MOUNT PLEASANT — Riding the wave of a bullish economy, President Donald Trump is set to arrive in town today for the Foxconn Technology Group groundbreaking ceremony.
He arrived in Milwaukee Wednesday night and planned to attend a fundraiser in the morning before the ceremony.
The groundbreaking, scheduled for noon at the Foxconn Opus Facility in Mount Pleasant, is also to be attended by House Speaker Paul Ryan, Gov. Scott Walker, and Foxconn CEO and Chairman Terry Gou. Community leaders are preparing for the visit, and some gave their thoughts ahead of the event ranging from excitement to dismay.
“This is something we’ve been looking forward to since Oct. 4 when we had the announcement that Foxconn had chosen Mount Pleasant,” said Mount Pleasant Village President Dave DeGroot. “It’s been a long road from the announcement to the groundbreaking.”
DeGroot added: “Candidate Trump promised he was going to bring back manufacturing jobs to the United States. I’d say as president, he has certainly delivered.”
To accommodate Trump’s visit, Mount Pleasant Police Chief Tim Zarzecki reached out to other area police departments. Coordinating with the U.S. Secret Service, about 60 officers from Mount Pleasant, the City of Racine, Sturtevant, Caledonia, the Racine County Sheriff’s Office and State Patrol will be on duty for the presidential visit.
“This is a big event, and we want to make sure that it goes smoothly and that it causes minimal disruption and that it ensures the safety of all involved,” Zarzecki said.
Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave said that, above all, he is excited for the groundbreaking to validate the past year of hard work from county municipalities and added that Trump’s visit is of particular note.
“No matter what the political party is, if you have a president coming into your community, into your county, not just to campaign but to celebrate, it is a really big deal,” Delagrave said.
State Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, said she considers the ceremony an opportunity “for Foxconn to commit to the people of Racine” the same way the state has committed to the company.
“I believe this moment is not about President Trump,” Neubauer said. “It’s about our community and our future and how we are going to put pressure on Foxconn to be a good neighbor to Racine.”
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., shared similar concerns with Neubauer but was cautiously optimistic about the potential growth Foxconn could bring to the area.
“Foxconn presents a promising opportunity for southeast Wisconsin, but Gov. Walker must get this right,” Baldwin said in an emailed statement. “Wisconsin taxpayers are funding a $4.5 billion subsidy for this project, so it’s important that the promise of good paying jobs for Wisconsin workers is kept.”
The $4.5 billion is comprised of many parts including: $2.85 billion in tax credits tied to the creation of new Foxconn and Foxconn construction jobs; $764 million in tax increment financing, investments to be repaid by new property tax revenues the project will create; and $408 million to widen Interstate 94, a project that was already in line for state funding before the Foxconn announcement.
Brad Courtney, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said in a statement that the Foxconn project could “completely transform” the state’s economy.
“With over 10,000 new jobs for hard-working Wisconsin families and billions of dollars in new investment from the company into this high-tech industry, (Thursday’s) groundbreaking ceremony is the start of great things to come for the Racine area and communities across Wisconsin,” Courtney said.
But TJ Helmstetter, a Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesperson, cautioned that the Foxconn subsidy could string state residents along for years to come.
“Children not yet born will be on the hook for paying for (Foxconn), which is shaping up to be much different — and much more expensive — than it was sold as,” Helmstetter said in a statement.
Jordan Dunn, a spokesman for Ryan, said “the speaker believes this project is an absolute game-changer. He appreciates the team effort it took to bring this new sector to our state, and is honored to have played a part in this historic project.”
Though local and national leaders will be celebrating the groundbreaking, 39 environmental and progressive groups from throughout the state are planning a protest to begin noon Thursday at Smolenski Park, 438 S. Stuart Road, Mount Pleasant. State Assembly candidates, Mount Pleasant residents, union representatives and political activists are scheduled to speak during the protest, dubbed “Operation: Shake the Ground!”
Planned as part of the protest, hosted by Waukesha-based environmental and civil rights group Gaia Coalition Network, is a march to Mount Pleasant’s Village Hall, located just off 90th Street. As of Wednesday afternoon, about 215 people marked themselves as “going” on the event’s Facebook page.
Kesha Patel, co-founder of Gaia Coalition Network, said the group seeks to highlight both the environmental and community impact of Foxconn’s facility, whether on natural habitats or the destruction of Mount Pleasant residents’ homes.
“People keep telling me this is a done deal, but there are still ways to hold a corporation accountable,” said Patel, a 20-year-old Sturtevant resident.
Mount Pleasant residents Kim and Jim Mahoney are slated to speak at the protest. The couple is in negotiations with the village to sell their house, which they only spent about a year living in before Mount Pleasant began acquiring properties at the Foxconn site. The village has resorted to using eminent domain, a process in which a government agency buys private property for public use.
