City Will Contest Foxconn Power Deal
City Attorney will contest $117 million Foxconn subsidy charged to We Energies customers.
In recent months the alderman has proposed building a satellite city near the campus and debated increasing the service frequency on Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service passenger rail line which bisects the planned LCD manufacturing campus.
Until today, the ideas were effectively Bauman shouting into the void. Now he has put the city on a trajectory to challenge an aspect of the development — how the electric power will be supplied to the company — in order to elevate his cause.
“The end game for me is to try to get the whole issue of public transit and getting our workers, many of whom are in need of employment, to these jobs that are purported to be family supporting. We need to find some way to get them to these jobs,” said Bauman.
After 40 minutes of debate, which included unexpected references to Nazi Germany and slapping people in the face, the Common Council approved authorizing the City Attorney’s office to contest a proposal by American Transmission Company to build a $117 million substation exclusively for Foxconn and charge the cost to all of We Energies area customers, which includes all utility customers in the City of Milwaukee.
The city has legal standing before the Public Service Commission to contest the proposal because it is a ratepayer.
Bauman says the issue is one of basic fairness. The downtown alderman said developers in his district routinely have to pay for utility relocation, a cost passed on to future residents and customers.
The move to contest the proposal was opposed by Ald. Robert Donovan. “This is akin to slapping Foxconn in the face, and We Energies, and then inviting them to the table,” said Donovan. He went to attack Bauman, “with all respect to my colleague, he has had a vendetta against We Energies forever.”
“I have no vendetta against We Energies and I happen to think this is a good idea,” responding Ald. Jim Bohl. “I think it’s about time we stand up for the residents here,” said the northwest side council member.
Bohl characterized an idea offered by Ald. Russell W. Stamper, II and Ald. Tony Zielinski to not contest the hidden subsidy and instead invite Foxconn representatives to make a presentation to the city as foolhardy. “We’re just going to get our head patted on like we’re the little, wimpy kid,” said Bohl.
“This is not an effort to bring anything down, this is an effort to bring a better deal,” said Ald. Nik Kovac. “I welcome their investment in Wisconsin, but so far Wisconsin is investing in them.”
“It is important we approach them as a friend, and not as a foe,” said Zielinski. The announced mayoral candidate said an earlier comment by Bohl suggesting the council see the film Darkest Hour — about Winston Churchill in World War II — compared Foxconn to Nazi Germany. As Zielinski made his comments, Bohl waved a white sheet of paper in the air like a flag, indicating that Zielinski’s plan would cause the city to surrender.
But precisely how much time the city has to act was unclear to some council members.
City Clerk Jim Owczarski reported to the council that the utility’s proposal is in a 180-day comment period before the Republican-appointed Public Service Commission, but could be closed at any time with a 14-day notice. The clerk warned the council that politics could be an issue, and late filings were unlikely to be accepted. The state has pushed to fast-track the Foxconn project, including changing state law to force lawsuit appeals to go straight to the state’s Supreme Court.
“Real simple, do we have time or not?” asked Stamper.
Kovac, without being granted the floor, told Stamper that the commission is entirely appointed by Foxconn proponent Governor Scott Walker.
Council president Ashanti Hamilton politely answered: “The answer to that question is that the power of the timeline exists with the Public Service Commission.”
The council then voted to approve the measure. Voting in opposition were southside aldermen Mark Borkowski, Donovan and Zielinski.
Foxconn recently announced they would purchase a building downtown to use as their Wisconsin headquarters.
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Read more about Foxconn Facility here