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.
I received the following e-mail from Mike Zimmerman of Zimmerman Ventures at 4:08 this afternoon:
The point your missing is that the city helped co-author this MOU. They redlined 95 percent of it and went back and forth on this for weeks...
I sent this to them this morning.
Its seemingly hard for a developer to come to Franklin, and certainly impossible for a local resident to find a way to help grow the city with a low risk solution. Epic failure!
Sent from my iPhone
Begin forwarded message:
From: Mike Zimmerman <email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>>
Date: April 23, 2014, 2:51:37 AM EDT
To: Steve Olson <email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>>
Cc: "email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>" <email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>>, Mark Luberda <email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>>, Jesse Wesolowski <email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>>, Rick Oliva <ROliva@franklinwi.gov<mailto:ROliva@franklinwi.gov>>, Adam Remington <ARemington@franklinwi.gov<mailto:ARemington@franklinwi.gov>>, Paul Rotzenberg <PRotzenberg@franklinwi.gov<mailto:PRotzenberg@franklinwi.gov>>
Subject: Courage under fire
What happened??? I think I deserve a real explanation - one that is reflective of the effort I put into this. I read the motion and those points were all addressed so it feels either like a red herring or a plan of a different sort that I can't wrap my head around.
Moreover, how does it go unanimous? We had a task force led by two alderman who approved/forwarded the MOU to common council for approval. Separately, Alderwoman Kristen gave a compelling speech last Thursday to 90 plus people at the town hall meeting in favor of it. Your staff and attorney were sending me changes to the MOU as late as this afternoon - changes you just had to have and I agreed to. The Mayor himself was optimistic about the prospect of getting to yes although suggested I slow down (which I agreed to to the extent I could ) as we fine tune the deal. The majority flipped on the issue in closed doors? It doesn't add up for me.
My very first comment to city staff was that I am willing to negotiate and work with the city (City"s request) in good faith so long as everyone is open, truly wants to get to yes, and we can memorialize it via MOU by mid April. I was concerned that a new Mayor and members of common council might not be in support for a host of reasons (mainly because they are new to the topics that I have worked with the previous council on since early January) and didn't want to waste my time. I was assured that this was the collective intent of all - to get to yes that is. As a result, I literally put all other business affairs on hold for roughly two weeks and 100 plus hours of back and forth with the city to get us to a place where all parties felt like we had a good chance of success. You rejected my first proposal because existing tax dollars were not appropriate and it was you that suggested a TID among a host of other risk mitigation clauses for the city. You surly did not let Mark and Paul work with me in a vacuum to negotiate the finer points of OUR deal. This was a super deal for the city and one that was extremely collaborative, which makes the entire motion one of the oddest things I have ever been part of. Needless to say, its a very disappointing decision as far as I am concerned, along with thousands of other citizens and effected area business owners who will be knocking on your door I imagine. Risking the loss of a downtown and catalyst like the minor league baseball team is one that I am afraid could haunt you.
Important point: The city had no real risks (at least those in your motion) if your honest with yourselves; and if it did, I would have mitigated those just like I did for every other one you asked that I mitigate (even the one at the last hour today).
Did I understand your next steps accurately? You want me to work with the economic development committee, a committee with zero authority; especially knowing my timelines? I'm not just some developer you can push around. I am not Mejier, Walmart, Hitters or a slew of other great opportunities that knocked on our door and our elected officials botched. I am long time resident, tax payer and I gave a big piece of my wealth to this city. I worked hard to convert an eyesore and landfill into a gem for the city of Franklin. I do this because I love this city and I think I deserve more respect. As a matter or fact, any developer that wishes to develop in Franklin deserves the respect of our elected officials. The old school approach of putting developers on trial is no longer in practice and will get out to developers nationwide where no one will want to work with Franklin. We should be working with developers as our partners and maybe even roll out the red carpet for them on occasion. I hope you can be mindful of this with our next opportunity.
I truly hope I have misunderstood this. I would appreciate your timely reply so we can close the case on this.
Sent from my iPhone
Maybe Mike Zimmerman knew when he proposed his Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a new minor league baseball park in Franklin. Maybe he didn’t.
What he did when he presented the city of Franklin with his MOU was provide nervous, skeptical aldermen all kinds of outs. The proposal was so loaded with question marks that any alderman fearing risk, innovation, or constituent backlash could easily wiggle out of a tough situation.
It’s one of the oldest political ploys in the book: playing both sides of the fence. Zimmerman’s MOU was certainly riddled with questionable suggestions. A no vote could be rationalized. Zimmerman didn’t make the decision difficult. He made it easy. Why it took two hours behind closed doors for the Common Council to reach its unanimous rejection, I can’t imagine.
Sure would have loved to have seen and heard those discussions out in the open. But since they weren’t, aldermen now have a strategic luxury. It goes like this:
“Gee, I would love to see a stadium come into Franklin and do wonders for our local economy. It’d be great for families and kids. But I had to vote the MOU down because it had too many unanswered questions. It was just too risky.”
An answer for the yes crowd. An answer for the no crowd. And at least for now, you’re off the hook.
The aldermen have instructed city staff to come up with a Plan B. Don’t hold your breath. Even if one surfaces, a certain percentage of Franklin residents will hate it without even seeing or reading it.
It might be too early to tell what happens next but I have some initial thoughts.
The city comes up with a viable, strong plan: Unlikely.
Mike Zimmerman quickly responds with another plan: More likely.
Zimmerman pitches his plan to another locale: Even more likely.
Why do I envision this ballpark opening somewhere else…and thriving?
And I fear once again that the message goes out that Franklin is not the greatest place to do business.
UPDATE @ 2:30 PM, 4/23/14: Kev, you drilled all kinds of holes in the MOU. The Common Council voted not to enter into the MOU. So, what were the aldermen to do?
I’ve been asked that, and it’s very fair. Here’s what I would have done if I was a member of the Common Council.
First, I would have objected to going into closed session. State statute allowed the aldermen to convene behind closed doors. I still would have objected.
Next, I would have advocated that no vote be taken on the MOU. There was no obligation. No one was painted into a corner with a gun to the head. I would have pushed that the council’s position be that it needed more time to examine the many complex provisions contained in the MOU. Happens all the time. Decisions (votes) are put off or delayed from meeting to meeting.
The council said there were too many “unknowns.” Rather than request city staff to come up with another plan, I would have specifically laid out all the problems we had with items in the MOU and asked Zimmerman to address each and every one by a designated future date.
But the council took the easy way out Zimmerman gave them and did what we always do in Franklin:
1) Say no.
2) Don’t offer an alternative or compromise.
We elect folks to make tough decisions, not just easy ones. I didn’t expect such a complex issue to be settled Tuesday night. But just once in a while, when it comes to economic development, I’d like to see our local officials do something big and bold instead of the usual nothing.