“My message is: Eminent domain is not appropriate for a private development project,” Kim Mahoney said. Mahoney also said that Foxconn boasting that it is creating family-supporting jobs “is a farce.”
The groundbreaking ceremony is planned to be streamed online at https://bit.ly/2KfXPs4. It is also to be broadcast in the handicapped-accessible auditorium at the county’s Ives Grove Office Complex at 14200 Washington Ave., Yorkville.
“I believe this moment is not about President Trump. It’s about our community and our future and how we are going to put pressure on Foxconn to be a good neighbor to Racine.” State Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine
“No matter what the political party is, if you have a president coming into your community ... it is a really big deal.” Jonathan Delagrave, Racine County Executive
RACINE — In July, teams of six are scheduled to gather in West Racine for the city’s first human foosball tournament.
As the name implies, human foosball involves a human-sized foosball field complete with poles running across it. Just like the real thing, players cannot take their hands off the poles, but they can shift left to right. The sport has been gaining popularity in recent years, with tournaments cropping up throughout the country. Racine’s tournament, taking place July 14-15, is being hosted by the West Racine Alliance.
“I think this could really be a blast,” said Jill Boyd, a WRA board member and owner of West Racine shop Refined Salvage and Pallet Designs, 1137 Hayes Ave.
The WRA began planning the event after a board member went on vacation to a town that had its own human foosball tournament, Boyd said. Everything came together in about a month.
Teams can get registration papers and waivers on the WRA website, westracine.org. The entrance fee is $30. Registrations can be turned in at Avenue Pet Shoppe, 3220 Washington Ave.
A maximum of 25 teams will be allowed in the single-elimination tournament. Games will last 25 minutes with a 5-minute half-time, and the last match will be played at 2 p.m. July 15.
The foosball field itself will be set up in the empty lot on the northeast corner of the intersection of Grove and Washington avenues. If the tournament proves to be popular enough, Boyd said, the WRA may save the field in storage for future years.
Boyd said the tournament will be “just something fun. It’s not an ongoing league.” Food and beer will also be available.
Teams are also free to create their own uniforms if desired, no matter how zany. “If you want to dress up weird, go ahead. We don’t care,” Boyd said.
KENOSHA — Olivia Mackay may have died for her car.
In the second day of testimony in the jury trial of Daniel Tate, accused of the strangling death of 17-year-old Olivia Mackay of Kenosha, Tate’s friend and co-defendant Jamari Cook took the stand in Kenosha County Circuit Court.
Cook, 18, was originally charged with first-degree homicide as a party to the crime along with Tate. He is cooperating with the prosecution and testified against Tate, answering questions about what led up to Mackay’s death on July 23, 2017, and what happened afterward.
In the past, prosecutors have said that Cook told investigators Tate killed Mackay on the beach at Kenosha’s Pennoyer Park, strangling her without warning. Cook then helped him dispose of her body off Louis Sorenson Road in Mount Pleasant.
“Did the defendant tell you why he ended her life?” Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley asked.
“For the car,” Cook answered.
According to Cook, he and Tate, 20, both of Kenosha, were best friends, spending time together nearly every day. They each had precarious home lives, both spending time with a rotating collection of family and friends, or sometimes sleeping in cars or on porches. “I didn’t trust many people. I trusted him,” Cook said.
Cook said the day Mackay died, he had originally been planning to stay at a girlfriend’s house. After an argument, he left and found Tate sitting on his grandmother’s porch in the 4600 block of Sheridan Road.
“He said he was going to hang out with a girl,” Cook testified. “I asked him if it was OK if I hung out with him, because I didn’t want to go back to (Cook’s girlfriend’s) house.”
Tate and Mackay had initially connected through a dating app called MeetMe, but had not met in person. According to Cook, Tate sent a message to Mackay on Facebook to ask if she minded if Cook came along. She said she did not. About 15 minutes later, Cook said, Mackay drove up in her car, a silver sedan.
According to Cook, he did not know Mackay. “I asked her what school she went to and she said Indian Trail (High School),” Cook said, and he realized he had been in class with her there.
In the car, Cook said, all three were quiet. They drove to the Racine lakefront without stopping anywhere or getting out of the car, Cook said, then turned back toward Kenosha.
“Danny said someone who owed him money was going to be at the bandshell” at Pennoyer Park, Cook said, so they went to the park and parked. “He said we were going to wait by the lake. We walked out toward the water, the three of us,” Cook said.
According to Cook, he walked away while Tate and Mackay were talking. He said he looked back and “Danny was standing behind Olivia — he had her in a chokehold.”
Cook, speaking in a quiet, monotone, expressionless voice, said he at first looked away, then looked back to watch Tate choke Mackay from behind, then hold her underwater with his knee on her back, then use a piece of fabric, possibly a sweatshirt, to choke her from behind. In all, from his telling, it took about 15 minutes.
