Monday, April 23, 2018

Milwaukee report exposes state's pathetic Foxconn 'due diligence'

The City of Milwaukee, schooling the state, has produced a solid, 54-page examination of the Foxconn project.

Reminds me of the contrast I cited last week between the city's push to open and restore a wetland to the state's rush to fill and destroy wetlands statewide. 

And the city report is not the first that the public servants in a typically quiet and efficient agency - - the Legislative Reference Bureau - - have issued on a set of major water and development public policy issues.

Read on.

So props to Milwaukee for producing such a rigorous examination of the financially-indefensible, environmentally-harmful deal that Walker and his legislative allies hurriedly made with Foxconn and forced on taxpayers and local officials left holding the debt-and-pollution soaked bag.

A further salute to Ald. Bob Bauman for requesting the city's Legislative Reference Bureau produce it. He's been a leader on trying to connect Milwaukee to Foxconn jobs and tax base opportunities, as well as correcting a power line payment burden the Walker administration wants to transfer unfairly to  Milwaukee residents from Foxconn.

And thanks also to Bruce Murphy at Urban Milwaukee for giving the report the distribution and frame it deserves:

You might have imagined the State of Wisconsin would have done such research before undertaking a deal with Foxconn, following the fundamental principle of commerce: Caveat emptor, or “let the buyer beware.” 
Instead the administration of Gov. Scott Walker has signed a contract awarding the largest subsidy ever paid by American government to a foreign company, without ever doing its due diligence to protect the interest of taxpayers who will pay this $4.1 billion subsidy.
The city report is heavily footnoted and filled with fascinating details, but it is Foxconn’s treatment of workers that really jumps out. “I thought, ‘my God, this is awful,’” Bauman says. “I’m re-reading (Upton Sinclair’s famous expose) The Jungle of a hundred years ago. The same company towns, the low pay, the worker injuries, the suicides.”
I will a links about the Legislative Reference Bureau report to an archive I have maintained on this blog about Foxconn since July and which now contains 150+ posts and scores of additional links.

Also: Milwaukee's Legislative Reference Bureau, now an arm of the City Clerk's Office, is a century old gem in City Hall.

The LRB, quietly informing public policy and elevating the debate, is home to non-partisan experts, researchers, historians and other guardians of the Milwaukee's institutional memory.

I spent many productive hours there getting educated about the city when I worked for former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist. 

Here's an example of the LRB's fine, relevant work, and, like the Foxconn report these many years later, is all about development, water and the public interest.

LRB staffers there produced an important report in 2002 how many businesses - - 42 - - had left the City of Milwaukee for New Berlin's Industrial Park where bus connections were tedious and difficult, and near which there was little-to-no so-called affordable housing.

Some of the links to the report in my early blogs about the diversion and the report now seem to balking, but you can read the report in pdf format at this site, footnote 22.

22. 2003 Legislative Reference Bureau New Berlin Water Analysis,
The LRB report became part of the discussion several years later when the City of New Berlin sought a diversion of Lake Michigan water through the City of Milwaukee, and before I got the hang of how to insert links on blog items I noted the information in my first blog posting on 2/2/2007, more than 18,000 posts ago:
New Berlin is seeking to bring Lake Michigan water over the subcontinental divide for the western portion of the city - - the physical divide splits the city - - and getting a diversion over the divide needs the approval of all eight US Great Lakes governors under current US law and a US-Canadian agreement...
Some City of Milwaukee officials, principally Ald. Michael Murphy, have long argued that diverted water helps encourage businesses to locate beyond Milwaukee's city limits; City of Milwaukee records show that about a quarter of the companies in New Berlin's Industrial Park had relocated there from Milwaukee.
And the information in the report found its way into a 2007 posting about the City of Waukesha's diversion request, too.
Though some suburban officials have said 'over-our dead-bodies,' one prominent consultant paid by the Waukesha Water Utility proposed a while ago that the key to water sales to the suburbs west of the Great Lakes Basin was sharing new property tax revenues with Milwaukee.
The story is reprinted below intact from a guest posting I wrote last year for Bill Christofferson's Xoff Files blog - - in a simpler time when I had no blog of my own...
It all involves a memo, dated June 10, 2004, "Arguments For and Against the City of Milwaukee Selling Water to the City of New Berlin," found, oddly enough, in the files of the Waukesha Water Utility...
Citing City of Milwaukee records and analyses, the memo indicated that 42 businesses from Milwaukee had migrated to New Berlin's Industrial Park when it opened, suggesting both that more industrial flight could follow water diversions and sharing tax resources as part of a diversion package could minimize Milwaukee's revenue losses.
"The losses had a negative impact on Milwaukee's industrial assessment and resulting property tax revenues," said the memo. "The sale of water to New Berlin could have a similar negative impact on Milwaukee industry during the decade."
Interesting, isn't it, that many basic public policy questions about regional cooperation, water management, job creation, land use and transit which were central to New Berlin and Waukesha's water-diversion-and-planning schemes arise again as Foxconn needs Lake Michigan water to change the face of Racine County to Milwaukee's south.

It's important that the City of Milwaukee has an LRB that will continue to raise the issues that Walker's special-interest and idologically-driven 'chamber of commerce mentality' government is all too happy to ignore.

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