FCA Executive Director Corrects Milwaukee Business Journal Article Titled, Strauss Brands' HQ, slaughterhouse in Franklin up for court-ordered do-over vote In E-Mail to Sean Ryan
Dear Mr Ryan,
I felt compelled, no- actually required, to contact you regarding your recent article titled, "Strauss Brands' HQ, slaughterhouse in Franklin up for court-ordered do-over vote." For some time now, I've felt your reporting on this ongoing 15 month legal saga has been very one sided, incomplete, and potentially misleading. But your latest article is far more egregious in its level of inaccuracy and shortcomings.
First, I would like to cover all the items reported incorrectly or in a misleading manner:
Currently (and several times previously) you reference a 152,035 sq ft Strauss slaughterhouse. The approval actually encompasses 2 phases, the 2nd of which is for an additional 130,000 sq ft. That brings the total size of the development being considered and voted on to 282,035 sq ft. For perspective, that would make this facility slightly larger than one quarter the size of the state's largest shopping mall- Southridge - located 6.5 miles away.
You characterized the Franklin Community Advocates lawsuit as one based on procedural and open meetings laws violations. Although there are numerous causes of action listed in our lawsuit, including the two you mentioned, the judge ordered these remand hearings based on due process violation (guaranteed in the US Constitution), suggesting this matter is of greater importance than has ever been reported here.
You wrote, "That lawsuit filed in December 2020 resulted in a late January Milwaukee County Circuit Court Order..." This statement is incredibly misleading. That lawsuit filed over a year ago, after months of various motions, finally resulted in the Court order of January 2022, effectively tossing out the original flawed approval, and requiring the meetings be held again by the City, this time in a manner which would not violate their own citizens rights.
You wrote, "that process kicks off..." While this may seem minor to you, your use of language minimizing the gravity of the upcoming events is of significant concern to me. The State Fair "kicks off" on a specific date. To sound so flippant regarding the courts order, is both insulting and a poorly veiled attempt to mischaracterize the importance of what will occur. Franklin Community Advocates, has had to invest thousands of volunteer hours and raise over $70k, in order to sue their own City government, on behalf of the citizens, to simply force said government to actually listen to their constituents and do the bare minimum required.
You then go on to quote our Mayor, "The public hearing is a remand by Judge Hannah Duggan as a do-over. It comes out of a hearing where two documents are to be added to the record." Had you bothered to make any attempt to fact check this comment, or look at the court required Motion to Correct the Record (available to anyone through FCA's website), the Judge required the City's attorney in this case to apologize to the court for misrepresenting facts, and file the following statement: "At the hearing, the Court instructed the City of Franklin to file a Motion to Correct the statement in its Motion for Reconsideration regarding the scope of the remand. The City’s Motion for Reconsideration stated that, at the court’s November 16, 2021 motion hearing, the court remanded the case to the City of Franklin for due process purposes to include two documents (a police log and an alderperson’s economic study) that were not contained in the administrative record of proceedings. This aforementioned statement in the Motion for Reconsideration is hereby withdrawn; instead, said motion should have reflected that the court was remanding the entire matter, not just for supplementation of those two records, for such purposes." What is really incomprehensible is that the court required this correction on Jan 21st. You then quote our Mayor, on Feb 6th, restating the erroneous information the court already called the city out on. This has now prompted FCA to seek sanctions against the City's attorney. More importantly, how is it that a lay person can manage to obtain, read, and understand a court motion, yet Franklin's Mayor cannot seem to comprehend that same crystal clear wording, and the area's local business reporter cannot be bothered to fact check the information being supplied?
Furthermore, you've not even bothered to fact check minor details. You state, after the initial "no" vote on Strauss by the Common Council, they "called for the reconsideration a month later and voted to approve it." The reconsideration was held two weeks after the initial denial, not one month, and with the addition of no new information. You could actually find those correct dates in a previous article of yours.
You also call out that an "economic impact report....predicted the new Strauss Brands facility would create $162.1 million in additional economic activity." That report, now branded under a Strauss cover page, was actually written by Alderman Hanneman, the person who flipped on her original vote. While we at FCA applaud Alderman Hanneman for continuing her education, and getting a Masters Degree in Economics later in life, she is in no way qualified to conduct such a study. More importantly, an economic impact study was absolutely necessary, but Strauss should have been required to conduct one, by hiring 3rd party experts, and paying for it. As has been the case throughout, Franklin Community Advocates has now been forced to find a national expert, contract with them at a cost of roughly $25,000, and get an appropriate study which should have been done years prior to this point. An accurate study will incorporate a broad focus on property values and an actual quantification of changes, rather than 8 pages of hearsay and wishful thinking. An even bigger issue here seems to be, if Alderman Hanneman is acting as an agent for Strauss, producing their economic impact study, however flawed and inadequate, why would she not be required to recuse herself from the approval process?
You state, "the lawsuit is on hold until the City of Franklin completes its current review of a special use permit." This is also characterized incorrectly. The lawsuit is ongoing, and these court ordered remand hearings are the next step required. Regardless of the outcome of the actual meetings, the court has made it clear they will maintain jurisdiction of this issue (language also available in the filed court documents.)
I understand your goal is to promote and report on business development, but at what point are you at cross purposes when you bend and manipulate the truth to champion something so undesirable?. And if this slaughterhouse is going to be such a good thing for the community, why have the two local builders, Harbor Homes and Kaerek Homes, never disclosed on their website, or in any of their material, that they're selling $500+ homes to unsuspecting buyers in the same development? For that matter, why haven't you written about the Milwaukee area getting a unique new development, the only one of its kind in the country? The "Loomis Business Park," with no acreage zoned for business, but instead a subdivision (Ryan Meadows), surrounded by heavy industrial developments, so far to include a slaughterhouse a quarter of the size of Southridge, and a 55 acre auto auction salvage business.
Sean, I have no doubt that you're a good person, and you normally do a great job, but with regards to this matter -- PLEASE DO BETTER
Franklin Community Advocates