Milwaukee-based engineering firm Kapur & Associates, but the village pays for his time.
Last year, the village board extended the contract with Kapur for Lois' work by two years and his pay was raised to $175 per hour. That amount is set to increase Aug. 21 to $200 per hour.
Lois served as the mayor of Burlington for four terms before deciding not to run again in 2008. After leaving the mayor's seat, Lois took a job as a division administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Revenue managing the state’s shared revenue program during former Gov. Scott Walker’s administration.
Merriman said most communities hire a consultant to manage a project, especially one like Foxconn, with such a large public investment.
In an interview, Merriman said it is unusual that a national search wasn't done before Lois was chosen.
More:Mount Pleasant continues to pay millions for Foxconn-related vendors; one politically tied consultant is paid $28K per month
Town hall audience members had questions about Lois' compensation and duties with the village. Tabak, who devoted a chapter of his book to Lois, said there are a lot of questions surrounding his work with the village.
"It's really frustrating because a lot of questions that I knew we would get tonight are questions that need to be answered by the public authorities and the professionals that are working at Village Hall, they are not here to answer those," Tabak said.
Foxconn's obligation to pay Village officials have continued to defend the Foxconn project and the money they continue to spend saying the costs will be recouped.
Bills are paid using a $911 million special taxing district created by the village of Mount Pleasant and Racine County to pay for the local portion of the Foxconn project including land acquisition and infrastructure upgrades.
Foxconn is Racine County's biggest taxpayer, coming in at about $9.1 million in 2021. That is scheduled to jump to $30 million a year in January 2024. Mount Pleasant needs that money, considering its Foxconn-related debt is more than 500% of the village's operating revenue.
According to the contract, Foxconn should have about $1.4 billion worth of value with the village, producing $28 million in tax increment.
At this time, Foxconn's value is $11.5 million, which means it has to make the village whole, or beginning next year, face a penalty, said Hintz, who also serves on the state's economic development board.
Hintz believes Foxconn will follow through — if not, the company will lose its rights to develop further. He said the problem is that the village, and Foxconn, have not been transparent.
"If you are going to take taxpayer money, you have to be transparent and you have to be accountable," Hintz said. "If the company had said, 'you know what? there isn't a market for LCD panels, the labor costs are too high here, can't compete, we need to reimagine something, maybe people would have said OK, let's figure it out. Instead, they continue to just gaslight, and lie."
Gallagher isn't as confident Foxconn will follow through on any promises.
"The financial burden is on large part on the locals, who are carrying the debt and whose homes were torn down, the issue going forward is what happens if Foxconn doesn't make that tax payment, Mount Pleasant is bankrupt," Gallagher said. "Who is answering that question? Is Foxconn answering?"
More:Property owners near Foxconn say they were misled. Now their homes are gone.
Merriman, who has studied tax incremental financing since the 1980s, said it doesn't seem like it's in Foxconn's interest to continue making payments to the village.
"We don't know what will happen — people can tell you they know, but they don't," Merriman said.
"The basic question is, is the community better off than it was before? The burden hasn't fallen on the community, but the risk has. If Foxconn decides to default, Mount Pleasant is not in a good space."
Corrinne Hess can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @corrihess