“When you are seeing this occurring, what are you doing?” Graveley asked.
“Nothing,” Cook responded
“Why did you do nothing?” he was asked.
“I was confused. I was in shock,” he testified.
When Mackay was dead, Cook said, Tate dragged her by her hair from the sand, then moved her car closer to the body. “He asked for help,” Cook said. “I grabbed her legs.”
“Why would you help put Olivia’s body in the trunk?” Graveley asked.
“I was trying to help Danny,” Cook answered.
According to Cook, Tate had a backpack with him and there were surgical gloves and garbage bags inside. Cook said he drove the car to Mount Pleasant, taking the route Tate told him to take. Along the way, they threw Mackay’s phone out the window along Green Bay Road (Highway 31). Cook helped Tate put garbage bags over Mackay’s legs and head. He helped him dump the body in the brush on the dark rural road.
The entire time, Cook said, he only asked Tate twice why Mackay was killed. He said Tate had talked with him in the weeks before the murder about stealing cars to raise money. He said the car was the only explanation Tate gave for what he said he saw him do. “We were going to flip the car,” he said.
Later, Cook said they tried to sell the car to someone who declined. Cook drove the car the day after the murder. In the end, the car was parked on a street by Kennedy Park, where it was found by Mackay’s family the same day a couple on an ATV found Mackay’s body on Louis Sorenson Road.
The defense indicated in the opening arguments that they would seek to prove that Cook had as much opportunity and motive to kill Mackay. In cross-examining Cook, defense attorney Carl Johnson pointed out the inconsistencies in Cook’s statements to police, and changes in his story over a series of interviews.
Johnson asked whether Cook knew that one of his fingerprints was on one of the garbage bags found on Mackay’s body. “At some point you were made aware that one of your fingerprints was on the bag, but Daniel Tate’s were not, is that correct?” Johnson asked. “That’s correct,” Cook answered.
Cook agreed when Johnson asked him if Cook sometimes used Tate’s phone. Johnson also showed a series of Facebook messages in which Cook was answering someone using Tate’s Facebook account.
Johnson asked Cook about his telling of Mackay’s murder, that he watched it happen but did nothing to stop it, to prevent her death. “I do think about it, yes,” Cook answered.
“But at the time you didn’t think, ‘I can stop this from happening?’” Johnson asked.
“I did not,” Cook answered.
“You thought if she got up, you’d both go to jail, correct?” Johnson asked.
“No, that’s not what I meant,” Cook answered.
Johnson also sought to cast doubt on Cook’s testimony because of his cooperation with the prosecution when his own case is pending. Cook was frank that he hoped his testimony would be helpful.
“You want to help the state to save yourself, right?” Johnson asked.
“Yes, sir,” Cook answered.
The trial is scheduled to continue today.
CALEDONIA — Community Development Authority members on Wednesday decided that they would bring some of their recommendations for addressing blight to the Village Board.
The CDA initially had wanted to work with the village’s Legislation and Licensing Committee, but CDA members said the committee had not shown much interest in the initiative. So CDA decided to put the issue before the full Village Board so trustees can direct village staff to draft an ordinance.
“I feel stymied by Legislature and Licensing Committee,” said village Trustee Fran Martin, who sits on the CDA. “And there’s no reason why that committee should override what our committee is doing.”
“We need to keep this moving forward,” said Committee Chair William Streeter.
The Journal Times reached out to members of the Legislature and Licensing Committee Wednesday night, but did not receive an immediate response.
In a previous meeting on the topic, Village Clerk Karie Torkilssen compiled the village’s existing ordinances regarding property maintenance.
CDA member Marla Wishau on Wednesday compared those ordinances with the “Minimum Building and Premises Standards” in Mount Pleasant’s code of ordinances. Wishau recommended blending the language of the two to create pro-active set of standards for Caledonia.
“Problems come up and because they’re not in the books its like we’re reacting instead of pro-acting,” Wishau said.
CDA member Kjell Erlandsson agreed that it will also provide more clarity for village staff for whether a property is in compliance or not.
“If we have a list of minimum standards it will save a lot of work because the work always lies in the gray areas,” Erlandsson said. “If its clear-cut, done.”
Village Trustee Lee Wishau agreed that it was a good idea to get such standards established before Foxconn spurs further development in the village.
“We spent a lot of money getting sewer and water to the I (Insterstate 94),” Lee Wishau said. “The last thing we want to do is have issues out there we can’t deal with because there’s no teeth in the ordinance.”
Streeter said the Village Board should also discuss and make a decision regarding the disclosure of complainants. The village’s current inspections system is complaint-driven but complainants are not allowed anonymity.
Some committee members believe people are reluctant to put forward complaints about their neighbors due to the risk of retaliation.
“The board should discuss whether complaints should be anonymous or signed,” Streeter said.
The next Village Board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, July 2, at the Village Hall, 5043 Chester Lane.