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Franklin, Have We Been "Foxconn-ed" ?!?

Before we go on to detail the disastrous, wasteful and unneeded TID/TIF 6, and its damning timeline, with regards to who has profited, let’s first look at the much larger financial disaster, currently back in the news. I’m of course referring to the fully failed Foxconn development, which, although 100 times the size of our TIF, still has some interesting parallels.

The following are excerpts from an article written by Timothy L. O’Brien at Bloomberg (in bold and blue), followed by commentary drawing parallels to our TIF trouble:

Former Governor Scott Walker committed $3billion in state aid to lure Foxconn to Wisconsin. It was the biggest corporate subsidy package ever awarded to a foreign enterprise, and it immediately raised questions about whether Wisconsin would recoup its investment. Wisconsin’s troubled dance with Foxconn is a case study in cynical and damaging policy theatrics.

Mayor Olson, and our numerous “just say yes” boards, commissions, and councils, have engaged in the exact same damaging theatrics:

  • While selling citizens on a very electable platform of growth in our tax base and good jobs, they have literally provided neither

  • With TID 6, they’ve managed to attract unappealing industrial developments that most communities have already zoned out, while funding unnecessary infrastructure which guarantees tax revenue from these unwanted eyesores will be wasted in paying off the TIF (tax incremental financing)

  • They’ve created “garbage” jobs (slaughtering and packaging animals, or running an auto salvage yard), that no Franklin residents will take, requiring workers to be transported from disadvantaged areas, to even make operation possible

It’s also a reminder the government has to be just as tough and deft at deal making as the businesses it courts.

This should become Franklin’s new mantra. In order to attract low end businesses that most cities have shunned, or formally zoned out, Franklin government felt it necessary to allow them to essentially dictate most of the terms of their contracts. To use Strauss as one damning example, contractually:

  • they are not required to produce any specific number of jobs

  • they only need to build a structure assessed at $20M, although figures of 4 times that amount are constantly bandied about

  • there is no limitation on the number or types of animals that can be slaughtered at their site

  • there is zero recourse for the city to stop activity based on even overwhelming citizen complaints

Walker wanted to claim he had revived manufacturing in the state and he trumpeted the Foxconn transaction as an epic victory. But Walker and his statehouse team were hardly ready. They reportedly had no experience negotiating contracts with big corporations. And they apparently didn’t bother recruiting outside consultants with deep industry expertise who might have helped them navigate the complex, and possibly insurmountable, hurdles that arise in a competitive market.

Sound familiar?

  • Strauss’ President questioned Mayor Olson’s chosen location for their new slaughterhouse, not once, but twice- outright suggesting it would be a problem

  • Alderman Hanneman wrote an 8 page paper for Strauss, implying their slaughterhouse would have an economic multiplier effect, even though this type of equation has never been used in correlation with a slaughterhouse (think arena, hospital, business HQ)

  • no one produced an economic impact study

  • no one produced an environmental impact study

  • no one produced a property value impact assessment (FCA felt they had to, and were forced to spend $25k- finished study available by April 1st)

  • no one provided a sound study

  • only Alderperson Wilhelm thought to question the logistics of putting a new subdivision of half million dollar homes in the middle of an industrial development

  • City Engineer Glenn Morrow waxed poetic about animal smells, while never addressing a single issue, let alone the many, voiced by a plurality of Franklin residents

  • More than half of the members of the Plan Commission and the Common Council had no questions, and said virtually nothing while approving this bizarre proposal with little more than an architectural draft for the potential facility

All of this came to pass because the Foxconn charade served the financial and political interests of Gou and Walker even if it didn’t serve the business, workplace and social interests of Wisconsin’s residents. It also came to pass because Walker and his team were inept rookies who didn’t know how to cut a deal. Those are all lessons that shouldn’t be lost.

This sentiment is dead on regarding the current Franklin administration. All decisions seem to be made by and for those that can benefit from them. It had to reach the ludicrous heights of TID/TIF 6 for many residents, including most of the FCA board and membership, to realize just how far things had gone off the rails, and how inept and truly unfocused our local government has become:

  • As of 2017, Franklin had less than $1million in TID debt

  • Within 2 years, by 2019, Franklin had accrued more than $48million in TID debt, which is still climbing

  • by 2019, 92% of all City debt was related to TID/TIFs

  • property taxes have gone up 5 of the last 6 years, in some cases nearing 40%, all during the course of our current pro-growth, lower your taxes administration

  • the current City administration has had no proposal voted down, and has been free to implement whatever they choose, virtually unimpeded- the results they’ve actually achieved, now appear to speak much louder than the ones they state or hope to achieve, or the wishful, false facts and figures often bandied about by their dwindling supporters

Please get involved. Make your voice heard. VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! Tues April 5th

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