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This Just In ...

Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Franklin could lose Meijer? Not exactly a news bulletin


Franklin’s quest to attract Meijer’s to build one of their successful stores here has been a complete debacle. I’m not surprised.

When it comes to luring businesses and economic development, Franklin has a dreary obstructionist history of being the tortoise rather than the hare. Without exception, city of Franklin officials have been in complete and utter denial about this dismal track record, making all kinds of excuses for our sorry inability to attract job creators on a consistent and reasonably timed basis.

That’s why it was very interesting to read the angry comments of Franklin alderman Steve Taylor about the problems associated with dotting all the I’s and crossing all T’s in getting Meijer’s to build here.

During the process over the past several weeks, I have bemoaned on my blog Franklin’s past that I fear will prevent Meijer’s from setting up shop here, eventually sending them to play ball elsewhere.

One week ago this past Friday, I learned that Taylor had expressed his dismay in an interview with The Daily Reporter, a Milwaukee-based construction industry daily newspaper. I knew Taylor was upset, but I didn’t know why, so I reached out to Taylor and asked him if he’d issue a statement that I could post on my blog. However, I flew to Florida the next day on a family vacation, and we never were able to make final arrangements.

While I was gone, the print edition of this story appeared in The Daily Reporter on Monday, November 12 with the headline;



"Meijer puts brakes on store”


To this cynic, the immediate reaction was not one of surprise.

The article opened stating that Taylor “blames the city” for “dragging its feet” on approving a Meijer store at Highway 100 and Loomis Road.

Taylor told the paper the city goofed when, during the project’s FIRST city public hearing, witnesses were not sworn in. Now that sounds like a minor, trivial matter. Nevertheless, it necessitated a SECOND public hearing.

Good grief, a technicality throws a monkey wrench into the operation, a technicality that maybe someone with years of municipal experience should have picked up on?  So we as a city drop the ball on an innocuous procedure.

If you’re keeping score, give this one to Taylor.

Taylor also told the paper “the city should have given approval a long time ago.”

I certainly would agree. While trying to kiss Franklin’s ring, Meijer has also been negotiating to, if I may use an over-used phrase, move forward to build stores in other WI communities.

Oh, if only the story ended here. But there’s more.

The city’s response to Taylor is that from their perspective, the city has okayed just about every approval it needed in order to, my goodness I’m going to write it again, move the project forward.

Who asked for a delay in the entire approval process? Not the city of Franklin, but ironically, Meijer.

Meijer hasn’t specified why. A Franklin official told The Daily Reporter he believes the self-imposed delay is due to Meijer's requirements with the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the US Army Corps of Engineers. In essence there are still city, state, and federal hurdles.

Once again, hyper-enviro concerns are standing in the way of much-needed progress and business/job creation in Franklin. The Meijer project…




Could threaten some wetlands.


OH NO! NOT THAT! PLEASE NOT THAT!

So Meijer has three keisters to smooch…the DNR, the feds, and the city. At the city level, Meijer has to, according to The Daily Reporter, meet Franklin’s environmental standards (you know, the kind that keeps our city in reverse) at the SECOND public hearing that is necessary because city officials didn’t swear in witnesses at the FIRST public hearing.

CARAMBA!


Dealing with the DNR isn’t a walk in the park, but it’s less difficult than in the past under Jim Doyle’s Gestapo-like DNR. State Senator Frank Lasee just wrote in an e-newsletter:

"Because of the leadership of DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been improving greatly. Reforming the 2300 employee DNR is a huge undertaking, and will take more time. I've been hearing from people that the DNR is now working for the environment and for you, not against you (there is still room for improvement).

"The new Office of Business Support and Sustainability (OBSS) has been created to help businesses navigate the DNR's bureaucracy by helping them comply with DNR rules and the permitting process. 

"The OBSS is a special help line for getting permits to increase job growth in Wisconsin by cutting red tape while protecting the environment. We can probably poach some businesses from our neighbors to the south. Since Illinois has declared 'open season' on job creators with more taxes, out of control spending, and tons of red tape, it’s not 'poaching'.”

With sharks in the water, the Milwaukee Business Journal under the very capable reporting hands of Sean Ryan weighs in.


Again, the headline is gloomy:

Meijer store in Franklin hits hurdles


Accurate. Why? Because the store does hit hurdles.

The paper reports in its lead paragraph that city officials are worried that Meijer’s may “abandon its plans” for a megastore in Franklin.


Enter another city voice: Alderman Steve Olson whose district includes the Meijer site.

While Taylor blames a slow city view, Olson says road accommodations at the site are a problem. The state even pushed a roundabout at the site, adding to the mess.


But the Business Journal notes Meijer is working through similar issues in Grafton where they want to build, and guess what? No problemo there.

And some in Franklin don't want Mejer's open 24/7.

So here we go.

This is a full-blown fiasco with finger-pointing and no one, I mean no one at the city of Franklin level accepting blame or responsibility. That's not to be expected. It's everyone else's fault. Meanwhile bye bye economic development. Bye bye jobs.

BOTTOM LINE

The conventional wisdom seems that the threat to wetlands (Yes, are you kidding me?) is a major hang-up.

Meijer’s lawyers outsmarted our lawyers and insisted on a second public hearing addressing primarily those wetland issues where witnesses are sworn in. Now, Meijer's wants no part of a second public hearing on wetlands issues. They won’t say why. That doesn't look good. Oh, no.  Bye bye economic development, bye bye jobs? Thanks, Franklin.

Alderman Taylor was right, but only to a certain degree. While the city is open to criticism, there are other roadblocks, along with Meijer walking away from the table. I think Taylor picked the wrong case to blame the city for a failure to seal the deal.

What is Meijer doing rather than working to get this done expeditiously? Taylor has doubts Meijer will return to talk turkey with Franklin. I submit he may be right on that count. My guess is that Meijer is back home discussing what’s in their best interests. Jumping through all these hoops ain’t it. I said it before and it could happen. Meijer will take their ball out of Franklin and play somewhere else, more easily and quickly. That's a real possibility.

If that happens, you can forget all the finger pointing. Enough blame to go around, and everyone loses. And again, given the way we do things in Franklin, no surprise.

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